The March Series - Sophie Westley
TO CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY THIS YEAR, WE INTERVIEWED SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE CREATIVE BUSINESS WOMEN TO #PRESSFORPROGRESS. EACH WEEK FOR THE MONTH OF MARCH, WE WILL BE POSTING A NEW INTERVIEW TO CREATE THE MARCH SERIES, TALKING TO EACH OF THESE INSPIRING WOMEN ABOUT THEIR JOURNEY CREATING THEIR OWN RIPPLES IN CREATIVE BUSINESS.
WE INTERVIEWED SOPHIE WESTLEY, A TALENTED CREATIVE WHO IS MAKING WAVES IN THE BRIDAL INDUSTRY IN LOVE FIND CO. SOPHIE HAS AN EYE FOR THE BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE AND EDITING DOWN THE ENDLESS OPTIONS THAT EXIST NOW IN THE FASHION SPACE, WITH A FOCUS ON HANDMADE, SPECIALITY PIECES. DRAWING FROM HER EXTENSIVE OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE OF THE BRIDAL MARKET, SOPHIE HAS AN EYE FOR THE PERFECT LOOK FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL AND IS THE ULTIMATE TASTEMAKER, ALL WITHOUT A HAIR OUT OF PLACE!
LILLI INTERVIEWED SOPHIE IN MOIRA HUGHES' BEAUTIFUL PADDINGTON STUDIO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HER JOURNEY AS A CREATIVE WOMAN IN BUSINESS.
LILLI : We're here today with the lovely Sophie from Love Find Co... Love Find Co?
SOPHIE : Yes! Everyone asks is it Love Find Co or Love Find 'Dot' Co, so it's Love Find Co and then the website is LoveFind.Co, I tired to be a bit cool haha
L : I love it! So we're going to have a chat with Sophie today about being a creative businesswoman in Sydney.
S : Thank you for having me today! We're in Moira Hughes' beautiful boutique in Paddington, where I work with a lot of designers, so it's a pleasure to chat with you today about the bridal industry.
L : So for anyone who maybe hasn't heard about what you do, can you give us your elevator pitch?
S : Sure! Love Find Co is an online styling business, we not only feature Australian designers, but we also have an online shop to compliment that. Essentially, we're a dress concierge, where you can refine your search. For example if you're in Sydney with a budget of $3000 and all the beautiful designers will pop up that we feel match your criteria and style, and you can directly get in touch with the designers and start your search!
L : So simplifying the daunting process of being a bride?
S : Exactly! And I also felt like there wasn't much out there for the 'cool' bride. You would pick up magazines and there were all these...
L : Boofy, princess dresses...
S : Exactly. So I wanted to curate an online platform for girls who are savvy decision makers, they could access more trend based bridal and accessories and it's become a one stop shop. They can choose their gown and then see accompanying accessories to complement their wedding day look.
L : So how did you start in the Bridal industry? Were you one of those girls who had a 'Bridal KeepBox' as a young girl?
S : Not really! But I feel like my aesthetic is quite feminine, so I've always loved the bridal atmosphere. In my last year of school I actually worked in a bridal boutique so that started the journey rolling! But I did originally study Fashion Design, and I worked at some great PR firms and magazines for a while, and I think I almost 'fell into' Bridal. I just love the aesthetic, I love that I could have a hand in portraying the beautiful femininity of women on their special day, but without being traditional. I bring a more fashion approach to bridal.
L : So let's get a bit more general - what are you most excited about in business right now?
S : Ohh, I'm loving that in bridal right now, there's no real set trend. There's a big fashion approach at the moment.
L : By fashion approach, you mean, there's no one thing, it's about what suits each individual?
S : Yes, and you're not limited to a strapless boofy dress. Girls are exploring jumpsuits, long sleeved and backless sequin gowns... Things they can wear afterwards. Even playing with colours, pinks, light blue, that's really coming into popularity at the moment.
L : That's my go-to for evening wear - long sleeves, high slit, backless. So easy to wear.
S : Defiantly!
L : So what was your first job out of university?
S : I worked at a PR firm, and also at a company called One Fine Day, an events company, as their Fashion Co-ordinator. So I managed all their events, runway shows and their fashion department. And I still work there part time, managing their International New York Bridal market. So it's been amazing to have grown with that role and to build on that relationship.
L : So what inspired you to go out on your own and create Love Find Co?
S : It's always been instilled in me, my Grandfather had a really successful business and my parents do as well, so I've always grown up around business. It was a no-brainer at the end of the day, it was always going to happen. I always took on freelance styling jobs throughout university and it's been about nailing down my speciality and running with it.
L : One of my mentors told me, whatever creative you think you are, you're never going to make a living off that unless you're also a businesswoman.
S : It's so true. My Grandfather who I look up to, he's such a strong businessman always taught me you do need to have a business approach. You're not doing a service for free. And you kind of can get taken advantage of, you can get taken for a ride if you don't stand up for yourself. You can say something in business and it's business, and that's seperate from personal relationships.
L : So when you first started out in business, the most intimidating thing is always money - not having a weekly pay check each week. Can you talk to us about the financials behind starting Love Find Co?
S : It was really important to me to be 100% self funded. I saved for the launch of my business, I set a budget for myself. But I was working full time when I first launched, just to make sure my business was on track, that there was a market for it. So I launched while I was working full time, it was crazy! I was working until midnight every night, every weekend, I basically put my life on hold for that period of time. But that allowed my to still have that full-time income and launch my business to a level where it was serious and making money.
L : Is there anything that's surprised you in the journey?
S : Defninely! I'm such a fast paced person, and the world of business has taught me to slow down and do it properly. Things don't happen overnight! Business has taught me to solely focus on one thing and do it right, and not get distracted looking around. It's also taught me to appreciate my time off! The ability to prioritise both working hard and having rejuvenating downtime. It's more sustainable and my business is so much better for it. It's a lot of work, and even my girlfriends ask me all the time, 'Why do you do it?'.
L : We all have to be a bit crazy in business, otherwise we wouldn't do it! I'm the same, it's the irony of working 80 hours a week to have something that's yours so I don't have to work 45 hours a week for someone else!
L : Whats one thing that you wish you knew how to do?
S : Speak French! My New Years Resolution is to learn French! Myself and my partner are learning each week and it keeps my brain interested.
L : Bien! So you're learning French, where's your next travel destination?
S : New York. I'm going over in about a month and a half (editors note: now!) for One Fine Day to see the New York Bridal Market to see all the upcoming trends.
L : This is a bit like choosing a favourite child, but who is your favourite designer?
S : Ohhhh! I have so many! I have different favourites for different styles! Probably Karen Willis Holmes who I used to work for. She's such a mentor for me, she's such a talented, grounded person. And Moira Hughes as well, the French laces she uses are so exquisite. Those two I have a very personal relationship with so I'd probably say those two.
L : What's your biggest 'pinch me' moment in business so far?
S : I always love when brides contact me and thank me for helping them achieve what they wanted for their day. And another one is last year when I was asked to talk about Bridal trends on The Today Show, I was so nervous!
L : What's your favourite piece from Moira's current collection?
S : The Marly is my favourite!
L : It's exciting to have someone who sits across everything. Rather than being specifically focused on each individual thing, the dress, the hair, the photos, the venue - you're across everything.
S : Yes definitely. Sometimes people get really focused on their own collection and it can be hard to see the bigger picture. I also run LFC which is a creative company that focuses on content creation in the Bridal Market. So I'm across everything.
L : Do you find it hard being a Sole Trader?
S : Yes, there's times when it's tricky. I do have to outsource a lot, and it's a fine balance between expanding my client list and expanding my staff. I'd love to get to the stage of working on the business instead of working in the business. So it's about letting go of control!
L : What are your favourite design trends at the moment?
S : Bell sleeves! That's something in fashion style that I'm loving. The other thing is bridal designers are starting to incorporate colours!
L : Where do you get your inspiration from?
S : Definitely Instagram and Pinterest. Personally from my website, I get a lot of traffic from Pinterest. But in terms of inspiration, I love fashion editorials and how the big magazines do their editorials. I also love quirky locations and colours in nature, my brain just goes crazy!
L : Amazing! Thank you so much for having us!
S : Thanks of much for featuring me!