After pursuing a competitive track career, rigorous academic studies, and a job at a venture capital firm, Vivian Grimes realized she was meant to work in the jewelry business.
“I always knew there was something else that I wanted to do,” Vivian said.
Following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who worked in the jewelry industry, Vivian, BC ’16, founded the fine jewelry business Henri Nöel in 2019.
Although she grew up surrounded by the jewelry industry, it was her father’s inspiration later in life that sparked Vivian’s interest, Vivian said. After experiencing a stroke that completely paralyzed his right side, Rick Grimes, her father, still returned to his business, Certified Jewelers. He learned to work with his left-hand to do so, Vivian said.
After seeing him go back to the office and start creating again, Vivian said she realized how passionately she felt about connecting with jewelry customers.
“That’s what really made me think I love this,” Vivian said. “I’m working at a venture capital firm and this is great, but I love this one on one interaction I get with clients.”
It is from this idea that Henri Nöel derives its most significant value: the customer. People buy jewelry for a variety of reasons, but no matter what, Vivian said she places an emphasis on transparency throughout the process for the sake of the customer’s confidence.
Jewelry is often bought for personal reasons, whether it be a special occasion or a treat for oneself, Vivian said. Being transparent throughout the entire process of creating jewelry helps the customer invest in a product they are confident in, she said.
“She cares so much about our clients and making sure that every piece is perfect,” said Carolina Menendez, Henri Nöel’s head of growth, one of Vivian’s closest college friends, and BC ’16. “Everybody likes what they get from us.”
Vivian said people love the experience of buying jewelry from Henri Nöel. From getting to know customers through individual meetings to reaching out to their social media base to gauge their opinions, Vivian said she aims to intimately communicate with her customer base.
“Jewelry really has an emotional tie that we take very seriously,” Menendez said.
And while engaging with the customer so intensely brings a heavy workload, Rick Grimes said Vivian was never the type of person to stray away from hard work.
While watching her grow up, Rick said he witnessed how being involved in high level athletics played into his daughter’s personality and work ethic. Vivian ran track and cross country at Boston College as well as at the University of Southern California, while she pursued a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Her time as an athlete built up her conviction to pursue her goals, he said.
“She’s always been self motivated,” Rick said. “I think that gave her a lot of confidence.”
As an athlete, Vivian said she was always searching for ways to improve her approach and push herself further—this mentality now translates over to her entrepreneurial approach as she tries to better her business strategy.
“I think my athlete background has helped me be like, ‘Okay, why did this happen? Why didn’t it work? How can I improve,” Vivian said.
Just like training to be an athlete, starting a company entails a constant grind of training and working, Vivian said. The business becomes all you think about, but Rick said his daughter is the type of person to face such challenges head on.
“You have to have that special motivation,” Rick said. “And she’s got it. She really does.”
Menendez said Vivian’s confidence and work ethic is what makes her a strong entrepreneur.
“Vivian is just not afraid of hard work,” Menendez said. “She loves it so much. She puts so much into what she’s doing. I have so much respect and admiration for Vivian. I feel like I trust her and would do anything with her, for her.”
Despite her father and Menendez attributing much of her success to her abilities, in the end, Vivian said she has two other people to thank: her parents.
Vivian said that her parents instilled core values that she draws on in her business decisions. Having grown up with five other siblings, Vivian said family was extremely important to her, which is why she decided to name the company in honor of her family.
The name Henri Nöel is one meant to honor both her father and grandfather—she modified her grandfather’s name, Henry, into Henri to allow for the “ri” to represent her father, Rick. Because these individuals are Vivian’s biggest mentors, she said she wanted to pay homage to them in her company’s name.
“If I’m going to put my heart and soul into something, I want it to mean something,” Vivian said. “It has not only a monetary value, but such emotional value attached to it. I think that’s really special.”
When Vivian first started Henri Nöel, she said she would have been happy to make $60,000—but the company blew this goal out of the water during their first year, she said. Moving forward, Vivian said she hopes to build on the connections she has made with customers and potentially open a physical storefront.
“I don’t see her stopping,” Rick said. “She will make this a very, very successful company.”