Walking up to Quintessentially’s Portland Place London Headquarters, one would hardly imagine that beyond the doors of this unassuming and elegant Georgian Town House lies the powerhouse nerve-centre for some of the most well-connected people in the world.
The Quintessentially Group is comprised of a team dedicated to providing personalized luxury concierge services to the globe’s most influential and affluent. The word Quintessentially, by definition, refers to the representation of the most perfect embodiment of something - the ideal example of a quality or class.
‘Ideal’ is an apt descriptor for the Quintessentially Group, the lifestyle service provider today known the world over for giving members exclusive unlimited 24/7 access to whatever their hearts and minds can possibly conceive of or desire—though, tongue in cheek, the founders gamely quip, “So long as it’s legal.”
When Ben Elliot, nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, Paul Drummond and Aaron Simpson launched Quintessentially in 2000 amid the hustle and bustle of London’s vibrant Soho, their vision was to create a bespoke member-based luxury concierge service for the UK. Combining expertise from the movie and night-life industries, experience working alongside A-list celebrities, being inherently entrepreneurial and having an extended network of contacts, the founders recognized a gap in the market — and capitalized on it.
With collective backgrounds in entertainment, corporate law and economics, Elliot, Drummond and Simpson combined a diverse skill set, blending both creativity and practicality – ideally suited to their business model. However, as with any entrepreneurial venture, success wasn’t going to come easy, especially given the rigorous service demands that were at the very foundation of the enterprise. In the early days of the business, the partners would sleep with their mobile phones to ensure that 24 hours a day, seven days week availability to their membership.
Today, they rely on the ready assistance of more than 2,000 globally situated ‘Lifestyle Managers’. The Quintessentially Group has four regional hubs and 67 offices worldwide, with teams operating in over 35 languages. In 2015, Quintessentially entered the Canadian market and opened an office in Toronto.
Since its inception, Quintessentially has successfully fulfilled over two million member requests.
Ben Elliot cites examples that are clearly a source of satisfaction: such as getting a Lionel Messi football signed for a client’s child’s birthday with only a single day’s notice; securing Elton John to sing at a wedding; obtaining a rare and elusive Patek Philippe timepiece with a years-long wait list for a member client; sourcing live penguins for a party; arranging for 18 Canada Goose jackets to be sent to Saudi Arabia; turning a basement into a replica Bat Cave; and for the diehard romantic, a pair of unique wedding proposals, one involving a private bridge climb in Sydney Harbour, the other requiring the coordination of a flash mob on the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Quintessentially is also the only company that international pop superstar Madonna entrusts to get her preferred tea bags across the Atlantic.
Although there is currently a worldwide waiting list for membership, the choice made by the group’s executive to cap member numbers in the face of the demands of an accelerated global expansion was borne out of the desire to maintain the personal one-on-one connection with members that the Quintessentially brand has become known for.
It’s that personalized attention that the Quintessentially founders say keeps their members loyal and their reputation strong. And with a member list that reads like the ultimate who’s who of the global elite, hundreds of luxury brands have undertaken to affiliate themselves with Quintessentially, positioning the company as a middleman in a moneyed high-end mix.
Over time, Elliot, Drummond and Simpson’s original vision expanded to embrace a broader luxury lifestyle offering. Sixteen years later, the Quintessentially Group has evolved into an all-inclusive service units dedicated to member travel, real estate, fine art, holiday rentals, gift-giving, and staffing. Even in the face of explosive corporate growth and carefully engineered expansion, the founders were determined to stay true to their original service-oriented focus.
“With the world becoming truly global our members expect a personalized service everywhere in the world,” says Elliot. “A few years ago when we wanted to expand to become a luxury lifestyle group, we decided we would not outsource any services and would take direct control in order to ensure the best standards. We focused on finding the leading authorities in every luxury field.”
In 2014, given the global emphasis on always-on virtual connectivity, Quintessentially launched the Quintessentially Lifestyle app.
With the reliance on handheld devices for Internet access, the mobile-oriented software initiative seemed a logical and necessary extension of the existing service offering. Available for both Apple and Android devices, users can choose from Insider, Entertainment, Travel and Shop options. The push-based promotional infrastructure gives members, and non-members, direct real-time access to exclusive opportunities and to-the-minute intelligence based on geo-location data.
But Quintessentially is not merely a service organized around the acquisition of ‘things’ for their members. The company has been called upon to arrange extractions and last-minute air travel diversions during the 2014 to 2015 volcanic eruption in Iceland, and they have executed medical evacuations for clients who have found themselves in emergency situations while abroad.
The most challenging – and rewarding requests, according to Elliot, was assisting Quintessentially members during the Tsunami and Volcanic Ash disruption, as the company eschewed requisite requests for VIP access and turned its attention to assisting members in disaster zones - on both occasions having to race against time and manage expectations.
“We helped many of our members [who] were involved in travel disruption during the Volcanic Ash episode and it was our job to get them from ‘A’ to ‘B’ as quickly as possible,” remembers Elliot.
Through the company’s philanthropic arm, the Quintessentially Foundation, a not-for-profit entity introduced in 2008 that is chaired by Elliot, the Foundation has raised upwards of $10 million for selected projects. Among the Quintessentially planned fundraising initiatives are a bicycle road race and a high-profile rickshaw race in India to support the Elephant Family charity. Elliott, through the Quintessentially Foundation, also works closely with the Prince of Wales on a number of his charitable projects.
What does the New Year hold for the group that seems poised at the pinnacle of the luxury lifestyle management marketplace? There is growth on the horizon, with more offices in China and India, and new ventures coming online in Colombia, Peru, Malaysia and the Philippines.
There is also an evolution underway, a shift toward a truly transformative offering for clients, one that is focused on experiential, once-in-lifetime desires and introductions, extreme adventures, eco-tourism and sustainability-oriented travel immersions, philanthropy and cause-related member missions.
As for the details of the dreams and desires that Quintessentially will ultimately work to help shape? That will depend on what members want. The premise of the original vision that has not changed, though today, the company’s structure is a far cry from three lads bunked up and sleeping with mobile phones to their ears.
As seen in H&L Magazine Jan/Feb 2017
Written by Anneliese Harmon and Julie Mann
Images by Quintessentially