After a multifaceted career that includes editing, writing, event planning, and public relations, Veronica H. Speck established her Global Luxury Communications Consultancy & Strategic Advisory Agency, VHS Ventures, in 2020. Her clients stem from a variety of fields: from art and design to fragrance and fine jewelry to food and wine. Veronica is also a Founding Partner for Maison d’Etto, and The Design Release. For a complete bio and detailed information about Veronica and her work, please click on the link at the end of this interview.
You have had a versatile career path, from writing and editing to special events to PR & marketing. What did you envision yourself to be when you were a kid?
In complete honesty, my parents love to remind me that I confidently told my elementary school teachers that I was going to be a princess when I grew up. My late grandmother “Nana” on my father’s side was Scottish, which informed my love of Princess Diana and the royal family at a young age. After her tragic death, I decided being a princess was not all that it was cut out to be.
My grandmother also instilled a lifelong love of art, history, and literature so I transitioned to envisioning myself as a writer, editor, or news anchor. I had the opportunity to intern at magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue as well as NBC and CNN, and ultimately decided that I preferred the business side. In graduate school, I worked in special events and strategic partnerships at Christie’s, and continued to work in communications and marketing as well as in art and design thereafter.
I also always knew that I wanted the freedom of being an entrepreneur and a femme d’affaires, and am grateful to say that hard work pays off as I am living a life pretty close to the one I envisioned for myself.
Please tell us about VHS Ventures, its mission, purpose, and the philosophy behind it. What inspired you to create this agency?
It was always my plan to eventually become an entrepreneur and begin a business; however, the ideation and creation did not start until Covid-19 erupted in spring of 2020. At the time, I was working with Chef Daniel Boulud overseeing his global communications and marketing strategy. When the restaurants closed, I quickly realized that I needed to diversify, and Chef essentially became my first client followed swiftly by Ferrari and a selection of artists, designers, galleries, wineries, and luxury brands.
Rather than a traditional Public Relations Agency, my company operates much like a Venture Capital Firm—investing and partnering with clients and brands and building a unique and diverse international portfolio. We provide a full spectrum of services including affinity partnerships, branding and business development, celebrity and VIP relations, digital marketing, e-commerce, event production, experiential media, and public relations for luxury and lifestyle clients in the automotive, architecture, art, beauty, design, fashion, fragrance, fine jewelry, hotel, real estate, restaurant, travel and tourism, technology, and wine sectors.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to this point in your life and career? And what are you most proud of?
I think we can all agree that the pandemic forced individuals and businesses to be creative and pivot their business models to suit the state of the world.
I am extremely proud of the individual clients and companies I have chosen to work with. I have become more than business partners and truly friends with each of them, and I want them to succeed and maximize their potential. Most of them are also focused on sustainability and work with nonprofits or charities to donate a portion of all sales. For instance, Studio Lél in Peshawar, Pakistan is a Mother-Daughter duo that supports displaced Afghan refugees and embraces their artisanal ancient craft of pietra-dura or stone inlay technique. My partners want to leave the world a better place than they found it, and for that, I am extremely grateful and proud to be working together and supporting their mission.
You hold other positions in parallel to your work at VHS Ventures. How do you manage such a busy schedule? In what ways might these jobs intersect and how do they inform the work of your own agency?
In addition to my agency, I am the Founding Partner of Maison d’ Etto and The Design Release. I stepped down as Head of Marketing and Communications at Chef Daniel Boulud’s hospitality group when I launched my consultancy, and he became one of my first clients.
I am fortunate in that many of my clients have the opportunity to partner with each other and intersect despite ranging from art and design to fragrance and fine jewelry to food and wine. I have found that most of the clientele in luxury have similar aesthetic sensibilities.
As far as managing my busy schedule—it is a work in progress! However, I operate at a higher level when I am busy and adding more, not less, to my plate. I wake up earlier, keep an organized calendar, and prioritize (most of the time!)
What characteristics should an ideal entrepreneur have?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I am naturally a “yes, man.” I firmly believe in saying yes to opportunities that life presents—especially those that might seem intimidating or challenging. Richard Branson famously quipped “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes—then learn how to do it later!” I couldn’t agree more. On that note, if something is decidedly outside of your skill set, the second most important piece of the puzzle is hiring a counterpart or a team that compliments you in a different way.
What do you believe are the keys to success in the luxury and lifestyle sectors? Most people know the industry terms “luxury” and “lifestyle” generally; can you elaborate on what they represent?
As the name suggests, “lifestyle” is a broad term used to encompass the sector of media that covers daily life, including food, wine, art, architecture, design, hospitality, technology, real estate, travel, beauty, wellness, and more. Luxury brands are certainly a part of the lifestyle umbrella; however, lifestyle in general could mean both commercial or luxury products and companies. In the case of my consultancy, I focus on strictly “luxury lifestyle” clients meaning Michelin Star Chefs, Blue Chip Art Galleries, Luxury Brands, etc. The individuals and companies I work with are focused on craftsmanship and many create one-of-a-kind, handmade products using premium ingredients or materials. The best things take time and should ultimately be “vaut le voyage” or worth the trip (and the price tag) for the quality and care provided.
The pandemic has certainly affected the luxury sector. For instance, fashion and trade shows were not able to have live audiences, and experiential luxury suffered a downturn as high-end hotels and restaurants were not frequented. Can you share some of the challenges that you have experienced and observed in the industry because of Covid-19? What strategies are you and luxury executives employing to navigate this global crisis and to recover?
The pandemic certainly disrupted the way individuals live, work, and consume. However, there were some absolute silver linings. Working from home forced many people to examine their surroundings and belongings, which caused them to eliminate the excess and focus on quality over quantity—from their home decor to their wardrobe. As most of the brands, individuals, or companies I partner and work with create handmade, one-of-a-kind, sustainable items (from food to fragrance), this resonated with many people during the pandemic.
A shift towards a digital or online audiences was also necessary. For instance, a jewelry designer I work with began “virtual trunk shows” to showcase new collections. She also donated a portion of proceeds from these towards charitable causes. Speaking of charitable causes, my business partner at Maison d’ Etto began an initiative during the height of Covid-19 sending care packages with our artisanal fragrance collection and other like-minded wellness brands to front-line nurses and medical professionals. An interior design client created a colorful furniture and lighting collection during the darkest days of quarantine in 2020 and debuted it with the intention of bringing light and joy to her clients lives and creating heirloom pieces meant to be passed down through generations. The grace, ingenuity, and optimism that my partners and clients presented despite the challenges was truly impressive.
In another interview you mentioned that you live in a “perfumer’s paradise” in NYC. Tell us about it. What are some of your favorite perfumes?
Yes! When I am in New York, I live in Nolita near Soho in Manhattan. Elizabeth Street is a charming, tree-lined street filled with historic buildings from the 1800s, many of which have become home to luxury fragrance brands including Le Labo, Diptyque, Aesop, Atelier Cologne, Cire Trudon, and more. As the Founding Partner of Maison d’Etto, an artisanal collection of fragrances inspired by an equestrian lifestyle, I am biased, but they truly are my favorite perfumes. I wear Karat or Noisette daily, and we are launching a new fragrance this fall, which I can’t wait to share.
What are some of your go-to places for inspiration in NYC? What about for relaxation?
Art and nature provide endless inspiration for me. Obviously, there is more art and culture in New York City than nature, so I typically head elsewhere for proper rest, relaxation, and inspiration.
My first job out of college was at The Whitney Museum of American Art so I enjoy visiting the latest exhibition or biennale. The Neue Galerie uptown is also one of my favorite destinations as I am a constant admirer of Viennese design and the Wiener Werkstatte. The Sabarsky Cafe is also the best place to spend a snowy afternoon over a Sachertorte and Einspänner.
As far as relaxation, a morning visit to Elizabeth Street Garden to read, do yoga, or watch an outdoor classic film during the summer does the trick. Alternatively, running down the West Side Highway finished with kayaking in the Hudson. A spa day doesn’t hurt either! I hope to book a visit to the new Joanna Czech salon at The Webster in Soho next time I am in town.
What is your vision for your career and your agency for 2022?
To be honest, I did not expect to grow and expand so rapidly in 2020, especially given the pandemic. My goal in 2021 is to hire a team, which I am in the process of doing. In 2022, I aim to continue to spend more time abroad working with my international clients and set up satellite offices. In the future, I would like to launch my own brand and/or to invest and operate a hotel, restaurant, vineyard, or winery. The best is yet to come!
Top: Veronica H. Speck – Photo by Kat Hoelck