I have so much respect for women who are creative enough to put an outfit together and look amazing.
And even more respect for women like Lucy Knights of BORN AT DAWN, who uses this creativity to not only put these outfits together but curate a whole store of clothes that women, like me, want to buy.
Me? I’d struggle to dress myself even if I had the entire womenswear floor of Selfridges st my disposal. No word of a lie, pretty much all the clothes I wear are all born of other peoples’ outfits I see on Instagram: I screen-grab my favourites and keep them in a special folder, ready to access each morning when I’m panicking over my wardrobe. If my favourite clothes curators knew how many photographs there are of themselves saved on my iPhone there’d be more than one raised eyebrow.
I first met Lucy last summer as she was hosting a pop-up BORN AT DAWN store at my friend Hayley’s studio. She’s one of those women you immediately feel warm towards; wearing the most incredible outfit of something floaty and leopard-print (and looking amazing in it!) she chatted me through her collection and I walked away with a beautiful Samsoe & Samsoe dress that soon became a summer and winter staple (do check out the sale, there are some wonderful pieces, and read to the bottom for a money off code).
I wanted to chat to Lucy about her background at Harrods and how she came to run the most stylish small business I know. Read on to find out more about her journey…
You have amazing style so it’s never been any wonder to me that you run a fashion business! What was your career background before BORN AT DAWN?
My first ever job was in a womenswear boutique aged 16 and looking back that’s where my love affair with retail started. I thought I’d hit the jackpot surrounded by clothes, getting great staff discount and being in the exciting, buzzy atmosphere of a busy store. For those of you that remember it- it was at the shop MORGAN when it was at the height of its popularity in the late 90s so let’s just saw some of the memories of outfits I spent my staff discount on make me smile these daysJ
Following my A-Levels, I went to University in Sheffield and studied Business then came to London to do a Retail Management Graduate Scheme. I then was a manager at GAPs flagship Oxford Street store, then I was incredibly lucky to be offered a job at Harrods where I spent 8 years working my way up, driving their womenswear sales and strategy. I then had my two daughters and went back in-between but following the birth of my second, I started planning BORN AT DAWN.
BORN AT DAWN is a really interesting brand name, where did it come from?
I loved the name BORN AT DAWN as it represents new beginnings, the start of a new day but it actually has multifaceted meanings to me.
Firstly, and most importantly, I wanted the website to bring busy women an exciting new way to shop but it also had personal meaning as it was a new beginning for me as an entrepreneur.
I actually stumbled across it on a google tangent when brainstorming and it’s the meaning behind my name. “Lucy” means light, being born at dawn. Plus, weirdly both my children were born at dawn in the morning so I felt it was meant to be.
You have to be brave and follow your gut but make sure you really know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, for sure. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would look but I knew deep down it was my end career goal-to do my own thing. My Dad has had his own business for years so is a huge inspiration. I have always looked at career opportunities in terms of whether I would enjoy them and what they could bring me for the future rather than just climbing the ladder.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m often on my computer working from home or a café, or I could be knee deep in deliveries sorting stock, packing orders, hosting an event or pop up, travelling abroad for a trade show or attending buying appointments which I love. Or worst of all- I could be sorting out my accounts!
Every day is different which actually I found hard to get used to at first after years of working for a big company and having more of a corporate routine. As I work at home a lot, I found it tough to make that switch between work and home which comes so automatically when you enter a workplace- your work time is much more defined when you work for someone else and there is always something more you could be doing when it’s your own business. I worked many nights and weekends the first year or so which is something I am trying to stop doing as much these days as I’ve had times that I’ve definitely felt burnt-out.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone embarking on their own business journey?
You have to be brave and follow your gut but make sure you really know yourself and your strengths/ weaknesses so you can get help in the areas you are not so good at in order to succeed.
Who inspires you in the world of business?
Someone who is really inspiring me at the moment is Molly Gunn, Founder of The FMLY Store. I heard her talk recently on Holly Tucker’s “Conversation of Inspiration” and at a Mothers Meetings event and she is a true role model in driving a successful business, getting great PR and brand awareness and giving back with all the money she raises for charity.
Hayley Southwood, Founder of Southwood Stores and Southwood Social Hub is another constant inspiration throughout my journey setting up BORN AT DAWN. She is so positive and supportive to so many other entrepreneurial women and her energy and drive is infectious. I love how she is always coming up with new ideas and pivoting her business.
What’s next for Born at Dawn?
We’ve got some great new pieces coming in for SS19 so I’m looking forward to the new season ahead and getting out there and hosting some shopping events in Spring.
I’m also launching a new consultancy branch of the business next year to support other entrepreneurs planning their retail sales and strategy. I often get ad hoc meeting requests and emails with questions and I love helping others so I want to dedicate more time to this and share the knowledge I’ve gained through my retail career and start-up journey so far.
I’m excited about the new chapter ahead!