Ben Elliot is the co-founder of Quintessentially.com, nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, and the purveyor of "access to the inaccessible." At the age of 26, Elliot began the private members' club and concierge service, and is now running 60 offices internationally with celebrity members such as Madonna, Sir Richard Branson, and Scarlett Johansson. Elliot has his finger on the luxury market's global pulse, providing the best products and services to his clients from around the world. From the luxury market, to what he's looking forward to this year, Elliot talks about his passions.
Where did you spend New Year's Eve?
Last year was an extremely exciting yet busy one for me, so it was wonderful spending the festive season in a much more low key manner. I spent Christmas with my new wife and puppy, and our families, down in the countryside, and then went to Scotland near Inverness with a group of friends to break in the New Year in true highland fashion…walking in the snow and drinking good malt whisky.
The best party you have ever been to?
I have been lucky enough to have been to some pretty amazing parties in my life. While I have left a lot of my party days behind me, there are still occasionally some that really stand out. The Royal Wedding last year will obviously forever remain embedded in my memory. It was a truly wonderful event and one that made me very proud to be British. My wife will also jab me in the ribs if I don’t mention our own wedding last year, which was obviously the best party I have ever been to.
[Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Tom Parker Bowles, Ben Elliot, Mary-Clare Winwood Photo via]
Most beloved purchase?
Without a doubt, Clive is my most beloved purchase. Clive is our miniature dachshund puppy which we got last year. He is absolutely part of the family and I love having his company on my early morning runs.
How do you stay on top of global trends in order to bring the best service to your discerning clientele?
Quintessentially started in London in 2000 as a small London based concierge company. We were looking after some of the city’s most prolific and discerning individuals. From the very beginning our focus has always been on service; proactive and dedicated to each individual. Quintessentially is now in over 62 cities around the world and so we have experts on the ground in every corner of the globe, relaying information on global trends to all the worldwide offices, so we’re able to intimately know the various markets and their emerging trends.
Where do you believe the luxury market is heading? Trends you see for 2012 and beyond?
Summing up a single global trend is very difficult, as every market varies. In Europe, for example, the recent economic turmoil has caused a return to craftsmanship, where we have seen our members continue to spend but on luxury items, but those that are made to last, which are investments, and that are created with true quality in mind. In China the luxury market is booming, with a massive interest in foreign luxury brands. Our wine business, Quintessentially Wine, has been booming in recent years with particular emphasis on the Asian market as their thirst for luxury beverages continues to grow.
We have also noticed a massive increase globally in requests from members interested in mind-blowing, money-can’t-buy experiences. Nowadays it seems you have to really get creative to do something that your neighbour hasn’t, so we’ve helped arrange trips for members to trek through the Antarctica to see the Emperor Penguin colonies, sky dive off Mount Everest, attend world film premiers, and have dinner with presidents.
What advice would you give to New York women about British men? There seems to be a revival in your appeal at the moment...
I love New York as a city. I lived there for many years when I started up Quintessentially in the states, and I actually met my wife in the Big Apple - she is half American and her father, the singer Steve Winwood, is English. However sadly I’m not sure how much advice I can offer New York women about British men...Mars and Venus and all of that...I’m still a bit clueless myself.
Having founded a company which now has offices in every corner of the globe, any tips for young entrepreneurs?
I would say that it is important not to let anyone deter you from trying something that you have faith in. If you think it is a good idea, and you are a driven, intelligent and passionate person, then someone else might also believe it is a venture to take notice of. When we first launched Quintessentially there were hordes of people out there convinced that we’d fail in the first year, and that the idea was ridiculous. My partners and I were extremely dedicated to ensuring that we did not fail. We slept with our mobiles under our pillows, personally ensuring that every member had uninterrupted 24/7 support. The company thankfully went from strength to strength, and today we’re in over 60 cities and have an additional 32 sister businesses, including divisions in wine, travel, public relations, and real estate.
It is extremely important to have the right team behind you. We’d never be where we are today without the hard work, the dedication and the creativity of the Quintessentially worldwide team. Each individual brings something new to the project, and we are passionate about nurturing each individual’s flair and ideas. I would also say that to succeed you will inevitably have a few stumbles along the way, while you iron out the kinks. But that is no bad thing. Try various ideas and if they don’t work, try something else. Learn from your mistakes. When we originally launched in China back in 2007 we went straight into the mainland, which we later discovered wasn’t’ the best idea. We withdrew and set up the office in Hong Kong instead and grew the company’s reputation from there, until the demand grew for our services from the mainland, where we later relaunched. Thankfully it has been extremely successful ever since.
Special events you are looking forward to in 2012?
I am obviously extremely excited about The Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. As a Brit, it will be a summer never to forget, as the world’s attention falls onto our fair city - and the atmosphere here is going to be electric. We have a lot of members coming over for the events and so we’re certainly going to be extremely busy over that period.
[Mary-Clare Winword, Ben Elliot, Photo via]
Most extravagant or outrageous request from a Quintessentially member?
Over the years we have had some truly amazing requests from our members, which is a testament to their varied imagination! We’ve closed the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a member to propose at the top of it, we’ve organised a romantic dinner on an iceberg, we’ve sourced the world’s most expensive bottle of wine, we’ve created a drive-in style batman cave in a member’s house. We’ve also arranged some amazing adventures for members wanting to see tombs in Egypt that aren’t open to the public, or to trek across Tibet and have dinner with the Dalai Lama. I’m constantly impressed by what the team can do.
"You can't always get what you want." True or False?
At Quintessentially you can get damn close!