When Louise Weigall first came to me for coaching (quite a few years ago now), she showed me a small folio of sketches she had done of her local neighbourhood. Her talent was amazing. And like so many of my creative clients, she was hesitant about sharing her work with the world.
It was clear to me from that first meeting that regardless of what she put her energy into, Louise would do it with kindness, style and grace. We spent our sessions working out the best option for a business she would love and one that would give her more time with her son.
It wasn’t long before Louise launched Style With Substance, offering styling and fashion advice to everyday women. She also began interviewing local makers for her blog and it was during this time that she discovered a need for the expertise she had garnered in her twenty years in the fashion industry.
Recently, Louise launched a workshop series and a coaching offering to support business owners who are starting out in the fashion and lifestyle space. I can’t think of anyone I’d love to work with more if I was about to develop a new product. Louise was kind enough to be interviewed for the blog and I think you’ll love learning more of her story here.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
Well, my business is currently in transition. I’m in the process of pivoting from Personal Styling, to Business mentoring in the area of product development. In meeting people at networking events, I found myself asking questions about their business and products, and generally asking how they were going. Executing a physical product idea via sampling and production can be a really challenging process, especially if it’s unfamiliar to you. Soon after the events, I’d find an email in my inbox saying ‘please help’. I’ve worked in the process from end-to-end for 15 years, so I could really empathise with the frustration or challenges someone was going through. And as much as I’ve enjoyed personal styling, I came to realise I was feeling more energised and stimulated when helping product businesses compared to the styling. So, I decided to change direction. Very easy to type that now, but it did cause me months of confusion to get to that answer!
What’s one thing you would do differently if you had your time over?
I look back and realise how naïve I was when I started. I’ve learnt SO much. I’d probably tell myself to not worry so much about what others think. I know I felt enormously nervous about this for a long time, especially about thoughts from peers. I consider myself a private person and wasn’t even on any social media before starting my business. But the longing to have a small business had been in me for 10 years, so I knew I had to push past those fears……that I later discovered were all of my own making anyway.
The feeling of confidence I now have because I’ve done things I didn’t think I could do has been huge.
And I also wish I’d started building an audience with a blog, or email newsletter much earlier. It’s all very well to have expertise and knowledge, but if no-one knows about it, they can’t buy from you.
Who are your role models?
It sounds cheesy, but my parents have been my role models for a long time. They’ve been married over 50 years and worked together as a team in business for 30 of them. My Dad started the business and loved his work, but I’m very aware it was my Mum’s sacrifice on her own career, that made it possible for my Dad to give so much time and energy to the business to make it successful. He only just retired last year at 74. Mum, on the other hand, is now doing what she couldn’t while raising a family. She’s the treasurer of her dog club, a dog trainer, and a very active member of the dog world.
Beyond my inner circle, I love the philosophies of Alain de Botton & Seth Godin, I admire Marni Goding, co-founder of Elk, and great communicators of all kinds, whether it’s through art, textiles, graphics, fashion, photography, speaking or words. I do also have a soft spot for quieter folk who are being heard in their own way in a noisy business world full of extroverts! I’d like to be one of these folks one day.
What are you looking forward to?
There are design trade shows for fashion & homewares coming up in the next month, and I do always love seeing what’s new. I’m also planning more product development workshops over the next couple of months. I ran the first one on Start-Up Essentials for Apparel Product a couple of months ago and it went really well. I’ll repeat this soon, and also create more on Sourcing, Production and Distribution.
On the family front, August is my son’s birthday and my parents always visit from Sydney for family celebrations. I set myself the challenge of making the cake which I think will be a Soccer Ball this year. He’s been glued to the world cup. I love baking, but haven’t ever made this shape before….that’s what Youtube’s for!
What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone wanting to go into their own start-up?
If you’re strongly drawn to it, I think it’s something you have to explore. But that doesn’t mean giving up your day job straight away. In terms of earning a living, and how you feel day to day while doing that, small business brings you to the extremes. From deep fulfilment to doubt. The journey of self-awareness and sitting with uncertainty is part of the course and you’re often a newbie wondering if you’re doing the right thing. If you find a tribe of biz buddies, it will make the journey so much more do-able.
I’d also say, if you need your business to be fully financially viable, you need to determine if your idea is a big enough problem that other people are willing to pay for. This has been a big a-ha moment for me, and one I didn’t address early enough with personal styling. It’s about the audience, it’s not about you. I do remember hearing a quote somewhere that ‘an entrepreneur is really good at knowing what other people want’.
What’s your purpose?
I’ve come to realise my purpose in my work is around helping to bridge the gap between creativity and commercialism. I had that moment where you join the dots as you look back on your past, and realised I’ve always been attracted to design and ideas with a commercial outcome, more than art for art’s sake.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the idea has to be expressed for the sake of expressing it. But I guess I find it fascinating to see how ideas are translated to a physical thing, the engineering of it so that it’s functional and beautiful and someone values it enough to exchange money for it.
Aside from the personal fulfilment, having flexibility around family life for my son at this stage is important to me. He’s in primary school now, but a few years ago, when he was under 5 in child care 4 days a week, I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own life. I had a pivotal moment one Sunday night, where I just cried and cried and couldn’t stop. It was only then I realised how stressed I was. I liked the work, but it was too full on and I knew it needed to change. That was the catalyst for figuring out how to live life more on my own terms. And Kate in fact played a big part in kick-starting the exploration of that change.