We chat to British designer Sophie Belinda, who started her own clothing business straight out of university after finishing her degree.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I did a fashion degree at Birmingham University for three years. From then I knew that I wanted to set up my own business so I got in contact with the Prince’s Trust and they helped me with funding and with general business start-up help.
How much did they help you with?
They helped me with two thousand pounds. So obviously this is a loan not a grant so I have to pay it back on a monthly basis. We also have monthly meetings to see how the business is doing and what I can improve on, which benefits me greatly from the business and financial side of things. After two years it starts to fade out once they know that I am doing alright. For me personally, I find this really helpful. They must be pleased with me as they have brought me back to talk to new people about it.
Did you always know you wanted to be in fashion?
Always. Ever since I was in primary school, I have been known to cut up my mum’s cushions and always doing sketches and little doodles. If it wasn’t going to be fashion it was going to be interior or just something really creative.
What is your dream?
To take it further, to have a proper shop. I would love to have my own bridal and evening wear shop with a bespoke section.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
There is always a challenge, there is always something that gets thrown my way. My biggest challenge perhaps, has been with difficult clients and when things get a little quieter money can be hard too but I also have a part time job as a backup.
How long have you been running your business?
I have been running for three years now, straight out of university. While I was in my final year in uni I got in touch with the Prince’s Trust.
What advice would you give to young people that want to get into business straight out of university? Would you recommend it?
Yes, but you really need to have the skills and passion for it in order to be able to face the bad days.
What do you love most about your business?
The thing I love the most is when a bride takes a dress away with some shoes and is totally over the moon with it. When she sends me pictures it brings tears to my eyes! It’s lovely to see people happy for something I have done for them. And obviously designing it, I love the whole process.
How do people get to know about you?
It used to be through social media, Facebook, yell.com and my website. But now that I have been doing it for a few years it has been more through word of mouth and recommendation.“You really need to have the skills and passion for it in order to be able to face the bad days.” – Sophie Belinda Tweet This!
Can you rely on word of mouth?
Not a hundred percent. I also use craft fayres and wedding fayres such as the Cheltenham Park Wedding Fayre and the Vintage Fayre in Gloucester which also help to promote the business.
What do you dislike the most about your business?
Having to be a grown up and do grown up things such as admin.
What scares you about your business?
The competition. There is a lot of competition in Cheltenham.
Do you feel intimidated because of your age?
I do because people can look at me and think that because I am twenty three I haven’t got much experience.
What excites you the most about your business?
Meeting clients and getting new ideas from customers that are looking for something different. When people want something bespoke, I believe is because they want something that they can’t just find off the rail in a normal bridal shop.
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