Anya Hindmarch on her entrepreneurial Journey
Last week bag designer Anya Hindmarch MBE spoke at the British Library as part of our 'Question Time' event, to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. What was amazing about this event was its reach – by streaming it over the web and setting up UK-wide screenings in public libraries, over 600 people were able to take part and ask questions of the panel. I’m all for events that you can take part in remotely - it’s a great use of marketing budget as it can triple your reach. It also encourages more discussion on social media sites like Twitter.
Anya Hindmarch is an English fashion accessories designer whose designs are renown around the world. She’s famous for her ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ campaign, and more recently her Kellogg’s inspired designs and her £60k Crisp Packet 18ct white-gold clutch. Here is her story and some of her business tips.
On getting started
Born in Essex, Anya comes from a family of entrepreneurs (she said Christmas dinner is more like a board meeting with everyone delivering their figures for the year). She’s extremely hard working – as well as running her business with her husband she has five children.
Her passion for accessories was born when her mother gave her a handbag at 16 and it brought her so much pleasure she wanted to make her own. Being obsessed with craftsmanship, when she turned 18 she went to Italy to learn about leather.
On growing her business
Anya quickly sourced a factory in the Italian yellow pages to produce her designs and found her first customer – a friend of a friend of a friend. This led to sales of 500 bags and made her a profit (her first taste of business). One description that the whole panel said they could relate to was her early stage ‘triangle of pain’ when you’re fighting to get orders, fighting to get paid and fighting to get things made.
Exporting was important to her from the very start. She worked hard to find buyers from international department stores, and while still in her start-up phase, opened her franchise in Hong Kong and then Japan. As long as they remained profitable, her business strategy was to continue opening more stores – she now has 56, manufactures around the world, but is based and invoiced from the UK.
On being an entrepreneur
Anya claims that she still feels like a beginner and that business can be very scary – the knot in the pit of your stomach is something that you learn to live with. It’s also extremely fun.
All the panel agreed that it can be lonely and scary setting up your own business. Anya recommended finding a business mentor or advisor early on – she had her father. Also the importance of giving back and doing the same for other start-ups when you have found some success.
On managing scale
After realising that her business career was entering a new phase, and her job was getting too big (chairman, CEO and creative director), she took the brave decision to hire a CEO. She gained additional outside investment, which has enabled them to enter a new growth phase. Now she is chairman and chief creative officer, overseeing marketing, product and communications, allowing her more time for creativity. However like most creative businesses, in reality there is only 10% of your time free for creativity, and the other 90% is spent running the business.
On her campaigns
Anya mentioned a number of her campaigns: ‘Be a Bag’ where you can put your own photograph onto a handbag for breast cancer awareness, and ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ to raise awareness of plastic waste. One of her career highlights was when 80k people queued for it in the streets.
She also likes to take creative risks - she was the first accessories designer to have a catwalk show and the first to physically spin her audience at a fairground themed show.
Lastly… Anya’s top ten tips for creative start-ups
- Try and stay objective. As you leave the office fire yourself mentally and come back the next day as your successor.
- Investment – choose people who you’d like to have dinner with.
- Talent is everything. She hires people much clever than herself and states that EQ is more important than IQ.
- Importance of creative visualisation to help realise your goals.
- Cash (flow) is king.
- Exporting is key if you want to grow your business.
- Find fellow entrepreneurs and a support club
- Feed your brain - lift your head, go and see things to be inspired.
- It’s hard to juggle business and family, but remember that your children will remember your mood rather than the details – if you’re happy, they’re happy.
- Find a way to relax (Anya recommended wine).
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