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Gemma Knowles, St James’ & The Abbey 1995 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Gemma Bruce

At school I was an ‘all-rounder’ so there was no immediate choice of degree. I therefore went with my ‘gut’ choosing History of Art with Italian; giving very little (if any!) thought as to what profession it could lead me to.

Sure enough, as I left Manchester University, there were very few jobs relevant to my degree. I therefore took a job in London in a totally different sector; a job in financial PR and communications followed. Little did I know that as my career moved across to real estate, the marketing and communications experience I had gained over those first 5 years was to be invaluable.

Similarly, after previously being dismissive of my degree choice, I now find that my knowledge of Art History gives me a much greater level of appreciation and understanding of the remarkable properties I market and sell to affluent buyers from around the world and, of course, speaking fluent Italian has become essential.

After I left the world of PR, I cut my real estate teeth working with a Milanese group; two years that set me up to make the leap and set up my own business. A decade on and I have an Italian real estate business that my business partner and I are truly proud of, www.casaandcountry.com.

I believe that entrepreneurial drive is either in you or it isn’t and I certainly always knew that ultimately I wanted to be running a business of my own. Despite the ups and downs and the impact of the 2008 financial crash, I still know I made the right choice and will be staying on this path for the years to come. Our business continues to grow as one of Italy’s most reputable independent estate agencies, closing some of Italy’s most significant real estate sales.

Whilst Casa&Country keeps me very busy alongside being mum to my two small children, and being a governor of MSJ, I haven’t stopped there. Recently, after watching the increasing presence of online estate agencies, I took the plunge and developed a ‘for sale by owner’ website www.the-viewing.com for luxury overseas real estate. The business is still in its infancy however, yet again, I am thriving on stepping into new territories. And so the journey continues…

What does success look like?

Doing something that you are proud of, that fulfills you.

What is your best piece of advice?

Your career is a journey. Whilst some jobs along the way may seem boring, poorly paid or irrelevant – they all form crucial steps on your professional journey, building your experience and knowledge.