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I’ve not only dipped my toes in the fashion world, I jumped in, head first, swallowed a ton of water but managed to doggy paddle to the side and drag myself out – slightly beaten by the whole saga but a whole lot wiser and with enough battle scars to be proud of.  Isn’t it funny how you sometimes have to throw yourself in, just to see how deep it is, even though you’re being told it’s a bottomless pit…

I don’t for one minute think I’m braver than the next person. But I was passionate, I had this fire in my belly. And when you’re passionate, it gives you the strength to push yourself, to not be afraid. I started a business in a sector I had no experience in, only that I was an avid fashion fan and was on first name terms with the Net-a-Porter delivery driver.  Zero retail experience, nada accounts experience and zilch idea on stock purchasing and rotation.

After five years of highs, lows and a lot of fun, I ended up selling my first business in 2014 and shutting a subsequent web-based fashion-tech business I’d started in 2012, both being run whilst I was working full time in the city with the help of my husband. I’d run out of juice both financially and creatively. The relief from deciding to close and ‘just’ become a full-time employee again was palpable.

Now, this brief bio isn’t to put you off being your own boss. Far from it. Whilst there is a lot to be said for passion and fire, there first should be some sanity checks on feasibility, longevity and scalability.  If you have a longing to run your own business and have a great idea, why not try to start something on a part- time basis whilst you’re still gainfully employed. Test the waters without fully immersing one’s self?

You might of course be an impatient cow like me. So if that’s the case, I suggest you pull on your big girl knickers and get on with it.  Would I ever do it again? Depends how big the fire got…

I look forward to writing fashion themed columns for Kent Women In Business.

Paula’s TopFashion Tips

Plan your outfits the night before
If you know you’re seeing clients, have a board meeting or you’re travelling, wearing something to make you feel confident and comfortable is essential. Always keep some killer heels in your desk drawer or handbag (and killer doesn’t mean a pair of glitter platform stripper shoes) – heels are an instant mood lifter and confidence booster. Choos, Manolos, Louboutins, Valentinos….. You get the drift.

Know your shape
Learning what suits you isn’t easy, so if you still don’t know, enlist the help of a stylish and honest friend or if budget allows, treat yourself to a one-to-one session with a personal stylist. A few hundred pounds investment now can save you a lifetime of fashion misery and mistakes.

Don’t save things for best
Ok you’re not going to be skipping around the office in a ball gown, but there is no point saving that gorgeous dress that made your credit card wince for the event that may never happen. If you feel something looks too ‘eveningy’, dress it down with shoe boots, a knit or denim jacket. Don’t leave things gathering dust  in that Narnia of a wardrobe. In the words of Dawn O’Porter, #justbloodywearit.

Mix it up
Think about where you shop. If you can’t afford the designer price tags but adore a well cut tailored jacket (who doesn’t darling), get yourself off to your local consignment boutique, where you can buy top end at a smidgen of its retail value. You can also shop online at Vestiaire Collective, Buy My Wardrobe, Hardly Ever Worn It, Second Hand Wardrobe, Edit Second high street essentials and fast fashion fixes along with some considered vintage purchases, and your wardrobe will never let you down.

Get with the grooming
If you wake up and look like Cindy Crawford every day – I salute you but recommend you might invest in a new bathroom mirror or get your eyes tested! A smattering of tinted moisturizer, lick of mascara and some lippy won’t make people think you’re not serious about your craft, it will just make you look a better version of yourself.

I’d like to think of myself  as a business woman. With twenty odd years in finance, a couple of start ups, a couple of failures, entrepreneurial to the core, bit of a risk taker albeit being a lover of routine (work that one out if you can), creative but only when the creative fairy decides to move in for the week (she has a small studio flat in my frontal lobe), consummate networker, committed mentor, Linkedin whore, social media tart – all rolled up in a Balmain blazer and a pair of Jimmy Choo sling backs…

Paula Fry

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