Hillberg & Berk grows into a gem of a business - Rachel Mielke wins BDC's Young Entrepreneur Award for Saskatchewan

REGINA, May 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Working from Regina, outside the fashion mainstream, Rachel Mielke has propelled her Hillberg & Berk designer jewellery brand firmly into the spotlight. Through high-profile marketing initiatives such as having her designer pieces showcased at the 2008 Academy Awards and appearing as a contestant on CBC-TV's Dragons' Den, she has built a national brand sought by international celebrities.

For her growing success, Rachel, 30, has been named Saskatchewan's Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award winner, and will be honoured tonight at a gala in Saskatoon. "I believe that if you have a great product, understand marketing and keep on top of the latest online trends, you can really be successful," says Rachel.

Although she acknowledges that there are challenges to being "out of the loop" of the Toronto-centred Canadian fashion industry, Rachel is firmly committed to Saskatchewan. "It's a fantastic time to be here. Our economy is strong. Our population is growing. Our infrastructure is being developed. All kinds of new and exciting things are happening."

Off to a creative start
Rachel started her company in 2007, turning her high-school jewellery-making hobby into a high-profile and lucrative business. Hillberg & Berk is known for its handmade products made with sterling silver, vermeil, semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals that boast multi-functional features, which make them stand out from the crowd.

It was after she had studied business that friends encouraged Rachel to make a career selling her creations. "I went to a few sales and right away noticed that the product sold really well and there was an opportunity to start a company with it." Today, the jewellery is available in boutiques, galleries and gift shops across Canada.

Through a connection with the Toronto Fashion Incubator, Rachel was invited to provide jewellery for the 2008 Academy Award gift bags. Upon her return from Los Angeles, she auditioned for Dragons' Den, which led to a venture capital investment from the show's W. Brett Wilson. Building on this momentum, Rachel designed pieces for G20 Summit attendees and promoted a new line, Memento Mori, in conjunction with Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair.

Rachel supports causes that help empower women though charitable donations of time and products. One of the organizations to which Hillberg & Berk contributes is Wings of Hope, dedicated to helping breast cancer patients with day-to-day expenses.

"I always dreamed that this would be a big company," says Rachel, "and I feel like right now I am taking Hillberg & Berk towards our goal of becoming the number one in Canada's designer jewellery sector. Being able to build a national fashion-industry brand from Saskatchewan makes it that much better."

"Many people dream of taking their product to the Academy Awards or going on Dragons' Den, but very few ever do it," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde. "Rachel has had the courage to step out of her comfort zone to gain heightened visibility for her brand. It has paid off in the form of growing success for her company and a sense of individual accomplishment for Rachel."

About BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the Young Entrepreneur Awards pay tribute to successful Canadian entrepreneurs between 19 and 35 years of age. YEA winners are recognized for their business prowess, creativity, innovative spirit and community involvement. The BDC 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards are sponsored by Deloitte, Cisco, BLG, Sage and The Globe and Mail.

About BDC
Canada's business development bank, BDC puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 1,900 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers financing, venture capital and consulting services to 29,000 small and medium sized companies. Their success is vital to Canada's economic prosperity. www.bdc.ca

SOURCE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BANK OF CANADA

For further information:

Maria Constantinescu
Advisor, Media Relations
Business Development Bank of Canada
514-518-1577 (cell)
1-888-683-0485 (media room in Saskatoon)
maria.constantinescu@bdc.ca

Geoffrey King
Director, Public Relations
Business Development Bank of Canada
514-496-4351
geoffrey.king@bdc.ca


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