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Strong Yet Feminine Profile: Caroline Henne, CMO of Wolf & Badger

Posted by Sally Lane on

Caroline Henne, CMO of Wolf and Badger (for 3 days a week), shares how her decision to leave a major corporate and become self-employed in order to explore multiple passions, has made her the richest she has ever been, despite earning less!

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Strong Yet Feminine Profile: Rachel Richards of The Wearer

Posted by Sally Lane on

Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full time and pursuing their dream on the side, some have already taken the leap, and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).

Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, in order to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.

Sally Lane Jewellery is designed for exactly such Strong Yet Feminine women…the fierceness of the edgy triangle jewellery is the perfect accessory to these confident, go get ‘em ladies...all power to you!

Rachel Richards the Wearer

Rachel Richards, Director of The Wearer Ltdshares her story of how walking past a tiny jewellery shop with a ‘for lease’ sign was the spark that ignited the fire, building inside, to finally launch her own business. Plus, we talk candidly about imposter syndrome!

Sally: Tell us a bit about your career history and what lead you to this point

Rachel: I used to be a buyer for the high street for accessories and footwear. I got made redundant, two years ago, and took another role for a large retailer quite quickly and unfortunately didn’t love it. It was very corporate, with so much office politics…so intense and not a great environment. I ended up leaving without anything to go to. I’d always wanted to design my own stuff but didn’t feel I could do that immediately without anything to fall back on.

I started doing some consultancy around the corner [in Islington] for a fashion company and when I was doing that I started working on a concept for an online, London based, independent jewellery store. Then one day I was walking past at lunchtime, and saw this little jewellery shop. It was a total mess. It looked about half the size of what it does now because it was so stacked with stuff, and it had a little card in the window saying it needed someone to take on the rent. I started to think to myself: ‘Okay…I can see the potential here…nice area, already a bit of a jewellery destination, OKAY’. After thinking about it a bit further I just took the plunge and used all my redundancy money to open it which, as you can imagine, is a pretty huge step!

By that point I had already been building the concept, brand and designers for the online version, so it was just a case of putting it into the physical space. I just thought there’s not actually many jewellery shops in London that do this premium fashion jewellery. There’s a lot that do fine jewellery, a lot of the more high-street ones like Monica Vinader and Pandora, but on this level, there’s not much.

Sally: Have your friends and family been supportive?

Rachel: Everyone says: ‘Wow, you’re so brave doing this’. I don’t feel brave, I feel mad sometimes. I’m amazed at how many people think this is so impressive but to me this is not particularly impressive. It’s a tiny little shop but has the potential to be a better business and I have a long way to go.

Sally: Well I do think it is impressive. It is a very scary thing to opt out of a monthly salary and risk failure. Why don’t you give yourself more credit?

Rachel: I find I get imposter syndrome; when you just think: ‘This is rubbish, I’m not good enough to do this, this isn’t going to work’. Like when people asked me what I was going to do after I left my last job, and I’d say: ‘I’m going to open my own business’ [said pulling a very strange face and in a weird voice like she was embarrassed]. I just felt like I didn’t believe I was really going to. Like it was something I couldn’t do, but I’m here doing it. It’s so weird to have that feeling hanging over us.

Sally: Yes, that well documented female thing. I’ve only just become comfortable with answering the: ‘What do you do?’ question with: ‘I’m a Jewellery Designer’. Somewhere inside there is a voice saying: ‘No you’re not’. Why do we do that? Well at least we recognise it and continue despite it!

Rachel: I really don’t know. When I went to all these start-up events, you find all these people that are so confident in their ideas, and it puts doubt in my mind about my ideas because I struggle with confidence.

Sally: We are really very hard on ourselves, but I do think everyone is like that. It’s all a front…no one is ever as confident as they appear. The most confident appearing are usually the least! I do find myself coming back to the cliché ‘fake it until you make it’. But I apply it to my confidence, rather than my skills. Because I’m not faking it, I’m really doing it!

Apart from in real conversations like these which are helpful to others in similar situations, I try and remember that I need to emanate success always from a sales perspective. No one wants to hear that it is difficult or that you haven’t had as many sales as you had hoped.

However, it is so important that we share these emotions with other people in this start-up situation, particularly women, because everyone imagines that you go from nothing to something, and that anything in between is a failure. But the journey is the most rewarding part, and I would want to encourage anyone to take on the challenge, and know that ‘hard’ is completely normal!

Sally: Is there some one you have taken inspiration from, when things get ‘hard’?

Rachel: It’s interesting actually: I’ve made new contacts from doing this, even though I’m in the shop alone, much of the time. I’ve been trying to take advantage of free start up events and been working at Google Campus when I’m not in the shop. I met a reasonably new friend this way who’s just sold her business, doing something totally different from me(it’s a techy business). Her first business totally failed, but she’s just sold her second business which she started at 42 for a lot of money. It just goes to show that just because you fail at something, doesn’t mean that’s the end. Just keep going. She’s been really inspiring to hear from. She’s very experienced and she can say ‘I f**ked up but it’s still okay to keep going’ so knowing her is a good confidence builder.

Sally: I’m so happy you said that. I find it so often that it takes these stories to give us courage, and that is very much the point of this blog.

Sally: How has it been moving from an office to a shop?

Rachel: There are some days quieter than others and that is good because I need to get work done on my computer, but I have found being in here seven days a week, within these four walls, that my focus and drive started to wane.

I worked with a few big retailers, so I have always worked in large teams and buzzy offices. I thought working on my own and being my own boss would be amazing, a revelation, but I actually find it very difficult not having someone to share thoughts with and just bounce ideas off. Which is why Google Campus is great as you get to be around other startups.

There are days when I have had to close to go to trade fairs or to see suppliers but generally I’m just in the shop, so it has been so great to finally be able to hire another sales person to give me the flexibility to be in a work environment to focus on the business properly, especially at the weekends.

Sally: How did you find them?

Rachel: He’s a friend of a friend and he’s amazing at selling, which is a massive help. He started doing two days a week and now he’ll be doing five days a week.

Sally: Did you find you weren’t as good at selling as you imagined? Obviously, it is a very difficult skill to buying!

Rachel: The problem I have is I’m not very pushy. For me, if I’m shopping I want to be left alone because I know what I like, and I want to browse in quiet. Therefore, it doesn’t come naturally to me to tell people coming into the shop what to buy. However, I worked in retail for many years and I know that most people like to be told what suits them and what they should purchase, so he is just better at that, but it’s starting to come more naturally to me as I watch him in action with the customers.

Sally: It’s good to have someone to learn from. I am very conscious of being overly pushy with my customers, but I know that I should be more salesy than I am, sometimes. I hate to think of myself as annoying people when they are just wanting a browse!

Sally: So now you have someone on board, what is your next step?

Rachel: I’d like to focus on producing content for the website to drive SEO. I am very pleased with the look of it considering I’m not at all techy and have built it myself, but I know content is important as well as products on offer.

I’m also possibly thinking about another shop…maybe! I’d like to widen the range to other accessories, since my background is accessories. You can see I’ve snuck in some sunglasses and handbags so it’s not strictly jewellery here, but I’d love to expand that more.

Sally: That’s very cool that you’re thinking about expanding the business!

Rachel: Thinking yes…thinking.

Sally: Thinking is the first step!

Rachel: I’d also love to design my own collection one day…so much to do!

 

 

 

 

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Strong Yet Feminine Profile: Joanna Payne of Marguerite

Posted by Sally Lane on

Joanna Payne, Founder & Director of Marguerite, tells how her first event was a disaster, how it has been spurred on by the inspirational people she has met, and how amazing it is that every experience prior to starting her own business has fed into this now brilliant project.
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Strong Yet Feminine Profile: Becky Uden of Uden Pilates

Posted by Sally Lane on

Becky Uden, Founder of Uden Pilates, shares her story of how an accident, potentially detrimental to following her dreams was turned into the driving force for doing something she loved full time, and helping others.
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Strong Yet Feminine Profile: Rosalind Chik of Smokin' Lotus

Posted by Sally Lane on

Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full time and pursuing their dream on the side, some have already taken the leap, and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).

Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, in order to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.

Sally Lane Jewellery is designed for exactly such Strong Yet Feminine women…the fierceness of the edgy triangle jewellery is the perfect accessory to these confident, go get ‘em ladies...all power to you!

Rosalind Chik, Founder of Smokin’ Lotus shares her experience of following her dreams to launch her Delicious and Original Street Food business.

Rosalind Chik

 

Q: Tell us a bit about your career path before Smokin’ Lotus

My career path was incredibly varied before I started Smokin’ Lotus. Nothing I did before this ever seemed right. I always felt like I was having to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I taught English in China, sold advertising for the Commonwealth, worked in environmentally sustainable tourism at Tourism Concern and The International Tourism Partnership, and finally I was a Technology Consultant at Accenture.    

Q: Was there a eureka moment when you knew you had to go for it?

During my time as a Technology Consultant I became more and more unhappy. I hated my work, I hated the travel and spent every second I could thinking about what to cook next and dreaming of going of going back to school to study cooking. I started toying with the idea of starting a street food stall and running supper clubs to see if my cooking would pass the test with paying customers. But the real eureka moment came when I was planning my wedding. I was getting catering quotes and all of the ones I really wanted were coming in at 10 to 12k and it was just a bit out of our price range. One day I went to visit my friend Annette and she sat me down and said “do the catering yourself, you are more than capable and it will be better than anything you can buy”. We then convinced my husband to let me spend 8k on equipment, I created the first Smokin’ Lotus menu and it was launched at the wedding. The rest is history.

Q: Had you always had a passion for food or is it something you cultivated over time?

I have always loved food. When I was a child my favourite moments were watching my mum cook dinner and BBQing with my dad. Even though it is something I have always loved, that love has gotten much stronger over time. It was only in the last 3 years that I started to realise that food was in the core of my being and the thing I wanted to dedicate my life to.

Q: What has been the most challenging element of this journey?

This is a great question! This journey has been more challenging than I could have ever imagined! It has taken all of my strength, resolve and will power to stay focused and to keep going at times. The first year that was the toughest. It was so lonely, cold and more physically demanding than I could ever imagine. I often wanted to pack it all in but this little voice inside of me kept saying “but what else would you do” and that kept me going. I ran around frantically doing prep, admin, trying to get good market spots, going to shops and carrying 50kilos of groceries home in my backpacking backpack (pre getting my driving licence), setting up and taking down my whole gazebo set up and running markets by myself, the whole time making no money getting myself in debt to continue.

Q: What has surprised you the most about your new career?

My new Kerb side family. For me getting signed as one of the Kerb traders has totally changed my business and things have really gone up from there. I no longer feel lonely as every day I go to the market the people who should be my competitors are actually my new-found family. We all muck in together and do anything we can to make sure each other are ok. When I forget something like gas they have my back and vice versa. It gives me hope and shows how well the world could work if we all just helped each other out!  

Q: Were your friends and family supportive of your choice?

Incredibly!!!  Without them I never would have had the guts to follow my heart and my dreams. I also would have been homeless and starving during that first year!

Q: What is it that motivates you when you feel like giving up?

My friends, family and that little voice that says “but what else would you do”

Q: What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of taking the plunge to go it alone?

Do it! It is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. However, be ready to truly push the boundaries of what you think is possible. Aim big and never give up on yourself. 

Q: What experience from your earlier career has been the most useful for Smokin’ Lotus?

Strangely enough it was the job I hated most that prepared me for running a business. As a Technology Consultant I learnt how to be organised, how to present information and deal with a huge range of different people for different backgrounds.    

Q: What has been the most rewarding moment to date?

Three spring to mind: getting signed as a Kerb trader; being listed as one of Timeout’s top 50 street food traders in London, and getting invited to cook in the Angela Hartnett tent as part of London Food Month.

 

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