At some point, most people have wondered, what is life?
It seems like from birth, we’re off to one stage, and then to the next. But by the time we’re “done” with formal education, there’s this long stretch of time that leaves us scratching our heads, and wondering…well, what next?
Well, what next really depends on you. At this point, there’s no direct force pushing you one way or the other. It’s like one day, you’re in the pool and being helped by your swimming instructor, and then the very next day, he’s left you all alone in the deep end. So what do you do? I guess you take a big gulp of air and begin to swim in your chosen direction.
However, don’t be fooled by this new found freedom because society’s expectations of you is still as strong as ever. If you’re from a collectivist culture, then most likely your parents, aunts or older relatives will begin to ask for that significant other who will whisk you away to marital bliss; and for those from ‘no nonsense families’, you begin to get advice about saving up to buy a house and getting a mortgage.
But in the midst of all of this, will you stop and ask yourself what you really want out of life?
Do you really want to take the first promising job that comes your way(let’s face it, graduates in this generation aren’t really spoilt for choice because of the economic climate) or do you want to walk the road of entrepreneurship?
I think the most daunting of all questions to ask yourself is, are you well equipped to face real life? Because to be honest is to agree that you cannot be fully ready to face what adulthood fully entails. Some say it’s just something that happens, and you’ve got to bite the bullet and go with the flow. “That’s the circle of life!”
However, for those of you that know there must be more to life than what you might have been privy to, read on, because our latest Spotlight star has been through it all, and still is; but unlike you has got tons of experience and exposure to tell it as it is!
There’s a saying where I come from which loosely translates to this- what your elders can see sitting on a stool, you cannot see, even while standing.
I was ecstatic that such a brilliant woman would allow the time to be interviewed by me, and believe me, I had a lot to ask! For this reason, the interview will be broken into 3 parts!
Yes, this one’s for the readers, but for the rest of you who might find reading through it all troublesome, I say read it anyway. This one’s truly an inspirational and life learning piece.
Carol Hanson trained as an Accountant, and then ran her own business for 9 years in accountancy, before enjoying a varied career in key commercial functions within businesses supplying to retail, and developing their products on a global basis. She has been married for 33 years and has 2 dogs she’s mad about. After beating an eating disorder which she battled for over 20 years, she’s now able to understand and empathise with women who have body image issues, lack confidence and self-esteem.
Her goal for 2015 is to leave her mark on British fashion and launch her own niche products.
In this exclusive interview series, this first part will cover her childhood, background and current career path. Part 2 will cover her work experience in different industries, quitting her first successful business and the balancing act of marriage and entrepreneurship. Finally, part 3 will delve more into her personal life, her mission to empower other women and her lasting legacy. I hope you do find something to inspire you from her words.
S: Hello Carol, could you please introduce yourself to the readers and tell us about your current business.
C: Hi everyone, my name’s Carol, I’m 52, married to Mark – we’ve been married for 33 years and have no children, but we have 2 lovely dogs. My passion is inspiring women to look good and feel good.
I’m a personal stylist and image consultant; also I run an online boutique called Want Her Dress, which supplies women’s clothes and styling advice. I don’t have a background in fashion, e-commerce or marketing which meant that buying and running Want Her Dress was a leap of faith, but I was following a dream and while it’s not been easy I’m loving every moment.
As I work from home and I’m passionate about dogs, I also run a doggy Day Care and Home Boarding Service too, which means I look after other people’s dogs in my own home.
S: What was your childhood like? Did you always know that you’ll end up being your own boss?
C: I was the only child and spoilt with love and affection, particularly by my dad who I idolised. My relationship with my mother was more difficult as she suffered from bouts of depression throughout her adult life. We loved each other but it was a strained relationship at times with a great deal of friction.
I had no idea that I would end up self-employed until it started to become a reality when I set up my first business in my 30s.
While I was very passionate about fashion when I was younger this was superseded by my determination to become a journalist, and when I finally settled on wanting to get into retail buying when I was in my second year of college, I got very disheartened when I didn’t manage to get on any of the training courses that were available at the time.
S: You mentioned buying your fashion website. Was this something you wanted to do when you realised fashion was your passion all along or did you consider building your own fashion brand from scratch?
C: I bought the website as it seemed like the best way to get a business going in the fashion industry. Although I had no experience in fashion, marketing and only limited e-commerce experience, I did at least have a lot of experience in growing and building businesses and a good understanding of how retail works generally. So buying the website was a practical solution rather than a heart driven one, which would have probably been building my own brand.
S: Do you design your clothes or did buying the website include designers, seamstresses/tailors?
C: At the moment I buy brands and labels that are just emerging in this country(UK). They have probably got an established presence in their home territories, which tend to be Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, for example, but have limited exposure here. This has the advantage of being able to launch products that are not often seen here, but the disadvantage is that despite the amount of information that goes on the website, there’s still a question mark over sizing that is one of the barriers to women buying online. Buy a size 10 dress of a well-known brand and you’ve got a good idea of the fit, buy a product from me and it’s more a leap into the unknown.
S: When designing clothes for your Want Her dress website, do you follow trends or offer something totally unique to your fashion vision?
C: At the moment I don’t design the clothes. I am looking at bringing out a range of fashion accessories which are my own design, but that’s a little way off and completely under wraps at the moment!
S: Do you have a style icon? And does this style icon influence your own personal style?
C: I don’t have a single style icon. I have enormous respect for a number of well-known people in the way that they dress, but they don’t influence my style. The Duchess of Cambridge, Victoria Beckham for example, but they’re a long way from the types of clothes I know suit me and I love to wear. I have a very individual style and am not the type of woman who enjoys a ‘girlie afternoon shopping’ I’m an absolute nightmare as I know exactly what will work and there’s no compromise! It’s much easier now that I have the website and at least do try my own stock. I just have to be very careful during the buying process that I’m not buying for me!
S: From a lay person’s perspective, the fashion industry seems like an industry where getting to the top is a result of industry contacts, and in some cases groveling your way to the top. Did you ever consider an Internship at a fashion retailer or label?
C: When I started my career, the opportunities for internships were virtually unknown. It was a case of trying to get on to a training course or if you were clever and creative enough to go to somewhere like St Martins and hope that this background and exposure gave you more opportunities. When I started my career we had no internet; papers and magazines published lots of job adverts or you had to sit and write (hand written was considered best) letters of application and send a typewritten CV! It was a very different world!
S: Did the difficulty from getting a job as a buyer for retailers dissuade you from going further in the industry?
C: Hindsight’s amazing and yes I would probably have taken a very different course of action if I’d been the same person as I am now! But when I was 18 I lacked self-confidence and self-esteem. It dissuaded me at the time which is why I ended up taking the ‘easy’ option of accepting a job as a trainee accountant. Plus I’d met my future husband when I was in my last term at college and that distracted me a bit from getting my career off to a good start!
S: You’ve had various jobs, and a previous business providing accounting services to other businesses; looking back, would you say this has helped you in your current business? In that, it’s better to get varied work experience before settling into your own business, or would you advise that if people know what they want to set up their business in, they should just go for it?
C: I would not have been able to do what I’m doing now without that experience: not just in different jobs, working in different companies, being my own boss but life experience in general. I really admire young entrepreneurs but I think the truly successful ones are quite few and far between. My guess, if a study was done on it is that they’d fall into a few categories, not necessarily all but would tick a few of the following boxes:
Originated from very humble and desperate beginnings and it’s either sink or swim
Very driven and maybe not very social people
I’ll end part 1 on that note. Sign up to my newsletter to get an update when the other parts to this exclusive interview is published! But for now, check out Carol Hanson on her website and media platforms.
Mobile- 07971 638896
Pinterest- Want Her Dress
Linked in- https://uk.linkedin.com/in/carolahanson