Friday 28 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Anna Garcia, founder of discoverMe & Relationships Intensive

Anna Garcia is a playful, vivacious and inspirational facilitator/ relationship specialist committed to guiding individuals through their journey of self-discovery back to love & peace post painful relationships & events.

She is the founder of discoverME, the confidence-building programme series that has changed the lives of hundreds of women in London through its transformational work with schools and children’s centres.

Anna has dedicated the past 10 years working with women to discover how extraordinary they are, to have them know their power and to understand how to be in their relationships with others and most importantly, with themselves post loss or relationship breakups. She has been showing women how to reconnect with their own journey again, whether they are in a marriage, single or separated, she has been gifting this to women throughout the world.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Well there’s on the stage & off the stage days!

Its very simple really; I’m either on a stage speaking to large groups of women or on the phone to the those who are could be coming to my next programme; and then my life is like a call centre..!

My business at the moment is focused on two key areas:
1) Public events for women: RELATIONSHIPS INTENSIVE
2) Private training for school staff or parents: discoverME:

My day starts at 5am and ends around 11 or midnight.
The first two hours are dedicated to the upkeep of my spiritual, emotional & physical wellbeing. These are my holy hours, which set the frame for the rest of the day.

I tend to lunch or dine with clients or prospective clients most days of the week.

I like to work from my local Health Club I get there for early morning  workout or swim and then use their business lounges or cafĂ© areas during the day to make calls and meet with people

Administrative work is done in the evenings or weekends when client facing or calling isn’t a core activity.

I then make sure my last hour in the evening is for winding down, centering and taking care of my emotional & spiritual wellbeing.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I loved my job as a facilitator within the employability industry but my soul was screaming for something else.
So I did something I wouldn’t do today, or recommend, which was to leave my job and start from zero. The financial stress was high and totally unnecessary if I'd just kept my job, but that was my journey I guess.
I had no idea 10 years ago when I began, that I'd be in the speaking business today.
I started as a facilitator with small employability related confidence building programmes as a subcontractor for an employability organisation in Greenwich.
One fateful day however, whilst delivering a confidence & employability programme for a small group of unemployed in a children’s centre we were hiring as a venue, the manager came up to me and said,
‘‘Who are you and what did you just do?
How come those people are coming out so happy,
lets talk! I want this for my parents’’
and that’s when discoverME was born and it all began!
A confidence building programme for parents, which has now been running in the south east for 7 years, successfully supporting hundreds of women to get back into work or education or to leave abusive relationships.

Until my lifes’ most fateful day when I met my mentor almost 3 years ago and he saw in me way beyond what I was seeing and proceeded to prepare me for the journey of becoming a relationship specialist speaker to the public.

Today I continue to run the discoverME programme series during school hours from the clockhouse community centre in Woolwich once a term for 4 Fridays. These parents are funded by their schools or self-fund. And its work which continues to transform families.

Today I am debuting the Relationships Intensive programme & Dealing with Break up programmes which is aimed at the striving woman who wishes to get to know herself deeply so that she may understand and embrace her relationships with sovereignty & power, without losing herself in them.
These programmes will now run every other month or so. Our debut programme is on the 19th November 2016 at the Devonport House Hotel in Greenwich, London.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Going from small groups to mass, being able to reach 100’s of people’s hearts at a time has been the most life changing and business changing experience. This took getting over myself, and out of my own way, by coming face to face with one of my greatest fears and allowing the business to evolve as life intended. In my first year I reached as many people as I had in the 9 years prior to that. It’s a big difference.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
With change and growth come challenges, and knowing how to surf these waves is vital.

After experiencing great success for the first time last year, I then began to experience the changes of growth, for example; losing long term clients, receiving criticism, ‘losing’ friends, facing fears of failure (the more you gain, ironically, the more you feel your losing)

All of these things together got to me and I allowed fear to take over.
I was set to face one of my biggest challenges in business; letting go of my old self.
This led to what I now describe as a nervous breakdown / spiritual awakening. This very painful period lasted for about 6 weeks.

It was the biggest learning curve ever, I never ever lost faith though.
I trusted great people around me and gave myself time to heal & grow in confidence and self love again.

Having come out the other side, today I know it was my fear of growth and letting go of what didn’t serve me anymore that was holding me back. And I also know there will be many more of these times of growth but I now face them with a lot more self love, self trust, faith & wisdom

What are your future plans for the business?

Relationships Intensive & the advanced programme, Dealing with Break up, will become my focus over the next two years and be run consistently in the UK and in Australia. I’m very excited about these programmes and the plan is to love up & empower as many wonderful women out there looking to deepen their relationship with themselves first.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Get myself a business mentor from the first moment, particularly one who’s already achieved what I would love to achieve and follow their advice whilst still listening to my quiet intuition within.

I would’ve listened to the best advice I ever got from day one, get on the phone and create momentum, quit waiting for business to come to you. This has been KEY.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Women will be the CEOS of their families (Chief Energy Officers) and so if they’re out there realising their dreams, they will shine a light for many with their joy & commitment to greatness.
Even in this day and age, there are still in many families, lower expectations for girls than boys. Shining a light for girls, shows them they can grow beyond the expectations surrounding them.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Very simple & with a lot of love:
1   *  Find yourself a mentor; it’s the most profitable & money saving investment you will make
2   *No need to reinvent the wheel, find a niche and replicate what others have done well.
3   *Always come from love and service in business, people buy into YOU, not your product or service.
4   *Work on YOU.. You ARE the greatest asset.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
Oprah Winfrey; what we see today is the embodiment of mass service, but what got her  there was a massive amount of work, sweat & tears. Overcoming her insecurities and fears seem to have played a big part and like Oprah, asking to be made an instrument for humanity has been my inspiration.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing
and right doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.”

Thursday 20 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Mel Carpenter - The Health Carpenter

Mel C aka The Health Carpenter has over 25 years teaching experience in the Dance, Fitness and Martial Arts Industry. She runs a successful Dance and Fitness business and also coaches/mentors several Dance & Fitness Instructors, both online and Face-to-Face. Read her inspirational interview below.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?Once I’ve done the school run, I check my emails and respond to anything urgent. Then I check my Social Media accounts, respond to any comments/queries, share any blogs/articles or class information and spend a bit of time engaging with my students.

I then check to see what workload I have that day (I’m doing Housework and keeping my two year old amused during all this), respond to requests for work, articles (I write a Health and Fitness column for my local paper), oh and I am continually studying so I’m usually checking/completing coursework at the same time!

I make sure dinner is sorted for the family for that evening, pick up my daughter from school, feed the kids, then I go to class when my husband gets home (I teach 5 classes a week, sometimes more if one of my team need cover or I’ve been asked to do an Ice Breaker/Team Building exercise.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

I’ve always been fairly active from an early age, I did Martial Arts as a child (I was the youngest female black belt in my area), and then I moved into Salsa at the age of 22, that’s how I came across Zumba (at the age of 32), through two of my students!

I started teaching Zumba alongside my day Job (I worked in Human Resources for a large Auditing company), then when I had my daughter, I handed in my notice and started teaching Zumba as my main job. I progressed into teaching different formats and eventually became a fully-fledged Fitness Instructor in 2013.

I had previously gone under the name of Zumba Central but that didn’t really work anymore as I taught different formats. I started Cardio Central in 2013, as I wanted to teach more fitness classes and diversify. 

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
There’s so many to choose from! In addition to teaching Fitness classes, I’m also an events promoter and I successfully ran (along with my husband and my team) one of the largest Dance Fitness events in the UK to date (we had over 800 people in attendance). That was such an incredible day, one that I’ll never forget!

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Finding out what works and maximising on it! I’ve taught classes that have been dying an absolute death but I’ve had a few loyal students and so I’ve continued them on, despite losing money!

I’m happy to say that I no longer run my business like that! I have a very good eye for what is new/upcoming in the industry, I’m also very well respected and so I get to try things before a lot of other people know about them!

What are your future plans for the business?
I want to move more into a Train the Trainer role and run/create courses for the Fitness Industry. I’ve trained instructors and written programs for other brands and now its time to do it for myself!

I have a Tutor qualification (I did PTTLS years ago) and I have a lot of Fitness qualifications, I am very big on continuous development and I am always researching/studying something Fitness based!

It’s the next step for me, a natural progression so to speak.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I wish I’d started 10 years earlier!

That’s is seriously the only thing, as I believe your mistakes can make you stronger/more successful than your achievements!

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Because it’s really hard to make it/be taken seriously when you are a woman in the Dance/Fitness Industry!

When I started out, it was extremely difficult to make it as a female dance instructor, it was a very male dominated arena (still is really), then I became a DJ, again it was extremely difficult! I had to fight to get bookings, it just made me more determined though!

This vein continued throughout my dance career, when I became a promoter, I experienced some real egos/backlash/negativity from some of the male artists. At the same time, a lot of the people I admired and respected gave me some great advice, which helped in my career.

I would encourage anyone to follow their dreams, irrespective of what others think, my mom is my biggest fan, she has always encouraged me, supported every venture and given me a (virtual) slap when I’ve started to doubt myself.

She’s one of the strongest women I know and I want to be exactly the same for my daughter. I have to set an example for her, I also need to show my son that women can be just as successful.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Get as much training as you can, network as much as possible and be prepared to work for free sometimes to gain experience!

I  did (and still do) all of those things and it got me to where I am today!

What or who inspires you in business and why?

There’s a lady called Rachel Holmes, she runs a company called Choreography to Go, she also runs a weight loss program called Kick Start Fat Loss which has Instructors world wide, she is amazing! She’s a strong, hard working woman who is not afraid to do exactly what she sets out to do!

I attended a seminar with her a couple of years ago and she encouraged me to Blog, fast forward two years and we are friends and she is very supportive, even though she is ridiculously busy!

If I am half as successful as she has been throughout her career, I’ll be happy!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
It has to be ‘Carpe Diem – Seize the Day’! You only get one life and its important that you grab it by both hands and do as much as you can with it!

Fitness Class Website:


Twitter: @cardiocentraluk

Instagram: thehealthcarpenter


Friday 14 October 2016

Special Offer at Viola Beauty Salon in Woolwich

Viola beauty salon in Woolwich is dedicated to providing a pleasant and memorable experience that is unique to each client. Within a relaxing, positive and friendly atmosphere we provide the best quality services, products and beauty advice available.

Services include: Eyelashes extension, female & male waxing, eyebrow and eyelash tinting, facial cleansing, facial lift, massage plus more

We offer competitive prices and a 10% exclusive discount if you quote 2inspire Network.
 A full service and price list can be found on our website:


tel. +44 (0) 7808813341


Monday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Tuesday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Wednesday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Thursday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Friday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Saturday: 10.00am - 8.00pm
Sunday: bookings only


10 Woolwich New Road | Equitable House | London | SE18 6AB

Thursday 13 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Francesca Armstrong, Chief Operations Officer, Connoco Group

Meet Francesca Armstrong, Chief Operations Officer of The Connoco Group 

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
A typical day for me starts around 3am – we run an online business which means our operations are 24 hours a day. Having expanded into 3 new markets and launched several other offices over the last year I like to check my email during the night and feel it is important during our initial expansion period that I touch base with our other team leaders and make sure everything's running smoothly.
After this, I go back to sleep until 7am which is when I get up and get ready for the day.
I aim to get to the office between 8.30-9.30 depending on how long I have been up during the night or what meetings I have planned.
We run most of our sales and support from our office in South East Asia – they are online until 12pm UK time so much of my morning is spent working with our team there.
Afternoons are varied and can be anything from looking at new projects to meetings with our clients. Reviewing our own progress is something we are really keen on and I spend a great deal of time working with our operations and sales team leaders to review sales and processes to look at where we can improve as well as forward planning.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
We (My Partner Tim and I) started the business as a side project to our existing jobs – he was working as IT consultant and I was studying Fashion Design at St. Martins whilst interning at Burberry. The business began to grow larger than we had anticipated and we reached the point where we decided in order to take it to the next level we would need to focus on it full time.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
When you are so focussed on targets within your own business it is often difficult to take stock and look at what you have accomplished so far – because Tim and I work, live and breath together we are constantly pushing each other and the business to do more.
If I had to pick something personal to me that I feel proud of it would be the year on year increase in sales or building out international teams to manage the challenges with time zones.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Our biggest challenges are often our biggest successes because they require everything that we have to get through.

For me so far this would have to be overcoming the challenges of cross-border trading and working with different time zones. When we first launched in Australia and New Zealand Tim and I were working 20+ hour days, we would have a power nap from 10pm – midnight and then spend most of the night awake with another quick sleep at 6am until we had to leave to go to the office. It’s amazing how sleep deprivation begins to take its toll but we have always said if you want something you make it happen! Thankfully we have now successfully developed teams which sit on those different time zones and I have never been so appreciative of sleep!

What are your future plans for the business?

We have huge plans for the future as a company that never wants to stop growing. Our next project will be an expansion of our hospitality and lifestyle arm into the Hotel/Restaurant sector - We travel approximately 200 days a year so want to take all the knowledge and experience we have developed and put this into creating great business driven travel solutions.

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

Probably start (even) younger and employ faster!

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

Too often young people (especially women) are told you ‘can’t do that’ or you ‘won’t be able to’ – our confidence in ourselves plays a huge part in our abilities to succeed so it is critical to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else?

It is never too late to make a change or start again. What you think is your best right now is just the beginning of what you can do. In life, we never stop learning.

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

Prepare to lose as well as win, just make sure your wins are much bigger!

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I am inspired by anyone that can take an idea/concept and turn it into a profitable and sustainable business. There are so many hurdles out there to overcome especially for a woman in business that if you can make it work you really know what hard work is!

For a business to succeed you need to be constantly evolving and developing with the times - Victoria Beckham is a great inspiration for this as throughout her career she has managed to constantly reinvent herself whilst still maintaining a strong identity - something which is key to a business succeeding.

Today’s social media movement provides inspiration for us all - I truly admire the people who have taken themselves and their passions and turned it into a Brand and then a business, for example, fashion and interiors’ blogger Aimee Song.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Fail to prepare – prepare to fail


Monday 10 October 2016

Creating History At HairStories 2016: A Celebration of African Hair Heritage

Three black British business women; Katrina Emmanuel (Mane Divas), Merissa Hylton (Sankofa Creative Co.) and Belinda Raji (BEUNIQUE Hair Care), have united to form a unique business collective called Ujima, to host the first annual HairStories Event. Ujima is a representation of their organizational ethos is guided by the Kwanzaa principle of collective work and shared responsibility. 

Coinciding with Black History Month, HairStories takes place on Saturday 29th October 2016 at the City of Westminster College, London. HairStories seeks to celebrate African hair through the ages and the importance of African heritage at a time when popular culture is still seeks to place boundaries on African Hair. With courts in the USA ruling that locs can indeed be discriminated against in the workplace and popular musician and creative artist, Solange releasing a song entitled “Don’t Touch My Hair” it is more important than ever to celebrate Afro Hair. One of Britain’s most popular personalities, Jamelia, has been sharing her natural afro hair journey and is making history by unashamedly choosing to wear her hair in its natural afro state on British mainstream TV.  The HairStories event is designed to impart knowledge and celebrate afro hair through a range of workshops and interactive activities covering hair, holistic health and the African Diaspora experience in the UK. Business is also at the forefront of the event, with a series of independent brands from the Black British community showcasing their products on the day.

The 2inspire Network is a proud media partner of this event.

Thursday 6 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Rachel Ray, Founder of Bright and Beautiful

Rachel Ray is founder of Bright & Beautiful an award-winning concept in professional domestic cleaning services, providing eco-friendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing; with the highest standards of security and service.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

Like many business owners there really isn’t a typical day but the week will usually include a number of days spent at our Bright & Beautiful Head Office in Altrincham. From here we run the Bright & Beautiful domestic housekeeping franchise network which provides ecofriendly cleaning, tidying, laundry and ironing and now has more than 50 franchises nationally, employing 460 people.
We have a fabulous team of women there, from Sue our Franchise Director, who has over 20 years of franchise experience, to Julie, our Quality Manager who was our very first Professional Housekeeper and now passionately upholds our exceptional service standards and ethics nationwide..  Something that I’ve been very strict with myself about is not letting work overwhelm me and that’s something that our franchisees also really appreciate about our culture.  I’m a great believer in that when you are happy, healthy and rested you are more productive at work so I will always make time for family activities, a lunch with friends or a trip to the gym. This has been easier to achieve as the business has been more established and as I have developed a Franchise Support Team at Head Office. They focus on helping franchisees develop their businesses and visit them around the UK.
A priority of mine is running Discovery Sessions in London and Manchester every month, which are taster sessions for people who are enquiring about our franchise opportunity. I also present sessions at our conferences and workshops which we run quarterly.
Technology has made life a lot easier of course and I will always have my phone with me to check emails and be available to the team during the day. There is definitely a fine line between letting technology become too invasive but I believe it really has revolutionized the way working parents in particular can manage their work and home commitments.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

I was a business consultant for 15 years, managing a team of 60 and working in London and Australia. In 2007 I took a career break to have a family and when the time came to return to the corporate world decided I wanted to strike out on my own.  Having researched different opportunities - and also having come to hate cleaning and ironing while I was on maternity leave! - I found that there was a real gap in the market for an ethical, professional and family friendly homecare business that was designed for busy people.

The opportunity arose when my husband Rob, who ran a property maintenance business, was asked if he provided cleaning. Rob said yes and I visited the client to create the quote. With the help of my friend Julie and a budget of £200 to cover Julie's wages, uniform and cleaning materials, Bright & Beautiful was born!

I invested everything I had and learnt everything I could about maximising a business, from marketing to web design and my strategy from day one was to grow Bright & Beautiful nationally. Today we have a highly successful business model that is based around a franchise system that trains people to manage a team of specialist professional housekeepers.  

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

It would have to be helping more than 50 other women and men to start up and run their own businesses that are now employing more than 460 people around the UK. So many of our franchisees had climbed the corporate ladder in their previous roles but had got to a point where the big salary and big office just weren’t doing it for them any-more. Since setting up Bright & Beautiful I have met thousands of women who have come to feel the same, sharing our stories of frustration and exhaustion. They inspired me to create, both for myself and for others across the country, a smart, profitable and ethical business opportunity that allows us to have a good career  but working from home being in charge of our diaries.
We now attract  people from range of backgrounds - current franchisees range from lawyers and teachers to marketeers and policeofficers - all of whom want a profitable career that they can run from home. By joining an already established and successful business team they are able to focus on running and growing their business without having the stress of the things that starting your own business can entail - setting up a website, finances, H&S, legal issues etc.
Importantly we as a business are also committed to supporting underprivileged women, both in the UK and overseas and I’m really proud of that. The business donates at least 10% of its profits to charity, working with Compassion International and other charities and to date has sponsored ten children and supplied equipment to over 40 families to enable them to set up their own micro-businesses. We are also working towards launching a school in Rwanda, using profits from the business, which will make an enormous difference to the amazing children and families we have met in that remarkable country.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

It was a big risk, especially with two small children, to walk away from a well paid job to start Bright & Beautiful but, having worked in a corporate world for 15 years I knew I had to make this work.
We also launched right as the recession was starting to bite in 2007 and there was a real risk that services considered a luxury i.e. a cleaner would be affected. But we also knew, from our research and talking to other mums, that a difficult economy would actually work in our favour because of its effect on the labour market. As more women were having to go back to work and people were working longer hours, so their free time became ever more precious and they didn't want to spend it doing cleaning and laundry. 

What are your future plans for the business?

The domestic housekeeping sector is a growing one with a million more people today using a cleaner than ten years ago. While many companies have sprung up to meet this demand, what we offer is a real point of difference to clients, franchisees and housekeepers through the quality of our service and the ongoing training.
Bright & Beautiful has plans and an infrastructure in place to enable us to grow nationally in all regions, and aim to double the size of the business within the next 3 years. We currently receive over 100 enquiries per month from people interested in franchise opportunities; a figure that has doubled since 2014. We’re committed to remaining as eco friendly as possible and are continually looking for new and better ways to improve that - from car sharing to using non-toxic products. We are also growing our range of services to meet client demand to include a number of specialist home care services such as the care of antiques and woods; an ironing school and five star hotel standard laundry and bed-making. I am also spearheading a move to raise standards in the largely unregulated £4.7bn domestic cleaning industry, with many agencies and employers offering workers no holiday or maternity pay and little quality control.

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

Not much really! I’m a great believer in learning from your mistakes and the beauty of what we do is that as a franchisor, whenever we’ve done anything that hasn’t worked, we’re able to absorb that into our franchise training.  So whenever a franchisee comes to us with a problem or an issue, chances are we’ve faced and dealt with it ourselves in the past.

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

The world today holds so many possibilities and what I really love is that it is more widely recognised that a degree and academic success aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to having a great career.  Creativity, energy and positivity go a huge way in making dreams come true!  I also meet a lot of young people who are very practical and pragmatic about achieving their dream, so they may be working in a job that pays their rent and bills while at the same time sowing the seeds of their own business or learning how to progress to the next level of what they want to do.
And I also think it is important to recognise that dreams don’t die as you get older. I’ve always been committed to training and developing the talent within our business and that’s not just women and girls who are starting out in their careers but also older women who may have had a family or a challenging career and want to find a balance between having a career and a family or personal life.  We talk to women every day who had wanted to run their own business for years and are so excited to finally be making that dream a reality.

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

I’d say to anyone looking to start their own business within the franchise industry to find something you think fills a gap in the market and can get  really passionate about. It always makes me smile because people think I must love cleaning and ironing but I’m just the opposite – I started Bright & Beautiful because I didn’t enjoy doing it but couldn’t find a professional, ethical and eco-friendly housekeeping company that I could employ. I’d also advise people to talk to as many people running their own businesses as they can to really appreciate the building blocks of running a business. You really need not to be daunted by learning about everything from running your accounts and managing HR to marketing and social media.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I’d really have to say it is the women I work with here at Bright & Beautiful. From our Head Office team who are so dedicated and supportive,  our brilliant franchisees and our Professional Housekeepers who take such a pride in their work. Whenever I meet with and talk to them, at training sessions, at our annual conference or just on the phone, I continue to be really inspired by their personal stories and journeys and very proud to be working with them.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

I love Henry Ford’s quote: “Quality means doing it right when no-one is looking.” If you’re going to start a business you need to be as dedicated as he was to getting it right, otherwise what’s the point?

T: 0161 929 9175

Thursday 29 September 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Ali Murray Founder of Alila Boutique

Ali Murray first opened Alila in late 2007 in the city of centre of Dublin. After 5 fantastic years there all business was moved online in 2012.  In August 2016 launched their brand new showroom so that bridesmaids can make appointments to come in and see all the bridesmaids collections including the fantastic Eliza & Ethan collection.  Ali has been born and raised in the fashion industry, her parents were fashion distributors in Ireland and her grandparents were manufacturers.  After completing a degree in International Business & Languages in DCU, Ireland Ali attended the Grafton Academy of Design in Dublin.  It was during this time that Ali opened Alila. Read her inspirational interview below:

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Each day can vary! There are always plenty of jobs to be done from packing up all the orders nicely to go out that day, answering emails from panicked brides who have had a bridesmaids dress dilemma or girls looking for debs dresses (ordering cheap dresses online that look nothing like the online image, or alteration disasters) and need new bridesmaids dresses or debs dresses that week (we can help!). If there has been a big red carpet event we will do a special blog post on that reporting on all the style hits and misses.  If there is a new delivery in we get it photographed and up online asap! It’s also important to try the new stock on our standard mannequin to make sure that the fit is a good fit so that when you buy online you can confidently order the correct size with our help in the description.  There is such a variation from label to label with sizing now it can be crazy.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
My family has always been in the fashion industry, my grandparents were manufacturers and had their own label (Pallas knitwear) and then my parents were fashion distributors.  It was 2007 I was working in the family business and studying fashion design by night and the ideal location came up to open a boutique so I got to work - designing the interior of the boutique, and then the buying and planning. 

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
I opened Alila boutique in the city centre of Dublin in October in 2007 and 3 months later the recession really hit.  I managed to keep my business afloat throughout the recession and not get myself into any debt.  I started the online at the end of 2010 and moved all business then online in September 2012. We are 9 years in business this year and still going strong! I can’t believe it’s 9 years!

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Obviously keeping a business running and afloat throughout the recession was the biggest challenge.  Other challenges we face now online are making sure people are aware of the brand and the online store.  Some people still have a fear of online shopping so I always do my best to disspell that fear and make sure people are aware that really is an online boutique with a personal touch.

What are your future plans for the business?
By the end of 2016 we hope to have opened a brand new showroom here in Alila HQ so that with an appointment you can come and try on dresses before purchasing if you prefer.  We also hope to have introduced lots more new exclusive labels to Alila maintaining our mission to provide labels you won’t find easily elsewhere so you can be confident you are wearing something fabulous that you won’t see someone else in.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
That’s such a tough question! One thing I probably would have done differently was paint the interior of the boutique a different colour! The original Alila boutique on Drury Street was a pink palace, so pink in fact that it made dresses look a different colour than they actually were! That’s only a minor thing though. Any mistakes made were incredibly important lessons in business though so they were all worthwhile.  As tough as the recession was I learned a lot about the world of business and the important decisions that have to be made.  I’ve done the retail bricks and mortar side and the online and I’m very happy with how everything is going for Alila right now and excited for Alila’s future.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Because anything is possible in the world we live in today.  Look at Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Sophia Amorusa (Founder of  They have reached fantastic levels in their careers, through hard work and determination and are an inspiration to all young women. They are taking the positions that in a past era would only have been taken up by men and showing us all that Girl Power isn’t just an idea, it’s a reality. When things got really tough during the recession and the idea of closing down was considered my mum pushed me through and encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream. I had put so much into Alila at that stage and Mum was a pillar of strength for me to dig deep, keep building my business and keep following my dreams.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Do your research, do your homework.  If you are going to open up a boutique what will make yours different to others already out there? A lot of times you see people opening up a new shop and just trying to stock labels that their neighbour already has. What is the point in that?  Decide who your customer is going to be, and be specific.  Have a plan in place and a good strong strategy. Look at what support is already out there being offered to you from your local government, you’d be surprised how much they can actually help. 

What or who inspires you in business and why?
There are the big hitters like Victoria Beckham and Sophia Amoruso who inspire me and then there are those close to home who have built up successful businesses through hard work and determination.  A good friend Courtney Smith is a fantastic fashion stylist based in Ireland whose business is just growing and growing.  I massively admire her work ethic and how well she has done and continues to do. My dad also has been a massive influence on me, having started working for him from the age of 12 when on school holidays and seeing how hard he worked and how he passed that work ethic on to me.  If there is one thing I have learnt over the years it is that to be successful you have to dig deep and not be afraid to get your hands dirty. There will always be those jobs you hate to do but they have to be done. It’s just part and parcel of running your own business.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“If you believe it, you can achieve it”

And then I also love the Coco Chanel quote - “A girl should be two things; classy and fabulous”

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