Well you’ve read Nisha’s inspirational story on how it all started and now it’s my turn to tell you how exactly my journey began and hopefully inspire any Mum reading this that you really can “Have it all”.
My career dates back to the late 80’s when I literally fell into retail management. I’d been working in the most fashionable store in my hometown of Bedford (Next!) as a Saturday girl and after finishing college they offered me a Full-time job. I absolutely loved my work and gave it 100% which all paid off when my Manager was sacked and I was asked to take over the running of the store…at the tender age of 18!! There was no turning back and I knew this was my calling. The bright lights of London beckoned in the early 90’s and I found myself managing the Contemporary ladies department in Harvey Nichols..I was 23 and in my eyes i’d hit the big time! Cool staff, celebrity customers and the most amazing wardrobe after many a staff sale…but after 3 years it was time to move on to greater things.
At the height of my career I worked as Retail Director for a French fashion label based in Bond Street and I was having the time of my life, I had great friends who I’d meet for cocktails after work (Cosmopolitan Nisha?) and my old colleague Dean from Harvey Nichols came back into my life and we got married (:
Life went crazy over the next few years as we welcomed our Son, then Daughter into the world and looking back I can see how hard I struggled to keep all the plates spinning with my high pressured job and young family. I was determined to continue working full-time in the job I had worked so hard to secure, but I could tell that attitudes at work had changed now I no longer took my work home.
It was almost a relief when Dean got a job in the Middle East in 2006 as I naively thought my working life would be easier in Kuwait as we would have a nanny to look after our young kids and no more commuting. Boy was I wrong! I moved out of retail management into a training role which was much easier in terms of the more regular working hours, but it was still full-time and I felt so guilty not being able to pick up my kids from school and only getting back to do bedtime and weekends.
That all changed after 5 and a half years in the desert when we found ourselves coming back to the UK …and back to my hometown! With Dean doing the commute into London and the kids now both at school, I thought about the ideal job that would fit around my family and (dare I ask)… love to do. I put a call in to Nisha to ask for her help and advice and I was blown away by what she suggested I do…was this too good to be true?
What happened next…
So there I was, asking Nisha how on earth I could find a job that would fit around my family and (my ego getting involved here) reflect all the years I had put into my career. Looking around I was seeing just how limited the availability of ‘Mum friendly’ jobs there were and more importantly, how many talented Mums were earning the minimum wage just so they could pick up and drop off their kids.
This is when Nisha told me that I should do what she does; become a Personal Stylist in my local area and fit in clients around my schedule. Well, as you can imagine I thought of all the reasons it wouldn’t work such as “But I’m not in London anymore” and “I’m a Mum now, I’m not sure if I could style anyone that’s not like me” and “How would I get clients”…but Nisha sorted all that out when she said she’d train me on everything she knew.
So there we were, all her old notes from when she’d started out and me with my notebook and pen… Nisha taught me everything she knew…and I loved every minute of it. As the days and weeks went by whilst I tried out my new found knowledge on family and friends, the penny dropped…together we’d built the foundations on every course you need to learn as a Personal Stylist. So, it was then a case of refining, testing and showcasing our training courses and as a partnership we launched Style ME Training Academy.
We were (and still are!) excited that we had stripped back all the fluff that so many Academies insist is relevant on teaching (it’s not!) and written courses that were easy to follow and affordable. That first year in the Academy was so much fun and gave us an opportunity to gain feedback from all our delegates and the confidence to launch our ONE WEEK intensive course for anyone wishing to join Nisha and I to become a Style ME Stylist.
There have been many highs (getting approached to work with fashion retailers) and lows (remember the course we held in Euston anyone?!) but we’re still smiling and hopefully proof that you really can ‘Have it all’ ?
Mary Ann x