Interior design with a difference

Zoe Hewett began her career as an Art Director in the film and television industry before retraining as an Interior Designer. She is now expanding her digital business offering and running workshops alongside her consultancy work. We asked Zoe to share her story and tell us about her plans for the future.

How did you become an interior designer?

Growing up in Cardiff, I spent my childhood making rudimentary props and sets for the plays we would put on for the grown ups, and my teenage years making giant carnival costumes and redecorating the house when my parents’ backs were turned. When I took the school quiz to find out what career path I should follow, I got into trouble for being interested in too many topics. Little did I know at the time that is precisely one of the best qualities for being a designer! I knew that I wanted to be a set designer though, so I went to art college in London and had a ball making live performance art installations in broom cupboards, period costumes and miniature models of monolithic opera sets.

The reality of making a living as a jobbing designer in Wales was incredibly difficult, particularly as I had trained in a different city and didn’t have those all important college to industry links. I was an outsider in my home town, and never quite managed to get enough work. Instead I found work in the film and TV industry as an Art Director. It was heaps of fun and better paid than theatre, but the crazy hours and feast or famine nature of it all eventually left me feeling disillusioned and burnt out. To get out of this rut I moved quite suddenly to Bristol, and as cringe-worthy as it sounds I kind of found myself, or at the very least my mojo, upon starting Capoeira. It had a profound effect on my outlook and confidence (not to mention physical fitness).

I decided to retrain and enrolled on an open learning Interior Design Diploma. Although the design process and required skills are exactly the same for both roles, the two industries are quite different. As career changes go this was more of a tweak than a total transformation, but that’s just as well, because having been creative all my life because I can’t really do anything else. So far it has gone smoothly, probably because people expect to have to pay interior designers, whereas the art world runs on air and broken dreams.

My business, although micro, is finally starting to grow after being in start-up mode for an extra long time. Midway through my first big job (a furniture store) I found myself unexpectedly expecting a baby with a (very) new man. Our daughter was then born suddenly at 26 weeks. It was a pretty hideous time and as a result she has additional needs, so it is imperative that at least one of us has flexible work, and for the moment that’s me. It is important to me to be able to also offer something affordable, because consultation, design and project management fees are exclusive for most, so I have started running interior design workshops which seem to be going well. That also fits around family life better than a full-time job with a commute!

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Digital technology has absolutely revolutionised how I work. When I was documenting scenic continuity on film sets the preferred method was (the now amazingly retro) Polaroid camera! Digital cameras were just coming in but it was easy to lose track of scenes. It also used to be almost impossible to photograph anything in a dark theatre without paying a professional photographer, which would have cost most of the design fee, but of course without photos of your work you can’t get more work.

The iPhone for me has been amazing. Being able to show all your previous work in the palm of your hand is serious luxury after years of lugging around a heavy A2 portfolio of artwork in all weathers. I used to have to burn CDs with home printed front covers to send people my portfolio, which makes me feel like an old lady saying “we didn’t have TV when I was young”. I did go on a Dreamweaver course to make my first website, and I managed a one page CV with a photo which was pretty impressive for someone as analogue and non-techy as me.

Now, my website (an easy drag-n-drop template, of course) is all singing and all dancing with video, a shop and a rather earnest design blog. All these little graphics apps are my favourite, for editing photos and overlaying text on images to quickly get messages out on social media – it is just amazing. I just need to keep gradually growing my audience.

Tell us about your new design packages

The idea for the Newlyweds Nest came from wanting to give friends a meaningful wedding present at a time when I had no money. They had not long moved into a new house that needed some character, so I gave them some pointers and it grew from there into a comprehensive interior design service. Initially it was email based, which is quite a popular concept in the States but hasn’t really caught on over here. Somehow I arrived at the idea of putting it in a gift-box, to make it a more tangible present, which is infinitely more charming than printing out documents from an email!

The idea is for couples to enjoy filling in the questionnaires inside the box together, whether their home is old or new to them, and return their answers with photos and dimensions to me. From there I can put together a bespoke design scheme for the room of their choice, complete with sample boards, drawings and a budget spreadsheet, with an action plan for them to follow, to make it a reality under their own steam.

There are two packages: a classic monochrome version and a rainbow pride ribbon option for LGBT couples, and those who just prefer joyful colour. I think there is something fun about using the postal service in this crazy digital age. This is a scaleable business model which is potentially quite exciting, plus because I never meet the client in person it is easier for me to work and still do the school run.

I love face to face client work, but there is a limit to how much I can take on, because the logistics of getting to site to let tradesmen in and simultaneously take a small person to school without any grandparents nearby are a bit tricky. Luckily I have some fantastic builders and project managers to call upon for help with bigger jobs where we do meet the clients and undertake the installation work for them. But I think the digital-postal design packages like Newlyweds Nest (I have more in the pipeline) are likely to take over, because it is also a more affordable slice of luxury service,  especially for clients who would rather save money by doing or organising the hands-on redecoration work themselves.


Zoe is following…

@blackparrotsstudio: Sarah Mitchenall won The Great Interior Design Challenge in 2016 and kindly loaned me a few of her fab monstera lights for a roomset I designed for Grand Designs Live last year. As a former garden designer, her work with jewellery designer Alexa as Black Parrots Studio is just utterly fantastic. There’s a lot of interiors ‘noise’ on instagram, but these women actually HAVE IT!

@ware.london: Jewellery designer Emma Ware is a long time buddy of mine from when we were students at Wimbledon School of Art. When she quit TV working as a Focus Puller to set up her brand, she was a huge inspiration to me and set the bar high. Her work is hugely stylish, wearable and ethically produced. Amazing!

@iris.apfel: How could I not follow this inspirational woman? Interior designer turned fashion and style icon, still working in her 90s, Iris Apfel has such a wonderful outlook and a gentle, joyful demeanour. She is an incredible wit, huge intellect and cheers up my feed every time. I also covet her architect’s glasses!


Zoe’s work 

zoehewettinteriors.co.uk
instagram.com/zoehewettinteriors #mybristolhome
twitter.com/zoehewettdesign
pinterest.com/zoehewettdesign/zoe-hewett-interiors
facebook.com/zoehewettinteriors

Giving women a voice

Johanna Rossi is the woman behind Raising Women, a community that supports each other through the challenges of motherhood. We asked Johanna to share her story.

Tell us your professional story

I’m a trained interior architect, however I started my career working for The Walt Disney Company designing children’s clothing. When I moved to Monaco I work as a freelancer and then worked for a photographer here who also published a fashion magazine. My husband opened a restaurant so I started working with him, before having our first child. After my second child I studied to be a health coach and then set up my first company Live a Nourishing Life, a holistic coaching, cooking and organic produce delivery company here in Monaco. I then launched Raising Women in September 2016 when I stripped back to concentrate on coaching. Recently I have taken a step back from my work to reassess and have made the decision to stop coaching and realign my work with my creativity. For the moment I’m enjoying writing a lot.

How has social media changed the way you work?

Social media has changed the way I work hugely, for better and for worse. Social media allows us to connect with people all over the world, that we would very probably never have the chance to connect with. However I do find social media has also been detrimental to my creativity, and often to my confidence as trying to grow a brand at the same time as evolving on a personal and creative level can be hard when there are so many ‘rules’ to adhere to if you also want your business equally grow.

What advice would you give to women who are lacking in confidence?

Make sure you know what it is you are trying to do/achieve, confidence comes with clarity. The clearer you are about what it is you want to do and what it is you want to create the more confident you will be.


Johanna is following…

instagram.com/elisejoy

instagram.com/jordanaclaudia

instagram.com/valleybrinkroad


Johanna’s work

raising-women.com
instagram.com/raising_women

Top European holiday destinations

Meet Rebecca Berzins, a personal Travel Advisor with Travel Counsellors. She has worked in the travel industry for nearly 11 years, travelling extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia as well as parts of Africa, America and Europe. Using her knowledge and passion she is able to match clients with their perfect holiday destination. We asked Rebecca to share her career story and reveal her top European family holiday destinations.

How did you find a flexible, home-working travel job?

I happened across my first job in travel whilst out on my lunch break from my pub job when I first moved to London and saw a small, local travel agency advertising for travel consultants. That makes it sound like I stumbled into this career but it wasn’t an entirely unplanned move – I’d realised half way through studying for a degree in Photography at Bournemouth that travel was my real passion and I’d been searching for a way to get in to the industry ever since. Despite making a fool of myself in the interview when asked to mark on a blank map all of the major cities in Australia (I got it catastrophically wrong) I somehow still got the job! They flew me out to Australia for my initial training and there began it began. A nearly 11 year career in travel focused heavily on Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Firstly in creating, booking and selling holidays to my clients and then moving to brochure content, contracting and marketing.

The birth of my daughter in April 2015 saw my priorities shift somewhat and despite the fact that travel will always remain my passion there is a new love competing for my attentions. So, how to get the best of both worlds? After quitting my job at the end of my maternity leave I took some time to think about what I wanted and joined Travel Counsellors, a leading home-working franchise travel agency. They give me the tools I need to operate my own business from home and here I am – working on my own terms around my family, chasing the elusive work/life balance. It’s fun, hard work and unimaginably empowering.

My clientele is varied and I have the scope to sell the world, but because of the circles I now move in I do get a lot of enquiries from fellow parents looking to catch some sun in Europe with the kids. This is working really well because we work to the same timetable – phone calls during nap times and after bedtime are the norm, plus no one seems to mind if I have a screaming toddler in the background! Selling European family holidays has been a learning curve for me, but a fun one. One of the greatest things about working in the travel industry is that I am constantly learning. Meanwhile my own travel wish list grows and grows with each new destination I research, much to my husband’s dismay!

How has digital technology and social media impacted the way you work?

I cannot image working in the travel industry without technology – from the oracle that is Google: “Yes Sir, of course I know where Zanskar is…” (frantically types it in to Google). To connecting with the multitude of other independent agents out there to draw on each others’ knowledge, expertise and insider tips – I would be lost without the internet.

Since launching my business in December I have been blown away by the strength and power of social media to reach my audience, it has been an invaluable asset. A personal recommendation on Facebook has the power of more than 10,000 printed leaflets – to a small business with a non-existent marketing budget this is priceless.

Technology can also be my nemesis, a sucker of time and the ultimate tool for procrastination. But I know that used correctly it has the ability to enhance personal relationships, not diminish them. I treat my clients like friends, send them a quick text to check how they are or with a weather report to get them excited about their holiday, or reply to an email on the go with a quick thumbs up or smiley face. This is handy as a working Mum but also great for ensuring that I offer that personal service that my business will be built on and remain contactable whenever my clients need me.

Sharing personal posts on social media amongst travel and business related ones only seems to enhance that particular element of my business. People come to me because they want to speak to a human, not another cog in the wheel and they seen genuinely keen to support another mum in business, which is amazing to me.

Being a part of Travel Counsellors means that both my customers and I have access to award-winning technology too, such as the fantastic My TC app, giving my clients the opportunity to view, like and share their trip proposals and bookings all from the palm of their hand. Clients seem to love this mix of highly personal service backed up by first class technology.


TOP EUROPEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY HOLIDAYS

1) Sani Resort, Halkidiki, GREECE

With four separate and distinctly styled properties to choose from this all-encompassing resort is a destination in its own right and has been my top seller since launching in December. Having been there myself I completely know why. Laid back luxury, top-class service and food to die for, but where no one bats an eyelid at a wayward toddler. The unique Babe Watch service means that the Ofsted registered childcare team watch the little ones for half an hour on the beach so that parents can catch some rays in peace. All this means you’ll come back feeling (nearly) as relaxed if you hadn’t taken the kids!

2) Hotel Zafiro Palace Alcudia, MAJORCA

When I think of Mallorca, rightly or wrongly, I think of package holiday hell! Not so at, this genuine 5 star all-inclusive property refuses to sacrifice style for the kids happiness. With short flight times from the UK it’s accessible for families too. Set on a beautiful sandy beach and with a multitude of facilities to choose from, I defy a family not to be kept happy here.

3) Martinhal Sagres Resort, PORTUGAL

Oozing style and luxury this 5 star design hotel lives and breathes the moto “if the kids are happy the parents will be happy too”.  Situated just outside laid-back Sagres it has arguably one of the best spots in the Algarve. The property has a range of accommodation options from self-catering houses to all-inclusive luxe suites, great for larger families and family groups travelling together.

4) Almyra, CYPRUS

With their unique Baby-Go-Lightly service the modern, minimalist Almyra in Paphos represents great value and is the epitome of a stress free holiday. Parents can pre-request anything from baby baths and bottle warmers to baby bouncy chairs and potty’s before arriving saving precious baggage space and leaving behind the feeling that you’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink.

5) Grand Palladium White Island, IBIZA

Ideal for hip young parents not yet ready to forgo the glitz and glamour of their holidays of yesteryear, the Grand Palladium White Island is right on the beach and offers something for the whole family from toddlers through to teenagers. Guests can also use the all-inclusive facilities of the Grand Palladium Palace next door meaning the holiday can be as laid back or as busy as you like.

6) Princess Yaiza, LANZAROTE

The Canary Islands offer fantastic value right now compared to other areas in Europe, and with guaranteed sun outside of the peak summer holidays it’s the perfect destination for families with younger kids wanting to make the most of taking holidays before they get restricted to term times. The rooms at the Princess Yaiza Suite Hotel gives families plenty of space and a separate living space ideal for when the kids are tucked up in bed.

7) Domes of Elounda, CRETE

Overlooking UNESCO heritage listed Spinalonga island the 5 star Domes of Elounda is in an enviable position with the only sandy, private, natural beach in the area of Elounda, known for luxury within Crete. Their pre-bookable Ofsted registered crèche takes babies from as young as four months plus alongside a complimentary kids club for the older ones really giving the parents the opportunity to put their feet up and unwind.


Rebecca is following…

Sam Cleasby from sobadass.me was one of the first women who showed me that social media and blogging is not just a frivolous thing. It can have a meaningful, positive and deep impact on people’s lives. She works tirelessly and is a tower of strength and female awesomeness to many women suffering from similar health issues or body issues.

I live locally to Frankie from Doing It For The Kids, the online forum for freelance parents. She had a vision. She made it happen. To me that is powerful and I have learnt a lot about social media just by following what she does. I am excited to watch her project grow and know it will bring great things.


Rebecca’s work

travelcounsellors.co.uk/rebecca.berzins
instagram.com/rebeccaberzinstc
facebook.com/RebeccaBerzinsTC

Let’s get digital

Meet Claire Greville, a Digital Mums graduate who has since set up her own social media consultancy Greville Social in Bristol. Claire studied Accounting and Finance at university and had a successful career working in higher education, before making the difficult decision to take redundancy after they were unable to accommodate her flexible working request (sound familiar?). So with no idea of what she was going to do, but with a bit of time to reflect on what kind of job would suit her and her family, Claire stumbled across a Digital Mums Facebook advert, and the rest (as they say) is history.

Why did you choose Digital Mums and what was it like doing the course?

Funnily enough, I found Digital Mums through Facebook (I understand now that it was a cleverly targeted advert!). I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon in October 2015, when I spotted the details. It seemed almost too good to be true as it was exactly what I had been looking for – flexible, rewarding work which I could do from home. I immediately checked out their website and the course sounded really interesting, so I emailed for more information. I did lots of research about Digital Mums in the meantime, but I was getting more and more excited as I thought about it. I loved social media, and the prospect of being able to work for a business as part of the training was very appealing. I decided to apply, and a few weeks later, I was offered a video interview for a place on the course. I was quite nervous but I really needn’t have been. Nikki (one of the co-founders, pictured on the left below) was lovely, and before I knew it, I’d been offered a place on the Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme starting in January 2016.

Digital Mums co-founders: Nikki Cochrane and Kathryn Tyler.

The course itself was a fantastic but very intense experience. It was 20 weeks long, but run over six months, in order to accommodate some of the school holidays. The ‘live learning’ aspect was brilliant. I was paired with a business from the very first week of the course, and I was able to apply everything I learned each week straightaway, which meant that I retained all of the information I was taking in (and there was a lot!). It was also a great way to learn about managing clients and their expectations.

Every student is put into a peer group with five other mums, and my group ‘The Katherine Ryans’, was such a fantastic support. We spoke every week of the course, through Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and I’m still in touch with them now. The course finished at the end of June and there was a scary final report to hand in, but I passed with flying colours. I took a few weeks off over the summer before starting work for a small digital agency based in London. I did that for a couple of months, but quickly realised that I would prefer to work for my own clients, so I set up my own social media consultancy, Greville Social.

I currently have three clients, all of whom I work for remotely. I still provide social media consultancy to the lovely business that I trained with: Cambridge Academic Performance. I’m just about to start running a new Facebook campaign for Green Ginger Design, a fantastic web designer based in East London. And I’m currently managing Facebook and Instagram for Eye Heroes, a small charity who are campaigning to prevent avoidable blindness in the UK. I’ve also recently been selected as a mentor for Digital Mums, working 1:1 to support another mum through the course and beyond.

My work/life balance is now exactly what I could only dream of two years ago. Gone are the ridiculously early morning starts, and the stressful commute. I now have time to walk my sons to school every day, before I settle down to work in my home office. I do most of my work during school hours, and all of my clients are happy for me to work remotely, keeping in touch with them via phone, video calls, and email. As my work is so flexible, I even have time to do a little bit of volunteering in the local area, helping out at my sons’ school, and also running a local community group’s Facebook page.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a Digital Mums course?

Make sure you’re absolutely committed to doing the course. It will take over your life for six months and you need to be prepared to put the hours in every single week. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly as you need to keep up with each week’s tasks and assignments. There isn’t time to fall behind, and the deadlines are strict.

I was fortunate that both my children were at school when I started the course so I studied during the day, but there were plenty of mums on the course with younger children. Just think about how you’ll manage to find the time to study as well as look after the kids. And don’t worry if you haven’t studied anything new for a long time – all the other mums will be equally as nervous as you are. But the support you will receive from your peers and Digital Mums both during the course and afterwards will increase your confidence ten-fold.

The support from the #DMCollective (Digital Mums graduates) continues to astound me every day, and I feel genuinely honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational group of women. If you’re a mum looking to change your work/life balance, then I highly recommend the Digital Mums course. 

What are your top social media tips for small businesses?

  • Be selective: you don’t have to be on every platform. It’s far better to do two platforms well, than five poorly. Work out where your target audience is hanging out, and focus your time and efforts there.
  • Be consistent: establish a tone of voice and stick to it. Turn up every day – post at the same frequency, preferably at the same times, so that your followers know what to expect from you.
  • Be social: it is called social media after all! Don’t just promote yourself. Take an interest in others, join in conversations, and you’ll start to build relationships, which will pay off in the long run.

Claire is following… 

Mother Pukka: such an awesome inspiring lady who champions the Digital Mums #workthatworks movement. I love watching her Instagram stories.

Jools Oliver: is effortlessly stylish, and the sneak peeks into her life with Jamie and her five gorgeous children are fascinating.

Talented Ladies Club: I love their mixture of motivational quotes and practical advice, as well as inspirational stories about working mothers.


Claire’s work

grevillesocial.co.uk
facebook.com/grevillesocial
instagram.com/clairegreville
twitter.com/clairegreville

Ever feel like an imposter?

Yes, that old chestnut. Don’t worry we all do sometimes. I regularly have moments where I have to reality check the self-doubt I feel. Talking to friends and family helps (and being give a metaphorical slap around the face). I don’t whether this is a particular trait amongst women, but I know a lot of us feel like this. Raising the subject publicly acts a reminder to myself to have more confidence in my own abilities, but also to reassure anyone reading this that (despite appearances) even the most apparently switched on people have wobbles too. You’re human and it would be a bit odd if you didn’t.

I’m not usually keen on labels (I don’t feel they are particularly helpful), but in order to illustrate the point I’m making, I want to talk about ‘Imposter Syndrome’: a recognised term in clinical psychology that eludes to a number of behavioural characteristics. The basis for these feelings broadly manifest themselves in the following ways:

  1. A belief that you’re not capable or accomplished, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  2. Difficulty believing or accepting genuine praise and recognition.
  3. Feeling like you’ve somehow faked your success.
  4. Fear of being outed as a fraud.

If you’ve taken time out of a career to have children you may feel this more acutely. That’s why support from fellow women is such an important part of validating your experience and sense of self-worth. Lack of career confidence is a huge barrier to achieving your ambitions, even if on paper you have everything going for you (and I guarantee you have). Receiving praise and recognition for your professional achievements, no matter how small can be the difference between making or breaking someone’s spirit. Often it’s the kindness of strangers that affects us more than the unconditional words of approval we hear from those closest to us. If you’re feeling like this then my top tips are:

  1. Talk to other people:
    I guarantee other people will have felt like this at some point. It’s such a cliché (but it’s true) a problem shared is a problem halved. Families are great, but speaking to objective people who know your industry can give you a more constructive insight into how good your knowledge and skills are.
  2. Write it down:
    Make two lists: one outlining all your achievements and experience; another ordering any areas of concern you have. Next, make a list of actionable goals (can you tell I like lists?). Make a realistic plan of ways you can work on your professional development: attend a training course to enhance your skills, refresh your CV/LinkedIn, join a business networking community.
  3. Meet up offline:
    There is no substitute for meeting people IRL (this is an acronym young people favour, instead of saying ‘in real life’ – I’m down with it). Share your experiences with like-minded women and support each other.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up:
    Remember we’re all winging it to some extent (some of us are better at appearing to look like we know what we’re doing).
  5. Find time to chill out:
    Put things into perspective. I find a large glass of wine and cake really helps (sorry I meant exercise, yes, exercise definitely helps too).

Written by Amy White

Stationery in a digital world

Meet Rebecca Bradley, owner of Proper Post, a monthly subscription delivery of greeting cards and stationery. In a digital world there is something special about receiving a card in the post or simply taking time to write your thoughts down in a notebook.

Tell us about your career journey and why you launched Proper Post

It’s been a winding path that led to Proper Post. I started out as a nanny in London, worked at University, gained an MA in HR and ran a social enterprise children’s centre for years along the way. All that experience led to knowing exactly what business I wanted to grow. I didn’t want to create a job for myself because I already had one, I wanted to create something I felt passionately about and Proper Post was born. I wanted a relationship with customers that was ongoing to feel as if I was sending products to people I actually know, to add to their lives and help them, not to create ‘just another’ consumable.

I also run a Pinterest training and consultancy business, Pinright, which has allowed me to use my social media skills to grow Proper Post and learn all about Instagram too. Bringing the threads of various visual digital mediums together is perfect for a business like Proper Post because it is so visual, but also emotional and these are perfect ways to connect with customers.

Why is the giving and receiving of mail still important in the digital age?

Essentially post is pieces of paper, folded or otherwise. But in reality it is (and represents) so much more than that. Post and letters in general are a way of connecting and strengthening relationships. Who doesn’t love receiving a card or letter and feeling thought about and special. There’s something about good old-fashioned snail mail and receiving a thoughtful card that just can’t be beaten.

Try one of the monthly subscription packs.

Letters and greetings card are a way of expressing emotion in a tangible way, they can tell a story and have more meaning than the physical card itself. Whether it’s wishing someone a happy birthday, letting a friend know you are thinking of them at a difficult time, showing someone how special they are to you or simply just saying hello, cards spark joy – fact!

What other product can do all of those things in one form? Cards and letters are a positive product in a sometimes negative world. They are a solid, physical, tactile and real ‘thing’ in a digital age.


Rebecca is following…

@etceteravintage: Shelly and I have been friends forever she has always been creative and entrepreneurial and most importantly she marches to her own beat. She has always been an innovator and ahead of most trends and she doesn’t follow others. She inspires me to be creative and to be brave.

@nutmegandarlo: Elle is someone I am lucky enough to have met online and what a lucky find she is. She inspires me because she has stumbled into her business quite by accident and has had huge success because her design work is gorgeous. She has had a really hard year personally and in spite of that her business has flourished, her positivity and her humour inspire me all the time.

@jengotch: I think I had to include someone I don’t actually know but that I follow and Jen as the Founder of Ban.do has the dream business and work set up and she makes me laugh every single time I watch her Instagram stories. She has built and incredible brand and stayed utterly true to her own personality.


Rebecca’s work

properpost.co.uk
instagram.com/properpostuk
pinterest.com/properpostuk
facebook.com/properpost

Our subscription service is all designed to make life easier, reminders for birthdays and important occasions, cards to choose for the right person and a monthly delivery to make sure you have your stationery addiction sorted and unique and design led cards that will make you look like the best friend ever. Our blog series the Collective features 14 writers from all over the world covering stories from craft DIY to stories of family hope and connection.

Essentials for your wardrobe

After a successful career in retail, Lucy Knights decided to take the plunge and start her own business after the birth of her second child. We asked Lucy to share her story, divulge her social media tips and select her favourite wardrobe essentials.

How did your career in fashion begin?

Ever since I was 16 and got my first part-time job in a fashion boutique, I’ve always been drawn back to retail. I love the buzz and how every day is different. Following my Business Degree in Sheffield, I moved to London to complete a Retail Management graduate scheme. I then became a manager for GAP’s flagship on Oxford Street before moving over to Harrods and spending eight years working with them on driving their womenswear sales and strategy. After always dreaming about having my own business, I finally took the big step of launching BORN AT DAWN after having my second child.

BORN AT DAWN brings focused, effortless style with a personal touch. Mostly Scandinavian and French inspired brands, it offers an alternative from the mainstream as our pieces aren’t widely available and are more exclusive. Our collection is made up of beautiful, easy-to-wear wardrobe heroes that are versatile and can be worn multiple times and in different ways, taking you from day-to-night. We also offer a “Night In” experience in selected areas of London where you can book an evening for us to bring the collection to you, meaning you can shop with your friends in the luxury of your own home. 

You’re really embracing social media to promote your business online. Have you got any tips for aspiring businesswomen?

I love social media especially Instagram. I have met and keep in touch with so many women through it that inspire me every day. When I first started planning for BORN AT DAWN I started attending (and still do attend) networking groups such as Mothers Meeting and Southwood Social Hub. They both have a big focus on social media so once you meet someone at one, it’s easy to keep in contact with them through Instagram. This is something that helps me enormously – whether I’m pinging a DM to someone for advice on something, collaborating with people on projects, it’s incredible to have met so many lovely supportive women in similar situations – I never feel alone despite working solo a lot.

I love interacting with followers and they were hugely influential in how I set up the business. I often asked questions on my Instagram account to get feedback on certain decisions in the planning stages. For instance: “What are you wearing today?”, “What’s the most worn piece in your wardrobe?”, “What’s your top style tip?”, “Where do you buy most of your clothes and why?”. I wanted to create a collection that really suited busy women’s real lives and offer a service that really suited them.

In terms of creating content for my account. I really planned who my target customer was and what her life looked like/what she was interested in. I then centred it around that. I always asked myself – would she enjoy reading this? Is it of value to her?

I’ve only recently launched and I have a lot more to learn about the business side of online marketing but in terms of raising awareness, making sales and interacting with my target customer, Instagram in particular has been great. I think something I need to work on now I’ve launched, is how to balance social media with the realities of running a business. When I’m dealing with customers, stock, orders, buying appointments, accounts and a million other things, it’s been hard at times to give my social media the attention it is so important it receives. It’s early days but I am sure I will get there and create some balance.

LUCY’S TOP WARDROBE PICKS

STATEMENT LEATHER JACKET

Perfect for giving a plain outfit an effortlessly cool, luxury feel. We have a great black leather and suede one on the site (both by MINIMUM), but if you’re looking for one that makes a statement but is still timeless – this Mads Norgaard leopard print biker jacket is fantastic.

CLASSIC TRENCH COAT

It’s worth investing in a good quality trench coat as it’s something you can bring out year after year and makes any outfit look chic. I saw so many on my buying appointments, but this one by Samsoe & Samsoe was my favourite by a mile – the material is so soft so it hangs nicely and is really comfortable to wear.

LAYERING T-SHIRT 

A great fitting plain t-shirt is so useful for layering with everything. Our Perfect tee is made from Pima cotton, it fits really well, comes in three colours (black/white/grey) and only costs £15.

THE PERFECT BRETON

You can’t go wrong with Breton for a pared back feel that never goes out of style. Look at pictures of Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot in the sixties – the look still feels so fresh and relevant today. I looked long and hard to find the perfect Breton stripe tops and Mads Norgaard do it best for basic styles to invest in – they’ve been perfecting theirs for over 30 years and this particular style is 100% organic sustainable cotton.

BOYFRIEND JEANS

We love boyfriend jeans with a plain t-shirt and trainers or sandals/sliders for a relaxed daytime look or with heels and a blazer for a smarter feel – they are really versatile. This pair by 2nd DAY are to the ankle and we like the mid wash denim as not too dark or too light/distressed.

LUXE JEGGINGS

For the days when you just want to be wearing leggings – these give you the comfort of leggings but look a lot better. This pair by SELECTED FEMME are super soft and high-rise so no unsightly lines and they suck you in a little too. Everyone who’s tried them, loves them.

JUMPSUIT

Jumpsuits are perfect for if you are busy as they are a ready-made outfit. You can still give them different looks depending on what shoes and accessories you wear and how you layer them. This jumpsuit by Numph is wide legged and cropped and has a loose top section so it’s easy to wear, lies nicely and doesn’t cling.

STYLISH SHIRT

A good shirt is a fantastic wardrobe staple to wear with jeans or tailored trousers/chinos. This army green one by Maison Scotch is a classic and the material feels super luxe so it’s worth investing in.

INVESTMENT TOP

Stacey Duguid recently wrote in The Pool about how a “posh top” with jeans was a perfect go-to outfit for an evening out when you want to look nice but still be comfortable and not too overdressed. This one by French brand Suncoo would look great during the day or on holiday too.


Lucy is following…

Hayley Southwood @hjsouthwood: she’s supportive, positive and is always championing other women. I’m part of Southwood Social Hub, her network to inspire and empower women in business and it really is great.

Kelly from @cultofyouth: her posts are always beautiful and often make me cry. She always speaks from the heart and has a beautiful way with words.

Clemmie @mother_of_daughters: she amazes me with how she juggles four children, a job as a midwife and still finds time to share it all on Instagram, talk regularly at events and not to mention write a book! She is just ridiculously lovely in real life too.


Lucy’s work

bornatdawn.com
instagram.com/bornatdawn