Only a lucky few of us get to run our own business in an industry we love. It can look like an unrealistic ambition to most of us, but Lucy Choi’s journey to founding her own shoe brand should give us all hope. After 18 years working elsewhere, Choi did not give up on her life-long ambition and applied all that she had learned in her career to kick-start the launch of her own shoe label, Lucy Choi London.
I spoke to Choi to find out about her experience as the leader of a startup.
What were you doing before when you decided to start your own business and what gave you the idea?
After a career spanning more than eight years in the city, I decided to move to the shoe industry. As the managing director of French Sole for 10 years, I was instrumental in expanding the brand in the U.K., Asia, the Middle East and into the American market. After 10 years at French Sole I then felt it was the right time to move on. The development of my own brand, Lucy Choi London, in 2012 was a natural and logical next step for me to take so that I could fulfill my lifelong desire of launching my own shoe label.
Before launching Lucy Choi London, I spotted a gap in the market for the stylish and luxurious, but also comfortable and affordable shoes for all occasions and for women of all ages and tastes. I noticed that there were huge disparities in price range between shoes, with designers charging more than £900 ($1,350) and high street stores charging very low prices, but also going up to £200 ($300). My shoes fit my ethos of the 3 ‘C’s – comfort, craftsmanship and character – without compromising on price. I want to champion craftsmanship and design, and I believe that luxury should be accessible and affordable. Why should you always feel you must spend hundreds of pounds for a pair of beautiful shoes?
What was your biggest challenge in starting Lucy Choi London and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges I faced at the start was finding the right factories and a good team to work with who shared my brand values, vision, and philosophy. Success does not magically happen overnight and you need to put the hours in. As a young brand, I needed my team to have a lot of energy, initiative and to be really hands on. You can overcome any obstacle if you give 100 percent and don’t focus on the negatives. Financing is a big hurdle for new ventures too. To start my brand, I invested my own money in to the business, even selling my flat. While that was very daunting, it is what has driven me forward to make my business a success.
What is your favorite time of the year when it comes to your business?
I have two favorite times of the year, February and September, when I launch the new season’s collections. Nothing beats the thrill of showing off my new creations to buyers and the press and getting to see the reaction on our customers’ faces when they come into the store – they are like children in a candy shop!
Why is branding such an important part of what you do?
Branding is such a crucial part of our business – it is the image and lifestyle you are presenting to the customer, to the buyers, and to the press. I oversee every aspect of our branding from the shoebox design to our shopping bags, the look books, the store itself, and the presentation of our staff. Every touch point of the brand must communicate the same message in order to create a powerful and unique brand identity which communicates our philosophy of affordable luxury and the three C’s: comfort, craftsmanship, and character.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to start a business?
I learnt early on that nothing in life comes easy and you must give 100 percent in everything you do. I am really close to my uncle, Jimmy Choo, and learnt many lessons from watching him at work, especially his strong work ethic and values. From an early age, in teens to my 20’s, I saw how he worked extremely hard and stayed true to his belief in himself and in his workmanship. He inspired me to aim high, to follow my dreams and to ensure I always deliver my promises. I’d say to anyone starting a new business, that to succeed you need a combination of 3 things: a good balance of work, family, friends and support; a good team who shares your vision and understands your strategies and end goals; and a determination to take risks in life, trust your gut, believe in your brand and a positive mental attitude.
What was the most useful thing you have learned as an entrepreneur?
Carving my own path in business has shown me that anything is possible if you have a unique selling point (USP) and a great product, as long as you work hard and have drive and determination. Good contacts are vital, as are transferable business skills. It is important to have a clear vision and strategy and stick to it, without focusing on the negatives.
How do you hope to grow the company from here?
Since I launched the brand in 2012, it has been a dream of mine to have my own boutique and I am so thrilled that we have now launched our first store in London this year. I have also just been to the U.S.A. to meet with buyers there, as I would love to expand over there. But of course I would also love to open some more boutiques in the UK too, so watch this space…
The post Entrepreneur Spotlight Series: Lucy Choi, founder of Lucy Choi London appeared first on Power More.
Source: Power More Business