Exclusive Talks with
For the first episode we are in the splendid setting of the NH Carlina hotel, with the creator of the network Licia Mattioli, founder and managing director of Mattioli Spa, a high-end jewelery company recognized throughout the world, and the Vice President Paola Bertoldo of l’Opificio, a symbol of Italian furnishing textiles with a Turin heart.
We will talk about made in Italy, what networking means and the values of these two great entrepreneurs.
Watch the first Exclusive Talks interview!
I’ll begin by asking Paola Bertoldo why, given current global situation that we find ourselves in 2021, we should opt for “Made In Italy” brands.
Now, more than ever, “Made In Italy” means choosing quality, not only from the point of view of design for which our excellence is recognised in every field, but also throughout our production process – providing 360 degrees of peace of mind that we respect both people and the environment.
What would you suggest holds the key to helping reboot the Italian economy, creating a networking system perhaps?
Yes, in my opinion ‘small is bad’; the only way to trigger regrowth is to create systems and networks. Almost 10 years ago we created this network of luxury brands in Piedmont, Exclusive Brand Torino, with the objective of multiplying the resources of individual companies so they have enough impact to enable them to enter into the international marketplace. I am convinced this is the way forward, as Italian companies tend to be undersized when competing on a global sale.
In both your companies, which are leaders in industries such as jewellery and luxury furniture fabrics, craftmanship is paramount. Is it difficult to get people from the younger generations to be enthusiastic about learning these skills?
In our company, training is fundamental. It takes two forms: those with greater experience pass on their skills to others; then there are structured courses run by experts. Both are embraced with great enthusiasm as they create a sense of belonging and camaraderie at the same time as enabling participants to improve their personal skills.
We also have lots of internal training. We have many young people who arrive directly from goldsmith school, but who are lacking many of the specialised skills required to work in our industry. They take part in work experience and we choose the best of them, which means that a lot of our work-force is of a very young age.
We are currently going through a very difficult period. I’m wondering whether with the economic and social emergency caused by Covid, you can still maintain this level of excellence which is so important to you both.
We have been fortunate insofar as we’ve been able to count on the fact that all our work is done internally. Therefore we have managed to keep every going throughout the crisis, subject to the restrictions it has imposed. We were in a situation where we could proceed with work that was already in the pipeline as well as continuing to plan and working on future projects.
For us the situation is been more complicated because of our production process and ‘smart working’, which means moving it into people’s homes. Although we see smart working as something good for the future, there are certain procedures that don’t lend themselves to it very well. Furthermore, many Italian workers have difficulty embracing the concept of smart working, which also need to be considered in terms of how the country and the lockdown process is run. This whole issue is having to be managed by companies themselves, internally, without any outside support, which isn’t good. In our case, we’ve not only had to anticipate redundancy for our workers when the factory shut down, but also pay our suppliers – otherwise neither one nor the other would have been able to survive. In my opinion, this is NOT how a country like ours, let’s say ‘not of third-world’, should carry on.
I’m here with two female Italian entrepreneurs whose businesses operate on the world stage. We all know that the situation for working mothers is still problematic and they still find themselves penalised in many areas. What advice would you give to a young female entrepreneur who is now looking to launch her career?
Above all, to never give in, to stay resilient and to take the knocks as they come; it’s the same as for a man, but even more so for a woman who may struggle more to impose her authority. Also she needs to choose the right life-partner; someone who will help her when she needs it. My husband has always been there for me when I’ve needed someone to lean on. Without that support from a partner, you just can’t to do.
So, you need a private support network at home too!
Exactly! In the family, as well.
I totally agree. I just want to add that the textile industry has always enjoyed a strong female presence. We totally respect this principle and I would add that all our clerical workforce is also female, which creates an even stronger sense of teamwork and makes everyone even more motivated!
I’d like to ask Paola one final question: Exclusive Brand Torino proposes to share and promote its associates at an international level; how important do you feel it is to create network with other companies within the same country?
As we said before, it’s fundamental, especially with other companies within the same country and above all within Piedmont, whose people are characterised by their reserve - often resulting in the fact that while the Piedmonese are able to create wonderful and fantastic things, they’re not always very good at selling them. So, it’s important that they join forces to help promote all their products together. Exclusive Brands Torino does exactly that, supporting the 19 brands that it represents in promoting and marketing their products abroad, as well as their skills, professionalism, quality and workmanship.
We’ve mentioned quality and workmanship, in your opinion do they hold the key to entrepreneurial success? What other assets would you all to the list?
The key to their success is, of course, quality, but also having the ability to hand-craft on an industrial scale. We are one of the very few countries left in the world who are able to provide the level of workmanship but to have also succeed in industrialising the process to a whole new level. This has enabled us to survive in a world where the cost of labour so low that otherwise we would have been unable to compete. This ability to industrialise ourselves has been fundamental in enabling us to bypass this obstacle and remain competitive. We also have a huge ability to solve problems – to use our skills to find solutions to manufacturing issues, whereas in Germany and Switzerland they might say ‘it can’t be done’ but in a couple of days we in Italy will find a solution!
It’s true! I’m telling you a true story.
‘It can’t be done’ doesn’t exist for us in Italy, because we learn from when we’re very small that we have to fight against whatever creates problems for us.