Born during the COVID-19 pandemic and originally intended as an online shop, Carisma Collections had a baptism of fire into the world of business. Yet, the high-end Maltese jewellery brand founded by two entrepreneurial siblings, Carlos and Martina Borg – whose first names lend themselves to the brand’s name, ‘Car-Is-Ma’ – has rewritten the rule book on thriving through adversity.
“We never expected it to grow so much, so fast,” says Carlos Borg, leading designer and marketing director at Carisma Collections. “What started as a one-person show has kept evolving. Over our first November and December in 2020, we were averaging around 70 orders per day; we now average about 375 order per day at the same time of year.
“Also since launching online, we have opened two physical shops, taken part in or sponsored multiple events such as Mużika Mużika, created the trophy for the Malta Eurovision Song Contest and collaborated with both Stephanie Borg and Heritage Malta. I’m especially proud of the ‘Carisma watch’, which is the first watch made especially for a brand in Malta.”
Martina Borg, who oversees the company’s logistics, including Human Resources and Operations, also shares key moments since its launch. “We are fortunate to have achieved so much in such a short time,” she says. “Among our many landmark moments over the last two years, winning the Best Local Jewellery Design and Technique Award at the 2021 Local Business Awards was a key milestone.”
A critical aspect of the brand’s fast and steady success has been its core values, reflecting diversity, charisma, self-love, the spirit of family and cohesion – and a deep connection with its Maltese roots.
“We had these core values from the day we launched and we still integrate them everywhere – from our campaigns to our choice of models to the collections we release,” continues Ms Borg. “We have always loved Malta and its traditions and wanted that heritage to be a core part of our brand. Our grandfather and his love of the festa inspired us growing up – seeing that love and enthusiasm up close is something that we carry with us.”
Accessibility for the people of Malta blended with the country’s national heritage is also high on the agenda at Carisma, explains Mr Borg. “From day one, our vision for the brand was to offer the Maltese people high-quality pieces at reasonable prices. We have always strived to be inclusive and relatable, and we have continued this trend with the people and causes we choose to support,” he shares. “We want people to have a luxurious experience at an affordable price, which is why all our pieces come beautifully packaged with authenticity cards. Our dream was to create the same kind of feeling as in a high-end jewellery store.”
Such family-oriented, customer-focused values drive the forward-thinking leadership style of the management team at Carisma. “We are a family-run business which takes away the stiffness of being corporate,” he goes on. “We enjoy each other’s company and take the values we have at home to work with us. Openness is so important, as is having a good relationship with your team. A good business leader can identify the strengths of employees and invest in those strengths – there is no point in focusing on things they are not comfortable doing. We are a small team, but we are all very passionate about what we do, and that’s truly the best way to get things to work.”
Employee empowerment is another central concern for Ms Borg. “We implement a value-based kind of leadership,” she shares. “It’s essential to have standards of excellence that our employees can follow, that they know they are valued and that there is a place for them in the company’s future, as well as room for growth. We empower our employees and make sure to celebrate the accomplishments of every individual.”
Likewise, preparation and openness in leadership is key, she highlights: “It’s imperative to lead by example, to be clear in all your communications, and always be positive. A leader shouldn’t talk more than they listen. Your team is the company’s eyes and ears, and you must constantly communicate with them. Business is not static and a good leader is always prepared for anything, with one foot in the future. Every situation is new and unique – so you must expect the unexpected.”
While challenging, launching a local brand during an international health crisis influenced, shaped and developed the business skills of both leaders, powered by their intrinsic work ethic. “Everyone wants overnight success, but it doesn’t work that way,” says Mr Borg. “I worked 12-14 hours a day while doing this and my previous job. It’s true what they say: your dreams don’t work unless you do. My leadership style was forged during this critical time. The pandemic taught us the importance of being reactive and proactive; that you must act fast and take advantage of each situation. The fact that we first opened online gave us a massive boost, since we gave people an outlet as shops were closed – and we invested in photography, as customers had no physical way to see the jewellery.”
Yet, post-pandemic, both sibling entrepreneurs now prefer engaging with customers face-to-face and championing the local community that inspires and motivates them. “There is truly nothing more important than communication,” Ms Borg asserts. “And we have always been taught to give back, which Carisma really allows us to do. We created a platform named ‘Carisma Talks’ to speak about more challenging topics, and we donate to entities such as The Marigold Foundation and Heritage Malta, with whom we are restoring jewellery pieces found in the temples.”
“We have also teamed up with Alexia Demicoli, who is releasing a book about resilient women,” adds Mr Borg. “We will be donating a hundred pendants to the first hundred people who buy it.”
With the recent opening of its second shop and more local collaborations on the horizon, the future of Carisma Collections looks as beautiful as the pieces it creates. “I’m so excited about Carisma’s future and grateful for everything this journey has brought so far,” Mr Borg concludes. “It is surreal how much we have achieved in such a short time: in just two years, we have exceeded the traffic of other sites open for 10, all thanks to our fantastic team. 2023 is set to be even bigger!”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders 2022 project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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