Caroline Stanbury is the founder and CEO of Gift Library, a luxury e-tailer that basically takes the hard work out of choosing the perfect gift with its personal shopping service. We met up with her to get her top tips on setting up your own business.
Describe your typical working day.
‘There is no such thing as a typical day at work when you run your own business! From meetings and events to picking new products and monitoring the smooth running of the website, two days are never the same. I’m in and out of the office all the time – the hectic nature of my job is what I love most about it.’
Who inspires you?
‘When launching Gift-Library.com I certainly sought advice from friends such as Brent Hoberman and Arnaud Massenet, but in terms of having a role model, it has been much more down to trial and error rather than someone guiding me. I learnt the ropes one step at a time, through my own mistakes and successes – at the end of the day no one holds your hand in business.’
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Don’t rush through life, take your time and don’t try to be a jack of all trades.’
How did you get to where you are today?
‘I left school at 18 and went straight to work, first as a stylist and then as a personal shopper. After gaining years of experience in the retail industry, and having built up a large and loyal clientele list and personal connections with designers and artisans across the globe, I realized there was a huge gap in the market for online luxury gifting. I launched Gift-Library.com in 2008, and haven’t looked back since. Being self taught, the entire experience has been a real learning curve for me, but I’m so proud of what has been achieved and how much the business has grown in the past five years that I wouldn’t change a thing.’
Did you have any set backs along the way?
‘Yes lots, I had two companies that folded, and another one where I fell out with my business partner and left.’
Tell us your five-year goal.
‘My ultimate goal with Gift Library is to go stateside and take on America. I’ve set my sights high but I think that’s the best attitude to have if you want to thrive and grow.’
What advice would you give someone trying to break into your industry?
‘Think it through – it’s a long hard road and the internet does not guarantee success. It’s vital to make your point of difference when launching yourself into the retail industry. You must stand out from the crowd in everything you do, and whatever you think you need financially – triple it!’
What skills do you look for in new employees?
‘They must be enthusiastic and have a go-getting nature to them – I never look through CVs, it’s the person and the passion I’m most drawn to. After all I always lied in my CV when I was younger, so I think it’s always best to judge the person over the piece of paper!’
Which career achievement are you most proud of?
‘Launching Gift-Library.com, surviving the recession, and then buying The Wedding Shop this summer was definitely one of the proudest moments of my career so far. I’m so excited about this integration, making it over, and turning it into a global success.’
We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance – how do you manage it?
‘With three young children and a husband it’s extremely important for me to have a good work and life balance. I put my foot down when it comes to leaving work on time so that I can put my kids to bed and have some down time at home. Work is so important to me but I couldn’t survive without leaving myself space in the day to see friends and family.’
What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?
‘Get in the bath, light a candle and watch Homeland – I’m obsessed!’
How would your colleagues describe you?
‘Mad, fun, crazy, loud and a little bit loopy!’
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