Atterley founder Katie Starmer-Smith talks to us about setting up one of the most successful fashion sites in the UK...
Tell us what you love most about your job.
There is so much I love about my job – finding new designers and selecting fabulous clothing is any girl’s dream job. What I hate – and perhaps the only thing I do hate – is being a start-up I double up as IT support which is definitely not my forte!
How did you get to where you are today?
I studied at Central Saint Martins which gave me a great grounding in fabrics, fashion and fit. It also armed me with some great contacts which gave me a stepping stone into the industry. I had lots of shop assistant jobs when I was younger but my first real role was a placement at Mulberry down in Shepton Mallet – I was working with the accessories department and was in my element. From there I went to Jigsaw where I spent 10 years – I started there buying ribbons and zips and worked my way up to head of jerseywear – where I designed, bought and produced the entire range. It was such a fantastic place to work and I loved my time there.
What advice would you give someone trying to break into your industry?
Do your research thoroughly before you start – ensure there is a definite gap in the market for what you are offering. Speak to real people – not just your friends, colleagues or family but the consumers you hope to attract and find out what they want. We spent six months going up and down the country researching what women wanted from a fashion site. An idea only becomes great if there is enough demand for it.
What have you learned along the way?
So much. The importance of doing your research and analysis but also to have the courage of your convictions. The importance of teamwork but also to lead by example. That fashion is an emotional decision as much as a financial one that men will never understand!
Who inspires you?
My mum, she’s taught me to be my own person and go after my dreams – she’s a huge support and sounding board!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Talk to as many people as you can before embarking on your business – however senior or inaccessible they seem. I was amazed by how willing people are to give up their time to offer advice and help. Remember the worst they can say is no.
What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?
Getting home in time for bath time with my gorgeous son and then relaxing with a large glass of wine and my PJs.
We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance – how do you manage it?
I’m still trying to find that so called ‘balance’. It’s hugely important for me to spend quality time with my husband and our son – weekends are golden and we always go for a long family walk with our two-year old Border Terrier/terror. No phones. No emails. No social media – being able to switch off for a couple of hours and just enjoy being us.
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How would your colleagues describe you?
Hardworking but fun (hopefully)!
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Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.