Entrepreneur and mother succeeds thanks to business networking
Astute new entrepreneur, and mother, Sharifah Rahman, launched fashion startup business - Camellia McQueen this year in response to a family crisis. Now, thanks to a lively and very active local business network, she now spends her days creating stylish accessories from her home in the heart of the Forest of Dean.
Sharifah talks candidly over coffee about life as a new business owner, a mother and her experience of relocating from Malaysia to the UK, revealing that she is an eternal student. “I am learning something new every day.” says Sharifah. She’s quiet and thoughtful, whilst being incredibly charming.
Bend: don’t break!
The family settled in England after her husband had to leave his high powered job overseas due to a sudden illness. So, Sharifah decided to take on the role of bread winner. However, the Forest of Dean isn’t renowned for its job opportunities, so she had to forge her own. Starting a business was the most logical response. Anyone can appreciate what a courageous step and huge achievement this is, especially after having been a full time mum for the past seven years.
Eureka moment: let’s make fashion fun for boys
Sharifah originally studied fashion design, and that’s where her passion lies. She had her eureka moment when she spotted a gap in the market. Women are spoilt for choice when it comes to dressing up, but men are sadly bereft in the accessory department. Sharifah wanted to inject some style and lots of fun in to her son’s wardrobe, but how?
Her very first product was born - the bowtie. “The bowties in the UK are too safe and boring. I wanted something funkier for my son.” She started experimenting with patterns, colour and fabrics to create her own original, high-end range. Her friends were quick to compliment her skills. So, she registered her business and started hatching her master plan.
Sharifah decided upon a methodical approach based on sound advice when launching Camellia McQueen. After spotting a local entrepreneur’s taster course, she embarked upon a steep learning curve and took the Forest of Dean Entrepreneurs Plus course. “This gave me the idea to expand my range to include men’s bowties, business card holders and purses.” It armed her with the necessary tools.
A supportive business network and mentoring = success
The course also convinced her of the power of quality business networking. Ideal for Sharifah, since it offered the opportunity for support from established local businesses as well as other new start-ups. By chance CAP Business Clubs founder, Paul James, was looking for an apprentice member following a suggestion from CAP member and photographer, Alison Ball, owner of Lemon Photographic. The two, inspired by the National Apprenticeships scheme, and supported by the other members offered “apprenticeship networking member” free to a new business for 6 months. A real cash saving and access to experience and knowledge for any new business can only be a good thing.
Paul James is passionate about the power of networking and seeing local business succeed. Indeed this is one of the main reasons he started the CAP Business Clubs in the stylish business ready offices suite above Coleford Library. “It’s just nice to help people and it makes me feel good,” says Paul. “Membership also gives Sharifah access to people within the group who are trustworthy and reliable, either as clients or suppliers.”
So pleased with the outcome of the scheme are all involved that Sharifah has no hesitation in joining as a full member after her apprenticeship ended and CAP Business Clubs are now looking for more new candidates.
Next stop, Etsy, NotontheHighstreet.com and beyond
Sharifah knows the power of good quality images in professional marketing online and Alison Ball of Lemon Photographic was already on hand to help her out with her product shots. She will now be looking at selling her products on the likes of Etsy and Not on the Highstreet.com as well as her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/camellia.mcqueen and her own website which will be launched. Online retailers can’t afford to have poor quality images and Sharifah needed to spend wisely to launch her business with limited finance. The support of other members and her own budgetary skills show her incredible ingenuity.
Camellia McQueen: the story behind the name
Camellia McQueen is an intriguing name, so how did she come up with this? Well, her favourite flower is the Camellia and she is inspired by fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. Her brand is stylish and fashion orientated. She made a conscious decision to avoid the ‘arts and crafts’ niche and pigeonholing her herself early on. Her ultimate goal is to design and make clothes for children, women and, perhaps, men.
Balancing business and family life
You’ll often hear business owners talk about their early starts. In fact, Sharifah has found this to be the key to success. “I am more creative and productive in the morning.” It is also a great way to balance work and family life. Juggling the two was difficult at first, but with help from her husband, she has established a solid routine.
Sharifah had always dreamed of running her own business and the support from CAP Business Clubs members has helped her achieve her goals. She advises anyone who’s considering launching their own startup to throw themselves wholeheartedly into networking. “It’s not as scary as you think.” says Sharifah. Her success speaks volumes for CAP’s own development of the Apprenticeship Scheme and, in turn, they have gained a valuable member.
For more information on CAP Business Clubs or to contact Paul James about apprentice members opportunities visit www.capbusinessclubs.co.uk
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