- What is your brand name?
Empress Lounge Boutique
- How long has your business been in existence?
I have been in business full time for just under a year. However it grew from a hobby, into a part-time venture for several years, before becoming a business.
- What was the inspiration behind starting your business?
Having a business has always been a long term goal and something I've pursued in many incarnations over the years. At one point, I relocated to The Gambia for 3 years and opened a fashion boutique. When I came back to the UK, I returned to my former career in Legal Accounts and started doing fairs and events in my spare time, selling items I brought back from the Gambia, while incorporating items I made. I received a lot of positive feedback and started to garner more interest. I found I was more driven and passionate about my part-time venture than I was about my full-time job. Over time, I reduced the hours I worked for an employer and increased the time off between contracts, till last year I decided to focus on building my business.
- Why did you decide to do what your business does?
I am naturally a creative person and have qualifications and skills in millinery, pattern cutting, dressmaking, leather-crafting and various types of jewellery making and a keen interest in gemmology. I really felt that in order to succeed in business I would have to do something that I really enjoyed and was good at. As a craftier, I have really just turned my hobbies and interests into a business.
- Briefly describe your business (what is your niche?).
Empress Lounge Boutique is a mobile business. I do corporate and public events, fairs, pop-up shops and private parties. I sell handmade, statement and holistic jewellery and accessories with an emphasis on using natural, hand-dyed materials, crystals, semi-precious and organic gemstones. I also sell crystals and other lifestyle items that compliment my core products. I make many of the items myself, but I also work with local and international artisan friends who share my ethics of handmade products; supporting individuals and small enterprise, whilst also striving to be fair and sustainable. My pieces are made by hand and almost all items are one of a kind, even when using the same materials. I also have a small client base who want to incorporate their ideas with mine. It means my clients can indulge their love of having unique, personalized pieces at affordable prices.
- What is the main goal of your business?
To build Empress Lounge Boutique as a successful lifestyle brand, selling statement and holistic jewellery, accessories, fashion pieces that make the owner feel special and unique.
- Why did you sign up to Ebony Street Market?
There are so many aspects to being in business, and as a sole trader creative business, you need all the help and exposure available. The hand- made industry is ever increasing and black and minority business owners are a growing demographic, who don’t always have access to the same resources and opportunities as other groups. We also need avenues that are familiar with and so able to showcase products authentically and allow exposure to an audience that also believes and is tuned into our ethos; and also supports and understand the obstacles we can sometimes face in the mainstream market. I came across Ebony Street Market when trying to find platforms to sell my products. Initially I was drawn by the free offer, the attractive yet relatively simple site and the additional support they offered once you sign up. Their ethos is in line with mine and I feel confident in the ability to build my business here. I find the customer support to be really professional and helpful: from uploading my pictures, regular contact and follow-up, the offer of a free photo shoot and promotion on social media. These services are invaluable as a sole trader creative business, where you are responsible for every aspect of the business. I feel it is also really important for me as a new business to support and collaborate with other new businesses. The opportunity for us all to grow and build together is a very exciting prospect.
- What advice would you give other people who want to start a business in your field?
I would say go for it! The freedom and independence of being your own boss is wonderful. It's by no means easy, so be sure it is something you really want to do and are prepared to commit to and make sacrifices for. If possible have a nest egg, or have a job while you build your business part time. The start is really hard financially, mentally and emotionally: be prepared for long hours, little sleep and lots of ups and downs, so find as many people as you can that will help and support you. Focus on customer services, build personable relationships and make sure your clients feel valued whether you have 10 or 10,000. In fact, the 10 are probably the most significant as it’s a lot easier to get involved when the recognition is there, than when nobody knows who you are and you’re still finding your feet yourself. They are your tribe and the people that will help you grow, by telling other people and bringing opportunities to you.
- Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In 5 years, Empress Lounge Boutique will be a successful, profitable, lifestyle business, with a good online presence that allows me to incorporate more bespoke products and services. I'd possibly like to have a bricks and mortar boutique, more time to travel and especially more sleep.
- How would you describe your business experience so far?
My experience so far has incorporated everything from absolute elation to pure disappointment, but I’m so grateful to be on this journey. It's been a steep learning curve and I've made mistakes but I've also learnt a lot about myself and how resilient and determined I can be. I'm quite laid back, but in many cases I've had to be a lot more focused and driven. I think in business you also have to learn to be a bit selfish and direct. This can be hard if it's not your default personality and people often don’t understand how busy and overwhelming being an entrepreneur can be. You can't be available for everybody or everything - as you may have been before starting your venture, invariably this does make you feel lonely and alienated at times. You are your business and unless you can afford employees, you are relying on other people’s goodwill. You work very long hours initially and the financial gains don't reflect this, so you do have to make a lot of sacrifices like socializing, frivolous purchases and even holidays. On the other side, the freedom, and opportunity to indulge your creative passion is priceless. I've met some amazing people, from other entrepreneurs who are a great supportive and collaborative network, to regular clients who have become friends. This is especially the case at Lambeth College in South London where I do a regular pop-up shop. It's so encouraging when you have people who are really excited about what you do and it's a great feeling seeing so many people repeatedly buying and wearing your collection, bringing you new ideas and business. I've also had great support from family, (who help with my artwork, photography, legal advice and product feedback), especially my sister who not only buys most of my collection but is often my unpaid assistant, business manager and general dogs body. Also from friends who have been good advisers and helpers. I'm really excited about the future of my business and I’m looking forward to growing and continuing to build a strong brand.
Hey there! Its me again, and I believe you agree with me that this article was worth the read. well I was totally inspired by this interview with an awesome woman. you can click the link below to shop her products on Ebony Street Market. But again, because we love you, we're gonna show you a few of the amazing stuff she has available.
Click the here to shop from Empress Lounge Boutique
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