Guardian Brands founder and director, Stewart Arvan, sat down with PJ to discuss everything from his storied three decades in the industry, beginning in South Africa, to his biggest business influences and fantasy dinner guests.
How many years have you worked in the jewellery sector and how did you get into it?
I started my career 30 years ago working for the largest jewellery chain in South Africa, American Swiss. My focus was very much on the development of private-label watch brands and the buying of all international brands. Seven years later I moved from retail to the supplier side of the industry.
What’s the first thing you do when you get into work in the morning?
Log onto One Page CRM and follow up on all appointments. Check social media posts and ensure that tasks for the day are prioritised – for myself and my team.
What’s your most memorable moment in the industry to date?
Moving to the UK last year to start my own jewellery distribution company. The incredible relationships and support I have received from customers, other suppliers, and people within the industry is something I am exceptionally grateful for.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Extreme and endurance sport has always been a part of my life. My passion in Cape Town was trail running, mountain climbing and spending hours on my road bike pushing my body to the limit. I love to relax watching sport and spending time with family and friends.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I have never forgotten the advice I received from my buying director at the start of my career. He drew two pyramids on a flip chart, with the pinnacle of the top one balanced on the bottom one. One pyramid was named ‘supplier’, the other ‘buyer’. His message to the buying team was never push too hard in a negotiation. The success of our business is dependent on having strong and reliable suppliers. If one party becomes too powerful the pyramid will topple. It is a philosophy that I stand by today.
Which other company or brand (inside or outside the industry) do you most admire and why?
Nike. Founder Phil Knight’s story of perseverance and determination is an inspiration and a reminder that rejection and failure are as much part of business as success. If we believe in ourselves and our product, we need to pick ourselves up and continue pursuing our dream.
Tell us something that none of your colleagues know?
In my mid-twenties, I was working at Alfred Dunhill in the UK as the European menswear buyer when I saw an opportunity to cater at Lord’s Cricket Ground. I resigned and started an outdoor catering business called the Charcoal Grill – this was in the mid-80s when there was nothing like it.
If you won the lottery, what one luxury item or experience would you buy?
I would love to plan a cycling trip around as many countries as possible, experiencing the wonderful scenery, architecture, food and wines they have to offer.
If you could invite any three people to a dinner party, who would they be?
Elon Musk, Phil Knight and Tiger Woods.
What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Talking rugby with my new English cycling partners and the result of the 2020 World Cup Final (sorry, had to add that in!).