I do a lot of public speaking, and it’s always good to get feedback from these events.
A while back I spoke at an event in Northern Ireland and was delighted to speak to a lady named Karen Yates, who had been inspired by a previous speech I had given. I asked her to write an article for my site, to share her story:
I grew up in the North of England , and had always worked for other people. That’s what most of us do after all, and the idea of setting up my own company was something that never occurred to me – despite the fact my Nana had actually run a few businesses from her home. A couple of years ago I looked back on my summers spent with my Nana, often accompanying her on visits to the wholesaler. I realised I wanted to run my own business too, and to do it with my daughter.
Ellen and I spent a long time thinking and planning our brand, Taylor Yates. We knew what we wanted, and how we wanted our luxury designer handbags to look and feel. We had been speaking with a factory in China to get the business going, but deep down I felt that this wasn’t really in line with what we wanted the company to be about. We want to be a proudly British brand, and our plan has always been to eventually donate a portion of our profits to charity to help women and girls in other countries who don’t have the choices we have. When the Chinese factory let us down then, Ellen and I both felt it was a blessing in disguise; we knew it hadn’t been the right fit.
Still, we felt like we were back to square one again, and having to begin all over again with our beloved project. I was feeling really stuck. I knew the industry well, and we knew the product we wanted. We had the designs, but we just couldn’t get going with it. With the Chinese factory backing out, although we knew it was for the best it just felt like having to start all over again and I was fed up. In January last year we visited a factory in the UK and felt that this was the right fit for us. We spoke about it and agreed to go with them, and contacted them to book a formal meeting and finalise arrangements.
In February, we were still waiting to hear from them. I saw that Lara was speaking in my home town, and I knew I had to go. I’d seen her speaking briefly at a ladies’ networking event called Vistage a few months previously and knew she would be worth listening to. Since Ellen was on a gap year at the time, I brought her along with me.
Lara’s talk was all about having the gumption to have a go, and trusting your gut instinct in business. She told stories of making call after call to the same company, and never taking no as an answer. I found myself thinking, “what the hell am I doing, waiting around for them to call me!” I walked away from that talk determined to hound my UK factory until I got what I needed. I put a daily reminder in my phone to contact them and although I didn’t necessarily call them every day it did ensure they were always at the top of my mind. Eventually I managed to get a meeting with the company in March last year, and by July we had the samples we needed. We launched last November, and it was such an amazing feeling to know we were finally up and running!
When we launched we already had a waiting list because we had been promoting our product. Because we’re only a small start-up we could only buy the minimum first run the factory would make, so we had five designs in four colours, with ten of each produced. That made 200 bags, and we sold 38 of them really quickly. I approached and have chased Selfridges, and we have had interest from a few other places too. I feel like after months of waiting around for other people, I took the bull by the horns and things are finally moving – and really quickly!
Ellen was absolutely buzzing when she came out of the event, and went on to change her university course after hearing Lara speak. She’s now at university in Manchester studying fashion and business management. Business and start-ups are not really discussed as an option when leaving school, and it’s definitely not encouraged which is a real shame.
For both Ellen and I, a generation apart, we left school on the same track as everyone else because the idea of setting up our own business was never presented as an option. When you think about it, that’s pretty worrying for the future of British business. I’m so glad that Ellen and I both went to that event and heard Lara speak. It was so inspiring to hear the story of a young woman who just got her head down and worked hard at her business. It’s not something that’s presented to kids in schools, or at colleges or universities.
I’m not saying that hearing Lara speak suddenly made me set up my own business; we were already in the process of it, and it would have happened any way. But after 18 months of work, hearing Lara speak was one of those light bulb moments that gave us the final push we needed. Now Taylor Yates is our very own brand, and we’re so proud of it.
You can find Karen at TaylorYates.com.