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‘My Marie Claire

Mentor Changed My Life’

Our campaign, in association Inspire & Mentor with the Prince’s Trust, offers with you a chance to be mentored by some of Britain’s most influential women. Here, three of last year’s readers reveal what happened next interviews by emma elms. Photographs by Jillian Edelstein

‘My mentor taught me to toughen up’ Lola Adeshigbin, 28, is founder of African fashion boutique agnesandlola.com. Her mentor was Sarah Walter, 45, founder of style-passport.com, an online boutique selling holiday clothes and beauty products. Sarah was formerly director of fashion communications at River Island. ‘Sarah has worked on Vogue and Marie Claire, so she was the perfect person to advise me on how to get featured in fashion magazines and how to appeal to my target market. To help me focus, she had me come up with a succinct, oneline statement summarising my brand; she explained that I needed to market myself in the right way to ensure everyone shared my vision. ‘Sarah also taught me to reject any designers who didn’t fit with my company ethos. She made me realise that I need to be tougher and clearer in my demands when I’m dealing with staff and suppliers. I’m naturally easy-going, so I rarely did this before. Since meeting her, my sales have increased and my products have been featured in two major glossy magazines.’

Three things I’ve learned n ‘Devise a one-sentence summary pinpointing what your brand is about and only stock things that meet those criteria. Consistency in both stock and pricing is key.’ n ‘Think long-term. Realistically, don’t expect to break even for three years and don’t expect to make a profit for five. In the first three years, focus on investing in the business.’ n ‘Stay business-minded. Be firm with staff and suppliers and communicate clearly what you need them to do and by when.’ Sarah says ‘Lola was full of ideas, but she lacked a coherent plan that made business sense. She needed help in clarifying her vision and strategy. She was receiving stock sporadically and her profit margins were all variable; now, she’s working towards more regular deliveries. ‘Becoming a mentor has made me realise how much I enjoy working with young women who have a passion.’         


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