Long before Sheryl Sandberg encouraged us to ‘Lean In’ and support each other, before we gritted our teeth and started to make that career plan a reality, we all had a business icon. An inspiring leader in a league of her own, whom we looked at and said, “Maybe, I could do that too.” We can relate to her; maybe she’s a friend, a family member or someone you’ve not met personally, but she has been where you are. Her journey began as yours did with hope, hard work and a yearn to succeed. Maybe you’re at the same point in your careers, maybe not but the important thing is, she inspired you and (whether she knew it or not) drove you further.
My own business icon is jewellery designer, Chupi Sweetman (a winner at the 2015 Businesswoman of the Year Awards). Her success story comes from a hell of a lot of hard work and talent and she told me that she “gave up a sensible job to be a jeweller” and that after winning BWOTY last year, it was affirmation that she did the right thing. She was scouted to design jewellery at 21 for Topshop and I love that I wasn’t part of her plan; it just happened and she embraced it and used that experience to pursue her dreams and aspirations. It shows that not all career plans need to be mapped out; sometimes you just have to know when opportunity knocks, be there to answer the door!
Here some of the IMAGE team reveal their business icons ahead of our 2016 Businesswoman of the Year Awards on November 21st (you can buy tickets HERE).
Ellie Balfe, Editor of IMAGE.ie:
Since I worked with her in London in the mid-nineties, I have always admired Nicky Kinnaird, the founder of Space NK. In setting up her first beauty apothecary in Covent Garden in 1993, she made a brave move in the beauty industry and acted entirely on her instinct – choosing both niche and new product lines that were not the heavy-hitters from the traditional beauty houses that people were used to. Going against that ‘same old-same old’ trend, Nicky brought in NARS, Stila, Laura Mercier and Kiehls among many others. Her philosophy being that all staff would be trained in all product lines, be they large or small ranges, thus offering customers completely unbiased advice. I was lucky to work alongside her as she set up new stores, and saw her ideas take shape and take off. As we now know, she succeeded greatly, and there are now over 60 Space NK stores in the UK and 25 in the US. She acted on her instinct and changed the very nature of beauty retail by putting the customer and their experience first – 23 years later, the product range is consistently excellent and the model has never dated. To sum up, she is a woman who had a vision of something different and just went out and did it. To me, that is creative bravery, and something I aspire to every day.
Rosaleen McMeel, Editor of IMAGE Magazine
I have been fortunate to interview a lot of women who constantly inspire me, but two that left lasting impressions are Francesca Amfitheatrof, the first ever female design director of Tiffany & Co and Cheryl Strayed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough, and Torch . Although working in totally different industries, both women have achieved phenomenal business success without compromising their personal creativity. Their work is filled with honesty, integrity and lots of heart. What could be more inspiring than that?
Jessie Collins, IMAGE Editorial Director
Lolly from Lolly & Cooks is a friend, but also a powerhouse. She has worked her heart out to get to where she is, as well as being a single mum, and is an incredible grafter. I really admire the energy and drive she has put into building up her business as well as keeping her own show on the road.; it reminds me of my mum and her mates when we were growing up, many of them were single mums and they went into businesses together and just worked their guts out. She’s super inspiring.