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Shortlisted for UK CDA Career Coach of the Year

Frances Cushway
Career Coach

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A Passion for Fashion

Lydia Allen is a personal stylist and make-up artist, based in Guildford, Surrey, offering a high quality and professional service advising both men and women on what to wear and how to develop their own unique style to enhance their individuality and appearance.


What did you do before you had children?

In 2000 I did a Fashion Media and Communications Diploma in Oxford followed by a Publishing Degree at Oxford Brookes University. From there I went on to work for many luxury goods companies including Moet Hennessy - Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Paul Smith. Like many young people aspiring to work in the fashion industry I began my career in administrative roles and later on went to work in marketing roles.



Had you thought about setting up your own business before?

I had thought about setting up my own business but looking back I suppose it was never the right time and I didn't have the confidence to do it. It's wonderful to finally be pursuing a life long dream.


How did you know it was the right business for you?

I knew this was the perfect business for me for three main reasons. Firstly I have always had a keen interest and passion for the fashion industry as demonstrated through my early career. I knew if I updated my skills and did a Personal Styling Diploma I would relish the opportunity to learn from industry experts so that I can start my own business. Secondly I knew my years of experience working in the industry would stand me in good stead. Finally and most possibly importantly I enjoy working with people. I pride myself on being warm and engaging which is so important in the kind of work I do.


How did you know it was the right time for you?

I guess there is never a right time but in my case my twins started school and I found myself, for the first time in seven years, with time to commit to both the Personal Styling course in London and setting up the business. The course dates happened to start two weeks after I looked into it and so I applied, was offered the place and took a leap of faith and decided to give it my all.


How did you prepare to launch your business? How long did this take?

I wanted to ensure that my skills were up to date after a reasonably long career break to have my three children, so I trained at the London College of Style. I was personally mentored by award-winning make-up artists Louise Constad and Kristina Gasperas, both of whom are make-up artists of choice for many of the world's most beautiful women. Whilst I was training I also developed my brand, the website and started to think about how I would market the business. It's still an ongoing project but I would say six months.


What support did you have to launch your business?

I had a lot of support - my family rallied around to help with the child care while I ventured back and forth to London for my training. Friends offered me a wealth of advice from brainstorming, proof reading, legal advice, graphic design and website - you name it they helped! It's also important to mention the emotional support - it's been quite a journey starting a new business and the encouragement of some very important people in my life has been crucial to the steps I have taken to develop this business from just an idea.


How do you fit your business and family life or other commitments together?

The children always come first and I always wanted this business to work around my family life. In practice sometimes there are compromises to be made but good plannig is key. I try to put all the school dates in my diary at the beginning of term such as concerts, football matches, school trips and other special days and then fit my work around those commitments.


What are the best things about having your own business?

The best thing about having your own business is being your own boss - having inspirational ideas and being able to develop them without answering to someone else! I'd also say that when you have your own business it gives you a greater degree of flexibility which in my case means I can build it around my family life.


What are the downsides of working for yourself?

The downsides are that it's very hard to switch off - the work is never ending and you could work until the early hours if you don't keep boundaries in place. Sometimes if I've had a busy week with clients, the amount of behind the scenes work seems overwhelming and you fear some element of the business is being neglected whether it's writing reports, blogs, filing or accounts!


Do you have any tips or advice for other mims who might be thinking about setting up their own business?

Firstly follow your dream - if you have a great business idea then research it well, think about your competition and if you still think you've got a viable business plan then give it your best shot. My make up teacher taught me to always strive to be the best at what you do and I'll always remember that. Also, ask your family and friends for honest feedback and advice, you'll be surprised how willing they are to lend their support in your new venture. Lastly don't give up. There's so much to learn even after you've started your business in order to make it grow and of course don't give up even when the going gets tough! A new business requires a great deal of independent research, initiative, self motivation and a good understanding of the industry you are working in.


If you would like to chat about wardrobe consultations, personal shopping, style parties or make-up then please get in touch with Lydia at: www.lydiajanestyling.co.uk, lydia@lydiajanestyling.co.uk or on 07812 528353.