Gwen Hustwit is General Manager Creative and Marketing at the world’s most awarded luxury tea brand, Newby Teas of London. She started her career in supply chain in her native France, before moving into retail finance and then later to London and investment banking and private equity.
Since 2012 Gwen has been involved in creative and marketing roles at Newby, and now leads on UK brand development, marketing planning and delivery, alongside managing the creative and marketing teams from Newby’s London headquarters.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
In my working life, I have changed career three times. I started working in Paris first in supply chain and then retail banking. After that I moved to London to step into investment banking and private equity.
At the age of 30 I had just got married and was looking at my career and made a decision. I was not passionate about financial services; I did not look forward to Monday morning as much as I looked forward to Friday evening. I made the choice to follow my passion and get into a creative role.
After doing a graphic design course and freelancing for a little bit a mutual contact introduced me to the Chairman of Newby Teas, Mr Nirmal Sethia. In one half an hour interview Mr Sethia, not only inspired me but he also fulfilled my check-list of what I wanted: love the industry, love the role, be creative and work for someone who inspired me to be at my best.
While the role started as a straight design function, I have since grown in the role to lead on marketing for Newby Teas and was last year promoted to General Manager. I have now spent five years at this company and I have never looked back.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I never knew what I wanted to do when I was growing up and never really developed a full career plan. At each stage of my life I asked myself, what is the next step, what do I want to be doing tomorrow? In my career I have pursued my passions and gone with my heart and gut, even when this may not have appeared to be the most logical thing to do.
I am a big believer in doing what you love and then working out how to be paid for it.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
The biggest challenges in my career came just before each move, from Paris to London and from banking to marketing a luxury tea brand. Letting go of security and stability to follow a passion will always be scary but once you take that leap of faith, you realise it was for the best. Life can be magic when you take risks.
By focusing on what I wanted to achieve, what would make me happy waking up each morning, I was able to overcome this fear and I have never regretted it.
On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?
One of the best things about my job is there isn’t really a typical day. Monday is by far the most structured however. I start each week by checking through the creative briefs that come to me from all our 12 global locations and brief our London based creative.
This is followed by a weekly 11 am call with Newby Teas’ external PR agency to look back at last week’s media coverage, a check on on-going campaigns and discuss activity for the weeks and months ahead. Following this I lead a weekly content planning meeting with our marketing team.
This is where the rest of the week divides. At present Newby Teas is in the process of developing a new range with new product design, so much of my week is working with our copywriters, designers and creative staff to deliver this on time and to budget.
Typically, my day ends with a round up of emails, briefs etc. Part of my role is as the final point of contact for everything Newby Teas puts in the public domain, so before I leave, anything outstanding has to be signed off.
Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?
In my career I have been very lucky to have two inspirational mentors who helped me immensely.
The first was my manager in Paris when I moved into banking from the transport industry. He took a complete chance on me. During my time in banking he supported my skills development and gave me the guidance I needed to carve out a successful career in, this all too often, male dominated industry.
The second is my current employer, Nirmal Sethia. Once again this inspirational individual gave me a chance to build on my previous experience, but in a new and more challenging role. Since joining his company I have been given the chance to grow in my role, expand my skill set and take on new responsibilities. Beyond my day job I have learned more about business, leadership and management in these five years than I had in the 15 preceding. Mr Sethia is always generous with his time and advice.
I strive to repay his trust every day. He is a very fair man but expects us to succeed.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
It is often the case that women work in different ways to men, reaching conclusions, strategies and the like through different methods. Businesses should be structured to allow women the space to do this, to achieve goals in their own way. And, in the creative industry, it is really important for women to be given the space to listen to their intuition.
This requires company leaders to show vision and inspire women to work towards targets in the methods that suit them.
How would you encourage more women into creative roles and what should the do to succeed?
In any career, or any field, what really matters is to follow your passion. If that is what you will do the rest will follow. I’d encourage any woman to never doubt what they can achieve. It is often daunting but always worth it to go after what you want out of life.
A lack of direct experience is not an impediment to entering a creative role, or indeed to any career. People can use what they learned in previous industries to inform their new work. Transferable skills always exist, for example I have used my previous experience in logistics, business and finance, coupled with a design qualification, to great use in marketing. Whether it is planning, data analysis, budgeting, negotiating and designing the transferable skills developed in completely different industries have stood me in good steed.
The one thing that always helps is trial and error, don’t hesitate to try new ideas and strategies and learn from mistakes to move forward. Especially with marketing, it is great to know the fundamentals but you need to try things in the real world to see what works and what doesn’t work and also understand how each campaign is different and that rules don’t always apply. Never be afraid to think big, even if it seems impossible to achieve lessons will be learned and in the future you will achieve so much more.
Last but by no means least, to succeed a little bit of common sense can always take you a long way.
If you look back over the past five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?
My greatest professional achievement in the past five years is to get into a career where I am doing, day-in-day-out, what I love. I enjoy Monday morning as much as Friday evening.
Within this role over the past few years, along with my colleagues, I have achieved a total reposition of Newby Teas. From a predominately trade brand, albeit in the most luxurious locations globally, to a retail company represented online with our e-boutique, in Harrods, Waitrose and soon more places!
Tell us about your plans for the future?
As long as I am creating I am happy. My plans for the foreseeable future are to continue to build on Newby’s recent successes. Our company has come so far, yet we have so much more to do!