"Our moment of inspiration in the sun while on holiday was what sparked off the concept for Cécile Biôt. As we were starting out, we looked to ourselves to find what drives us. We wanted to be an Inclusive business - so that was a key driver. We also wanted to manufacture locally to support our local business community and to cut down on carbon emissions. So right from the start, we were a sustainable business, aligned with the UN SDGs."
Co-Founder, Cécile Biôt
Jacqueline Winstanley recently caught up with Mary Armitage and Jacqueline Smith of Cécile Biôt, to find out more about what makes them such inspiring and Inclusive Entrepreneurs. They are both members of The Inclusive Entrepreneur Network.
Could you tell us how and why you started Cécile Biôt, so that our readers can understand not only the concept but the people behind the unique Magnetar and the Cassiopeia Brooch?
The story behind Cécile Biôt goes back many years, when co-founders Mary Armitage and Jacqueline Smith first became friends at St Joseph's College in Bradford, UK, at the tender age of eleven.
"Over the years, we remained close friends, both sharing similar values and an entrepreneurial approach to life. We were also both committed to sustainable and ethical production, saying 'No' to cheaper low-quality production and choosing to support local industry and manufacturers".
Cécile Biôt was born out of an opportunity experienced first hand by Mary. When her daughter was graduating, they witnessed the difficulties she faced with keeping her academic hood in place. And she was not alone. It was clear that graduands and academics alike were all sporting the ‘off the shoulder’ look.
Determined to solve this problem and enhance the experience of graduation, Mary and Jacqueline undertook extensive research and development processes in order to supply their quality product. The result was the innovative Graduation Magnetar, a unique product designed and manufactured in Yorkshire using environmentally friendly materials.
Could you tell us more about the Graduation Magnetar?
"This unique product is set of two badges that can hold fabric tightly without any damage. Using exciting new technology, the super-strong magnets are fully encased in highly polished recycled polymer. The unique design of interlocking 'teeth' means that it holds fabric in a vice-like grip without damaging material. An ideal size to feature a small design, logo or message, the Magnetar becomes a tangible symbol of the strong connection between graduands and their university, members and their organisations and individuals wishing to have a visible signal of their values. It is also an ideal brand manifestation for private and public organisations and businesses."
In a world where memories are often held in a digital landscape, Cécile Biôt succeeded in created physical memories.
Having successfully launched the Graduation Magnetar, Mary and Jacqueline began to work on other applications that use the magnetic technology - its unique design is the perfect solution to replace fabric damaging pin badges. They offer bespoke orders for businesses, clubs, galleries, museums and personal orders.
In time for this year's Women's International Day, you presented me with a brooch called the Cassiopeia. Can you explain the significance behind the name and the intriguing shape?
"The Cassiopeia brooch is not a magnetic. It is hand crafted in the UK using reclaimed sliver. The sculptural organic shape takes its inspiration from the Ancient Greek fastening called a Fibula.
The constellation Cassiopeia is often referred to as the banished queen ruling the night sky and derives the name from an Ancient Greek myth: Cassiopeia, a beautiful but vain woman, was punished for being boastful in her beauty. She had attracted the wrath of the sea god Poseidon and as a result was put in the impossible position of having to sacrifice her daughter to save her city. Her daughter was tied to a rock awaiting her fate. Although the daughter was rescued, Poseidon still felt that Cassiopeia had to be punished. She was tied to a chair and thrown into the sky, where legend has it she remains to this day - sometimes seen as an M shape and sometimes as a W, viewing the world upside down.
We have taken this story in its misogynist form and turned it upside down! We designed the Cassiopeia brooch to represent the power of being a woman. To say NOW is the time for woman to unite...to say, 'Do not feel pressurised to sacrifice parts of yourself in order to live the life you choose!'
It was our intention that when you saw someone wearing a Cassiopeia brooch, you instantly knew that you shared the same core values - that you are a champion of other women and a believer in the power of being kind. The Cassiopeia brooch is a visible sign that you support other women, recognising that we are all part of the same constellation. No matter what age, race or ability, we can all shine brightly, side by side."
As Mary said, "When I first met Jacqueline, she introduced me to her work with Inclusive Entrepreneurs and her events. Her values clearly aligned with ours, so we spent quite a lot of time together, as colleagues, friends and in a way, enjoying a mentor-mentee relationship that had mutual benefit for both of our organisations. As Cécile Biôt, we have now joined the Inclusive Entrepreneur Community and I love the support that exists between us entrepreneurs. Jacqueline has opened us to opportunities that we would have not considered or thought of before. I look forward to exploring such opportunities and growing within this network."
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