how she did it

Case Studies // “A ‘9-5’ was...

“A ‘9-5’ was not fulfilling me”

This story is about…

Female Entrepreneur: Arlette Lee

Location: UK

Company name: Arlette Lee

Industry: Fashion & Style, Marketing, PR

She started her business because: “After years of following a ‘normal’ path, a burning desire to do my own thing continued to crop up.”

Tell us about your business…

Arlette Lee brings to the market place luxurious handcrafted pieces from all over the world. People who appreciate quality can see the work that goes into handcrafted pieces and enjoy the story of how pieces are made.

If you work hard for something and there is passion this transfers through to the end product.

My initial product is the Ruana, which I designed myself and travelled around South America to search for the most highly skilled artisans to work with using the highest quality alpaca fibre.

All Ruanas are made in Peru from the highest grade of Baby Alpaca fibre working with artisans and supporting smaller enterprises in Peru, as well as in the UK.

What motivated you to start your business?

Freedom. Freedom to express yourself and have control of your future. Any idea, notion can be put into practice, it is yours for the keeping and no one can take it from you. Work for you. No more robotic lifestyle of earning for someone else when they can let you go whenever they like. Far and few companies are that ‘loyal’. I witnessed it. You are a number… making numbers for someone else. I’ll make my own numbers thank you very much!

After years of following a ‘normal’ path, a burning desire to do my own thing continued to crop up. I’d be at board meetings in Paris and afterwards would slip off to the wholesale area and then at the weekends I had a stall at Portobello (short time). A ‘9-5’ was not fulfilling me. The only person who could change this was me. I chose to leave when the timing was right.

What is a day in the life of you like?

Every day is a challenge. Some days are full on, other days I need to escape and do something different. I might jump on the train and just head somewhere with a big park.

I make an appointment everyday as early as possible to get up and out of my flat. No day is the same. Some days are a real challenge.

I look on Twitter at inspirational quotes and then put happy music on or classical music and get ready, feel good and smile. Today will be a good day. I like the FEA site as there is an abundance of inspiration here.

After a Rabot coffee, I sit and write for an hour. Writing is therapeutic for me and aids the flow of creativity. I always carry a notebook with me, religiously as at the strangest moment, when you are most receptive and open some amazing inspiration will kick in, jot it down, date it and then do something with the idea.

I meet other like-minded people for a lunch/coffee then spend a solid few hours in the afternoon making calls, visting stockists, finding new stockists and sometimes stay up late through the night doing more extensive mindmaps, research.

What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?

Self motivation is the hardest. Working for yourself can be like a rollercoaster ride. I do think having a good network of friends and family is important. I am fortunate to have this. I have funded everything myself and done all the work myself. I would love sometimes more emotional support, yet in that, I have become stronger to realise, I know exactly what I am doing and where I am going.

Working solo, full on is hard. I have huge self belief I am making my business work. Take the rough with the smooth and enjoy the ride. A partnership I often think would be good but then I have this IP and it is my idea so for now I am content and have chosen to work exclusively on this.

The mind can play tricks and sometimes it would be wonderful to have a partner, colleague to soundboard things off. I make the most of what I have which is alot! I have an excellent imagination and passion , I just have to work a little harder and the rewards will come. No one knows your passion and belief better than yourself and no support will do a better job than you. You can delegate…I look forward to being in that position when I am ready. For now I am doing everything myself to learn the graft.

Personal challenges:

Extra job – I’m looking for a job in a creative role to complement my business, yet my financial background as good as it has been, without it, I would not be where I am, society is pigeon holing me by my CV no matter how much you sell yourself.

Lesson learnt – if a company or agency cannot be open minded enough to see a career transition is a good thing, I will not work with them.

A person having the balls to leave a lucrative job to go into a field the other end of the spectrum and learn from scratch the ropes… from left minded to right minded shows motivation, no fear, willingness…

Relationships – some can be draining and not fulfilling, lack of compromise. All the time spent trying to fix etc is detrimentally affecting all the hard work I have put into setting up my own business. I found it incredibly difficult separating from someone very special. Now I am chanelling all that energy into myself instead of having my heart the other side of the world and my head here. I am working on compartmentalising and detachment.

Social network – changing career and doing your own thing shows who supports you and who doesn’t. You make the transition and some people can not accept you as the new you as they are stuck in their way. I am continuously being drawn to like-minded people, people who have been self employed for years. When you make a decision to change, you attract different people and energies into your life. Make it good ones.

Faith – I am a catholic, yet now feel there is someone else out there really helping me. I enjoy learning about new religions, like buddhism and very much enjoy holistic practices. When you find something that works for you and guides you, enjoy it!

How did you overcome these challenges?

Establishing better routines in the morning – joining morning yoga which improves the mental focus and mind.

Walks – walks in the sunshine, exercise.

Meeting like minded individuals.

Self belief – I write a lot, I do affirmations and remind myself of all the steps I have taken to get to where I am.

It is so easy to think of what is left to be done, instead of praising what has been done.

What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?

Self belief.

Meeting people, talking and listening. Something that is said may be picked up on and there may be contacts, information, ideas, learning there.

Meet people in the right frame of minded.

Existing customers. If they love you, your product/service they will promote you. Word of mouth travels far. It is a continuous process.

What advice would you give to other business owners?

Believe in yourself.

Be passionate about your product/service and never discount yourself.

You are unique and only you have your idea and vision.

Get out there – tell people.

How do you keep motivated through difficult times?

Read inspirational quotes.

Read some phrases in my diary.

Write down how I feel to let it go. Sometimes I reflect on what I wrote and learn from the words. All the time learning.

Call family, good friend.

Smile, Chin up, get out there, you are alive, breathing and healthy.

A big high follows a low.

What’s your favourite quote?

Do it, do it, do it.

PMA all the way. (Arlette) Positive Mental Attitude.

Who inspires you?

Hmmm… no one jumps to my mind other than some of my family, my mum/gran.

Do you have a business philosophy?

Be true to yourself.

Listen to your instinct.

Do what is right for you.

Listen to what your clients say. All feedback is good.

Be open minded.

Get in touch…



Twitter Name: Arlette_Lee

Facebook Fanpage: Arlette Lee

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