This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, which makes it the perfect time to celebrate some incredible women who are striking out and doing their own thing in the business world.
As a woman running a business that is all about empowering others to live, learn and thrive it was hugely important to me to inspire you all by showing you that there is no set path when it comes to making a success of your passion. So, I approached women who have interesting and varied stories to tell about their experience of running their own business and asked them all exactly the same questions.
Their answers are as unique as they are and give a fascinating insight into what makes them tick as women, and as businesswomen. Some run huge companies with hundreds of staff, others are just starting out on their journey, but I know all of them will inspire you with their determination, tenacity and passion for what they do.
We will be bringing you a different woman every day this week, all of them united in being the very thing we love – they are all on fire!
Fashion brand builder
Fiona knew from the age of 11 that she wanted to be a fashion designer; both her mother and grandmother were dressmakers and her grandfather was a master tailor so it’s not hard to see why. Fiona has worked in the fashion industry for 30 years, helping to start up brands including Next and George at Asda. She has recently started out on her own, launching Harpenne – a clothing brand which encompasses Fiona’s passion for giving women beautiful clothes with a bit of an edge.
1. What job did your parents do?
My Father worked in civil engineering and his claim to fame is he managed the building of the channel tunnel and the Suez Canal – at 81 he still works one day a week!
While we were young my mother was a dress maker which is where my love of design came from, but then went on to teach and write educational books.
2. Did you choose your vocation or did it choose you?
Age 11 I knew with passion I wanted to be a fashion designer, but as my mother and grandmother were dressmakers and my great grandfather was a master tailor, I think it was in my genes.
3. Who was your role model growing up?
I think both my parents were role models- both incredibly hard working, kind and always looking for new challenges to learn and grow. They always advised me but allowed me to make my own decisions in life which I think meant I learnt its okay to make mistakes sometimes as long as you grow from them .
4. Who is your role model now?
My mother continues to be a role model – she still keeps fit every day and is learning new art skills and pushing herself for the highest qualifications in photography. In my career, George Davies who founded Next, George at Asda and Per Una gave me the best opportunities and gave me the goal of one day starting a brand with great design and innovation at the heart of it.
4. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you and how did you use it?
My father told me – There are only 3 types of problems, those you can do something about so do it, those you can’t, so don’t worry about it and those if you leave them long enough will go away by themselves! I use this every day as it makes life a lot simpler and less stressful!
6. When did you consider yourself an entrepreneur (and can you spell it?)
I had the chance to start George at Asda with George from scratch and loved the pace and courage we worked with. I have always tried to harness this even in my bigger corporate roles. When my current role came up to leave the bigger businesses and start a new fashion brand, Harpenne, (which began day 1 with just me and a laptop, but with a wonderful list of people I could meet, interview, recruit and manufacture with) I couldn’t resist. I love every day although I’ve never worked so hard in my life!
7. What was your biggest challenge when you started out and how did you overcome it?
Personally – the odd moments when a small doubt creeps in but I quickly manage this with the saying: “ What’s the worst that can happen?” If I’m prepared to make mistakes and learn quickly, then it gives my team the courage too.
8. If you could go back to when you started and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t spend time trying to be something you’re not – celebrate being the very best version of you
9. What’s your favourite business quote?
Be hungry, be humble, be the hardest worker in the room.
10. What do you want your legacy to be – what do you want people to say about you after you’re gone?
I want to inspire people to be the very best they can be and that you can be successful AND kind. I hope people will say that I helped them achieve that.
Look out for more inspirational entrepreneurs this week, we’ll be featuring one every day.
Writing a book was tough – but actually getting it published then promoting was tougher. A LOT tougher.