Alexa Mullane | Potion London
The point that you should start your own business is when you find yourself at work thinking ‘if it was up to me I would do this differently’. Some people are natural entrepreneurs from the word go and some people hop from job to job before making the leap. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way of going about it but I do believe that getting some experience under your belt first can be invaluable.
When I was young I wanted to be either an astronaut or a fashion designer. Unfortunately, the careers advisors at school discouraged me (the advice? “studying art is a waste of time and wanting to be an astronaut is unrealistic, but you could be an English teacher?” Excellent.) This was before the Internet was widely available (I know, I’m so old!) so without having the world at my fingertips to explore my options for myself, I trusted them, studied what they advised, and embarked upon my journey which led to a career in marketing. After university I worked at an advertising agency, then I moved to London to do marketing at a music festival company and finally I moved into fashion marketing. I loved my jobs and there were lots of perks (free tickets to music festivals, photoshoots in Paris, catwalk shows at London Fashion Week… actually why did I leave?!) but I always felt that nagging feeling that I could be working for myself.
"I felt frustrated by a lack of opportunities to move up the ladder and imagined what a difference I could make if I worked this hard for myself instead of being another cog in the machine."
Even though I knew I wanted to work for myself, I didn’t have a solid plan of what I wanted to do except that I wanted to be in the wellness, health or beauty industry as it was something I was personally interested in. I went to lots of entrepreneur panel talks and events and soaked up the advice from people who had tried and succeeded before me. The idea of Potion London was born out of listening to these people and constantly looking for opportunities everywhere I went.
Once I had my initial idea I did lots research and spoke to as many people as I could to make sure the idea was viable. I visited potential suppliers and contacted inspiring women in business to ask their advice; from CEOs of big companies to retail buyers and independent nutritionists, everyone agreed to meet me, and were so helpful and encouraging. It has really surprised me to discover how friendly and supportive people are when you ask for help.
After refining the idea, I then outsourced the things I couldn’t do myself from people I knew; my graphic designer, digital agency and printing company were all contacts I had made through previous jobs. It’s very important to have people around you that you trust and who understand you and your brand.
I pitched the brand and product range to Harvey Nichols, a luxury department store in the UK, and they bought it immediately as they felt it was the perfect fit for their brand and their customers. It’s really exciting to know that I have created something that people love and believe in as much as I do.
Now that I have launched I feel like the really hard work is only just beginning. Along with the day-to-day marketing of the brand, I am talking to other retailers and companies that align with my brand that I would like to work with in future. I am also planning some exciting collaborations and events and thinking about the future of the brand and planning new products to introduce. I have come far to launch the brand from scratch but now the pressure is on to sell the products and make the business a success.
While in some ways I regret not making the leap a lot earlier, I also appreciate that the industry experience I’ve gained, the business lessons I’ve learnt and the people I have met along the way have all contributed to me being where I am now. Steve Jobs said “you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Perhaps the careers advisors were right and even though I didn’t know it at the time, it was all part of the masterplan to get me where I am today.