In one way I am the absolute worst person to give advice but on the other hand I set up my first business at 13, bought a beach café at 17 to then sell it at 20 and set up a luxury leather handbag brand a few months later.
Now at the ripe old age of 21 and university coming to an end (thank God, that’s three years I’ll never get back!) people (annoying ones at that) are asking me what I’m going to do next. Well, like all magicians I always have something up my sleeve and like the magician’s code of honour I’m not going to tell you what it is or how it’s done.
But I can tell you what I have learnt from said magician’s tricks, please enjoy:
- Life is very boring if you’re not doing something you enjoy, this is true for whatever walk of life you come from, even alien – you know who you are… If you want to get rich follow your passion, this is the first thing all the great entrepreneurs say from Branson, to Zuckerberg, Gates and more – if you don’t love what you’re doing, in the words of the Spice Girls stop right now, thank you very much.
- I found university mind numbingly boring and to keep myself occupied I set up another business. Handbags may have seemed like a random left field topic but I’ve always been interested in fashion, always interested in designing and creating stuff - just stuff, it doesn’t matter what, anything! And so at the beginning when everyone told me I was crazy (you know who you are…) and I kept hitting hurdle after hurdle it was that basic core interest in designing and creating things that kept me going – and a shed load of coffee, oh the coffee! God bless the man who invented coffee - or woman, could be a woman – or an alien… Probably have to shout out to the mother for her constant humouring, driving me from shop to shop, across the English countryside and back as I indulged in flights of fancy – “OMG I WANT A BAG WITH SOLAR PANELS ON – NO! A BAG THAT CHANGES COLOUR WITH THE WEATHER! NO – BETTER THAN THAT AN INVISIBLE BAG!” (I copyright those ideas by the way, I still believe in them…one day…just one day…) She however does profit from my ventures as she has dibs on all my samples and cast offs.
- It’s handy, very handy if you have a parent who knows what they’re doing. The Oldman, as much as he protests his disgust at fashion, knows a thing or two or three about business and so I’d have to acknowledge that a few of my tricks I’ve learnt from him, although I do execute them with more flair! ;)
- Always be funny, now this will be hard to understand for boring people (!) but a smile and a good sense of humour can really save your bacon (please note I am a vegetarian). I’ve had to pitch my handbags to buyers in the middle of lingerie departments whilst old ladies have been stood next to me discussing knick knacks and the like. I’m not saying you have to be a comedian, but you have to be approachable and likeable. Business deals are 40% numbers and 60% personalities – no matter the money involved because business is hard you really don’t want to be dealing with a twat. To put it bluntly! Short from tap dancing and singing Ave Maria it’s best to have whoever you’re meeting or pitching to on side.
- To go with the one above, always be grateful. Each time someone buys a product or I get a new stockist I always write a thank you card or a nice email to let the other person know I’m grateful for their time. Manners cost nothing. But thank you cards do so make sure you have those profit margins done properly!
- Not everyone is going to want to buy your product but that’s ok. This obviously depends on your product, if you’re selling a mass market product and nobody likes you have got a wee bit of a problem… I know my products aren’t for everyone and that’s because they’re luxury items made in England from the finest leather and materials but as long as those you can’t buy them appreciate their quality and design I’m happy. Not everyone likes Tom Cruise but we can all appreciate why his films are successful.
- Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would use action man Tom Cruise as a metaphor to explain my products…
- At this point you’re probably thinking, ‘oh Abi, you witty fool what are you on about’ whilst the other half of the two people who read this blog are probably thinking ‘Abi? I thought her name was Tamara?!’ It is. They’re both my names. So here’s a light break, a selection of my favourite images of Tom Cruise, please enjoy.
Picture A, is of Tom looking intently at the camera with coy seduction thinking, ‘Mmhhmm Tamara Harvey products are fabulous. She's so witty.’
Picture B, is of dear Tom on the telephone, frantic that my limited edition Grace zip pouches are nearly sold out, ‘what?! Only one left! Noooooooooo’ (cue fast paced action running montage)
Picture C, this is Tom running to get his hands on a bag…
I’ll stop, I could go on forever, spending hours photo shopping and slowly slipping into self-delusion, stalking the poor man, hiding behind bushes waiting to throw a bag at him – “TAKE IT TOM! TAKE IT! I’VE DESIGNED IT FOR YOU! I LOVE YOU IN MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 285793!” Only to be swiftly arrested…
- Don’t be a control freak, natural is best. Admittedly if you can’t already tell I can be a little diva at times but so can we all. I’ve learnt that although I want my way in everything sometimes it’s better to let everyone get on with what they’ve got to do. Instead of running around trying to do everything myself I now hire people who are equally as passionate to do the things I know nothing about, such as styling, photography, editing etc. I do a vast majority myself but on photoshoots collaboration makes everyone feel better. It’s rather handy then that I have friends with skills in all the different areas that I need. Social media is something that as a brand you will never have full control over, unlike in a store there’s no way you can tell the audience how to interpret you and your products. Social media is the uncontrollable beast, its great don’t get me wrong I’m all over it but to really strike a chord with your audience you have to be real. That doesn’t mean take crap photos, it means being professional but fun. Evan Carmichael is a YouTuber, writer and entrepreneur and if you check his podcasts out YouTube he has great videos on harnessing social media for your brand. I religiously watch this man, he is great. Another great man is Gary Vaynerchuk he is the king of social media, he knows it inside out, up and down, left, right and centre. Gary also has videos on YouTube which I recommend you check out if you’re interested in the area.
- And finally, it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all. So what I didn’t know anything about handbag construction when I started, I’ve learnt. I’ve made mistakes but I’ve learnt and I’ve never stopped trying and pushing forward. I’ve had to juggle university and other commitments alongside the business but I’ve kept going, even if it’s just one Instagram post a day. Again, on Youtube there’s a great video by Art Williams titled ‘Just Do It’ I’ll link it below with the others but it’s great, really inspirational and he makes such a great point. Being an entrepreneur is about holding your nerve, I’ve not made a million pounds yet so you could say I’m talking out my arse but I’m closer than I was yesterday, it’s about the ability to decompress the fear of risk. Ok, I could lose X thousands of pounds if a venture goes south but at least I’ve done something, I’ve tried all I could. You can’t be afraid of failure, Coca Cola barely sold any bottles of Coke in their first year and now look at them, Sir Richard Branson was nearly arrested for failing to pay import duty on records he bought when he started Virgin record stores but look at him now – he’s got a freakin’ island! Hello, Richard if you’re reading this… :D
- If you’re afraid to fail don’t even start. Don’t bother. Elon Musk said starting a business is like staring into the abyss whilst eating glass. It’s a bit depressing but heck what a great view, the abyss is so big!
And that concludes this little random, slightly deranged blog. If surprisingly, you wish to read more please check out the other posts I’ve written. If you wish to shop my fabulous range of luxury leather handbags all 100% MADE IN ENGLAND please click here. I hope you come back and visit my page soon, cheerio!
Gary Vaynerchuk: (his channel)