People with Passion
Who I interviewed: Claire Davidson
Founder and Director of Marketing and Product Development - Urbanara
Passion: Passion for Quality
I remember the day I met Claire. A meeting was organised to discuss how we could work together, as we thought that their pieces (URBANARA) would be perfect for the Interior Design Projects I was working on.
Walking into the meeting room, I first got to admire their showroom full of wonderful things for home. Apart from letting out a lot of 'Ooooh Aaaaahs' during my wonder, I also noticed how everyone working there was so well-dressed - made me want to go back home and put a little more effort into how I looked!
Claire entered the room, and so did her incredible aura. She is beautiful, elegant and definitely knows what she wants. I already knew then that I'd have to interview Claire one day. The day has finally arrived, and her answers have confirmed that she is clearly someone who inspires a lot of people, especially women - not only as a business person, but also as one classy & ambitious lady.
What makes your heart skip a beat
If I listed everything I felt a passion for, we’d be here all day! I am passionate about so many things – from fantastic food and wine, to finding amazing pieces for my home to great business ideas that change and challenge the way things have always been done.
But in the end there is one passion that connects all of the above; a passion for quality. I have a fundamental belief that one should either do something properly or one shouldn’t do it at all. I spend my life making sure I am surrounded by quality, be it food, music, or design, and I’ve learnt that true quality only comes when you have a genuine love for what you do. From my local breakfast place to a vintage Eames chair, their creators have all worked hard and with a genuine passion to create something truly special in the world. I hope our customers see the same principles in what we do at URBANARA.
When did your passion start
From before I can remember; I think I have always been a passionate person!
What's your story and how would you describe yourself
I am British by birth but I would actually describe myself as a bit of a nomad! I was born in London, but left when I was 6. My father is a journalist so we travelled the world spending 10 years in different countries – Belgium, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. I learnt quickly to adapt to new places, cultures and people – and I carry that love of exploring still today.
I then settled for a while in the UK to complete a business degree, and worked in marketing for 7 years in London before being headhunted to join a furniture start-up in Shanghai. Not being used to staying in one place for so long, I jumped at the chance to move to a different culture. It was there that I met my co-founder Benjamin Esser and we began discussing the idea of starting something ourselves.
At the time, we were starting to buy our first homes and were sick of buying at IKEA over and over again, but we had nowhere near the budgets for the big brands. It was from here that the idea of URBANARA was born – a brand focused on high quality, beautiful, interesting homewares at affordable prices. We wanted to build a business that celebrated traditional manufacturing – creating pieces that stand the test of time. We started (and still continue!) the business with the belief that if we wouldn’t put it in our homes, we wouldn’t put it in yours.
Who inspires you and why
I am continuously inspired by strong women who have worked hard to get where they are today. From impressively successful women like Sheryl Sandberg and Christin LaGarde, to my hugely influential Economics teacher (who has sadly now passed away) to my fierce and uncompromising grandmother who would never take no for an answer, these women provide a constant source of inspiration.
Your most memorable experience
In 2007, I was lucky enough to get a table at El Bulli in Spain. At the time voted the best restaurant in the world, you have to apply for a table and then your name is drawn from a lottery! We went as 6 friends and I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We arrived at this small restaurant in a quiet and secluded bay as the sun went down. What came next can only be described as pure theatre – an amazing combination of flavours and sensations. I would need an entire day to explain the dinner but it was simply a lovely night filled with amazing food, incredible wines and lots and lots of laugh with friends. A perfect evening, which was completed by being invited to the kitchen to meet the man himself, the head chef Ferran Adria.
Your most valuable possessions
From the practical to the completely impractical:
1. My iPhone – how did I live life before?!
2. Olive oil – makes everything taste amazing
3. A piece of art I was given for a birthday a few years ago – I see it everyday and it still makes me smile as much as the day I was given it
If you could give advice to people who are in the same professional field as you what would it be...or general advice for life…
People often ask us what is the most important thing in creating and running a successful start-up – and I would say hands down the only advice I can give is: “Whatever you start make sure you love it”, and I mean really love it! Start-up is full of ups and downs, there is no one there to keep you going and tell you that you are doing great, there are no days off. So you need to be sure that everyday when you wake up you are still passionate about what you are doing. That you retain a vision of where you want to go. That you believe in your business 100% - for a start-up to be successful it needs to be genuine and authentic – it has to come from the heart.
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What has been your proudest moment
We have won awards and plaudits from influential people for URBANARA but in truth I feel most proud every time we get an email from a customer telling us how happy they are with the products, the customer service or the brand – it is this that that keeps me going and keeps me believing that we are doing something right.
Do you know someone who is truly making a difference in this world
I think it’s pretty much impossible to choose one person who is truly making a difference in the world. It may be naive but I would love to believe that everyday, be it big or small, be it on a global scale or at the most individual level everyone strives to make a difference in the world.
That said, if I really had to pick, I would say Medecins Sans Frontieres is an amazing organisation who give a lot to some of the world’s most in need. They could stay at home in their comfortable doctor’s surgeries but instead they go to some of the world’s most dangerous places to help other humans; totally inspiring.