Conversations with Carolyn #2: Suzanne Vetillart
Welcome back to Conversations with Carolyn. We couldn’t be more excited about our guest, Suzanne Vetillart, CEO of Boma Jewelry. Boma is a family-owned company and a certified B-Corp that was founded in Seattle in 1981.
We hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as we enjoyed the conversation!
Carolyn: What was your favorite childhood book?
Suzanne: This is a book that I had forgotten about until I had my own children. I loved rediscovering the books by Gyo Fujikawa. As a child, I remember feeling connected seeing pictures of a little girl in kimono along with children of other races together in the same book when this wasn’t so common to see.
Carolyn: Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
Suzanne: Right now I love my vintage Boma watch. My Mom found it while going through her jewelry box and gave it to me. It’s originally from the 90’s but the chain style is exactly what’s trending in 2021. It’s deeply sentimental to me, and reflects my style which is minimal and timeless.
Carolyn: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Suzanne: My first cassette tape was Mariah Carey’s Music Box followed by TLC’s Waterfalls. When I was in fifth grade my family moved to Bangkok and I had to change schools and I remember being in my room listening to the music I used to hearing on the radio back home and feeling connected to my American life back home for a small moment.
Carolyn: What makes you laugh these days?
Suzanne: My kids do say the darnedest things, at least to me. I have four kids and their conversations with each other, when they think I’m not listening are really entertaining.
Carolyn: What is your go-to way to wind down at the end of the day?
Suzanne: I used to enjoy having a glass of red wine but now I enjoy something a bit fresher and finer. My new go to drink is a yobu soju on ice with a splash of seltzer.
Carolyn: Do you have any unexpected hobbies?
Suzanne: I don’t know if this qualifies as a hobby but I really love coffee. My Dad started his own coffee roasting company in Thailand over a decade ago and he sources his beans from hilltribe farmers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve gone to visit the coffee farms and really love learning about different coffee origins and different roasting styles in general. Living in Seattle, we have some of the best coffee beans in the world so I enjoy trying and tasting different types of coffee.
Carolyn: What would you be doing if you weren’t the CEO of Boma?
Suzanne: I used to work in architecture and interior design and I met my husband while working in the same field. CEO-ing takes so much commitment and time that we have yet to design and build a family home that reflects our design style. However we’re currently in the process of moving into a new office space so I’m excited that I’ll finally be able to bring in some of my old skills to Boma.
Carolyn: We are so inspired by your commitment to your workers and journey to build a sustainable, and ethical company. What inspired your vision to become a social purpose company?
Suzanne: I started researching B Corps about 5 years ago and really felt connected to the idea of being part of an impact business that focuses on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. I also realized that many of the B Corp values reflected what my parents have always done. We use the terms sustainable and ethical today, yet for my parents and how we work with our employees in Thailand, it is related more to the idea of no harm to others and no harm to nature. This vision didn’t start with me, but I am helping to communicate it in ways that tie back to what our customers deserve to know in how we do things.
Carolyn: What is your favorite aspect of leading a family business?
Suzanne: We have employees that have known me since I was really young. When I returned to the company about 5 years ago, they naturally had no reason to trust my leadership but they supported me and did their best to make my decisions successful. Five years on, I feel like we’ve grown together and earned each other’s trust. I don’t take this support for granted as I know its special and not all companies have this culture.
Carolyn: How do you see Boma’s vision and purpose-led initiatives evolving in the next 10 years?
Suzanne: I would like to work on being carbon neutral, then carbon positive. The next work I’d like to do is connected to our supply chain infrastructure and how to build the most green factory possible. We’re fortunate to already have the resources and infrastructure that we do have in place, I think for us the next step is in innovating and improving it.
Carolyn: Yobo has had some naysayers because it is not a traditional soju. Have you had challenges forging a nontraditional path for Boma?
Suzanne: One of our most successful lines was a recent collection that was inspired by my Chinese grandmother. As a brand, we have always stayed clear of designing something personal to us as owners. I learned that there are moments when you have to show who you are so that people can connect with you. Even if this feels nontraditional, it’s important to do it as long as it is authentic.
Carolyn: Describe your ideal setting for drinking soju?
Suzanne: I love having a small drink after putting the kids to bed. It feels like a very well deserved treat to have a Yobo soju on ice with a splash of my favorite flavoured seltzer.