Inside Track: Local jeweler Chamilia cuts staff after sale

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2013 - 5:27 PM

Chamilia co-founder Killian Rieder, left, at work with Debra Graham in 2011, said the sale of the company to Swarovski is bittersweet.

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Minneapolis-based Chamilia has slashed its Minnesota workforce after being quietly sold in late April to Swarovski, an Austrian-based luxury retailer.

Fast-growing Chamilia, with sales of more than $200 million and 200 globe-spanning employees in 2012, took off during the recession when jewelers started selling its bright-colored beads and charm bracelets as an alternative to more expensive silver and gold.

The parties declined to discuss the terms of the sale. Doug Brown, a Swarovski North America executive in Rhode Island who oversees Chamilia, said the Minneapolis workforce has been reduced from a peak of 130 to about 40 sales and other “customer-facing” positions as a result of the merger that consolidated other functions.

Chamilia was founded in a New York apartment by designer Killian Rieder and her husband, Jeff Julkowski. The Minnesota-bred couple moved the business to the Minneapolis Warehouse District in 2007 for business and family reasons.

They hired professional management and took a private equity investor in 2010 to raise capital and manage rapid growth.

Swarovski invested in Chamilia in 2011, started collaborating on bead-and-crystal products, and opened Chamilia to hundreds of its stores throughout Europe and North America.

Rieder, 40, and Julkowski, 44, now wealthy, say they are working on a new business, but it won’t be jewelry. Rieder previously was a clothing designer and Julkowski a Wall Street stock analyst.

“I didn’t really envision a sale when we started [Chamilia],” Rieder said several days ago. “I was just having fun and trying to design beautiful things. It’s bittersweet because I miss the people.”

EarthClean introduces new product

CEO Scott Bocklund of EarthClean said the company that makes nontoxic fire-suppressant foam has raised an additional $1 million this year from existing investors, making a total of $4 million in equity raised from individuals. The company has won several state and national entrepreneurial awards for its green technology.

Bocklund earlier this year succeeded CEO Doug Ruth, who remains a shareholder. Ruth left after settlement of a lawsuit last spring that EarthClean had brought against the Minnesota scientists who invented the product, and who were being paid by EarthClean to license the technology.

The suit charged they were covertly developing a gel product for use in fire truck hoses that EarthClean claimed it owned under existing agreements.

Bocklund called the two-year lawsuit a “speed bump” and said the inventors and the company now are jointly focused on testing the no-longer-disputed product with several suburban departments before commencing commercial sales next year. EarthClean already manufactures a powder concentrate that’s mixed with water and will generate up to $2 million in sales this year.

Bocklund also succeeded Ruth on the board.

EarthClean’s TetraKO product is made to replace what the company says are environmentally damaging chemical sprays.

The cause of Koda Energy fire was …

A bad bearing, a temporary fix and rubbing metal triggered the April fire and explosions that shut down the Koda Energy biomass plant in Shakopee, the state fire marshal says.

The accident damaged storage silos for wood chips and other materials that are burned to produce electricity and heat used in a malting plant.

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