Female Entrepreneur: Milena Toncheva
Company: Smart Boutique Limited
Age range: 30s
What motivated you to start your business?
Necessity and my passion for stylish clothing! I have always worked in an office environment, I often have meetings with clients and colleagues, attend conferences and industry events so I need to look professional and confident at all the time. However, when I moved to the UK 3 years ago I was amazed at how difficult it was to find high quality elegant office wear that will make you stand out and how expensive the brands that I found were. This is how I came up with the idea for www.theclassywardrobe.com .
I wanted to help women look and feel professional, inspiring and stylish in this challenging, often male dominated and prejudiced working environment.
Tell us about your business.
www.theclassywardrobe.com/ is our one stop shop for exclusive women’s business wear collections that will see you from office through to evening. We introduce unique brands from Europe to ensure that women have a working wardrobe that is a cut above the competition. Our company is an exclusive retailer for one off designer collections from unique brands that are both fashionable trend aware and classic so you can be assured that your working wardrobe can stay as unique as you are.
What is a day in the life of you like?
Hectic! I wake up around 7.00am and get ready for my day job. It is completely different from my business but at least I don’t have problems deciding what to dress in the morning.
My working day in the office lasts till 6-7 pm and by the time I go home I have already drafted a to-do list for my website. I will have a quick dinner and a catch up call with my business partner before my second working day starts. I will check emails, post on our Facebook page, Twitter and Pinterest pages, and arrange meeting with stylists and our PR agency to discuss the fashion trends for the next season and key events that we want to present our collections at. Weekends are more or less the same but I do try to have some time off and go out to see my friends.
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
I started our online fashion store with my business partner 6 months ago but I have been working full-time all the time. Fashion industry is the most competitive sector in the UK and attracting customers who are bombarded with offers and sales from all other brands has proven quite challenging. Marketing services are extremely pricy in the UK so I need to fund some of these from my day job and try to work on the rest myself in the evenings and weekend. It is really difficult but I know that we are on the right track and we are extremely happy when we see more and more returning customers.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I don’t accept No for an answer and the bigger the challenge the more determined I am to succeed. I like to read other people‘s successful stories for inspiration and courage, and exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs on different forums and network sites I am a member of.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
Work of mouth from happy customers. We aim to provide excellent customer service which is so rare nowadays and we take any feedback very seriously. We try to involve our fans in different initiatives through social media and blogging community so they can share their ideas and provide them with fashion tips and career advice to help them in their busy schedule. We have recently teamed up with a leading fashion stylist in the UK and will start offering our customers free consultation with the stylist – so like us on Facebook and be the first to know!
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Don’t give up – I know it is a cliché but it is so true. Find what motivates you, discover your passion and turn it into a business.
Talk to other people – don’t think that because you have set up your own business you know everything. You can always learn from other people’s successes and failures.
Respect yourself – be proud of how you are, what you have achieved and where you want to go.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Working towards my goals is what motivates me. My belief in our idea and our successful months since we started keep me going. And most importantly, my family and friends who have always been there to support me.
What’s your favourite quote?
My fav business quote – ‘Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your door very softly.’ – Frank Tyger
My fav fashion quote is ‘Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.’ – Rachel Zoe
Who inspires you?
Karren Brady, who is the first female MD of an English football team, and has successfully run her own publishing business and raised two kids. I love her passion for business and how well she juggles her career with family life.
Do you have a business philosophy?
We realise that our customers are our business, not the products we offer so individual approach, and respect and honesty are the key principles of our business philosophy.
Get in touch…