My partner and I moved to Dubai in September 2008 with high hopes. The plan was to take advantage of tax free earnings and then move back to the UK to settle down a few years later. My partner loved the lifestyle and swiftly made friends but inside I was homesick and struggled to adjust. I put on a brave face but the cracks had started to show. That year the recession hit and we watched our savings dwindle, compounded with the fact I couldn’t get a job; I lost all sense of myself and would regularly burst into tears. My partner watched his usually outgoing, confident girlfriend fade before his eyes.
Eventually the relationship imploded and on acknowledging how unhappy I was in my current life I took the step to move back to the UK. I had no money, nowhere to live and my career had stalled. But moving to Dubai and back again turned out to be one of the best mistakes I ever made. I had taken all my belongings with me in the move, including 17 boxes of clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories. Previously my life had revolved around shopping. I was the VM (Visual Merchandising) Manager of the H&M Flagship Store in London so had to be abreast of current fashions and styling trends but I would spend days off scouring charity and vintage shops for one-off finds; most of which was never worn or used. It was as if I equated being happy with having lots of clothes.
I moved back to the UK in March 2009 with one suitcase of clothes. 17 boxes of clothes, shoes, handbags and jewellery were left languishing in Dubai to be shipped by my now ex-boyfriend. For 3 months I used the clothes I had brought home with me and with less ‘stuff’ I felt less weighed down than I had done in years. The experience gave me the idea for The Wardrobe Angel.
‘It really is now or never…’
When my things arrived back in the UK all the boxes filled my parents’ garage. I went to work like a woman possessed editing my possessions, especially my clothes. Even when I got my career back on track as a RVM (Regional Visual Manager) with New Look the idea of The Wardrobe Angel never went away. I hit 30 and thought ‘it really is now or never’.
With the idea of The Wardrobe Angel fixed firmly in my mind, everything seemed to fall into place. I met Matt, a graphic designer, at a wedding and he designed my logo. Then two friends designed and built my website and recommended an accountant to me. I met all the right people at the right time and suddenly The Wardrobe Angel was born. So what is The Wardrobe Angel? I am a stylist, image consultant and wardrobe de-clutter in 1 handy package. I help match a client’s lifestyle, bodyshape and budget to a wardrobe that WORKS. I show clients how to style themselves, where to buy the items missing from their wardrobes and teach them how to implement better clothing maintenance to prolong the life of their clothes.
The joy of creating a business which delights…
Starting up and running a business has been the single biggest learning curve of my life: client care, learning about SEO, keeping data, marketing, PR, networking. But nothing compares to the absolute joy of creating a successful business which delights, surprises and impresses clients. My service has been called ‘invaluable’, ‘a lightbulb moment’ and many clients say it feels like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders once their wardrobes have been cleared and styled. They especially love the money that is returned from the items I sell for them on eBay as part of the service!
Everything now fits into place: I did a Fashion Journalism course at The London College of Fashion in 2007 and I now have a monthly fashion column in The Halifax Courier, I am Fashion Editor of the online magazine Earth, Wit and Style (launching 2013) and am the North of England Events Writer for Egg Mag. I have even had meetings with a couple of TV companies who are interested in turning my business model into a TV series.
Getting advice and getting out there
Embracing Social Media has been a great way to get my business name out there. I especially love Pinterest and Twitter: they are both so immediate. The marketing tool I have found most useful is the way I dress. I have had women march straight up to me at networking events and book me then and there. My family and friends have been the pillars supporting my success: many a problem has been solved over a cup of tea and a chat. It’s awesome to have the objective opinion of people who you trust. I find the best advice has come from people who don’t run their own business!
Women are really coming into their own at the moment. I am inspired by Caitlin Moran, Lauren Laverne and Dawn O’ Porter who are successful, happy and funny to boot! In business you can’t go wrong with a bit of Oprah for inspiration; she is truly marvellous.
My best piece of advice? You are your business. Never forget it. I know actions speak louder than words but add the right clothes into the mix and you have a winning formula. And get yourself a business mentor. My local council has a whole team dedicated to supporting new businesses so check out what your local council has on offer. Dawn has been my mentor for 6 months, focusing my mind, shaping my vision and a cheerleader all rolled into one.
So that’s me! Angel of Wardrobes! What I thought was the worst mistake of my life turned out to be the best: I am truly grateful I can help women find a sense of style which is right for the life they lead.
Stephanie will be returning to Prowess soon with style tips for women in business. Watch this space…!