What did you used to do?
I have had several professions after leaving school at 16. My first love/career was hairdressing; I ended up teaching hair and beauty in France as Co-Director of 3 schools. In my early 20’s I decided on a career change, due mainly to reacting to hair product chemicals. I returned to the UK and took a week’s course in commerce, which in those days was a filing cabinet and a typewriter! From that I took on various sales roles all customer facing as I had that skillset from teaching. In November 1992 I took a 2 week temping job at the BBC….19 years later….
What made you want to change?
Various roles and progression at the BBC were great fun with fantastic training courses that I took full advantage of. Several restructures down the line I felt that I was not enjoying it anymore and the life/work balance had tilted too far the wrong way. One final restructure gave me that chance to move on.
How did you make a start?
I thought of all the things I would like to do and they all led back to fashion/clothes/history of fashion, handbags and shoes. It started small in my 2 bed cottage front room with friends bringing items to sell or swap. The venue got bigger and bigger and I started to visit my now client base’s houses to sort ‘cleanse’ their wardrobes. This was my stock! No outlay. I also started to advise on styling and how to mix old and new ‘upcycling’. My first shop was the ‘Bijoux New and Nearly Cupboard’ 8×12 feet. It was painted by me and a very good friend, literally overnight. I was on my way.
What were the challenges?
The Bijoux Cupboard was at the very end of the High Street in Hartley Wintney and therefore rent and business rates were much lower giving me some breathing space. I worked 7 days a week from 9am to 6pm. When the shop door closed I did not stop. I had to ensure I had stock and client visits were my evenings work. The challenge of keeping going, and staying awake somehow just happened as I was starting to have fun. Many of the challenges I faced I was able to use my skills learned whilst at the BBC, which was a surprise, but a very welcome one, like the manipulation of figures into spreadsheets for analysis.
How long did it take?
After 2 years I had enough data on sales and trends and made the decision to open 5 days a week and moved into a prime high street location with a shop floor of 13750 square feet. My biggest fear had always been “will I have enough stock” fortunately this has never been a problem, the opposite in fact. By keeping the brands in the shop high end, where the market had a gap in this area, was working, and the Bijoux Cupboard became No.3 New and Nearly.
I am now in my 5th year at No.3 and employ 2 people who love the concept, like me, of New and Nearly New clothing, handbags and shoes.
What would you do differently?
If I could do anything differently, I would not have laid awake night after night worrying about where my stock would come from, but you just don’t know!
What do you do now and what does that look like?
My day starts the night before working out what is going in the window and what I am going to wear to compliment that. My alarm goes off at 8am and No.3 opens at 10am. No.3 overlooks Hartley Wintney common and village pond. I wave and smile to people passing by who wave and smile back in return as many are customers and/or love the window displays at No.3 in their village.
How has your life /work changed?
I am confident in what I do as people come back to No.3 time and time again and recommend friends and family. I have time off to rest, workout at the gym and sometimes just potter. The shop door does close at 5pm and sometimes I work and sometimes I don’t.
What top tips would you give to someone who really wants to change career?
Something that you love or feel an attachment to is important and a key driver in terms of finding the energy and tenacity you will need each day.
Don’t write off some of your skillset from previous professions as you will be surprised where they might come in handy.
When I filled in my application form for the BBC all those years ago there were 2 questions; one asked ‘what are your strengths’ and the second asked ‘what are your weaknesses
I replied to the first one ‘handbags’, to the second question I replied ‘the matching shoes’…… I got the job!