Friday 12 April 2013

2Inspire Business Profile: Couture Hats

In this inspirational interview we meet Beth Hirst, Founder of "Couture Hats" a bespoke couture hat label. From working for a Stockbroking company to taking a millinery course be inspired by Beth's journey to success.
Beth Hirst

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
My morning usually starts by getting my little girl ready for school, while she has breakfast I check and reply to emails. I drop her off at school and then head to the studio (2 mins from her school). Once there I check if I have appointments or a purely making day, depending on what orders I have in the day it will involve blocking a hat (stretching the material – felt, sinamay, straw over a wooden form of the shape require), preparing the piece for trimming adding wires for strength, headband inside. Trimming the hat can involve feathers, pieces of the original material, beading. All my hats are made to a couture level so all stitching is done by hand so you will not see the stitches.
Other things I do on a regular basis include dyeing materials to colour match with customers outfits, ordering/sourcing materials and photographing pieces to put online.
Every day is different as I rarely make the same piece twice.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I took a career break after I had my little girl; I was working at stockbrokers running a team of telephone dealers. I knew I wanted to do something more creative and had done an evening course whilst working in photography, silver jewellery. I went looking for a silver jewellery course online and came across the millinery course – I had no idea you could study just millinery. I had made my own fascinator when Royal Ascot came to York in 2005 as I couldn’t find one to match my outfit. I found the course on a Tuesday; the open day was that Thursday. I went along and fell in love with the course and tutor and that was it! One day a week for two years retraining. Towards the end of the second year (Jan 2009) I set up my business and began working on my kitchen table.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Moving into my studio last September, I went from my kitchen table to converting my garage to a workspace to now sharing a floor of an early 19th Century woollen mill with a wedding dress designer. To have my own creative space is amazing and it is such a beautiful place to work.
Other highlights include being chosen final 6 of a national competition which was judged at Royal Ascot, my hats being featured in several national magazines including OK magazine.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Building my business up without spending a fortune on advertising, I get most of my work from recommendations, it is easy to think that if you advertise, the orders will come flocking in but a hat/headpiece is such a personal thing that it is not that easy.

What are your future plans for the business?

Now I have the space I intend to start running short courses and also look at taking on an intern/work experience person to pass on the skills as there are not many places you can train anymore.
To carry on growing my business and carry on enjoying it

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I am not sure I would do it differently in theory it would have been nice to start down this career path at a younger age but I am not sure I could have made it work as well as it is has now. I think working in different industries gives you grounding and an idea on how
business works. Being self-employed is hard work as everything falls on you to do and you need to be very driven

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

I think young women are not always pushed to look at starting businesses as the young men are. It is important to show you can balance having a family, home life and run a business, it is by no means easy but that makes it feel all the better when it works.
Showing them they can do what they want and that not everything will make you a rich but if you can make a living out of it and it makes you happy then that should be the goal. Too much emphasis is put on working to be rich, when it should be about working to enjoy life – if you don’t like something be brave enough to change it! It may not always work but if you don’t do it you will never know.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

To work in this industry you have to love what you do, it is not something you can do just for the money. It takes time and effort to create the pieces which look effortless and unless you love doing it, it won’t work.
When I started out I did a lot of work which was not necessarily paid for TF photo-shoots (time for prints), helping out at events etc. which helped get my name out there. It is hard work and you have to shout about what you do as no one will do it for you

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I get inspired looking at historical millinery and how shapes have change, it inspires me to push myself and challenge myself to push boundaries – I recently made a hat out of bin bags as part of exhibition at Stockport Hat museum on re-designing fashion using unusual materials.
Jacqueline Gold owner of Ann Summers,has worked hard to develop her business and now supports other women in business with her weekly WOW awards on twitter in which she picks 3 businesses a week to promote – I got this back in 2010

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
I have 2! 
Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life – Frank Tyger
I never dreamed of success I worked for it – Estee Lauder

Contact Details
0113 3184349

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