Exclusive Interview with Girl Boss Audrey Tcherkoff
We meet female CEO and Visionaire, Audrey Tcherkoff,
who is not your average anything
Who are you?
A 34 year old women, a very lucky wife, a mother of a little baby girl, a loving daughter and grand-daughter, a traveler and passionate, a hard-working and tireless person.
What do you do?
I am running a luxury brand in the Middle-East, building a passion business around health and food on the side together with my husband with the only aim to improve people’s life and taking more and more steps from the for-profit world to non-
I have also joined the Board of Directors of Positive Planet, the largest global micro-credit organisation. The president of the Foundation has asked me a year ago to help creating and structuring the global fundraising department. This was a tough decision as I was 7 months pregnant and already very busy at the time.
My plan was to take a short maternity leave and work throughout. This was a bold move and a really hard one! I guess the key to success is to make your family a part of your business. We are sharing and taking all important decisions together. Dedicating time to a non profit organisation was also motivated by the fact that I am a mother now and I want to be as much as I can to be a role model for my daughter and teach her through my actions that life is not only about your own success but also about helping others while you can and make a difference in other’s people life.
How can you rate your journey so far?
I have the feeling that I have lived several lives already, spending my childhood in the countryside, going to boarding school and college, living in New-York and Tokyo as a student, travelling the world for my professional career and now being based in Dubai surrounded with the best family and friends.
I feel very lucky and privileged and I am trying to give back in my own way and do the best I can with what as been given to me.
What have been the major business milestones you have achieved?
I have built the Robert Wan Brand from scratch in the Middle East and opened the first Pearl Farm in Qatar.
My passion for pearls began in 2007 when I literally submerged myself in stories of the underwater world of the Tahitian Lagoons. Coming from an entrepreneurial background, I was adamant on reviving the Pearl Heritage of the Gulf countries.
I was only 25 years old when I moved to the region on my own to experience the market, create the business plan, meet with investors, potential partners, workshops, clients…
It has been hard sometimes and I felt lonely very often but I am proud of my choices and have no regrets. I would probably do everything the same way if I had the chance again.
As soon as I finished Business School, the only thing I wanted to do was to travel all over the globe, discover, learn, realise my potential and eventually change the world.
The Pearl business helped me to combine all of my passions and entering the non-profit world helped me to realised my dream.
Your work is filled with many different facets – take us through each part of what you do and the roles you play in each company?
For the jewellery business, I have learned through experience all the different aspect of the business, from designing, to visual merchandising, going through negotiation with suppliers, buyers, customers, distributors, investors… this has been one of the best learning experience.
How do you manage these multiple roles?
I am always seeking to find better ways to balance work and life but I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive husband. I believe that women should not feel guilty about having a passion for work.
How has one part of your journey taken you to the next?
My life so far has been a journey of unique encounters with wonderful earth angels who have been a very important part of my life – they have trusted me and given me opportunities.
I have spent the first ten years of my career building experience and I am now starting the next ten giving sense to my choices and using that experience to make a difference.
Do you believe in fate?
I believe in fate but I also believe you can’t just sit back and let destiny happen.
I also will never understand why I was born with the chance to have this life and why some others are born with nothing and very little chance to realise their potential.
We can change the destiny of those people, by giving them a hand.
How important is integrity?
It is the only way to last.
How do you choose the people in your life?
With my heart.
What has been your most important moment of the past year?
Becoming a mother. I am so grateful for the gift of love in my life, motherhood is a blessing and I am enjoying every second of it.
It helps me make decisions on what is important, to remain grounded and focused on the things that really matter.
What is something you are looking forward to?
I am, every day, looking forward tomorrow.
How do you define yourself as a woman?
Passionate, perfectionist (but I am working on it), impatient (working on it too), loving, caring and bold.
Tell us about your recent event in Cannes?
Positive Planet has launched the first Positive Cinema Week in partnership with the 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival. Following a week of screening in Cannes, we had a day of discussions on the role of cinema in creating a positive global movement and have awarded the first Prizes for Positive Cinema.
In a world constantly confronted by questions on immigration, political instability, human rights, religion, energy policy and the role of humanity in improving society, we believe there has never been a more pressing time to celebrate and encourage the role of cinema in inspiring the change needed for a more positive future.
The ambition of the first Positive Cinema Day is to highlight cinema’s power to go beyond entertainment. Indeed, cinema is a historical platform for raising awareness on social and environmental issues, rousing future generations to learn from the examples of the generations before them and leave a positive legacy, and inspiring the films that will reflect the times we live in.
We had very inspiring ambassadors such as Vincent Cassel, Helen Mirren, Harvey Weinstein, Robert de Niro and have gathered many other film industry experts, business leaders and NGO leaders to discuss about Human Rights, Culture and Diversity, Progress and Saving the Planet (environment and ecology) and how Cinema is changing positively in its own way our world by informing, denouncing, elevating our consciousness or raising questions on some of the most important challenges of our time.
What kind of a result did this event return to you?
Peace. I am now convinced we can change the world in our small way. The best way to shine is to empower the people around us, we can make a living out of what we are passionate about and that is actually the key to happiness. We should never take ‘no’ for an answer, everything is possible.
What are the biggest challenges and how do you cope with them?
Balancing my work and personal life is probably the biggest challenge. Every day we have to make a decision about whether we are going to be a wife or a mother or a CEO and I don’t think a woman can have it all. It is about choices and compromises.
Who are the greatest influences on your life?
People. I am feeding my soul by learning from people I am surrounded with and people I look up to.
My grandfather has definitely been the greatest influence on my journey and was a constant reminder to me to never take anything for granted in life and to always fight my own battles.
I am also extremely lucky to now head the Positive Economy Forum, an initiative launched by Positive Planet born out of the conviction that it is critical to restore the long-term priority in our decisions and actions. Because it is the only way to address the economic, environmental, technological, social and political challenges that are in store for the 2030 world.
To set up a positive society that redirects the economy toward the consideration of generations to come, our network gathers, raises awareness and thinks today’s world and tomorrow’s solutions.
We are gathering, several times a year in the Positive Economy Forum context, CEOs, NGO leaders, social entrepreneurs, thinkers, artists, idea-carrying citizens or innovating projects-developers. The aim is to facilitate the emulation between experts during brainstorming sessions on global issues and produce analysis and create measurement tools for a better assessment and understanding of the world.
Through our forum I am meeting the change makers, the people who are fighting everyday to make our world a better place for future generation. They are all great influence on my life such as the Captain Paul Watson who was one of the initiator of Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an anti-poaching and direct action group focused on marine conservation.
How important is belief – what do you believe in?
Belief can change your life! Believing that you can attain your goal is of great importance for it’s achievement. Faith and belief have always strengthened my motivation to act and do things, and it helps me maintain the positive attitude necessary for success.
Sum up your business philosophy in 5 words?
Love what you do, do what you love. (sorry that’s 8 )
At what age did you become a CEO?
29 years old.
How important are these three letters?
Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. If you want to improve an organisation you need to improve yourself first.
I don’t like titles in general. They are flattering to the ego more that speaking the truth.
We all want a title that speaks of our knowledge, expertise and success. Our culture places incredible value on fancy professional titles. We get jobs based on our previous titles and even get paid more money because of our titles. People place us on a pedestal because of our titles too. The combination of words that appear on our business cards can provide power for us as we communicate with others.
Employee value is more important than titles and the best ideas typically are often bottom upwards, not from the top down.
How do you define yourself?
Defining ourselves can take a lifetime, so I would say it is an ongoing process.
What’s your favorite song?
I have many depending on the moment, the mood, the place… but if I have to pick one I would choose the one that makes my heart the warmest and it would be “The Wedding Song” from Angus and Julia Stone, the song I got married to.
Which movie makes you cry?
They all do! I am incredibly sensitive about any movie with a bad ending and have decided to watch only the ones where no one dies at the end.
The one that probably got most of my tears was “The Color Purple”.
What is the last app you downloaded?
Physique 57! I live on sport and this app makes it so much easier to stay connected.&