Tuesday 15 March 2016
2Inspire Inspirational Woman: Luxury Footwear Designer & Entrepreneur Lucy Choi
Lucy Choi is the niece of renowned shoe designer Jimmy Choo and is a successful luxury footwear designer and entrepreneur with an inspirational story. Read about her business journey and be inspired!
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Busy! I love the challenge and no day is the same. I start each day with a long shower (well, 10 minutes!) and some ‘me time’ – it’s where I get that moment to stop, think, and plan. I need order and routine, so that if things don’t always go exactly to plan, I can fix things or work around it. I am involved in every aspect of the business from the creative side, liaising with my factories, to looking after the budgets, forecasting, recruitment, sales, events, logistics, marketing and PR. One day I could be meeting with buyers, or with press talking about the new collection, and the next I could be in Hong Kong, Spain or Italy overseeing the production.
What made you start the business and how did you get started?
After building up over 8 years of important experience in the business and financial world and over 14 years in the fashion world, I felt I then had enough all round business experience and skills to launch my own business in 2012, spotting a gap in the market for stylish and luxurious, but also comfortable and affordable, shoes for all occasions, and for women of all ages and tastes. Inspired by my uncle Jimmy Choo, and with this business and fashion experience under my belt, I finally had the confidence I needed to start my own collection. I established an ethos from the very beginning to provide affordable luxury and what I like to call the 3 Cs: Comfort, Craftsmanship and Character. This initial USP gave me a solid foundation to build my business from, creating beautiful shoes for a savvy generation of women who want competitive prices and the wow factor in what they are wearing! After four years establishing the brand, selling online and to wholesalers including Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and Sachs Fifth Avenue to name a few, I opened my flagship store in Connaught Village last August. It has been a huge success so far and I am really looking forward to expanding further, with lots of exciting projects coming up this year!
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
It’s hard to choose! Seeing my very first collection go straight into Harvey Nichols stores was a career highlight, and opening our first boutique in London in Autumn last year was really a dream come true.
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Learning to take risks in business is a huge challenge, but it is so important and drives you to success. Equally, success does not magically happen overnight and you need to put the hours in. I have taken a lot of risks throughout my career, investing my own money in the business and even selling my flat I had owned for 10 years to launch Lucy Choi London. This was of course very daunting, but it has really driven me to make my business a success. You have to put your money where your mouth is in business, throw everything you’ve got at something, and overcome any fears of failure. For me it’s all or nothing. If you visualize your goal and believe in it, everything and anything is possible. I think because I have invested so much into my business, it means more to me and seems so much more real. I faced a huge challenge in my career when I launched my label in 2012 and also gave birth to my first child all in the same year, but it paid off and has driven me to continue going all out in everything I do! This past year I have been pregnant with my second son and opened my first boutique! I’ve definitely learnt how to become more efficient and work on less sleep!
What are your future plans for the business?
I’m always looking to expand the brand’s global presence. I went to USA last year to meet with buyers there, as I would love to expand across the pond. Now we have our first London store, I would also love to open some more boutiques in the UK too – so watch this space!
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I honestly don’t think I would do anything differently. That is not to say I haven’t made some mistakes along the way, but that’s how I believe you learn, grow and develop. There will always be set backs, that’s just life but its how you handle those challenges and learn from them which is important.
Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
I think it is extremely important to empower young women and ensure theyfollow their dreams whatever they may be, because if you are hungry enough for success you can achieve anything you want; if you visualize and believe in your dreams, work hard and are driven, they really can materialize. We all need to start somewhere and I am really passionate about education and nurturing young talent, whatever the gender. I believe that education opens your mind and your eyes. I think all companies should provide proper work experience; it’s where you can learn such valuable life skills and can decide on the right career path for yourself. I’m a strong believer in work experience to obtain valuable, practical experience in an industry, and so we run an intern programme here at Lucy Choi London. Personally, I learnt my most valuable lessons from watching my uncle at work when I was young, especially his strong work ethic and values. As the boss of my own company, I have the chance to pass on valuable experience and skills to my team and interns, who can get a first hand experience of working in the fashion industry. I really appreciate the fact that I can give back to interns the experience that I have so fortunately gained myself.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Believe in your vision. Make sure you have a solid business plan and stick to it! Or if you’re not naturally business savvy, make sure you’ve got a team that can support you. Be prepared to work hard, as success doesn’t magically happen overnight. Don’t sweat the small stuff, as there will always be challenges along the way. And whatever happens don’t give up on your dreams, only you can make them happen.
What or who inspires you in business and why?
My uncle Jimmy and his amazing work ethic has always inspired me, teaching me such valuable lessons to stay happy and positive, to aspire, and to always deliver my promises. I am also very inspired by other female entrepreneurs like Natalie Massenet and Jo Malone. I regularly brainstorm new ideas and designs with my team in the office, and when I’m away from work my husband constantly inspires me – he is such wonderful support and I can always bounce ideas off him.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Keep your heels, head & standards high.” – Coco Chanel