Career Code: How to Build Your Own Business From Scratch
In honour of Who What Wear co-founders, Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, releasing their latest book The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career (£12), this month we're zeroing in on you and your working life. To further your horizons we'll be investigating everything from how to kick-start that blogging career you've been secretly harbouring to getting your workwear wardrobe in check.
But now, for those of you who experience a perpetually nagging feeling that you want to action a career 180 and entirely re-route your path in order to build your own business, our chat with Anna Laub, the founder of luxury resort-wear label Prism, may help set you on your way. Her accessories and clothing are stocked worldwide and have become a mainstay of the A-list holiday wardrobe, but it's good to remember that her stellar business came from a small golden nugget of an idea: The former fashion editor was fed up with squinting at the catwalk and not being able to buy stylish opticals—in 2009 she did something about it.
Keep reading to see what the industry-adored Anna has to say—and you'll no doubt feel inspired to take note, as much as you'll want to shop from the label's new spring drop…
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Who What Wear UK: What prompted you to set up Prism?
Anna Laub: I was an editor and I couldn’t find any optical glasses I liked. I felt there wasn’t anything fashionable but understated, something that I felt comfortable wearing every day. So I decided to do it myself.
WWW UK: Were there any particular areas of setting up your own business that you knew about already?
AL: I had an idea about the industry I was setting up in—not much about the optical industry but about the fashion industry. And I knew the stores I wanted to work with and also was very clear on the press and marketing and branding side of things because I was coming from the other side of it as a journalist, but [I knew] nothing about setting up my own business!
WWW UK: What did you have to research or investigate to get started?
AL: I had to do a lot of research. I didn’t know anything about the optical industry. I didn’t even have any contacts for production. So first off I had to find a factory to make the glasses and then understand how glasses were made: the processes, the acetates, the lenses, how it all worked, design the packaging, understand logistics…
WWW UK: Did you turn to anyone in particular for advice?
AL: I asked questions to as many people as I could, but right at the beginning I just got on and did it. I made my samples and went out there. Then when it came to things like working out selling seasons or pricing, I asked as many questions as possible to sales agents and buyers. I had to just work things out mainly on my own, trying to research and meet the right people in the industry who could help.
WWW UK: You obviously had a very clear vision from the get-go. Do you think that is a vital part of yours, or anyone's, success?
AL: I believe that to succeed, especially in fashion, as it is such a competitive industry, you need to have a very clear understanding of your brand and a very clear vision. Also a very clear USP (unique selling point)—and preferably one that it is entirely different to anything or anyone else on the market. And then also a very clear understanding of who your customer is too, pushing product on people who don’t want it won't work.
WWW UK: When did it feel like the right time to make the next big step in your business? And how did you go about it?
AL: I have always done things very organically and very instinctively, perhaps I should have had a moment when I though Hmm now is the right time to make the next big step, but normally I make that step without knowing, and then about a year later I realise that it was quite a big deal. From my perspective, sometimes if you think things through too much you would never do them!
WWW UK: Have you taken many risks along the way? I think I have.
AL: Starting the business in the first place was a risk. And then every time I moved into a new category there was a risk. Opening a shop was a risk. But again, I think only looking back now do they seem “risks.” At the time, they just felt like very natural, organic, instinctual moves.
WWW UK: What is the most enjoyable thing about your day to day work?
AL: I love what I do. I love designing and coming up with new ideas and building something and collaborating with interesting people. I find it very fulfilling. It is also that all the hard work, time and decision-making you put in comes straight back out at you.
WWW UK: What would you say is the least enjoyable element?
AL: The admin of running a business! It's so boring but totally unavoidable!
WWW UK: Do you have any little mantras or sayings that you remind yourself of?
AL: Never ignore your instinct.
WWW UK: Finally, what advice would you give to anyone looking to set up their own business?
AL: At the beginning, I always think it’s best to do other work on the side at the same time if you can, so you don’t put too much pressure on the business when it’s a start-up to make money—the beginning bit is the most important branding-wise etc., and you don’t want to rush it or make decisions for your business with the wrong goals in mind. Making a good business takes time! Also, if you’ve got a good idea, get on and do it. Don’t think about it too much! So many people have great ideas, but very few people actually follow through with them.
Shop Prism's new pieces in the gallery below…