Today we caught up with Juliette Thomas to find out more about her business journey.
She’s grown her London based luxury interiors business (Juliette Interiors) into a high end retailer that offers something different and unique. You’ll find glamorous Italian furniture and interior design advice given in a non-stuffy, professional way.
You might have seen her on Dragon’s Den (she’s been on it twice), May the Best House Win and Millionaires Mansions.
Forward Ladies: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
JT: It wasn't an idea. It sprang from a difficult situation. Being a single mother raising four small children meant I was unable to go to work.
I had a fax, computer, phone and desk back in 2005. I just needed to provide for my children as best I could, so took my savings of £1,200 and purchased some small items that I listed on ebay.
I purchased stock as I went along, choosing things that I liked. Fast forward 12 years and my business is now on the King's Road employing 7 people.
I love working within the domestic interiors sector. It’s amazing to think it all happened by accident and because I love a challenge. Obviously, my business plans are now rather more structured!
Forward Ladies: What were some of the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
JT: The challenges were huge for me. Initially, I had to work during the night because I had a full time job as a mother during the day.
Financially, the bank would not loan to me as I had no previous business background, no experience of running any business or knowledge of the interiors business.
The second biggest challenge was to raise finance in 2011 to enable me to relocate my business to Chelsea or I faced losing it. This meant a 6 hour daily commute away from my children and risking all my assets (pension and house equity). And on top of that, I didn't even know the way to London in 2011!
Forward Ladies: How did you fund your business?
JT: Initially on my own with very small limited funds, and then through funding circle and my own assets in 2011 when I moved the business to London.
Forward Ladies: What is your top tip for growing your business?
JT: If you enjoy what you do, you’ll give the commitment, longevity of service and dedication that’s needed to be successful.
Forward Ladies: Why would you recommend that people build their network and find the support they need to start and grow their business?
JT: Building a network gives confidence to what you’re already doing or ideas not previously thought of.
The old saying “it’s who you know and not what you know” is absolutely true. Introduction by networking is a sure way to build a relationship with someone you previously would not have had the opportunity to meet.
When you connect with people in person, it’s easier to get across what you’re about and what you do. It’s impossible to get this close and get your message out to others over a digital network.
I’m now an avid supporter of young people just starting out as I remember how difficult it was.
Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
JT: That’s a tough one. For a working mother it’s a constant battle and always will be.
Women are built to feel the ‘guilt’ when trying to be a good mother and a successful business women.
To achieve a work/life balance it’s imperative to have both a business and personal backup network. Being highly organised on both sides is the only way, and you must decide where the work/life balance is mentally and what’s acceptable to you in order to stay sane.
Forward Ladies: How has mentorship made a difference in your business?
JT: Mentors are the backbone of my business and my personal life. I think it’s useful to have a personal mentor because this reflects back on to my business.
Sometimes a mentor can be a close family friend with no business experience but plenty of common sense, and sometimes it can be successful professional. Regardless, these mentors are vital.
Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Juliette, you’ve been great!
Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised, just like Juliette’s has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!