Chris Schweder – Howick Village Jeweller
“I did terribly at school and I left really young – I was 15. My father was involved in the jewellery industry and found me an apprenticeship. I liked doing metalwork at school and I loved building stuff – I was destined to be working with my hands that’s for sure! At that time I didn’t really understand my creative skills – I’d never fostered them or thought of fostering them.
I had a very good apprenticeship – with a very, very tough, demanding boss. He was a high level craftsman. He had an incredibly successful business, but had some deep problems personally, and although he seemed to do everything to wreck the business, it still stayed successful because he was as good as he was. I saw that and thought “I’ll never wreck my business”. In the latter years I probably only saw him for an hour or two a day, so I was kind of running the place. So I thought, ‘Well I’m sure I can do it, I’m not going to hang around here, I’ll get started!’.
When I started my business, it was a huge, huge learning curve. There are so many facets to our industry. There are elements which are a trade in their own right. Gem cutting, gemology, stone setting, jewellery making – as a craftsman you actually tap into of all those areas. You’re like a GP – you have a whole range of different elements. I’m very fortunate that I can cover any and all these areas.
I was very lucky that I had some really caring people around who said ‘Well Chris, you can work all the hours of the day and night but that’s still not going to make you succeed in business – there’s more to it than that’. So they came around and offered me support.
From a financial perspective, lockdown hurt us in a huge, huge way. I knew I needed to rest because I knew what I had ahead of me. In my whole working life the most I’ve ever had off was a couple of weeks and it made me think about what I’m doing and how I feel about it. I made sure my time was a quiet time – a time to reflect. I got my mind fit and knew when I was coming back that I was in the best possible condition and had the clarity to be able to do it.
When I came back to work I had a passion and a drive like when I started 35 years ago! It could have gone either way. From a creative perspective it was amazing. Three years ago, four words came into me so fast and I wrote them down. “Energy, joy, creativity and progress”. Those words have become the basis of my decision making. If something doesn’t give me those things then It’s probably not quite right.
I have awesome customers who are in the most lovely frame of mind at the moment – I really love dealing with people and they are in such a good head space. They really genuinely want to come and support business. There’s a spirit of kindness around locally and I hope it lasts!
Howick village is completely unique; there aren’t many parts of Auckland that have our sense of community and history. There’s no doubt that the backdrop is what makes it beautiful as well. Having the landscapes around us – valleys, hills, water – that are so varied make it really special. The village is also special because the stores are mostly owner-operators. They work very hard building, looking after and getting know their customers. They become our friends.”