These are a few interview style questions that we put to Elizabeth about her battle with work life balance as she slogs it about in the city designing and promoting her designer scarf brand.
Start-up projects and entrepreneurship are a big talking point right now with a move away from faceless corporate jobs towards the dream of ‘making your stamp on your industry’. But what is it really like for a young adult trying to make their way in an ever-condensing market of brands and influencers? Read Elizabeth’s answers to find out.
What is your role now and what are the main responsibilities for you?
I am a one-woman band so I do absolutely everything! But my passion is the creative side, specifically designing the collection. Luckily, I have had a tremendous amount of support from The Princes Trust, from friends and family. I think the key is to harness all your contacts and all the opportunities which are available to you. I have my strengths and weaknesses and I am unbelievably thankful to those who have been there to help.
Currently, my main focus is on promoting my collection and making sure my brand is more widely known.
How long have you been doing this for and what did you do before?
I launched Elizabeth Harwood on 1st February 2017, but have been working with the Princes Trust for the last 18 months on their Enterprise scheme. As soon as I graduated I started designing my collection and applied to the program, it supports young people with a range of help from training and mentoring support to funding and resources.
Beforehand, I studied for my Art Foundation and BA Degree at UAL. During my foundation year, I always sneaked down the corridor to the printing studios where the BA & MA students were creating such impressive work. The way that a piece of art can be applied to many mediums from books to wallpaper and fashion completely fascinated me so I made sure I got a place on the course. I then went on to study my BA, since the second year I knew I wanted to create my own collection. Creating scarves seemed natural medium as I had a scarf which was glued to me when I was younger; it was gold and grey and had the most beautiful paisley design – believe it or not, my mum actually won it in a raffle. My mum used to go crazy at me telling me that I needed a new one as it got so tatty and worn (I refused). The scarf reminded me of countless memories and adventures I had as a teenager, I couldn’t bear to let it go. It became more than a scarf to me – occasionally I still wear it so please don’t tell my mum.
Can you think of any key challenges you had to overcome and how did you battle them to get to where you are?
Every day I face new challenges, starting a business is a something completely new to me so I am always learning. As a business owner it is essential to persevere – it is such a rewarding experience when you know you can put a tick in the box, and you’ve learnt something new! I am challenged every day and I love that the business is growing just as I am.
What is the dream, or where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?
Objects deserve the human touch, as a craftsman (or woman) you should be honest, genuine and responsible for the products you create. However it is your clients make product iconic and emotional. True luxury is when you care about the environment and how it affects the wearer, you care about the emotions it gives them as the objects we make shape us. There is no creativity without meaning. For me, the object isn’t the end goal; it is my clients and their emotions who truly make the product.
In five or ten years, every entrepreneur including myself wants business success. Personally I want my clients to tell me when and where they have worn their scarf, to remember absolutely everything they did when wearing it. I aspire to creating something that is going to add something unique and special to someone’s life. It should bring joy and happiness into their everyday. The objects we have, create positive feelings, but it is the client who gives it the meaning, history and emotions. When this happens it is truly magical.
How do you find balancing lifestyle and downtime with your job?
It’s in me, it is who I am, every day I wake up and I am so excited and passionate by what I am doing. The possibilities that are right in front of me excite me and help push me forward. I wouldn’t say there is one particular busy or down time as I put my all into every aspect of my life whether it is my business or seeing friends. It is important to surround yourself with people who make you happy and who want the best for you – they help to support and motivate you through any difficulties. I am incredibly lucky to have friends and family who are so supportive and do just that.
I think when you have routine everything falls into place, 22:00 bed times and early mornings. I work out before I go to work so that I have evenings for events or time to myself or with the people I love. If it means enough to you, then you can make it happen. If you’re making excuses then you may not truly know where your heart lies.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young spark looking to start their business, what would that be?
If you’re passionate enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Trust your instincts.
What has been your favourite event you have attended this month? If not month, this year?
At the end of November I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual Princes Trust Christmas Fayre. I sold several scarves and one client will always stay in my mind, he was an elderly man in a chocolate brown wax jacket which was worn at the sleeves, he looked as though he had left his farm to come straight to the event.
He attended the event with his wife, who he would not stop doting on. She fell in love with one of the scarves and before I knew it a credit card was flapping in front of my face- he couldn’t wait to spoil her. One of the most pricesless experiences I have ever had was seeing the look on her face as he gave her the gift, it was incredibly heart-warming. I hope there are more men and women out there who have that exact experience when giving or receiving a piece of my collection.
And finally, what do you think is the best part about being an upcoming, self-employed business owner right now?
I am doing what I love.
Thank you so much for talking to us and telling us about your experiences so honestly! We can’t wait to hear all about what you get up to in the future, keep in touch!
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