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…
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!
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.
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.
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,
(Photo’s from Paris showcase window – Dollar Photo Club)