I plucked up the courage to do a speech at the Chamber of Commerce last week. Fifty or sixty people attended, mostly women, and I quite enjoyed summarizing my past as a woman out there in the big wide world running my own business.
So I talked about my first jewellery transaction (which I remain ashamed of to this day), I stole my mother's engagement ring and swapped it for a Barbie doll when I was four years old. I told of how I spotted a figurine brooch at a village jumble sale for a mere 4 pence which then turned out to be a valuable Cartier piece made from ebony, studded with rubies, diamonds and emeralds. It seems I've always had a keen eye for transactions, despite the inexcusable dodginess of that first one, and jewels. Somewhat of a magpie from day 1, really.
I regaled them with tales of my rebelliousness at Central St. Martin's, where, despite resisting the rules and regulations, my graduate collection was scooped up by Liberty. And to this day, I have a particular affinity with Liberty and a shop within it, 25 years down the line.
I recounted how I had funded my first workshop in Soho by waitressing at night. The space had once been Canaletto's but had also been a jeweller's studio for some hundred odd years prior to my stumbling upon it.
What happened next, readers, you know from a previous post. I went on to design catwalk jewellery and fly all over the world designing and living the life; I looked the part, went to the parties, talked the talk and danced the dance.
All of a sudden my jewellery is being sold in over 70 stores in America, hotly followed by Japan. Doing trunk shows here, partying there and somehow fitting in the time to design it all. But who is holding the purse strings?
I went on to discuss how I came down with a bump. The trials of being a woman in business with creative talent with entrepreneurial skills but no time left (literally) to financially direct the company. How accountants need to have people within their realms who can actually communicate with creative people (this is the key) and understand the workings of small businesses and how to grow them. This is what I really wanted to stress to my audience. Although I had a company savior come to my rescue (seemingly), I only ended up in litigation having misguidedly given away fifty percent of my company whilst not reading the small print. Again, it all comes down to communication, and also a rather slap dash attitude to anything that wasn't creative on my part.
I then discussed work, marriage, birth and separation. But I won't get into this here. Suffice it to say, these are concerns which all women in business may have to consider at some point.
That litigation case dragged on for some years. I'm pleased to have all that behind me now (and this is not a potted history of my career!). I feel lucky to be able to do what I do, I am free and not shackled by conformity or impenetrable glass ceilings. Unlike at the beginning of my career, where I thought of myself a creative person only and was adamant about that, today, I am as much a business woman as I am a designer. And to the detriment of my younger self, I'm proud to say it.