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Celebrating 15 years in Style…with a book deal

Celebrating 15 years in Style…with a book deal
28th February 2021 Sarah Gray

“As I celebrate my 15th year in business, the world will be in the depths of a pandemic”…. is most definitely not a thought I had back in 2006 as I embarked on opening up my own styling business.

To be really honest, I didn’t have the vision to even imagine still being in business 15 years on, let alone think about such craziness!

So, 15 years…wow! So much has happened in my life during this time – the biggest ones being my name changed (because I got married) and we have 2 kids, one of whom turns 12 this week!

So, where did it all start? 

As a business owner himself, my Dad was my inspiration to start my own business. When I was 13, I went to work for him on a Saturday morning and I was never out of work until January 2006 (some *cough* 20 years later!) when I chose to take a few weeks to reconsider my options. Dad’s incredible work ethic and his natural ability to build relationships with his customers was something I strive to achieve even to this day.

You know, I never felt comfortable with that question all teenagers continually get asked at/by school; “what do you want to do when you leave education?” because I didn’t really ever know to be honest. And to this day, I still think it is unnecessary pressure and completely unrealistic for kids to think they need to “know” what they want to do with their life, when they are still kids. Sorry, I digress – for me, I didn’t know so I followed subjects I enjoyed and fell into the corporate world, stayed there for many years and learnt a heck of a lot.  Deep down however, I always knew I’d like to work for myself. Doing what, I had no idea but I trusted that if I kept the dream of working for myself alive, the rest would fall into place when the time was right. And it did.

An opportunity arose for me when I moved to Leamington Spa in January 2006. I knew I did not want to commute to my corporate job 120 miles away in London and I also knew that after 10 years in work that required much international travel, I was ready to stay at home! Don’t get me wrong, my days of international travel were amazing and I met many long term friends as well as being extremely fortunate to visit some incredible places. But, life has a funny way of moving on and I’d lost that love for work travel.

So, there I was, in a new town, with time on my hands and a now or never opportunity – if I didn’t take this time to start my own business, I’d probably never do it. So that is exactly what I did.

My love of styling was always present even when I didn’t know that’s what it was!  I never followed “fashion”- instead, I created my own looks which felt right for me. At the time of course, I didn’t realise that this was me dressing for my true self – the one thing that comes top in my work today and is the key element that I teach all my clients. If you’ve worked with me, you’ve no doubt heard the story about how my sisters offered up their perception of me which was a million miles away from my self perception…in doing so, what they did was give me the idea and the drive for my styling business.

Back in 2006, the stylist industry looked very different to that of today. We’d seen a few TV styling shows, the main one being Trinny & Susannah, which were instrumental in beginning to alter the  general view that personal styling was only for the rich and famous. This was brilliant as I could tap into that mindset change and in my own small way, contribute to it.

Away from the TV at roots level, the styling business arena was, at that time, very sparse. I had fabulous colleagues up and down the country and, in our small community, we supported each other through the ups & downs of a new business. The bigger picture has altered vastly in my 15 years in this industry;  where now we have access to countless numbers of stylists via social media. With more of us out there, more women are realising that it’s OK to invest in themselves and they can be given the gift of confidence which is magical as far as I’m concerned.

We had the internet of course and FB to a very small extent. But I was pretty reliant on business coming from word of mouth and through talks I gave. I considered myself extremely lucky because my business grew and I was busy doing something I loved.

Not always a walk in the park!

What the outside world doesn’t see is that when you start your own business, suddenly you have to become Jack of all Trades – you single handedly become the Marketing dept, IT dept, Customer Service Dept, Accounts Dept and so on! I was OK with some of those but not accounts and I hated it! Let’s be honest, I still do! But now, 15 years on, I am in a very fortunate position where the business can afford accounting software and an accountant. And that is one of my biggest learnings from the past 15 years… outsource the stuff I’d rather not be doing!

Running a business around young kids is also far from easy. But no-one starts a business for an easy life! With huge support from my husband, we make it work. I’ve adapted my working hours numerous times as the kids reach different stages of their lives. The first time I did that, I thought my business would not survive. We had our youngest and my thoughts of wanting to be a stay at home mum were wrangling with the thoughts that I’d built a successful business and I didn’t want to walk away from it. So, after a few months, I gradually started working again, on my terms. To my utter surprise, I was busier than ever! It was a big learn that I could put family first and still have a business. A learn I’ve never forgotten.

Over the years, I felt as if I needed more to get my teeth stuck into and so I added additional businesses into my offering; for a few years it was a French clothing brand and following that, a skincare/makeup brand. I put my all into these businesses for a number of years but I never felt 100% comfortable with them. There were many benefits of having these other businesses, the most of all new friendships, however,  it was only when I took a good hard look at me and what I truly wanted to achieve, did I realise that actually, my passion was always in my styling business and that by adding in other elements, I was running multiple businesses badly. I realised that I was standing in the way of my dreams instead of focusing on one that was my true calling.

 

It took a while, together with expert help and my own personal development to turn things around but that’s what I did. I stopped trying to find satisfaction by adding more external elements to my offering and dug deep to truly bring to fruition a successful modern styling business – the business I proudly have today.

 

Business Highlight

Someone recently asked me what the highlights of my business years have been. I had to admit that there isn’t one highlight. For me, every time I watch a client grow in confidence, I am delighted. Every client to me is a highlight.

Blowing my own trumpet is something I have never been very good at or comfortable with but I am improving at this and so I am very, very proud to be celebrating 15 years in business.

For years, I have been making a vision board where I display my visions for life and business. Becoming an author has always appeared on the boards and this year, when the time is spot on, I am so excited and proud to have been approached to write a business book . I’ll keep you posted on the release date which is likely to be August 2021. This really is a dream come true.

I consider it a true honour to be asked to work with you and I am incredibly grateful to each of you who has supported me over the years. Many of you have become dear friends which is simply wonderful.

The hundreds of emails I have received thanking me for the confidence I’ve given back to you, the knowledge I’ve been able to pass on to you and how your life has changed as a result will forever be humbling and stored in a special place in my heart. (I’m definitely not a ruthless business woman, rather a heart centred one!)

All that is left to say to you is a massive THANK YOU  🤗

Comments (2)

  1. Sheila 1 month ago

    Very interesting read. Good luck with the book!

  2. Sarah 2 weeks ago

    Thank you so much Sheila x

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