When we hear the stories of successful entrepreneurs, it can sound like they’ve led blessed lives and simply gone from strength to strength, but ask any of them and they’ll tell you they’ve learned the most from hard times. What can you learn from Lecia Finch, the founder of Hat Attic, about how to get back on your feet?
Turn negatives into positives!
During eighteen years as a fashion buyer for Fenwick, Bond Street, Lecia grew a simple hat department into London’s premiere hat destination, attracting discerning shoppers from around the world, celebs and royals alike. But in 2013, a new managing director wanted an entirely new buying team. ‘It was a shock,’ said Lecia. Like so many people unexpectedly unemployed, Lecia didn’t have a plan, and didn’t think she had what it took to do anything else. But then she started polishing up her CV and realised: ‘I was sitting on a wealth of experience.’
Don’t ignore the obvious!
And so the idea for Hat Attic began to take shape. She didn’t have to go begging at doors; she could do it for herself and be her own boss. Lecia’s immense experience meant the collections she wanted to stock, the ethos behind her brand, and the infrastructure of contacts required to hit the ground running were already in place. ‘It suddenly seemed so obvious,’ she said.
Look at your experience, your skills, and your passions; so often people are real specialists with an incredible amount of knowledge which can either be used in a similar or completely new context; but it’s easy to ignore the obvious when you’ve taken a knock.
Use your contacts!
Renowned designer Piers Atkinson may have had a piece commissioned by the rather respectable Kate Middleton, but he also created a hat featuring Barbie on a banana, and put cherries on Rihanna’s head. Hat Attic sells his wild creations; so many of the people Lecia works with are contacts from her Fenwick days. This is business; you need to use everything you have to your advantage.
Hire professional accountants!
Lecia has had to learn a lot. ‘I’ve had to be a copywriter, a merchandiser, everything. As a buyer, you have to be able to control your purse strings, so I knew about net profit and gross profit, but bigger things like tax… I’m still learning.’ And that’s where Accounts and Legal come in. There will be areas you know, and areas you don’t, and it’s important to identify when you need outside support.
Know your market!
‘There are times in everybody’s lives when they have to wear a hat – not just when it’s cold or the sun is blazing, but if you’re mother of the bride, or going to the races or for tea with the queen.’ At this, we raised our eyebrows a bit; all those thousands of people invited for tea with the Queen… ‘You would be surprised. So many people are invited to tea with the Queen, and when you go for tea with the Queen, you need to wear a hat.’
Hat Attic has something for everyone, but at its heart it’s a luxury brand for a certain class of customer. There’s no point trying to please everyone, so you need to know your core market inside out.