Thanks to JCI London Member Danielle Nanton for writing this guest post.
From a business plan, which happened by accident, to opening more than 80 shops in Asia, Cath Kidston has become one of the most successful businesswomen in Britain. On Friday the 19th of July, six members of London JCI attended ‘Cath Kidston: Coming Up Roses’ in the Lydia and Manfred Gorvey Lecture Theatre at the Victoria and Albert Museum and had the opportunity to hear this great British designing icon speak.
Cath Kidston came from a sheltered background; she recalls a childhood of horses and running around whilst a pre-teen, and then a young adulthood of working in shops and not being focussed. She said that she had lots of odd job whilst she was trying to find her feet. However, she always had ideas for business but lacked confidence. She showed her job list which included shop assistant roles. Once she had worked and gained experience she felt that she had a trade and could make money. She had her first shop at Notting Hill.
The brand which bears Cath Kidston’s name is readily recognisable with its themes and ideas, combining old and new as well as spots and Eastern European patterns. Many know of its bright, cheerful, and practical nature as well as the fact that it is affordable and good value. The brand was originally based on vintage patterns that became out of print but Cath pointed out that the brand is not all nostalgic, and that it is somewhat based on evolution, mixing old and new things.
Cath said that there was a gap in the market of what she wanted at home, and that the brand helped to fill that gap. The life of Cath was not all roses, at one point she recounts the tale of when a shop-goer tripped over her dog and sued. She also recalls when she had breast cancer and she was told to take it easy, she took up yoga; but found that she was happiest when being creative and went back to work. Part of her ability to be creatively visual may stem from her undiagnosed slight dyslexia. She also sometimes worries that as she felt she was not qualified she might be found out, however she reminds us that we must learn from our mistakes.
We learned many lessons from Cath in this talk. One is to stay true to your roots, she said she attended trade fairs and that she wanted to stay true to the brand and not sell out. Although her items are sold in Selfridges, they started by the rubbish bins in the basement, then the fifth floor, it was a process until she was taken seriously. In relation to business in general Cath stated that part of the game is growing customer loyalty and to focus on marketing and then have the press pick up on you. She also recommended to learn to say no and to learn to know a distraction from an opportunity As well as balance the idea with what is commercially viable and no matter the training you have to love what you do. Furthermore, she suggests finding a supportive mentor, in one of her earlier jobs she found a mentor in her boss, who would allow her to choose fabrics, was kind and supportive.
So what is going to be the next big thing and how can you become a successful business person like Cath Kidson? Perhaps if you can find out and develop it into a classic brand that will remain timeless then, you too will find the recipe for success.
Categorised in: Charity
This post was written by Kathryn Kneller