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Lingerie boutique owner shares her powerful story

I love to interview inspirational women on my blog in the  hope that they will help other women take brave strides in their own lives.  I am delighted to share an interview with Sarah Connelly who set up a lingerie boutique called Odyssey after switching careers. It’s a tale about how a job loss which can seem gut-wrenching at the time can act as a catalyst for you to follow your dreams.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years

I’d peg my teenage self as a practical minded, studious, quite shy with a large dose of goof-ball thrown in. Always tall I towered over everyone. Thankfully my mum recognized my clumsiness early on and signed me up for ballet and dance classes and I like to think I’ve successfully worked the ‘ugly duckling to graceful swan’ with some elegance.

What was your first job? What did you learn from this?

I was desperate to have a job from such a young age. I started out crafting all sorts from home-made candles to selling the contents of my childhood book shelf to friends and neighbours. I’m amazed at what my parents let me do back then!

With a distinctive love of art I went on to study illustration at art school. So determined was I to work in Graphic Design that even when Art School didn’t work out (and ever the pragmatist) I found a new path into the creative industry via Printing and Project Management instead.

Over the years, ignoring the red flags that maybe this road wasn’t for me, I moved from agency to agency trying to find my place.

In fact I fit in to that industry the same as I fit my bras – badly.

I’d already been considering switching careers when one Friday afternoon I lost my job. Gut-wrenching at the time (and having literally just bought a new flat) I called the owner of a lingerie boutique I’d recently met and asked if she’d consider letting me help out. I started with her on the Monday morning. Fate definitely had a lot to do with catapulting me into a new career and landed me a job in a lingerie shop.

What led to you setting up your business?

Landing that first job in a lingerie boutique …I’d found my calling. I had a natural instinct for noticing subtle details that completely changed how a garment would feel on the body and how the woman wearing it wanted to feel but perhaps couldn’t articulate.

Though I loved my job there, I knew there was something more to it for me. Sub-consciously I’d been squirreling away ideas for how I might do things differently, I kept (and still do) a scrapbook – a lot like a visual journal – that I referenced often for inspiration and it was from there I spotted some patterns and my day-dreams turned into a business plan and a fully functioning business over the course of around five years.

Tell us about your business 

Originally my boutique, Odyssey, was launched to add elegance, sass, and a sweet-kick-in-the-pants to how women think about, shop for and feel in lingerie. From ‘every-day-undies’ to eye-popping-show-stopping sets. It was a place where I presented stylish and sensational collections cherry picked from the worlds most inspiring designers.

Now with over a decade of fitting & styling experience (and a clutch of awards), I do things a little differently. Stepping away from a traditional retail model I now work from a private studio where it is my pleasure to welcome women who want lingerie that feels special but who don’t want to waste time waiting around in busy stores or being underwhelmed at impersonal online shopping outlets either.

Instead, my signature one-to-one fitting service will find women lingerie that’s such a pleasure to wear they never want to take it off.

We start with a consultation, at my studio or via video call, to determine size and discuss all of her lingerie wants and needs; whether that’s a simple set for everyday or an extra special something for-one-night-only. Then, depending on my client’s desires, I’ll take her shopping locally or call in a hand-picked selection of pieces from my favorite designers.

There’s no sharing the fitting rooms, no waiting around half-undressed, or running back and forth to find the right size. Instead clients sip Champagne and try a personalised selection of styles they never dreamed would work (but that I know she’ll fall in love with).

What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?

Believing in yourself takes a shovel load of chutzpah. Personally having an arsenal of mentors on speed-dial (or Facebook) has been key; having someone to talk too and unravel thoughts and ideas is the best way to stop that downward spiral of doubt by taking action and making progress. I’ve just finished a book and training with one of my all time favourite mentors Marie Forleo; it’s called Everything is Figureoutable and delivers on actionable ways to make that a reality no matter what you’re facing.

Who supported you as you set up your business?

I started with a lot of support and planning via Business Gateway, got up and running thanks to bank funding and investment from friends and family, and have gotten through the past ten years with thanks to so many people. Setting up a business is the easy part – it’s how you keep going that really tests your limits and capabilities. I openly accept I avoided networking for most of the past decade – but talking to people is the only way you can share your ideas, values and spirit and it is that that will bring customers to your door.

If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?

Many, many books have been instrumental in inspiring me in business. Aside from Everything is Figureoutable mentioned above I can’t recommend Mike Michalowicz’s ‘Profit First’ highly enough.

If you could recommend ONE website to women, what would it be and why?

I’ve had to impose screen locks on my devices to ween me off my web-surfing habits. So perhaps rather than an actual website I’ll recommend the News Feed Eradicator extension to actually help you consume less content and take more action.

If you cannot visit Sarah’s lingerie boutique check out her tips for buying lingerie and getting it right first time.

 

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Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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