Global Woman of Vision: Rachel Mielke
This CEO is helping women find their sparkle and supporting worthy causes with her jewellery empire.
photography by Cooper & O'Hara
Growing up, Rachel Mielke remembers her mother constantly telling her that she was going to do something incredible, which planted the seed that her options were limitless. “I knew from early on in my life that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and had this feeling of wanting to do something significant with my life. That guided me on the path of entrepreneurship and jewellery was something I discovered I had a great passion for along the way,” says Mielke. She started her first business in pursuit of that goal, and lined up her very first show at a nurse’s convention in Regina. She set up her jewellery, waited for the reaction — and realized that the women all loved it. “That was like the a-ha moment, that women connected with the product, they really loved it and they wanted to buy it. From that moment forward I decided I was going to pursue the business and really go for it.”
While her Regina-based company was still relatively new, Mielke appeared on Dragon’s Den, and dragon W. Brett Wilson saw something in her business that intrigued him. He decided to invest $200,000 in her company, something she acknowledges was a huge stepping stone. “I was like wow, if he believes in me I had better start believing in myself. And I think that was the turning point where I was like, I’m going to prove that I can do this. Slowly over time you realize you do have everything it takes to be successful, it’s just finding that belief in yourself,” says Mielke.
However, profit certainly wasn’t the only thing on Mielke’s mind as she looked to constantly improve and expand her business — she also wanted to give back. “I thought, how can I take something that I love, take the creativity and take this passion I have for business, but do something to create great change in the world? That’s how Hillberg & Berk turned into this jewellery brand of women empowering women, one sparkle at a time.” She set up a structure where the company would support various charities, and in turn, the community generally reached right back to support Hillberg & Berk. “We really started to lean into [that model] and more fully as an organization, and contribute a significant amount of our advertising expenditure to the point where this year about a million dollars will be focused on community initiatives and empowering women through our organization,” says Mielke.
She wants to empower not only her customers, but her employees as well — that’s why she created an initiative called One of a Kind Fridays. On those days, employees were able to come into the design room and create a piece of jewellery that was then sold. It allowed employees from all over the company become involved in the creative side of things and Mielke says it was a turning point for the company. When she first started Hillberg & Berk, Mielke was doing everything herself, at her kitchen table. Today, she has close to 200 employees, around 95% of them women, who are crucial to executing the company’s vision — helping women find their sparkle. “Very much like women, gemstones have imperfections, but that’s what makes them beautiful and unique,” says Mielke. “So, I love the similarities between the gemstones that we work with and who we are as women.”