So sometimes it’s nice to write a blog post on subject that is a bit different to clothes/fashion/style, although as you can see by the pictures, I’ve managed to sneak in a bit of clothing via this very apt and cute slogan jumper from New Look. More on the slogan trend in another blog post! This post however, is going to focus on building a business and what it takes to do so.
I’ve had a bit of time to reflect over the summer and realise in the last 9 months I have:
- Worked with 50+ clients
- Had 2 sell out local Style and Nutrition workshops with another booked for the end of Sep (just 2 spaces left, (click here to book)
- Booked our first corporate workshop for Oct at ITN
- Gained 600 FB followers in total and almost 1200 on Instagram
- Employed 2 people to help with various aspects of the business
- Been nominated for a Sevenoaks Town Partnership Business Award
- Spoken at and will be speaking at various styling events including at local shops and pubs
- Written a successful weekly blog and various articles for other online publications such as Sheerluxe and Sevenoaks Mums
I’m sure there is more as well as all this, but that’s enough of a mouthful already.
Now when I write it all down like that and say that I’m super proud of myself I hope you know that I’m not trying to boast, but rather to illustrate how far I have come and to put my journey into perspective. This time last year I was in a bit of a dark place. I had no direction and kept going round in circles about what I could and should be doing. I had just turned 40 and felt like I was taking steps backwards not forwards. All my children had started school and I needed to do something that was meaningful, rewarding and paid what I thought I was worth. Working around the children was a priority and the only thing I could come up with was to start my own business, but OMG…that’s a scary thought it really is.
The first challenge was to work out what I should actually do. I had a few ideas, but the one thing I kept coming back to was the styling. I love fashion and spend all my spare time reading, absorbing and breathing it. But I never dreamed that at my age I could actually work in it. I mean who would employ me? Who would hand over their hard earned cash to me? Did I really know more than everybody else? I kid you not, these were the thoughts that went through my head, and when I look back I wonder what made me carry on. What made me take that leap of faith and sign up to do the course at the London College of Style?
Well it was definitely partly due to the encouragement of my family. My hubby was amazing. He supported me when I put the idea to him and did not hesitate to say I could do the course, even when he found out there was a cost involved. I just know that he wanted me to be happy and find my thing, and he was willing to let me give this go. I think he probably believed in me more at that point than I did myself. I was worried I’d waste his money and be unable to make it a success. Or that it would turn out to be something I did not enjoy. Seems silly now considering how passionate I am about what it is I do.
My mum also deserves a shout out as she took on the childcare I needed to do the course and without that I would have been stuck doing the school run rather than opening up the most exciting new door I think I have ever put myself in front of. She also helped me navigate the naysayers, you know the little comments from people like, “oh that’s going to be a challenge with 3 young children” and “do you really think that people will pay that?” Not the worst comments in the world, but when you are digging deep to go for something they can linger in your head a little be longer than they should.
As you know I did the course. It was awesome and I learnt so much, but the big question is, how to you go from student to successful business owner?
I left my course buzzing with ideas, but more scared than I think I had ever been. 9 months later here are my top tips if you are currently thinking about a career change/launching your own business/have an awesome idea.
I know that one of my skills is networking. I am good at chatting to people, and building those relationships. Through my work as a Stella and Dot Stylist for 5 years, I had built up a huge network of contacts and those skills and people have definitely been utilised during these first few months. I can be somewhere as boring as the vets and get chatting to a potential client. This is actually true and we have a wardrobe edit now booked for Dec. But perhaps one of my funniest networking moments was in fact my most recent. Picture the scene…I’m at a local open air swimming pool with my children and sister-in-law and one of my very good friends comes up to say hi. Then her husband joins in the conversation as I know him too. Then her friend comes over as we have met a few times, and then that friend’s husband wonders into earshot when we are talking about my style and nutrition workshops and my first corporate client. My friend is so lovely that she was congratulating me on it, and her friend then said, ‘oh my husband books these kind of workshops for his company. Tell him what you do’. All sounds very natural except when I tell you that they were all fully clothed and I was totally standing there in my bikini. Now you might appreciate the funny side :)!! The irony of it all was, apart from the fact that I was fully aware of how naked I felt, I then said to the friend’s husband, ‘I’m a Personal Stylist and I help people to find clothes that suit them.’ This is normally the point when people clock what I am wearing…#CRINGE Let’s just put it this way, he’s going to have to check out my social media to believe me I think!
What I hope that story demonstrates is that face to face bumping into people has been one of the best ways for me to gain new business. This can mean that I do sometimes worry about running to Tesco’s in my old jogging bottoms (yes I do own a pair) but even then I think it’s actually ok as this is me and I’m a real life mum who has days in comfy clothes like everyone else. It also makes the whole style thing a bit more realistic and hopefully more attainable.
Plus this highlights that for my job people really do appreciate meeting me and feeling comfortable with me in person, especially with what I do! Let’s face it, you are not going to let any Tom, Dick or Harry come into you house, your bedroom and your wardrobe unless you like them and feel you can trust them.
Collaboration has also been key for me. Not only is it really nice to work with someone else, but you get access to a new circle of contacts. I am always thinking of ways to collaborate with people now and am not scared anymore of just pinging a message to someone to see if they might be keen to work together. This has been the case for two very special collaborations I have had the pleasure to be involved with. These are the Style and Nutrition workshops I do with Jennie Gough and the regular photo shoots I do with Clair Goble. Two extremely talented ladies both very passionate about what they do, but importantly are up for new opportunities and as such came back to me with positive responses when I got in touch. On a side note to this they have both become really good friends which is a total and very lovely bonus.
Get out of your comfort zone
I have lost count of the times that I have had to do something out of my comfort zone. For anyone who has seen me present…well I may have looked cool and calm but I can assure you that I was pretty hot underneath. Presentations are scary but I have learnt that the only way to get through them and survive is to prepare and then prepare some more. Then practice to anyone willing to listen, even if it’s your snoring French Bulldog.
The same goes for writing blog posts, daily style shots and FB live videos. ALL of the above are out of my comfort zone, but I believe you have to go there to make a difference and to stand out. You are not going to please everyone, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Equally not everyone is going to like you, but if you love what you do, those people in the minority become less and less important, especially if you have been going for a little while and you have the confidence to know that there are enough people booking you and giving you great feedback to know that anyone feeling differently is their problem not yours. It reads like this is just rolling off my tongue, but believe me I have had to work at this and I would say it’s an ongoing project. What I do want people to appreciate it that what looks easy, is not always the case. The thrill of course is when you get a positive response….that’s when you know you are doing ok and that’s when you know it’s been worth it.
Ride the waves
This might actually be one of the hardest things. Some days and some weeks are going to be awesome and like you have made tons of progress. Others can feel quite frankly like a bit of a let down. Unproductive and no real reward for your hard work. I think I have got better at riding these waves, but I would be lying if I said it’s amazing all the time. It really is not and I sometimes get frustrated because it looks to others like I have just decided to do this, and seemingly ‘overnight’ it’s happened! This I can assure you is not the case. Behind the glossiness I am at my computer typing away creating content like this or prepping for my next workshop or client. I’ve already said how nervous I can get sometimes before a big event, and with each and every client I feel a tingle of nerves because I so desperately want them to feel like they have spent their money well on me and they are happier and more confident as a result.
I think the secret is the look at the bigger picture and remind yourself how far you have come. Hence the bullet points at the top of this post. Keep everything in perspective and be patient. It takes time to build up a name and reputation for yourself.
Think outside the box
If I were to tell you when I have had some of my most innovative and crazy business ideas, you would laugh I’m pretty sure. It’s mostly not when I am sitting at my desk working, but for example I’ll be on the school run and suddenly think of something…which is really the worst time as I normally have 3 children wanting to speak to me all at once!!
But don’t be afraid to think out of the box. Try something different or approach someone to work with them. The worst answer you can get is a ‘no’ and normally that comes with a gratitude for having been asked. I learnt that ‘no’s’ are part and parcel of the job and actually these should be celebrated. The more no’s you get the closer you are to your next yes. Makes total sense hey?
Those crazy ideas that come to you though, don’t brush them away, act on them and see what happens. After all that is the best part of having your own business I reckon. The opportunity for organic growth in the way you want.
Work out what your niche is
This I think is quite important. You need to stand out from your competition and the way to do this is to be the best you can at your job, (obviously), but also to carve out how you are different. For me it was really important to treat each client that books like they are my only client and that right from the start they feel like my services are a real treat. I spend a lot of time making sure that this is case and I also worked on all the little details when I was setting up with regards to the client booking pack, pre-client questionnaire and keeping in regular contact with each client. I wanted a strong brand, a name for my business and a certain look and feel to my website, blogs and branding etc. I think this has helped me to become more established and recognisable.
Give and then give some more
Yep, you really do need to give quite a lot, but this becomes totally fine when you consider the bigger picture. So for example when people ask for style advice by getting in touch or by posting on my FB group, I actually see this as a compliment. I also see it as an opportunity for me to demonstrate what I know. People need to feel confident that you know what you are talking about before they even consider booking you. This is also why I do a lot of outfit posts etc because let’s face it if I can’t dress myself with a certain amount of style then I’ve got no hope. Also, in the job that I do I am my own brand. People will buy into me, whether that be what they see online or how we connect in person. Which goes back to the networking and how important that is. Writing these blogs is an example of me giving again. I’m constantly talking about style tips, passing on the benefit of my experience but it all helps to create a relationship with people and a dialogue. I also genuinely enjoy writing. It’s a creative output and if you had not guessed already, I’m a creative soul :).
In a nutshell, don’t be frightened of giving to people. You’ll know in your gut if anyone starts to take advantage but the majority of people are really thankful and next time they are at a coffee morning and someone says, “I’m so fed up with my wardrobe and I have nothing to wear but don’t know where to start’ they won’t hesitate to recommend you.
Believe in yourself
Without doubt!! Easier said than done, but if you are doing something you are passionate about that will shine through. Don’t give yourself any limits, and reach higher than you ever thought you could. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t achieve what you dream of, you just need that drive, that fire inside of you to go for it. You’ll get days when you have a wobble, and on those days I would prescribe a little bit of self care because that’s normally when you are feeling a bit tired or overwhelmed, but tell yourself you can do it. Look at yourself in the mirror and say…actually I can!
PS: Photos this time taken by my 12 year daughter. I thought she did an awesome job 🙂