Meet Marie-Pier Chouinard
Delicate on the outside, tough as nails on the inside - this statement holds true whether you're talking about a champion figure skater or a precious gemstone. Or, in our case, Marie-Pier Chouinard, who embodies both of those things in her role as founder and owner of the skating-inspired jewelry brand Brilliance & Melrose. This Québécoise skater-turned-entrepreneur puts the "brilliance" in Brilliance & Melrose with her hardcore work ethic, dazzling design skills, and pure passion for the love of skating and the love of jewelry. When I sat down to dinner with Marie-Pier awhile ago, I didn't know much about her, except that she made beautiful jewelry and had one heck of an aesthetically pleasing Instagram. As I got to know her, I became more and more in awe of her bold ambition, nonstop lifestyle, and how she is basically the antithesis of lazy. I encourage everyone to soak up the advice of this incredible woman, whether you're trying to land your triple Lutz, attempting to close a business deal, or really just working on achieving any goal in your life - read on to learn more about Marie-Pier, Brilliance & Melrose, and why hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard!
Born: Saint-Hilarion, Quebec, Canada
Hometown: Saint-Hilarion, Quebec, Canada
Currently: Montreal, Quebec, Canada, but mostly always on the road!
Boots: AURA Custom
Blades: John Wilson Blades Pattern 99
Photos by Laurie-Anne Thuot Photographe
Q: You are currently a successful entrepreneur and owner of the skating-inspired jewelry company, Brilliance & Melrose, which was created "pour l'amour du patinage." So how did your own love of skating begin?
A: I don’t remember not loving skating. When I was four, I broke my arm as I was dancing around the house. My parents wanted to take me to the hospital, but I refused because I didn’t want to miss my skating lesson. The road to the ice rink was bumpy, and I was screaming every time we hit a bump, but I still skated the full practice with no complaints and finally agreed to go to the hospital only once the practice was over. I had a cast for the two months that followed that event, but I kept skating as if nothing happened!
Center photo by Photo Pierre Rochette
Q: What were some highlights from your years as a competitive singles skater, and did you have any interest in fashion and business way back then?
A: Honestly, I’ve never been the best skater, and I will never be, but I always loved it so much that I managed to accomplish just as much as some extremely talented, but lazy, people. My professional career has been a lot stronger than my competitive career, and I’m proud to be a true showgirl ambassador. Competing taught me everything I needed to know about the technical side of things, but building a strong stage personality is what made the real difference in my career.
My passion for fashion is almost as strong as my passion for skating, and I remember rushing my homework in high school to sketch skating dresses. The same way I’ve never been the best skater, I’ve never been the best fashion designer either, but my passion gave me the work ethic to build a very strong portfolio despite the fact that I was skating full-time. Business came into my life only a couple of years ago, and it turned out to be a little bit more of a natural skill for me (finally). Things started to seriously move for Brilliance & Melrose the day I discovered I could mix that natural skill with the skating knowledge, fashion knowledge, and work ethic that I had developed over the past 12 years.
Q: After studying at Collège LaSalle in Montreal, you started business school in pursuit of a bachelor's degree, but stopped after three semesters. Do you find that the lessons you learned in school were helpful as you were building the Brilliance & Melrose brand? And do you have any plans to finish your degree?
A: Back then, I was doing that degree mostly to please my parents, if I’m being honest. At some point, my workload became really heavy in the fashion office, and it wasn’t realistic anymore to pursue this degree. With that said, every single class of that program has been extremely useful to me in my Brilliance & Melrose entrepreneurial journey, and I keep feeling like if I knew more, I would perform even better. Now that I have more than 10 years of experience in my domain, some MBA programs might be accessible for me - my goal is to complete one of those to make sure I have all the knowledge I need to support the international growth of B&M.
Photos by Laurie-Anne Thuot Photographe
Q: Tell us the story of how Brilliance & Melrose was born! What inspired you to start it, and when did you know that it could become a viable business?
A: To me, professional figure skating is a form of art that has the power to reach a commercial and general public, not necessarily a crowd that is into the competitive side of the sport. Germany, England, Mexico, and cruise ships all over the world are great example of places where figure skating gets to you even if you didn’t ask for it. In September 2016, I exposed the city of Quebec to this concept without really knowing what I was doing and surprisingly enough, they were interested in the concept. I therefore started to build a brand around those ideas, and that’s how B&M was born. From there, it took me about a year to build the identity of the brand (2017) and another year to build the line of products I wanted to see, next to the ice show concepts (2018). Next thing you know, people started to manifest interest for the jewels, and the collection became a business on its own. The first half of 2019 will surely be 100% dedicated to the jewels since we want the brand to be available in at least 75 stores by the end of the year.
Q: Brilliance & Melrose is unique in that in addition to selling your beautiful jewelry, you also have an ice show component to the company. What has been your experience with producing ice shows/entertainment in the past, and where do you hope to take that part of B&M in the future?
A: Commercializing figure skating is the main goal of the brand, whether it’s on the ice or in your jewelry box. I have a very clear game plan on how I’d like that to happen, but it’s still a bit early in the process to talk about it out loud. If everything goes according to plan, it should be in motion starting August 2019. To be continued :)
A: I wish I could invest more time in design sessions, research, and other creative things, but there are only so many hours in a day! Therefore, as crazy as this is gonna sound, I just pick what I like and trust my gut. Fur, feathers, and Swarovski stones are my favorite elements, and our fall collections will forever be a mix of all those items. Spring collections will always be a little more playful since this is just how the human brain evolves through the seasons. Well, that’s at least how my brain is evolving!
Q: I know you've been traveling a lot, bringing B&M products to many markets across the world. What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur, and what are the specific challenges that selling jewelry entails?
A: Oh my goodness. Building a business from the ground up at that speed also means dedicating your whole life to the risk of the project. There are about 12 important steps between the moment I have an idea and the moment the jewels are sitting in a store. With the fast expansion, every single one of those steps has to grow at the same rhythm or else the full thing is going to fail - maintaining that rhythm at every stage is the biggest challenge.
Photos by Laurie-Anne Thuot Photographe
Q: What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur starting out?
A: Unless you are willing to push your brain to the absolute limit every day, willing to feel like you are going to jump off a cliff every morning, willing to complete a list of things you've never heard about (and wish you'd never heard about) weekly, I would not recommend that just anybody should start a fast-growing business. If all the points mentioned above sounds thrilling to you (as weird as this can be, I do enjoy those things), then, I would suggest to learn everything there is to know about the field of your business before you get going. I am very thankful I know everything I know about skating and fashion because truthfully, I really don't have a lot of time to explore either of those markets at this point.
Q: What does a typical working day in the life of Marie-Pier Chouinard look like?
A: My daily goal is to maximize my brain power from 7 AM to 7 PM and spread that brain power evenly between creation, production, sales, team management, problem solving, and planning. Not working out is not the solution to any problem, so I try to do at least a 40 minutes of Insanity workout every day, even if I'm very busy. I have to travel a lot for the sales and all, but I try to maintain the same schedule no matter where I am, in order to keep a stable level of performance.
Q: In the next year, what would you like to have accomplished - both with the business and in your personal life?
A: Business-wise, 75 point of sales over four countries, a winter-related collection, and having seven employees are the big annual goals of B&M. Personal-wise, put everything in place to be more flexible for my family and the people I love. Work is a big part of my life at the moment, and I don't have much of a personal life if I'm being honest.
Video by Lens Brothers
Favorite place you've traveled to?
Singapore. The whole city looks like a botanical garden and I've never seen anything like it.
What do you do to relax?
Sleep? I don't want to miss a second of life, and I don't relax much. Whoops.
Favorite quality about yourself?
My happiness level is very consistent!
Go-to workout song?
If you were a Brilliance & Melrose product, which one would you be?
The rose gold necklace is very MP.
Who is your skating role model?
Joannie Rochette. To me, she's the queen of the sport.
Last documentary you watched?
Something about fast fashion and Asian manufacturers on Netflix.
Wine. I don't drink alcohol very often because I can feel my productivity is going down as soon as I have one glass of something, but I love love love to have a glass of wine every now and then.
What made you smile today?
B&M made the biggest sale of her young history, and I am oh-so-excited to see our products in this store. More to come soon!
What is your favorite quote?
"No pain no gain."
KEEP UP WITH MARIE-PIER
B&M Website: brilliance-melrose.com
B&M Instagram: @brilliance_melrose
B&M Facebook: Brilliance & Melrose
B&M Twitter: @brillianceetmel
B&M YouTube: Brilliance & Melrose
Marie-Pier's Instagram: @mp.chouinard
Marie-Pier's Twitter: @MariePierChouin
Marie-Pier's LinkedIn: Marie-Pier Chouinard
Marie Pier's YouTube: Marie-Pier Chouinard
If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest B&M collections (and follow the globe-trotting Marie-Pier), make sure to follow all their social media! And if you want your own skating sparkle in your jewelry box, use our code EDGESGLORY15 for 15% off your Brilliance & Melrose order!
All other photos courtesy of Marie-Pier Chouinard and Brilliance & Melrose