Female Entrepreneur: Charlotte Lynham
Company: Luxuria Lifestyle
Age range: 20s
What motivated you to start your business?
I was an experienced financial and legal specialist; having worked for a number of prestigious and luxury companies including Christies Auction House and LVMH/Moet Hennessy UK Ltd. I had reached a point in my career where I had achieved almost everything I had set out to do; I had obtained 2 degrees in Law and Accounting, had worked in numerous luxury business streams and also got the opportunity to work abroad but the role just did not seem challenging anymore, I felt restless despite making it to International Credit Manager level before I was 30.
The idea for Bespoke came years ago when I was still in the corporate world but I did not know anyone who would fit the bill as to making this idea in to a business. But then my friend, and now business partner, contacted me last year as he had a similar idea, we had a few cocktails and BespokeRSVP Ltd was born. We both had worked in the luxury hospitality industry for years, so we spoke to a few key people we knew and they really liked our idea, soon the idea grew into a company with more and more interest from luxury hotels, restaurants, clubs and partner brands. Then about 3 months later I set up a Blog to run alongside the events company, with only 7 writers at the start we created the BespokeBlog. This did so well that in June this year we re-launched as an online magazine called The Bespoke Black Book, for which I am Executive Editor, and now has over 40 writers worldwide contributing on numerous luxury topics. When Bespoke was first created I was still working full time in an office managing a very large team in the UK and another team in the US, just before Christmas 2011 I decided that Bespoke would not work if I was not putting 100% into it, so despite the economical climate of the UK and having a well paid stable job I quit to concentrate on Bespoke full time. This was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made, even though at the time it was scary as I had never before ventured out on my own.
It has been a great feeling to know all the hard work is for your own benefit, the results achieved are tangible, I have a wonderful team around me both in BespokeRSVP and The Bespoke Black Book and we have come a long way in under a year, I am proud of what I have achieved and I am proud of the people that have supported me in getting there, and there is still a long way to go!
Tell us about your business…
London’s most exclusive singles members events company BespokeRSVP was created for the express purpose of planning, organising and hosting tailored and bespoke events for a select and targeted group of well-heeled, high-net income, single individuals from the following categories:
25-50 Gay Male Community
The objective is to create an environment in which straight individuals and gay men can meet like-minded people at events to be held in various venues and locations throughout London and, in time, further afield. The target audience is single and potentially looking for friendship or a long-term relationship, but does not use traditional methods such as dating agencies or online dating services. The idea is for the events to be about an experience rather than about the fact the attendees are single – so Supper Clubs for foodies, Wine Tastings for connoisseurs of fine wine and so on.
We have partnered with many wonderful luxury brands and hotels as to our events but we also support 5 nominated charities through our work, this is done on donation through ticket sales as well as charity auctions at our events.
The Bespoke Black Book, which runs alongside BespokeRSVP Ltd, provides sophisticated individuals with a cornucopia of in-depth, well researched and excellently written articles by some of the best and well-known talented writers in the UK, from the USA and around the world. Collectively our international team serves up a wealth of information which covers topics such as exclusive hotels, restaurants, bars, exotic travel, food, drink, lifestyle, couture, culture and health & beauty from around the world. Our intrepid writers traverse the globe, eating, drinking, sleeping, wearing and living all that is luxurious, auspicious and decadent in order to give you interesting and informative reports of everything their senses have experienced.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I am a very hard worker so even though as an entrepreneur I do not have core hours per say I work hard, every day, even the weekends, as I want BespokeRSVP and The Bespoke Black Book to thrive. In some ways it is better as I have the freedom to attend meetings, meet clients, and organize events to my own schedule. When I worked in an office and had to do BespokeRSVP in the evening it was very tiring and difficult, which is why I gave up my corporate job in the end.
Most days start with posting and editing articles and updating our social media, then answering the several inboxes for both BepsokeRSVP and The Bespoke Black Book: liaising with PR’s, venues, personalities, writers, other magazines etc. Then I normally have many meetings in a week as to organising events, discussing our brand with potential partners or clients, and promoting what we do to PR’s and the press. I also write for The Bespoke Black Book so some weeks there is the odd spa or meal to attend and write up, so not all hard work.
At the moment there is a lot of planning as to the launch of our Supper Clubs in September as well as a launch party for this concept. We recently had the re-launch party for The Bespoke Black Book which was a fabulous event so I am hoping the next launch will be even bigger and better.
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
For sure the culture shock of going from a 9-5 office job to a less structured home working role. When in an office your day is somewhat dictated by the clock and ones team. Now not one day is the same, I am out and about a lot promoting Bespoke and organising events that I do not remember the last time I clock watched. Also the stability of a paycheck, we come somewhat accustomed to payday but in starting up a business it is less about me and more about the future of my company. Everything I earn now is re-invested back in to Bespoke, thus my love of shoe shopping has taken somewhat of a bashing, but I know it is for a good reason as I want Bespoke to thrive and grow and the only way this will happen is not only with my time, effort and knowledge but money, and in this economic climate one cannot rely on banks or private investors anymore so it seems a sister indeed has to do it for herself.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
I have been very fortunate in having contacts in the hospitality industry due to my previous jobs and my business partners contacts but I have found social media and the internet invaluable as to meeting new people.
In this modern world what with the internet and smart phones social media like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook have become a major force as to promoting ones business, making new business contacts and reaching the end consumer. We have utilised this my making sure we have pages and accounts on all these mediums in order to spread the word of Bespoke. Also having a slick and easy to navigate website is key, and with both BespokeRSVP and The Bespoke Black Book I think we have achieved that.
Another great way is good old fashioned networking, I am very lucky in that this industry there are a lot of events, soirees and parties that one is invited to, these are great forums for meeting new people, or putting a face to a name as to contacts on Social Media. Many great working relationships have come out of physically meeting people, sometimes the old ways are the best.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Do not ever give up, if it is your dream then only you can make it in to a reality. Since setting up Bespoke I have been through hardships both business and personal but I have not let this slow me down, if you come across a problem then fix it, if you do not get the response you wanted either try again or look elsewhere. Time stands still for no man, or woman, hard work really does pay off in the end.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
My family and friends. Without them I would have been lost, they have that uncanny ability to always be there when it seems all is lost. I know that when I have a tough day or week I can call on my family and friends and they will always make me feel better – that or a dam good cocktail!
What’s your favourite quote?
Colin Powell: A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
Marilyn Monroe: I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.
Who inspires you?
My parents and sister – all have overcome great difficulties and become very successful people. I love and respect them very much.
Also in a reverse psychological way all those people that doubted my abilities and drive, that in my past have said I would never achieve anything, there is nothing more inspiring than proving ones critics wrong.
Do you have a business philosophy?
If at first you don’t succeed try and try again. Setting up ones own business is not without it pitfalls and disappointments. You have to grow a tough hide to deal with potential rejection, but having a positive outlook has helped me greatly. When you are a young and somewhat unestablished company people may be weary – prove to them you are determined, do not take no for an answer. Someone once described me as Carrie Bradshaw meets The Rock – I am tougher than I look and will always achieve what I set out to achieve even if it means a diverted route to the original plan. Also remember to always be humble and give thanks for those who support you along the way – I like to think of my team as a family, and treat them as such, I want them to be proud they are part of Bespoke – that is what will stand the test of time, loyalty and respect – which cannot be bought or made only earned.
Get in touch…
Twitter: http://twitter.com/BespokeRSVP @TheBespokeBook @BespokeSuppers