Being aware of what makes you feel confident is a fantastic skill to have and one I would urge all women in business to explore.
Having started her own business at a very young age, award-winning Lauren Westwood has had to grow up fast and develop her business skills in a very competitive market. We caught up with her to discuss her business story, how she has developed along the way to achieve business success.
Lauren is founder of Westwood Rocks, a British jewellery brand that makes its own pieces by hand and has four stand-alone concept stores located in Surrey. Lauren was awarded the 2010 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Star of the Future Award.
Westwood Rocks: The Origins
The seeds for Westwood Rocks were sown when I worked for my father’s business (an international retailer) aged 18, learning how to trade and arrange shipments, alongside managing several projects (including presenting the brand to Prince Andrew). This gave me the confidence and drive to set up my own business.
I decided I wanted to bring the colourful and dramatic designs of Asia back to the UK – but with a twist. I invested £1000 on materials and started buying other people’s designs to sell in the UK. After selling my stock and creating more capital for the business, I decided to have a go at making a collection myself.
Starting Out in Business
From day one, everything I made went back into the business and hence it started and continued to grow. Initially I was a sole trader but after getting much advice I decided to create a limited company. I registered the business with Companies House and registered the various brand graphics and logos as trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office.
Funding the Business
The initial £1,000 I invested was actually my student loan from university. I bought my stock in the university holidays and by the time term started I had already got my grand back and more! As the business made a profit, I didn’t need to find additional funding until I opened my second store in Guildford. I secured a bank loan, based on some clear business plans.
When you run your own business you will always have good and bad days. As a retailer we have definitely found the last two years tougher than average, but it is slightly reassuring to know that most retailers are also feeling this. A recession period is the perfect time to consolidate and try to do what you do well, but even better. The business strategy has definitely shifted somewhat during this period with a stronger focus on e-commerce which is where trends show retail is heading.
I’ve always said the success of building a well known brand is my key motivator. Obviously money is a motivation for everyone, we need it to survive, but each step of building the brand has motivated me and continues to do so.
I am lucky that I am naturally determined; I like to prove people wrong! When things aren’t going strictly to plan I can sense my motivation levels dropping. I find that if I stop what I’m doing and focus on getting another task done successfully, my motivation levels rise. I also find that taking a break to go for a run can also really help refresh the mind.
As a woman in business I think confidence is of utmost importance. From presenting my business to my bank manager all those years ago, present day public-speaking, and managing my staff: you need to be both confident in your business and confident in yourself.
Being aware of what makes you feel confident is a fantastic skill to have and one I would urge all women in business to explore. Personally I find that a fabulous new pair of shoes and outfit empowers me! On a less materialistic level though, being organised and planning in advance can also be equally empowering and will raise confidence levels.
I currently lead a team of 25, alongside my Area Manager, to deliver the Westwood Rocks brand experience both in store and online. I studied leadership skills through the Open University, but I think the best lessons have been through experience.
Managing a team is the toughest part of running your own business and you will soon learn what works and what doesn’t! I run my business in a very entrepreneurial way, I have tried corporate approaches and it just doesn’t work in an environment such as ours.
Reviewing and Strategising
I continuously plan by setting goals and markers, and using various frameworks to assess where we’re heading and why. I don’t believe it is possible to be successful without goal-setting. View it as your map in the business world - without it you will get lost and go off the path. I also keep on top of the competition - I have a very competitive streak so I am always interested to find out what peers are up to, and indeed when I find out I often set my goals even higher!
One of the proudest moments in my business life so far has been the opening of my very first shop in Godalming in Surrey. Other personal highlights include: being chosen to design a collection for hit Sky Living TV show Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model; being awarded with my Specsavers everywoman in Retail Award; being listed in Professional Jewellers HOT 100; and recently being nominated by Kanya King MBE for an award in association with the MADE Entrepreneur Festival.
There are many successful women in business and having been lucky enough to hear them talk I would consider Kanya King MBE, Karren Brady and Michelle Mone OBE my main role models. I love reading about them to find out how they found success, and what stage they were at when they were my age; this is a kind of marker to set myself goals against I guess.
Lauren's Top Ten Tips for Women in Business
1. When starting a business, register the business name and buy the website URLs as soon as possible!
2. Social media is free and can be an extremely powerful way to market your business
3. If things aren't going according to plan and your motivation is being effected, change tasks and complete successfully – you’ll then have more motivation to complete the original task
4. Go for a run! Taking a break to do some exercise away from business challenges can really help freshen your mind
5. Explore what makes you feel confident and make sure to work on it, as confidence is key to success in business
6. Dress to improve confidence – a fab new pair of shoes and an outfit empowers me!
7. Be organised and plan in advance so you know what you’re talking about and confident in your approach
8. True leadership skills come from experience, so make sure to recognise lessons and learn from them
9. Set yourself goals to assess where you are heading on your business journey
10. Find some role models you aspire to be like, and judge your successes to theirs at your age to help set yourself goals