How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? It actually took me some time to realise I wanted it more than something on the side. I had quite an established career as a PR and it wasn’t until I went freelance in 2010 that I was able to push that direction more and opportunities suddenly opened up.
Describe how difficult the business really is? The idea of a personal shopper/stylist in Australia is relatively new so it can be tough ‘selling’ the service. However things are changing with the likes of Westfield and other major shopping centres and retailers promoting the service, in addition to stylists like Gok Wan and Trinny & Susannah having their programs aired here. Retailers and consumers are beginning to understand how it can help them in such a short and profitable space of time but the hardest part is finding those clients who you can build a relationship with over time, they are the special ones.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? That once your name is your business everything you do must be for and present ‘your brand’. It may sound a bit cheesy but the moment you pick up the phone, meet someone or leave the house you are your business and you can’t let that slip. Cultivating a particular look or style is very important for personal shoppers/stylists, it can be difficult but at the end of the day you are selling your ‘knowledge’ through what you wear.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Just deal with it…closely followed by never pay full price.
In your mind, is formal training essential? No, not at all for a personal shopper/stylist – it’s a career based on intuitive creativity, communication skills and a love of problem solving.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Yes, there have been many times when I thought about having a mentor but never got around to it – just to help me see the bigger picture and get larger plans in action. I often think the best mentors work in a complementary industry but not the same, a women’s network like Business Chicks would be my first stop.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Get online and tell people about yourself. A personal shopper/stylist is just that ‘personal’ – no two personal shoppers are the same as are no two consumers and it’s all about finding the right fit.
What kept you going when you felt like giving up? I have to say that I’ve been very lucky as there has been a gradual build to my work as a personal shopper/stylist. Knowing that I did this job successfully in fashion capital London keeps me going.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Luck and being in the right place does exist but it relies heavily on impeccable networking, communication and relationship building skills. I really feel these skills help you widen your exposure to luck and opportunities.
To stay up to date with Ashleigh’s work and projects: www.sharmansays.blogspot.com