Each week, Jo Glynn-Smith interviews a successful woman to find out how she made it to the top, and gets tips on maintaining a successful work-life balance. This week, she meets Harriet Cleverly, the founder of Cleverly Wrapped.
Describe your role
“I am the founder of Cleverly Wrapped, a multi-brand scarf boutique. I’m passionate about scarves and love what they can add to your wardrobe.”
Describe your career path
“After university, I worked for Harrods, Gap (when I left, I was the UK head of operations) and the White Company, where I was head of retail and opened the brand’s first shops.”
What has been the most positive surprise to you in your career?
“Since setting up in business, I have been overwhelmed by how much support I have had from friends and colleagues. Having worked for a long time, and having made lots of contacts, I’ve found it gratifying that so many of them have been prepared to put time aside to help me with my start-up. I am discovering a real sense of community, rather than competition, within the entrepreneurial world. For example, I have received help from the founder of Sofa.com, one of the private-equity funders to Evans Cycles, and from a PR consultant who gave me a great contact with one of the nationals. No one has asked for anything in return – they all have been genuinely interested in my business and my success.”
What has been the most difficult surprise to you in your career?
“Because everyone does so much online shopping now, you would think that it’s a seller’s market: it should be easy to set up a website and see the product fly off the shelves. The reality is that online selling is hard: the competition is cut-throat, the conversions are low and driving traffic to the site is so much more difficult than I initially anticipated.
One thing we have learnt about is the extraordinary power of social media, which has proved to be a cost-effective (and fun) way of getting new customers to the site.”
Which skill do you think has been most critical for your success to date?
“People would say I am organised and driven, but when I reflect on the different roles I have had, I think the single most important ingredient of success has been my ability to work with, and get the best out of, other people. In my early days of running stores for Gap, my forte lay in building strong teams. At Cleverly Wrapped, where I am the only full-time employee, the success of the business today can mostly be attributed to the relationships I have built with my team: in particular, Matt and Nina, from Toy Heart Studio, and Justine Kirby, my photographer. This is as important, if not more so, than the long hours I spend myself knitting it all together.”
What’s changing in your industry that excites you?
“The speed at which social media is growing as a marketing tool is unbelievable. Generating fantastic and far-reaching coverage for my business, by having and executing innovative ideas, is so much quicker and more accessible than it was in the days of more traditional media.”
What advice would you give to someone just coming in to your industry now?
“If it’s an online fashion business, I would be very wary of sizing issues. You can get really stitched up by returns and by the amount of stock you have to hold when things come in sizes. That’s been the beauty of scarves: they’re not sized, so they’re easy to gift and buy for yourself.”
What would you like someone to invent to make your life easier?
“Every scarf that we dispatch has to be beautifully wrapped in tissue, stickers, a box and a perfectly tied ribbon. If there were a machine that could do this, it would make life a lot easier.”
If you could spend your time doing anything you wanted, what would you do?
“At the moment I don’t have a dream like this. I feel this is my time to focus on myself as a businesswoman and to make my start-up a success. Other than looking after my family, this – more than anything else – is what motivates me in the morning.
In the future, I would love to disappear with my husband for a prolonged period of travelling, but that would be once the kids are older. I know I would enjoy it a lot more if I had a successful business at home.”
What does your dream property look like and where would it be?
“It would have to be a modern beach house with a massive balcony. Good weather, great walking and surfing for the kids would be essential.”
What’s your favourite…
…way to entertain clients and colleagues?
“In an ideal world, I would take people out to lunch, which is my favourite time of day to go somewhere special. I took my team to Balthazar in Covent Garden last year and we had a brilliant time.”
…sport to watch?
“It would always be Wimbledon for me. I was lucky enough to be there for the final in 2013, when Andy Murray won. It was a magical moment.”
…form of exercise?
“Anything that is outside and doesn’t involve a gym or a class. Walking, running, tennis and skiing are all favourites.”
…accessories for work?
“On buying trips, it is essential to have a comfortable pair of pumps or trainers, an enormous handbag, access to the Uber app and a large cashmere scarf that works on a plane as a wrap and by day for warmth.”
“I have worn Stella by Stella McCartney for years. I love to scent the Cleverly Wrapped studio with fresh flowers and a Diptyque candle.”
…work travel destination?
“This year, I’ve been to Paris and Hong Kong for buying trips. Next year, I hope to go to Copenhagen: it leads the way in scarf trends and the prices are good too.”
…tickets for you and a friend on a Thursday night?
“I was very jealous when my best friend went to see Adele at the O2 last week.”
What’s been your proudest achievement?
“When we lived in Hong Kong, I founded a charity, Box of Hope, with my friend Nicole Woolhouse. It distributes gift boxes to underprivileged children at Christmas-time.”