Q&A Thursday – with Nikki Loy

Princess & The Pea CroppedOn Monday I introduced you to singer, songwriter, illustrator and non-stop creative, Nikki Loy, when she let us take a peek into her handbag.

I am infinitely inspired by women making it in business on their own terms, those that march to the beat of their own drum and Nikki is one of those women. I’m excited to say that I have her here again today to ask a few questions about what it takes to leave the day job and to go after your dreams…

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What’s in Your Handbag, Nikki Loy?

Whilst conducting my research into creating handbags that are stylish, beautifully made and which support the busy lifestyles of women today, I got to know some really inspirational ladies – a fabulous group of business owners, entrepreneurs, inspiring and courageous women.  I have learnt so much from these women on my journey, that I wanted to come up with a way to introduce them to you, to get them to share some insights into their success and to show us THEIR handbags!  We all love a little bit of a nosey, so I thought it would be great fun to find out what these women carry in their handbags day to day, then ask them to share some of their secrets of success.

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Ten Things I’m Afraid to Tell You.

10 ting 2Today is a special post.  I was recently asked by a good friend, Nikki, if I wanted to take part in sharing a blogging experience.  The title, as you see above; ’10 things I’m afraid to tell you’ is a simple idea.  A group of five of us, myself, Nikki, Amy, Helen and Cassy, are sharing a post (all at the same time on our respective blogs) to tell you 10 things about ourselves that we would normally prefer to keep to ourselves.  The reason?  To show that we are real people, that we have real stories and real lives.  That we do things we are a little embarrassed about, we have done things that we may be ashamed of and that there are other things about us that are just plain weird.  I have no idea what will come out, but I do know that it will be honest and true.  I trust that the subconscious mind brings out what it needs to at the right and proper time, so I will not edit what I write.  I’m nervous, but also curious, so I’ll just get going…

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Starting Out, Part-time work and Not Having a Real Job

When I first came up with the idea for the regular blog ‘What’s in Your Handbag?’, I wanted to add a few interview questions to support the post (I couldn’t waste the opportunity when talking to such amazing women).  However, I was surprised how much personality showed through, with just a little peek into the things they have in their handbags.  I ended up in a bit of a pickle, I really wanted to ask some juicy business and life questions, but didn’t want to create long posts that nobody has time to read.  The result?  A separate Q&A blog with the inspiring women that have bared all to me (in the handbag sense!)

Starting next Monday I will have my very first fabulous and inspiring lady, musician Nikki Loy, who will be sharing the contents of her handbag on Monday, and answering a few of my burning questions about her life and work on the following Monday.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Since I was the first to show the contents of my handbag, I thought it only fair that I answered a few questions too.  Being a little unsure of what to ask myself, I took to my Facebook page and asked there.  I got some fantastic questions, all of which I will blog in the near future.  (You guys give me all the best ideas!)

The following set of questions came from the lovely Rachel Brooks of Muertos Mundo.  Rachel is in the beginning stages with her jewellery business and has a wonderful curiosity about all things business and creative.  I’m certain she will do great things with Muertos Mundo.  (Hmmm, I wonder if Rachel would like to be featured on ‘What’s in Your Handbag?’?)

Let’s head straight into Rachel’s questions…

Mannequins in the showcase ofa  department store in Paris, France.

Did you always know you wanted to set up your own designer handbag label, or were there other things that led you to this path?

I always knew that I wanted to be a designer.  I studied 3D design at university, specialising in furniture.  I did a course in Millinery design for my last business ‘Head Full of Feathers’, specialising in bespoke hairpieces for weddings, then I studied handbag design when I realised that it was time to do something that I REALLY wanted to do.

I’ve always wanted to work for myself, to create something that changes and grows.  I wouldn’t say I’m unemployable, but I do get bored very quickly with ‘Groundhog Day’ jobs where every day is the same and nothing ever seems to evolve.

Between studies I travelled and worked abroad.  I did a lot of seemingly menial jobs that supported my love of snow, sun, sea and partying.  Unexpectedly, these jobs taught me the importance of exceptional customer service, happy staff and strong company culture; which together I believe are the backbone of any successful business.


Do you have another job? If so, what is it? If not, when did you decide to leave? How did it feel? Was it scary?

When I closed down ‘Head Full of Feathers’ I didn’t think it would be long before my handbag label would be making money.  I was wrong.  I foolishly tried to get by for over six months on what little money was left, living off my husband’s salary, selling my belongings on eBay and using credit cards.  We had to live very frugally and it still wasn’t enough.  I don’t advise this to anyone.  Not having your own money is a fast track to losing your self-worth; you have to say no to every fun thing that comes along and it can put your relationships under pressure.

For the past few months I have been working part time in a bar.  I’m on minimum wage which sucks, but it’s social and it’s paying the bills.  I’ve realised that there is no shame in taking a low wage to care for yourself, your loved ones and your ambition.  It’s to create something amazing, a stepping stone to greatness.  Having said that, it will feel sensational when I’m bringing in enough money to leave it behind!

Mannequins in the showcase ofa  department store in Paris, France.

Is it hard running a business?

Hell YES!  It is hard, tiring, never-ending and often lonely.  But it is infinitely exciting; an adventure that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.

When you start a business you have to fill a hundred different roles every day.   Each day there is a small victory, they may be hard to spot but they are a step towards where you are going.  It’s important to celebrate the victories and enjoy the ride.  In the past I’ve often made the mistake of focusing only on where I want to get to, getting frustrated with my progress and missing the adventure I was on.  I do my best now to be fully present in my work.


What is it like working for yourself?

It’s fantastic because you are your own boss.  Also, it’s a nightmare because you are your own boss!  No-one will tell you to be at work or to get projects finished on time.  Self-motivation and beating procrastination become jobs in themselves.  It is important to get routines and systems in place which make things easier – more like a ‘real’ job.  It is YOU that has to show up each day, do the work and make the calls.

When you do get things moving, it feels magical.   Knowing that what you are creating is enriching the lives of others is food for the soul.

Happy customers rock my world.


Does it still feel like a job?

Yes, and harder than any job that I have ever had.  In one day can I go from feeling super-human, to feeling like a fraud and then back again many, many times.  I am not ashamed to admit that some days bring me to tears; it’s all part of discovering my true self and creatively sharing with the world.  The fear, the elation, the moments of overwhelm and the achievements, it’s a wonderful and emotional rollercoaster.

I could never go back.

Mannequins in the showcase ofa  department store in Paris, France.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I read a lot and am especially inspired by entrepreneurial success stories. I usually have a few books on the go at the same time – which is good for always having inspiration for different moods and whims. (I’m currently reading: ‘#GIRLBOSS’ by Sophia Amoruso, ‘Everything I know’ by Paul Jarvis and ‘Get Rich, Lucky Bitch!’ by Denise Duffield-Thomas and am really enjoying all three.)

For online business bites I adore Marie Forleo’s ‘Marie TV’.  Marie is like a business big sister.  If I ever get stuck I head over for a five minute video fix for inspiration, she’s great fun and always makes me smile.

In the handbag industry Victoria Beckham is an inspiration for her business focus and sheer determination – she’s a complete super woman.


Where did you get your knowledge of business? Did you study it, or pick it up along the way?

When I founded ‘Head Full of Feathers’ I had no idea about running a business and learnt what I needed as I went along.  If I came up against a problem, I Googled how to fix it.  When I needed to learn about marketing, social media and website design, I Googled those too.  There is so much free information out there and it’s fun to discover it for yourself.

When I decided to change my business and set up my handbag label, I decided that I wanted to fill the gaps in my knowledge, so I looked for business courses.  I found free advice, courses and workshops from start-up business companies Outset and BRAVE and from the JobCentre.  They helped me with planning, finances, coaching and finding funding to get my idea off the ground.

At the same time I joined a group called the Entrepreneurs Circle.  It is a membership programme which offers courses, inspiration and advice for taking your business to the next level.  Continued learning is encouraged (which is a huge part of my personality) and the network of support is extensive.  The people I have met and the things I have learnt though the EC have given me the confidence and knowledge to aim high and work towards making my business great.

Mannequins in the showcase ofa  department store in Paris, France.

How awesome is it knowing people will be lusting over the new “Jennifer Hamley”!?!

It blows my mind.  Really.  It will be a dream come true.

There is still a lot of work to do to get there.  I am in the process of building the brand to have solid values, to be something to believe in.  I want to serve my customers to give them exactly what they want and need, and that is taking time to discover and get right.  I want style and beautiful materials fused with usability.  Gorgeous handbags that work as hard as the ladies that own them.

On the production side, I want each handbag to be crafted by people that are well taken care of, paid a good wage and live a good life.  I want future staff to be employed by a company that takes good care of them.

I am learning a lot as I go along, and it is all coming together very well.  I’m excited to see my first handbag samples, but I’m not jumping too far ahead and getting frustrated with time-scales as I was in the beginning.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint – I’m in this for the long term.


Thank you for visiting, I hope you found Rachels questions interesting and the little peep into my world engaging.  The ladies I have lined up for the next few weeks are such inspirational characters, I’m super excited to talk to them all.

If you have any questions for me, or want to feature on ‘What’s in Your Handbag?’ I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment below or to email me Jen@JenniferHamley.com.

I have a new regular post announcement for Wednesday – it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for me, but very fun for you I hope!

Have a great week,

Jen xx

Mannequins in the showcase ofa  department store in Paris, France.

(Photo’s from Paris showcase window – Dollar Photo Club)

What’s in Your Handbag?

I had a little bit of a nightmare recently with my blog.  In short, my web designer DELETED all of my content!  I know, right?! My published posts, my draft posts, my editorial calendar.  Everything!  I was not amused.  Instead of going crazy, I decided to look at this fuck up mistake in a positive light.  A new beginning and a fresh start sort of thing.

In celebration, here is my first post for my ‘brand new’ Blog.  Hurrah.

I decided late last year to start a regular feature called ‘What’s in Your Handbag?’ (and now I am finally getting around to starting it).  The simple idea for the post is that I will be asking ladies to show us the contents of their handbag, the things they carry around on a daily basis.  I believe that the things we choose to have with us show a snapshot of our personalities in a beautifully simple, yet striking way.   And we all love a nosey.

I thought it only fair that I start with what’s in MY handbag, so here goes.

Vivienne Westwood handbag
My Vivienne Westwood – a gift from my parents

This is my most favourite handbag, it’s by Vivienne Westwood and was a gift from my parents for my last birthday.  It is gorgeous.  It is blue leather with a red foil, which means it changes colour in the light – Amazing!  The lining is a patterned and luxurious, and it has enough pockets to please me.  I tend to carry a handbag 50% of the time and this is the one I would choose over any other in my collection.

I consider myself fairly tidy in regards to handbag contents.  I like to use all the pockets and then have other things in easy reach.  I will carry just my purse for the time when I don’t carry a handbag.  It very rarely makes it into my bag, I tend to just carry it or keep it in a pocket.

OK, so here are the daily contents of my lovely Vivienne…

Jennifer Hamleys handbag

1 – My pencil case, full with pens, pencils, Sharpies, highlighters, a craft knife and glue stick – I never know when creativity will strike so I don’t go anywhere without it.  2 – Lip balm, silky soft lips are happy lips. 3 – Mints, I like to have something to freshen up after meeting which involves coffee, or during long journeys.  4 – My notebook.  I found this little wooden beauty in the local card shop for just 75p, I drew the heart on the front like the hearts carved on trees because I think they are adorable tokens of love (though I’ve never attacked a real tree in this way!)  5 – My house keys.  I used to carry a huge bunch of keys around like a jailer.  I realised I was still carrying keys from a house I no longer lived in, so now I just carry the my two front door keys. (oh! I just realised I didn’t put them in the picture!!)  6 – A book, I always carry a book – I love to read.  7 – My phone, affectionately referred to as ‘Triggers’ Broom’ (old skool reference to ‘Only Fools and Horses’.)   It has more new parts on it than it does original, it’s been down the (clean!) toilet and on a full washing machine cycle and it is still alive. I’ve had it for many years, which is a change from when I was known for losing and killing phones on a regular basis.  8 – My phones’ life support.  I use my phone for so much throughout the day that it ALWAYS needs charging (perhaps the aforementioned phone abuse doesn’t help with battery life) 9 – Painkillers.  Just in case.  I’d hate to be caught out at an important meeting with period pains or a banging headache.  10 – Headphones, because music can lift your mood, change your state and make your heart sing.  I also listen to a lot of audiobooks.  11 – A big stack of business cards, I’ve got to network baby!

Jennifer Hamley emerging designer shows us what is in her handbag
I always carry a book – or listen to audiobooks.

It’s been a fun mini project taking a look at my personality in this way, I’m looking forward to seeing what other ladies (and guys!) carry, so i’m on the lookout for volunteers. Would you share the contents of your handbag?  I’d love to feature you – leave a comment or drop me an email –  Jen@JenniferHamley.com.

Stay wonderful,

Jen xx