I recently met Heidi Louise Griffiths, owner of Lola and Me at a networking event and was captivated by the fab pouch that she was carrying.
Heidi hails from my home town of Newport, and I am thrilled to feature her story- and her designs on Political Style. Read on to find out about her journey, and what she hopes to achieve with her business!
What is your background in design and fashion?
My background is mixed with a broad selection of creative mediums. I started studying Fine Art as a college student where I experimented with photography, sculpture, print making and ceramics among other things. I then moved on to graduate University with a Graphic Design Degree before venturing to London to work within the Fashion Industry. It felt like a very natural progression for me individually, I'm very passionate about fashion and design. It was my years in London that fuelled my love for print.
Why did you want to start your own business?
When I was younger I never had a burning desire to become self employed, in fact the thought never really crossed my mind. It wasn't until I started to invest time in developing my own creative style or design handwriting that I starting to crave more and more creative freedom and independence. I wanted to experiment and this is difficult to do or express when you work for others. Now I run my own business I have complete control over the creative direction, this is stressful but very exciting. It keeps me on my toes and struggle to imagine it being any other way now.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position as a business owner?
I wouldn't have been able to develop Lola with out the experience I gained whilst in employment or if I didn't I would be going in relatively blind. I worked in Buying for many years and this gave me priceless knowledge about product development, range building, fabrication and garment construction. That's not even touching on business elements such as strategy, sale anaylsis and of course the manufacturing process. However running your own business is somewhat different, the risks multiply and you have to keep your 'eye on the ball' at all times. I'm lucky I have a very talented business partner who I share the responsibility with and who I know will be honest and constructive with me at all times.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Dirty Little Serifs and Lola and Me?
Every business and it's objectives is very different so each project we work on at Dirty Little Serifs means a fresh new slate and something new and exciting to work on. When a project is signed of and a client is happy it's hugely rewarding, it makes you remember that all the hard work you put in is worth it. When it comes to Lola and Me it's wonderful to have such great feedback from people on your product and of course sales! I've been very lucky to have customers blog about their purchases and others sending us pictures, this is such a great feeling to see items you've developed being put to great use.
I'm faced with challenges regularly, especially running two businesses. For one thing, time is precious. One of the most important things I've learnt is to take opportunities to step back and look at the bigger picture otherwise you develop a tunnel vision and this can be problematic.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
First and foremost I'd say do your homework. Doing your market research and putting together a solid business plan can be daunting, but it's worth the effort. Secondly I'd say be brave. Too many people with great business ideas never give themselves the opportunity because they're afraid. If you've got a great idea or a talent and you can make money out of it you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Thirdly be persistent. Starting a business is a marathon not a sprint, chances are you're not going to make your millions in the first 6 months. You have to keep asking questions, keep knocking doors and keep driving things forward, I'm still doing all of these things everyday.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ha. This is something I'm working on. Running your own business can be all consuming, so switching off can be one of the most difficult challenges. However I try and plan as many social activities into my diary as possible as it means you become much more strict about your working hours. I try and exercise as often as possible as this helps with work and life. It aids me in staying focused and keeps my energy levels up, I try and do yoga when ever I can as this really relaxes me and clears my head for those moments I need complete quiet.
Who would be your dream customer that you would love to see using one of your products?
It would be somebody who really epitomises what Lola and Me is about. Someone who is bold and bright, who celebrates colour and is playful with their style, whilst still being strong, smart and determined. If I had to pick someone with a high profile, right now I would choose Emma Stone. She looks like so much fun and uses her fame well to project some very positive and clever messages about her charity work.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I think it's really important to learn from others who have been there, seen it and lived it. Whether employed or self employed, arrogance in believing in you know everything will lead to you falling flat on your face. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by a cluster of people who's opinions I value highly and I listen to on a regular basis. Wales had brilliant support networks for businesses from start up and beyond, these have been hugely beneficial to me. For me it's not just about learning something new, it can be a confirmation that you're on the right track with something or getting some un partial advise. It's also a good opportunity to relax and go out for a chat over coffee and who wants to say no to that :)
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have huge admiration for women who have built great things, regardless of their sector.There are so many women who had made a significant difference to the Fashion Industry and these are the ones I aspire to. Vivienne Westwood and Diane Von Furstenberg for example are great players and contributors in the fashion game and in both cases success is unquestionable. I can only dream of emilating their achievements at this stage. But I also have a huge amount of respect for women such as Sophie Cornish. I love that fact that companies such as Not On The High Street are giving platforms for small business to grow and develop in a way that may otherwise not be possible.
What do you want Lola and Me to accomplish in the next year?
The next year is going to be very exciting for Lola and Me, I can't wait! I have so many ideas up my sleeve that I'm waiting to develop and materialise. We launched the start of our first range just before Christmas last year with a tiny range of accessories based around one core print, which has since grown to incorporate more prints and products. But in the next year we plan to expand this much further by offering a more diverse range of prints, acessory shapes and product types, this and finding more exciting ways to celebrate colour on a day to day basis.