Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fashion but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Louisa Gabriel, Founder, and CEO of The Style Academy International, located in Lowell, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Style Academy International is an online training school that offers those wishing to start a career in personal styling an affordable and achievable alternative to traditional fashion schools. We offer the most comprehensive online certificate program in Personal Styling that allows students to work at their own pace while learning the fundamental skills to work in the styling industry and run their own business. Our courses are available worldwide, bringing the opportunity for our students to enter a career in styling without geographical limitations.
In addition to providing skills training in personal styling, we also offer industry-focused business training, resources, and specialized coaching to help Personal Stylists, Image Consultants, and Style Coaches to create and grow successful and highly profitable businesses. Our students are primarily females aged between 25-45 from over 50 countries around the world with varied cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. They all share a passion for fashion and are looking to create a personal styling business that will allow them to leave their 9-5 behind and have more freedom and flexibility in their lives.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in a small town in the north of England and moved to the U.S after graduating from university with a degree in psychology and business. Being an entrepreneur was not my first career, and for over 16 years, I worked in non-profit operations management and communications. Like many people, I found myself becoming burnt out working long hours in a high-pressure corporate environment, and receiving a life-altering brain tumor diagnosis in 2009 gave me the wake-up call that I needed to follow a new path and a new passion. In 2010, I started my own personal styling business while still working my corporate job to pay the bills. As my business began to grow and started to generate a steady income, I left my 9-5 behind and became a full-time business owner.
My own experience of building a personal styling business led to me starting The Style Academy International in 2017. As I grew my business, it became apparent that there was limited training and support for people wanting to become personal stylists. The only options were a four-year fashion degree which was expensive and not necessary, and industry-specific training that was only available in major cities such as LA, New York, and London. In addition to the limited availability of skills training, there was also a lack of training and resources that focused on the business side of personal styling. Even with my years of experience in business operations and communications, I found myself struggling to grow my business, and at times it became overwhelming trying to figure things out on my own, even with a lot of help from Google. I started The Style Academy International so that other personal stylists could benefit from my knowledge and experience and have a place to access the training and resources they need to start their own businesses. Providing these training and resources online removed the geographical limitations imposed by existing in-person schools and opened the door for a new generation of personal stylists regardless of where they live. (Additional info if needed – Underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2011. Fully resected and no reoccurrence to date.)
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I've always taken the approach in my business that every step forward I make is an accomplishment, so it's hard to identify one that I would say is the biggest. Hitting 6-figures for the first time was a champagne popping moment. But the things that I'm proud of the most and that continue to motivate me are the successes of my students and coaching clients. To see them take what they've learned and grown successful personal styling businesses is just the most amazing feeling. Knowing that my training and support have empowered them to follow their dreams and change their lives is probably my biggest accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things about being a business owner is being able to switch off. This was especially hard for me in the first few years, and I would find myself working late into the night on weekends and thinking I needed to answer every email regardless of the time of day or night. I felt like I could never switch off from business mode, and I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do or how I could make it more successful. It took a long time for me to realize that switching off and taking time for me was important for my business and that I needed to schedule self-care just like I would a meeting. It's something that I constantly remind myself of so I don't burn out.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The quicker you find your niche, the quicker your business will grow, so get laser-focused as soon as possible. Don't try to be the business for everyone, or you'll end up being the business for no one.
- Ignore what your competitors are doing and create your own unique identity. Doing the same thing as everyone else will make you blend in, and in business, you need to stand out.
- Schedule time for self-care and learn how to switch off! Your business won't fail if you don't respond to an email at 11 pm, but it will fail if you burn out. So, make self-care a priority and learn to switch off.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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