Running Around Town With Lipault

Last week I did a poll on my Instagram asking the kind of content you wanted to see. I was really surprised how many of you want more career and work stuff, even going as far as advice which is immensely flattering. As much as when I look back each move I made has neatly led me to where I am now, it was never on purpose. It all started here, on South Molton Street. 

When Lipault (pronounced "lee-po" for anyone wondering) opened a store here and asked me to spread the word, given how brilliant their back pack has been for my pretty manic lifestyle, I thought I'd pull it all together and write this post. They've just launched a collection in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier, which is in store up until Christmas (possibly January).

If any one is wondering where the name came from, I worked really locally and used to walk to work down here everyday. Compared to the crazed hustle of Oxford Street, South Molton Street is a bit of a haven. As soon as you turn down here everything calms down. People look more relaxed, better dressed, they're friendly... It's a hugely noticeable difference from everything that surrounds it. It also, may I add, has brilliant shops. You can pretty much get everything you need on this road. When the Lipault team said they'd opened a store here it was no surprise, it suits them perfectly. 

I live very close to their Hampstead store and had been oogling at a backpack for a few weeks. It sounds silly but now that I'm rushing around, usually with a dog in tow needing one arm - and an Oyster card needing the other - a backpack has become a bit of a must have. I scoured the market and had spotted this one whilst walking past the store, so it was all a bit serendipitous when this collaboration came up! Their "Parisienne" aesthetic is completely me, and such a favourite for the girls in France. In my last job before One Roof I used to travel to Paris almost weekly. Every time I stood in that taxi rank I'd see at least 5 Lipault luggage pieces and handbags...

So, how did it all happen? Back in 2011 I was recovering from an operation with my family. I had my gallbladder removed (super unusual at 26, and I'm pretty sure led to a lot of further problems, but that's another story) and was on bed rest for a month. After about four days I was going stir crazy and I had just got into things like Twitter and reading blogs (there was no Instagram and Pinterest) and decided I'd start my own. I can vividly remember getting 50 followers on Twitter and thinking "woah,  this is getting quite big now." Oh, how ridiculous I was.

There was never a plan, there wasn't even the opportunity for a plan at that time. Every one who had a blog did it for the fun of it. I worked it around my day job, I didn't put my face on it for two years either. That wasn't a conscious decision, you just didn't have to then. Over time I moved into marketing roles and started to notice the disparity between the knowledge and requirements brands had when they wanted to partner with influencers, versus what influencers needed and wanted from campaigns when they paired up with them. Influencer marketing became exactly that; marketing

By this point I had moved to Vestiaire Collective and was working on their marketing, PR and social. It was a very different company then, there were 3 of us in London when I joined. My job was to help get the concept off the ground and essentially I went around the market trying to find an agency that could help me with influencers. I needed someone who could tell me why I was investing in certain influencers and what I could expect from it. I couldn't find one. It was a genuine roadblock, and meant I couldn't get sign off for any influencer work. I realised it was possible and to cut a long story short (fast forward two years and another period of ill health that once again inspired me to give it a go) and One Roof Social was born. 

I don't have any formal business experience, only what I'd taken from working for start ups. I also don't particularly have any empire dreams so I struggle to resonate with the majority of the "girl boss" crew. I know I want a nice house one day, but I don't need the yacht or the private jet - or the "fame" that so many entrepreneurs seem to crave. I also want 100 maltese terriers, but I'm pretty sure we'll just meet in a park one day and they'll follow me home at their own free will.

I started out working from my kitchen table, calling up brands I thought could do a better job with their influencer stuff and gradually it all built up. The fact I now have staff and an office and some brilliant clients is testament to the amazing people I have around me. It took a lot of time, a lot of all-nighters (not the fun kind) and a million coffees with friends and former colleagues with more experience than I had. I'm trying to create a company I want to work for, surrounded by people I want to work with. You've got to seriously believe in what you do because it's incredibly hard, I honestly think the reason so many small businesses fail is because people see an opportunity in a market and go for it - hoping for riches, rather than genuinely being passionate about what they're doing.

Ok, so, here are 10 tips I wish I was given at the beginning:

1. Structure. Give yourself it. Seriously. Even if it is "yoga on Mondays" and "gin on Thursdays" thats OK. You will need it. I have two days a week where I do not leave my desk. It's particularly important when I have a team, but before all that it meant that I was never panicked about shoe horning actual work in between all the meetings and coffees you have at the beginning.

2. Be Humble. I will never trust a CEO who doesn't have staff. CEO of what exactly? Be open, honest and genuine with what you are trying to do - both to yourself and those around you. Rome wasn't built in a day. You'll learn to spot these people and avoid them like the plague. Don't be one of them. Take your time and never over exaggerate - especially to people who can actually help you. 

3. Breathe. Rapid success doesn't come overnight, or at least long term success rarely does. Slow down, do things properly. As someone said to me recently "sh*t that travels at the speed of light is still sh*t." If it takes an extra three weeks for your website to go live, that really sucks. But when it does go live, it'll be better for it.

4. Meet people but don't rely on them. Look, lets say it out loud. There is a "type" of person that starts a business and thinks "I know so many people who can help me get this going." There lies their first mistake. List out people who's advice you can benefit from, and ask nicely if you can buy them a coffee/breakfast/gin to hear it. After that, it's down to you to take what they say and apply the stuff to your own strategy. Favour-asking, no matter how elaborate and covered-up, is really quite annoying. My friends who run businesses and I all have a rule; we pay each other for what we do and we don't take freebies. It's massively important. Also, if someone isn't able to meet you don't be offended or pester them - if they like your idea they'll come to you when they have time.

5. Keep some balance. For the benefit of your business' success, step away regularly. Go and have a drink with your best friend and allow yourself ten minutes to moan about work. Then stop. Talk about something else. Go on holiday for the sake of your sanity even if it feels like a mistake. Enjoy it, leave your phone in the hotel (God, I wish someone had told me that). Nobody really gives a sh*t about seeing the beach on Instagram. Not a single person.

6. Blog on the side. If, like me, you have a blog you want to keep going alongside your work understand that it's secondary to everything else - even if it's more fun. I see so many influencers fail because they applied too much time into the fluffy stuff (free lunches, wandering around Notting Hill having pictures taken). I realised, and accepted, pretty early on that my blog was never going to hit the big time. So I treat it like a hobby and it always comes second to One Roof. I do it at weekends, I meet my photographer once a month, and I bash out all the content for the month in one go. Is it hard? Yeah. Does it pay itself back twenty times over? Hell yes. I haven't paid for a face cream or a pair of shoes for five years... It's really rather excellent. It took time though, I blogged (and paid for all my stuff) for years before anyone gave me anything. Never lose that, never expect to be constantly paid because that's where audiences get fed up.

7. Watch Scandi Crime Dramas in the evenings. Sounds weird, but I find these amazing because they are subtitled and you have to watch the screen and can't glance at your phone or be distracted. You have to concentrate 110% which means you forcibly switch off. 

8. Get an Accountant (unless you are one). Oh my lord. There are so many forms and things you have to do, my brain exploded under the weight of it all. Hiring someone for a day a month at the beginning was the best advice I was given. I honestly think I'd have lost the plot. 

9. Have a cry, and a bath. A new business is like a new baby (from what I can gather). The first month is precious but mental. Everyone is so excited for you, but when push comes to shove, it's down to you to keep it alive. Just when you think it all calms down and you can sleep through the night they throw you a curve ball. Leaving the house is a challenge. You never have time for yourself. You eat whatever is available. Washing? Pah, only when you have people around you who won't judge. Sleep... sure. It will pass, and the sooner you can force in some structure and some pragmatism the better. Also, call your best friend. Because she won't mind you telling her that you're in your clothes from a week ago and you just cried over needing to take the bins out. She'll still be really proud you're going for it.

10. Gin. Say no more.

Lastly, but very importantly, get a bl**dy backpack. Seriously. All that working from your kitchen table, in coffee shops and legging it from meeting to meeting is not good for you at all. In all seriousness I ended up at a physio at one point who told me one shoulder was 3 inches higher than the other, because I'd been lugging my laptop over my shoulder. I can very much recommend this one - and also recommend paying South Molton Street a visit. Or, you can visit their online store and use the hashtag #JPG20 to get 20% off the Jean Paul Gaultier collection.

This post was written in collaboration with Lipault. 

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