‘Work smarter, not harder’ Style Savvy’s Laura on business lessons

Having qualified as primary school teacher, StyleSavvy's Laura Jordan never imagined that her passion for fashion would ultimately result in a hugely popular business, piquing the interest of the press and public alike.

Now a highly successful style consultant, fashion presenter and personal shopper, Laura's journey from the classroom to the changing room was not without its challenges, but a genuine love for the job and a desire to reach people on a personal level means the StyleSavvy star is only in ascendence.

Here Laura recalls the moment she realised StyleSavvy had potential, the lessons she's learned along the way, and why The Devil Wears Prada rep has never sat well with her.

“Developing a business was never my plan which is the interesting part. I was a primary school teacher, happy out working away in that job, but I've always had an interest in fashion and shopping." she reveals as she chatted with SHEmazing

"And I soon learned I loved shopping for other people as much as for myself which was good news for my bank manager," 

“I went to the Institute of Design one summer. Obviously, as a teacher you have better holidays and more free time than you do in other jobs. I studied there one summer and ironically I now teach there so it’s come full circle. I loved it."

Laura didn't make any rash decision upon the completion of her course, saying: "I spent about a year, I suppose, deciding what exactly I’d do with that qualification, and I‘d go shopping with friends and friends of friends, and then it got to the point where I wanted to establish it as a business."

"It was not ever going to be just Laura going out shopping, I wanted a brand with it, but I always thought it would be a sideline," she explains.

"Many teachers have something else they do alongside their job, and I thought it would satisfy my interest and I would still have my normal job.”

She soon realised, however, that juggling both jobs was unrealistic.

“It grew and grew and I was trying to balance two things. I realised the challenge that was there at the start wasn’t there anymore, and I wanted to see if I could develop it, I just wanted to see where it could go."

"I went to the Enterprise Board, and that was a turning point for me. They have a business clinic, and they asked if I could come in the next day.”

Recalling the hours leading up to her appointment in the business clinic, Laura reveals that she poured her heart and soul into a plan to present the following day, saying: “I ended up staying up that whole night making a plan, making accounts to bring into them to show them I was serious. And they said it definitely had potential and I remember getting into my car and crying."

"I couldn’t believe other people could see potential in something I was only starting to see the potential in myself. And from then I took a break from school and haven’t gone back, and started pushing it full time.”

Considering the success of StyleSavvy, it's hard to believe that Laura's background in business is essentially non-existent.

"I don’t have a business degree. I have absolutely nothing. I have a genuine passion for making people feel good about themselves through the way they dress and their image and how they interact with other people. And that’s the reason I did it," she explains.

A steep learning curve, Laura saw the benefits of surrounding herself with people of varying skills, admitting: "I’ve always asked for help."

"You’ve got to surround yourself with people better than yourself. You need to put people who are better than you around you. Admit you don’t know how to do it, and you have to give control.” 

"The girl who ended up being my mentor was from the business clinic," Laura continues.

"She listened to my pitch, and I asked her would she mentor me and she would. We met regularly. She could be pretty blunt and she told me some hard truths but I’ll always be thankful for her."

Remarking on the initial day-to-day running of the business, Laura added: "I’ve literally had to learn how to use Excel. You learn pretty quick if you quote the wrong price. It’s been through trial and error. 80% of it has been myself with a calculator and trying to figure out."

And being a fully-fledged business owner means that Laura must accept that the standard workday no longer exists.

“For me, the downside of the job I do is that you can’t decide you’re working 9 to 5 and then turn off your phone."

"On average I work a 12-hour day because when you get home you have to look after social media. You have to be on when other people are off."

With a nod to her need to delegate and seek help, she adds: "I have someone who looks after my social now, I have learned that if I don’t take time off I get tired and sick and I can’t work.”

“I find it really, really hard to switch off. That is the biggest challenge of this job. It consumes you, it is like a child. It does take a significant toll on your social life and your personal life because you have to put work first."

"In this job, I do media work, present seminars, and a lot of shopping appointments. And I’m particularly conscious that with shopping appointments, this could be the woman’s treat for the year and I'm there to give her the best experience."

Admitting she rarely has an off-day, she adds: "I constantly feel pressure to represent the brand. It’s always in the back of your head. Just because of the nature of work that I do, girls are fascinated by it, and people will ask you about this, that and the other on nights out."

"I don’t have a typical day. My service levels are straddled over most areas, business, education or personal. You need organisational skill. You can’t afford to drop a ball.".

While StyleSavvy has received considerable praise since its launch, Laura acknowledges that her business is often subject to criticism.

"People say it’s an image-based analysis of a person. But you often see it changes the inside of a person. It boosts their confidence. It helps them push forward in other aspects of their life," she stresses.

And it sounds like this aspect of her job is undoubtedly the crux of the business – something Laura acknowledges when reflecting on client feedback.

"I get emails from clients who say you’ve changed your whole perspective on myself," she continues. "The shopping appointments aren’t lucrative, but it’s the foundation of my business. The core is working with clients."

And with a great reputation, satisfied customers, and strong client relationships, you'd be forgiven for thinking the face behind Style Savvy might be entitled to take her foot off the pedal for a moment or two, but that simply isn't an option.

"The higher you climb, the further you have to fall," Laura warns. "I don’t think any entrepreneur gets that feeling that ‘I’ve made it’. The pressure increases, but so does potential. You’ll never reach a plateau where you think 'I’ve made it'. You’re constantly striving. You see potential anywhere."

Having started StyleSavvy with little to no experience of the world of business, Laura is well aware that false starts are part and parcel of the journey.

"You have to remember you falter all the time, the same as everyone else, and I think that’s what makes businesswoman great."

"While we can be self-critical, it can stand to us in the long run. It works for us in business," she opines. "We’re shrewd enough to say I’m not sure if it’s working out and we need to change it. We’re great at self-reflection, we can be hard on ourselves, we all put pressure on ourselves, but that works for us in business. You can channel it positively."

"Occasionally women in business have a reputation for being tough and highly competitive. In the fashion industry I blame The Devil Wears Prada for that one. In business in general, women have a reputation that they’re tough hard and always stressed. It’s not the truth. Any I’ve met have been positive and encouraging and motivating."

And for the woman who hopes to launch her own business or make strides in her field?

Laura says: "It takes twice as long to get half as far. You do find you get impatient."

"Yes you have to push and struggle, but if you keep pushing it’s a reminder you need to take a step back and take a different approach. And always try your best to work smarter, not harder."