Beautiful, talented and as kind as they come, Hattie Gilpin has gotten ahead with hard work and a radiant smile that will make you feel like you could tell her anything. She splits her time between Wellington and New York, where she runs her jewelry brand, Hattie Banks, that has been making waves in the equestrian world. We caught up with her to learn more about her background and being an entrepreneur in the city that never sleeps.
When did horses become a part of your life?
"I grew up in a small coastal town in South Carolina, where my parents have a farm so it was a big part of my childhood. They're such special animals, so they definitely have been a big part of my life. I was home-schooled through high school so I was able to ride frequently, so they definitely were a big part of my childhood and growing up. I started riding when I was 9 years old, I did pony club up until high school, and then I started doing the horse show circuit. When college rolled around I stopped showing and took two horses with me to Clemson University and just rode for fun. Horses are my therapy, as crazy as it is to say! Now I just have a few horses at my parent’s farm where I can go on trail rides, but since launching my jewelry company it has been great to be back on the show circuit."
How did you first get into designing jewelry?
"I actually had no formal training when I launched my first company in 2016. I'm a huge beach lover. The beach is my second form of therapy if a horse isn't around. I would travel a lot and go to different beaches and I would find shells take them home and dip them into gold and then turn them into fun pieces that eventually turned into more statement jewelry. As I grew into myself as a designer I expressed my style more with finer jewelry. I created more pieces that incorporated diamonds and emeralds and sapphires and rubies and eventually created my company today, Hattie Banks."
You said you had no formal training when you first started, how did you make the transition from doing making jewelry for fun to designer and entrepreneur?
"When I was younger I used to make jewelry for fun with my mom when I was at the beach, so it was a hobby I did with my mom, fast forward 15 years it’s now a business. I moved to New York to work for a boutique hotel company, I always loved hospitality and building places that allows people to experience new places. I then realized i wanted to be more creative and if I was ever going to launch my company, it should be now. I quit my hospitality job, and started dog walking during the day, an average of 15 miles, then go home and make jewelry all night. I would wake up in the morning with bits and pieces of jewelry stuck to my face from passing out from pure exhaustion the night before. It was insane."
Wow, I have a new found respect for dog walkers around the city!
"I did not need a gym membership anymore. But I realized I needed an education, so a jewelry designer in the West Village took me under her wing and she really taught me about production, design and sales. I'm forever grateful to her, she’s been a huge part in my success, in my knowledge and I was just recently accepted into the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) as part of becoming and official jewelry designer and founder."
You have a strong environmental consciousness ingrained your brand, how did that evolve?
"In 2016 I partnered with See Turtles, a non-profit that works towards the preservation of Sea Turtles and marine life. It is so important to save their [turtles] habitat to make it livable for them. Their vegetation has been devastated by the pollution it is so sad. I had gone on several trips with them and saw how I can best not only give back but make a difference to help the species. My ultimate goal is to be able to fund marine biologists to go and to help with all of the issues that our seas are facing, that comes with quite a heavy price tag to be able to do that. For every piece of jewelry sold it then goes and saves 10 turtle hatchlings and protecting the nesting grounds for the mother turtles."
How have horses and the equestrian world influenced your jewelry design?
"I frequently find inspiration from the horses, the people I come into contact with around the horse shows and the greater community especially since it has been a part of my life for so long. Equestrians are so fashion forward, and it's such a stylish and polished sport from how the shirts are tailored and the fit of the pants, it’s incredibly inspirational from a design perspective. but what have been some of your takeaways as a woman in business, a woman in a small business? We talk about that a lot as founders and I think that it's kind of important to hear it from different industries and perspectives."
What are some of your greatest takeaways and advice for woman who are starting their own businesses.
Collaboration over competition. Whether it's hosting an event together, or doing a product together, I believe collaborating is by far the most important thing that a company can do. For me, it’s about strong community of fellow women entrepreneurs that you can talk to with and that you can bounce ideas with and who actually have your best interests at heart. I have a monthly lunch with a group of five female entrepreneurs, and we talk about what we've struggled with this past month, what the growing pains are that we're going through, what we have planned, what our goals are, what we've succeeded in this past month. It has been incredibly important to learn and get the support within the community.