Until he was 40, Michael Hill was far from the jewellery juggernaut we know him as today. He was a self-described "Mr Cautious". After struggling at school, and failing in his attempt to become a concert violinist, he started working for his uncle's jewellery business in his teens.

For the next 23 years, he was living an average sort of life in Whangarei with his wife Christine and two children. That's until he got a call one night telling him that, despite the rainy night, his house was on fire. He arrived home to see his brand new home engulfed in flames.

He rushed in to rescue his prized violin, and wife Christine's jewellery. Then, they stood outside and watched as the rain turned to drizzle, and the heat of the fire lifted the heavy cloud from around the house.

"At the same time, it seemed to have the same effect on me. Suddenly, something snapped, and I realised I've been working for my uncle for 23 years, with no clear direction. And that night, I took a visiting card and wrote down quickly 'I'm going to own my uncle's business, and if he won't sell, I'm going to start my own business'. So I set a goal that I genuinely, genuinely wanted to achieve."

Advertisement

Michael's daughter Emma, now chairwoman of the business, was just a child at the time. She says from that moment, Michael Hill jeweller was born. "When you've got nothing, suddenly there are no barriers, anything is possible".

The first Michael Hill store was opened in Whangarei, and rapidly expanded through the country.

If you want to hear more of the story behind Michael Hill's success, listen to his episode of the HP Business Class podcast here.