- Spanish and Chinese
- Talking about
- Starting a business
From an early age Charlotte had a keen interest in fashion, poring over the pages of Vogue magazine and sketching ball gowns, “possibly influenced by Disney princesses!”, and always knew she wanted to have her own fashion brand.
At the age of 17 Charlotte was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. To overcome the negative effects this could, and did have, on her life she rejected her offer to read Classics at St Andrews at the last minute and decided to do something more creative that, literally, got her up in the morning: a college course in Fashion and Pattern Cutting at Hull College of Art and Design
However, “never being a person of any one specific discipline”, and advised by teachers to try something different and come back to fashion at a later stage, Charlotte decided to study BA Spanish and Chinese at the University of Leeds, encouraged by the direction of the consumer market in China.
During her year abroad in Beijing, having the knowledge of the Chinese language, and the confidence in which this gave her, Charlotte applied to the Condé Nast Center of Fashion & Design, from which she received an invitation to attend an interview during the Beijing Graduate Fashion Week. The outcome of the interview was that she was not quite ready at that time for the advanced fashion course but there would be a place for her after University once she had developed the technical skills.
During her studies at the Beijing Capital Normal University her fashion interests continued and Charlotte delved into menswear, designing a custom blazer and shirt for a friend to guarantee an impression at interview and sourcing a tailor to manufacture it while in Beijing, later working at Huntsman on Savile Row. On returning to Leeds, and being introduced to SPARK by a friend, she pitched her bespoke menswear businesses idea and was awarded an Enterprise Scholarship.
“SPARK were a tremendous help! For me, who didn’t have much of a business background past sales, I was given an introduction to many aspects of business - from contract law to how to perfect an elevator pitch - by industry professionals. For those who have a business background as well as for those who don’t, SPARK can provide a sufficient amount of help and advice relevant to whatever level people are at.
“Through SPARK, you can make industry contacts that I don’t think you’d make otherwise. They are there if you need help but also don’t add unnecessary pressure or chase you up on every small detail – which helps you develop self-discipline crucial to entrepreneurship.”
Charlotte has used some of the scholarship money for administrative expenses (website hosting, business cards etc) but will be using the majority for research and product development. She is currently investigating 3D printing of suits using ethically sourced materials – allowing bespoke items to be brought to the mass market by keeping the costs low, without compromising on sustainability.
As well as her degree and her textile research, Charlotte is also the treasurer of the Leeds Enterprise Society: “I recognised that I had a weakness and a lack of experience regarding the financial side of business so I decided to run for treasurer as I knew having accountancy skills would be really valuable in running my own business.”
Charlotte has also started a company invested in social enterprise: Motivatee, and a blog The Anxious Entrepreneur, aimed at breaking down the negative narrative surrounding mental health in business and donating a portion of profits to Leeds MIND. Having struggled herself with mental health and realising it’s not an uncommon issue, Charlotte thought “why is no one talking about this?!” and decided to start the conversation.
The online retail shop sells stationery and clothing, all designed by Charlotte, and hopes to expand into active wear to encourage positive habits in physical health
“During my time at University, meeting people who have pushed me forward – tutors, the SPARK team, friends who have provided support and encouraged me to embrace other interests in addition to my degree. This support combined with the opportunities offered, I have been able to turn my dreams into measurable, achievable goals.”