The global theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter with a highlight on promoting women’s achievements. I thought about how telling the story of my finance career and experience building my business might meet this call to action and inspire others.
As someone always looking to be challenged, I was excited to start my “high-flying career”.
Even the 85-hour work weeks did not phase me as I was learning so much so quickly about businesses in different industries and the financial markets. After almost three years in New York City, I hit my stride, but being comfortable was never a goal - how could I learn more and do more?
Moving to London was my next undertaking. I relocated across the ocean after having visited London once, but I was determined to have a new experience and climb the next mountain. After another year in an investment bank, I moved to a prestigious Private Equity firm for a few years and then on to a new hedge fund in Geneva. From these different roles in the financial markets, I was able to learn more in depth about business operations and risk analysis. After ten years total in finance, I was again ready for the next step.
TAKING THE LEAP
During my decade-long finance career, I discovered a number of things that I was passionate about – handbags, of course, but also adventure travel, food, wine and charitable organisations. Why didn’t I pursue a business in any of these things? The truth is, I did investigate these options. I enrolled in a residential cooking course; I really enjoyed my 3-month wine tasting course; and I read quite a few books on microfinance and its effect on emerging communities.
However, at the end of each exploration, I kept coming back to this absolutely crazy, impossible idea of building a handbag brand. After I enrolled in Handbag Design at the London College of Fashion, I was hooked and there was no turning back.
This was not an easy decision for me as I did not despise my work or the people I worked for – quite the contrary; however, my determination came from a place of wanting to do more and build something.
In the end, my passion for design and need for a creative outlet was what drove the change. The advice I give to many new designers is make sure you really love what you do because you will encounter so many obstacles and problems on your journey, and the only thing that will sustain you is your belief in yourself and what you are doing.
A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR?
As an entrepreneur, the meaning of success can be very elusive. I chose this path because I am always looking for another challenge and another opportunity to grow and learn. This makes it difficult to say that when I reach a certain point, I will be “successful” because once there, my goal post will have moved further away and at that point it will have moved again. Although it can be tiring, this feeling is what drives me and my business.
Nevertheless, I try to remind myself to find time to be proud of the brand I am building and what I have achieved. When a customer tells me how much they love my bag and have come back for another colour, or another shape, or one for their mother. When someone visits from Canada, dragging their niece along to meet me in a London pop-up shop. When the handbags are included in a magazine or newspaper or carried by a celebrity. This all tells me to keep striving…
Throughout my journey, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with incredible people, both women and men. No matter the industry, whether it be finance or fashion, there will be always people who are only looking to get ahead and willing to step on others to do so. However, especially as a female entrepreneur, when you meet other emerging designers who share your honesty and openness, it is refreshing and encouraging.
As a result of organising and managing our pop-up shop PLATFORM, there have been many designers that I have laughed and cried with about our businesses and personal lives. We share stories and experiences, setbacks and strategies with sincerity. Running your own small business can sometimes be lonely and not only do we all need someone to complain to, but we also need someone to celebrate with.
And on International Women’s Day, we should be celebrating all the women that choose to walk a different path, whether out of necessity or the pursuit of the next challenge. Here’s to another year of inspiring stories!