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Crafting Greatness Over Growth: Lessons from Atelier Zobel's Small Giant Journey

Dec 03, 2023

A week ago, Sinem and I decided to indulge in some impromptu retail therapy in Konstanz. Little did we know this trip would rekindle a connection with a remarkable store and its inspiring owners. 

As we strolled through the charming streets, we chanced upon Atelier Zobel, a place that had etched itself in my memory twelve years ago as the business that hosted the first Small Giants Community Summit.

Stepping into Atelier Zobel was like walking into the arms of an old friend. There, I locked eyes with Sue, the heart and soul behind that memorable Small Giants Summit of 2011. We embraced in a warm hug and soon swept up in an unexpected evening of cocktails in the store, a tour of the city, and dinner in their art gallery. 

 

The evening at Atelier Zobel was something out of a movie! 

Imagine this: the store was buzzing with people, each adorned in Peter’s exquisite jewellery designs. His latest masterpieces, themed around the aurora borealis, were elegantly displayed, inviting everyone to try them on. And the atmosphere? Pure magic, with the team weaving through the crowd, serving up steaming cups of glühwein.

There we were, Sinem and I, in our casual shopping gear, amidst a crowd dressed to the nines like they just stepped off a glamorous film set. But you know what? We never felt out of place. It was as if we had our own special roles in this glittering ensemble – the Atelier Zobel team and their community had a way of making us feel like part of the star cast, regardless of our attire.

At around 7:30 PM, it was time for a twist in our adventure – a city tour! Okay, my German is basically non-existent, but even so, we soaked up some fascinating tales. Get this: until quite late in the 20th century, people in Konstanz were still tossing wastewater out of their homes into the streets. Yikes, right?

Then, as if on cue, the weather decided to add some drama – rain, followed by snow flurries. Talk about a sudden drop in temperature! But did that stop us? Not a chance. We wandered into parts of Konstanz we'd never seen, discovering hidden gems, we're definitely hitting up on our next visit.

The grand finale of the night was at the gallery. Sue, being the perfect host she is, found us a spot at one of the tables. That’s where we met Werner, the Swiss tax whiz, and Vlad. 

Oh, you’ll love this – Vlad once suggested to his wife that she might fancy some of Peter’s jewellery. Well, not only does she now own a stunning collection, but Vlad himself sported this incredible ring with a turquoise stone that matched his shirt to a T.

What a night, right?

This spontaneous gathering was not just a meeting of friends but a vivid embodiment of the community spirit that Small Giants champions.

So, over dinner, I got the chance to really chat with Sue. Turns out, she's a Canadian, hailing all the way from Montreal. Picture this: she lands in Konstanz, meets Peter, and bam – it's a new chapter in a city she now calls home. Her background? All artsy and creative, so carving her niche in Germany wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. But then, a twist of fate: her friend Ping Fu introduces her to Bo Burlingham's book, "Small Giants."

Fast forward a bit, and Sue's teamed up with Peter at Atelier Zobel. And guess what? Bo’s book turns into her go-to guide, her business bible, if you will. It's been over a decade now, and you can literally feel the Small Giants vibe pulsating through their business.

While we're there enjoying this amazing three-course meal, her team members come over to chat. I mean, how often does that happen? “Jean, it’s Niels. Remember me? I was an apprentice when you were last here. Let me introduce you to Klara. She’s my apprentice now.” It’s like a movie scene where the past and present blend, and you realize the story’s just getting better.

Atelier Zobel: More Than a Jewelry Store

Reflecting on our visit, it's clear how Atelier Zobel transcends the traditional notion of a business. Here's a reminder of what makes them, and all Small Giants, so special:

✅ Authentic Leadership: At the heart of Atelier Zobel are leaders like Susan Barry and Peter Schmid, who lead with a deep sense of purpose and identity, fully committed to their vision and the soul of their craft.

✅ Community Roots: Their connection with the community goes beyond business transactions. They've cultivated a family of loyal supporters, showcasing the strength of genuine relationships.

✅ Personal Connections: The store's ethos revolves around nurturing close ties with customers and suppliers, creating a thriving ecosystem based on mutual respect and cooperation.

✅ Intimate Culture: They prioritize an environment where every individual is valued wholly, fostering a culture of deep mutual respect and understanding.

✅ Passionate Drive: Every aspect of their operation is infused with an unwavering passion for their craft, making every decision a reflection of their core values.

✅ Sustainable Business Model: Atelier Zobel operates on a sound business model that ensures financial viability while maintaining the integrity of their craft and margins.

 

Peter and Sue have just opened a new store right here in Zurich, and it's like stepping into a multi-story wonderland! The ground floor is their dazzling showroom, where their jewellery takes center stage. Then, there's the first floor, which doubles as a bar and event area – talk about mixing cocktails with gems!

But wait, it gets even cooler. The second floor is all about community and sparking ideas and conversations—their first event, a TED talk for women. And the cherry on top? The top floor is dedicated to showcasing charitable initiatives. It's not just a store; it's a whole experience spread over four floors!

A Beacon for Aspiring Small Giants...

Our experience at Atelier Zobel was a vivid reminder that success in business can harmoniously coexist with strong values and community engagement. Their story is not just inspiring but also instructive for any business aspiring to be a 'Small Giant.'

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