Ever wondered how someone makes it as their own boss? What it takes to run your own business? Here at VIP we exclusively speak to some of Ireland’s top businesswomen to find out the secret to their success.
This week we’ve been chatting to Louise Stokes, owner of Loulerie on everything from managing the work/life balance to who inspires her most.
Have you always dreamed of owning your own business?
Yes I always wanted to work for myself since I was really small, my parents worked for themselves so that was an inspiration for me. One of my first jobs was for Louise Kennedy so that was an amazing time spent in luxury fashion and definitely sparked my journey to work for myself.
What have been your biggest challenges you have faced?
Opening a retail jewellery business in 2007 six months before one of the worlds biggest recessions hit was the biggest challenge for me and the business. Overnight everything changed, I had to dig very deep, keep costs very low and work myself in the store all the time to make sure we survived and also change the products we offered and open us up as a gift retailer to bring more new business in. We went much more niche in this time as shops were closing all around me so I felt the only way out was to become a destination and be really different.
How do you balance work/home life as a business owner?
It’s a constant juggle and all you can do is your best. I found it harder when my kids were babies as I was wracked with guilt going to work but it was still a recession and you just don’t have a choice when it’s your own business. Now it’s all about a team effort my own team in Loulerie are amazing and I have great support from my husband family and friends. I don’t miss the important things my kids have on, life’s too short for that, but it’s a hard lesson to learn.
Do you find that you often bring your work home?
It’s hard to switch off as my online business is 24 hours and when your business is your own you are always contactable and that’s part and parcel of being an entrepreneur but I set my own schedule so I very much value the flexibility that gives me.
What advice would you give a young woman who wants to be her own boss?
Absolutely go for it, there is never a perfect right time, believe in yourself, don’t listen to any negativity, keep your business lean in the beginning it’s all about the numbers.
How important of a role do your team play in your business?
The most important role, the team are the driving force behind my business I build my business based on the team and their skill set. I hire the best people for the jobs I’m the weakest at as they bring and add value to the business. Also they then allow me to drive the business forward and explore new areas, it’s always about future proofing and looking ahead.
What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
That it takes a really really long time to become an overnight success.
What has been your biggest business mistake?
Where do I start, I have made so so many mistakes and I wish people would talk about them more as it’s fear of failure that stops people opening their own business but if you don’t try you will never know. I used to try be everything to everyone and that was a big mistake, also not listening to my own gut has led to mistakes you need to take time to sit with your decisions and make sure you are not being reactive in the heat of the moment. Also you need to let go of mistakes, what’s done is done move on don’t waste anymore time mulling it over.
What lessons did it teach you?
So many lessons, to realise it’s a mistake and move on quickly was a huge lesson and one I wish I had learnt earlier as it’s such a waste of time and energy beating yourself up.
Also taught me to be very careful who you take advice from, does that person have your best interest at heart, do you value what they are saying, are they in a position you want to be in?
What has been your biggest achievement?
Staying open for 13 years through a constantly changing and ever challenging retail landscape and growing an independent luxury business from scratch.
What woman in business inspires you the most?
So so many women. Louise Phelan from going for growth programme who was my mentor was an amazing source of inspiration for me. I think Jo Malone is amazing, Diane Von Furstenburg is also amazing.
What are your plans for the next five years?
Continue to develop on online business and explore new markets. Add more to our own fine jewellery collections. Create more and more of our own engaging content. Focus on the best possible customer experience in our store. Be happy and have time for myself while running my brand is also very important.
Loulerie jewellery is available online and in-store on Chatham Street in Dublin.
All images: @louleriejewellery