Clare Hornby left a career in advertising to start ME+EM, a luxurious, yet relaxed and affordable, fashion line that has a celebrity following including Rosamund Pike, Thandie Newton and Emilia Fox.
We chatted to the busy mother-of-two about switching careers, juggling her own business with being a parent and Prada boots.
Describe your typical working day.
I wake up at 6:30am and get ready for the working day in London. At 7am, I wake up my two daughters (both of whom are under 10) and cook breakfast for them. By 8am, I have got them ready and take them to school, after which I set out for London. I arrive at the office at 10am, and have various meetings – ranging from design, marketing, and financial to recruitment. At 6pm, I either drive back to Sussex or have work drinks in London followed by supper with friends. If I return to Sussex, I read to my children and play cards with them until I put them to bed at 8:30pm. I then work until midnight with a glass of wine, and go to bed.
How did you come up with ME+EM?
Lots of hard work, lots of listening and by following my instincts. I never believe I’m at the top – that what keeps me innovative. I studied Business at Manchester, then, having started in fashion, I took a diversion in advertising for 15 years – this combination allowed me take my understanding of what people wanted to wear, and mold it into a brand.
Have you had any setbacks along the way?
The 2008 crash was an interesting period – but it made me focused. The company grew even stronger when we strategized how to ride it.
What have you learnt along the way?
To always follow my instincts.
What advice would you give someone trying to start up their own company?
Don’t be too niche. Understand what value really means to your target audience and be really clear en route to market.
What did you buy with your first big pay cheque?
A pair of Prada boots that lasted for eight years. I’m a big believer in investment pieces.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
To always live in the moment – don’t be too impatient for the future because you’ll rue the years that you ignored.
What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?
Cuddle my kids.
Do you count your colleagues as friends?
Sadly, they’re all much younger than me! So no, but I love them all dearly. I do, however, feel that it is important for them to socialise as a team, and so I arrange for them to go out together on the last Friday of each month.
We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance. How do you manage it?
It’s every mother’s biggest dilemma. It’s actually not about a work/life balance, but a constant feeling of guilt. I worry about my kids not getting enough of my time, and equally, my employees too.
Do you try and squeeze a workout into your day?
Exercise is critical for my life, without it I wouldn’t have the energy to juggle all of my commitments. I work out two hours a week with a personal trainer, and play an hour of tennis each week.
How would your colleagues describe you?
For more information about Clare’s fashion line, check out ME+EM.