“…the long version is that it’s taken my whole life to get here.”
Do you ever have those moments when you’re so proud of a friend’s achievement, you feel like you might literally burst?
That was exactly how I felt late last year when I saw my friend Jennie’s venture come to fruition in the form of her new business, Lois Avery. If I recall correctly, there were tears were involved when I spoke to her on launch day!
Having been let in on the idea since the beginning, I know how hard she worked to get it off the ground and I felt privileged to witness her passion, enthusiasm and drive all the way along.
If you want to know exactly what that is, the best person to hear it from is Jennie herself! For the latest Online Style Chat, I caught up with this sunny whirlwind of a lady to talk all things cashmere, Italy and chasing distant dreams.
Grab a coffee and prepare to be inspired!
Oh and don’t forget to enter our cashmere giveaway at the end of this post. There’s a beautiful Animal Print Bengal Kitten shawl as featured in this post…and it’s looking for a loving home…
How did the idea for Lois Avery first come to you and what inspired you to act on it?
The short version is that I had a light bulb moment … in the bath … whilst getting ready for a dear friend’s 40th birthday party. We gave her a scarf. In that moment I realised how much I love scarves, and how significantly they feature in my memories. The long version is that it has taken my whole life to get here. I’ve certainly had ‘Lois Avery’ in my mind for years, I just didn’t know who or what she was.
I was unhappy in my job working as a city lawyer, but I never felt I had a viable alternative. Seeing friends do great things opened my eyes. To see Laura Turner set up the beautiful boutique, hero in Stockbridge and Maleeka Robb and her business partners set up the spectacular hair salon, Four in Mayfair gave me real impetus. Their bravery and the way in which they executed their ideas inspired me – every detail was true to their values.
What was the deciding factor/tipping point for leaving your lawyer role in the city and taking the leap into becoming a start up business?
After my light bulb moment I was pretty determined and committed. I immediately devoured business books and booked onto a couple of courses at The London College of Fashion. I didn’t have an end date for my legal career, but I think a year was always on my mind.
The tipping point was probably realising that my legal career just wasn’t right for my family or me. The commuting was wearing me out, and I was not the best version of myself for some time. There were also huge industry wide changes that had a fundamental impact on my line of work.
Given the conditions of my employment contract it was never going to be an option to carry on working as a lawyer and run a business. Once we launched that was it! I had a 3 month notice period and gave notice on 8 June 2016. We launched on my twins’ 6th birthday: 28 October 2016.
Images by: Carla Coulsen
Tell us about your passion for Italy and how this came about and do you have a favourite Italian destination, meal and drink?
I would like to say that it was love at first sight but that would be a lie! My first trip at 15 was a disaster – I actually flew home to my native Australia early! But second time 8 years later worked a charm … My broken-hearted self met up with my Dad and Stepmother in Rome for 3 days and I fell in love again, with Rome. It was like I finally woke up.
Destination: This is a hard one because I love so many places but it would definitely be somewhere with water and cliffs. It’s actually the moments I remember most: eating lunch at Conca Del Sogno in Nerano on the Amalfi Coast; making pasta (badly) on a farm outside Tropea in Calabria; seeing the best night sky ever from the terrace of Hotel Raya in Panarea. And then there’s Ponza …
Meal: Pasta with shellfish or courgettes or both followed by a scoop of gelato.
Drink: A glass of a white wine called “W … Dreams … … …” (it’s really spelled just like that!) from the Jermann vineyard
Describe your typical working day if there is such a thing?
Being the founder of Lois Avery is my dream job! My working day is so different from my past life – I have to wear a lot of different hats! As soon as I wake up I check my email for orders that have come in overnight and post our first Instagram photo of the day. It is so important that our customers have a new Lois Avery image to see during their morning commute. Then it’s time for my other job as a mum. I do the school run each day. In good weather we walk or scoot (them not me) the 20 minute journey to school.
I am always at my desk by 9am. Dealing with orders is key of course, but there is lots more to be done. Tackling my inbox each day is one of my biggest challenges. My diary is filled with appointments and meetings. One day I might be in a studio in North London styling a product shoot for our cashmere shawls and the next meeting with suppliers in their mills in Italy to discuss developing new products. I spend a lot of time building the connections between Lois Avery and the wider world. At the moment I am building relationships with lots of fashion bloggers who inspire me, and who I feel encompass the values of Lois Avery. You can see who they are on our Instagram feed!
I collect the children from school most days. I am lucky to be part of a great network of supportive mums – I always have someone to ask for help if I get stuck in a meeting or the trains fail me!
Once the kids are in bed I am mindful that I need time with my husband. I would like to say that I switch off at 5pm, but the reality of a small business owner is that there is always work to be done … I am still refining that precious work life balance.
What are you most proud of so far on your Lois Avery cashmere journey?
The emails I receive from customers saying how much they love their cashmere mean more to me than anything else.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Juggling a working life and motherhood is always challenging and I strive to do it better.
On our busiest day to date the website crashed due to an issue with the platform, it was awful and completely out of my hands. I still feel that I let people down that day.
Images by Marlene Lee
What would be your one piece of advice to anyone thinking of making the change and starting their own business?
If you really believe in your idea then get started! Be hungry to learn: buy a book, Google all aspects of your idea, and ask someone in that field to have coffee with you …
Maintaining inspiration is so important and can be hard at times, especially if you don’t have a business partner. Seek out likeminded people who will help you to maintain that inspiration. Instagram is a great place to start as it’s so easy to connect with people who have similar interests.
Start building your social media world – all businesses need an online presence even if they are a bricks and mortar project.
Above all, be authentic and true to yourself and your values.
Where do you look for inspiration, ideas and motivation?
What are your hopes and dreams for Lois Avery this year?
I hope to grow the brand, and that more and more people will find us and love our cashmere.
We have had a lot of interest from Australia, and as an Australian, this makes me very proud and I really want to explore opportunities there further.
Sum up Lois Avery cashmere in three words!
Romantic. Dreamy. Timeless.
And there you have it – proof, if ever proof were needed, that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and start chasing that dream – especially when it involves Italian cashmere!
The Lois Avery Cashmere Giveaway!
If you’d like to enter this Lois Avery cashmere giveaway and win an Animal Print Bengal Kitten shawl as featured here, it couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is follow Lois Avery on Instagram and leave a comment on this blog post before midnight GMT on Thursday 2 February 2017. As simple as that!
Good luck and may the best cashmere lover win!
T&C’s: The competition is open to both UK and International entrants. Please note that there is no cash alternative to the prize.