Chloe Macintosh on founding design brand MADE.com

Chloe Macintosh is one of the most inspirational, and stylish, businesswomen in the country right now. She’s the co-founder of Made.com, a site selling designer furniture at affordable prices. 

Chloe grew up in Paris where she studied to become an architect, but she now lives in Fulham with her banker husband and her two little boys. A passionate supporter of women in business, we just had to speak to Chloe and get some career tips.

Here she tells List for Life how she started her company and she gives her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. You won’t want to miss this!

Image Credit: MADE.com

Image Credit: MADE.com

1. Talk me through your career journey so far

I grew up in Paris and spent my childhood trawling flea markets across France for objets and antiques for my Mother’s shop in Les Puces. Later I studied architecture in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts before doing an internship at Foster and Partners in London. After 2 months at the practice I was offered a full time job which sounded like an incredible opportunity, but I was however still in my fourth year and had 3 more years to go.

Following discussions with my school, I convinced them that it was worth trying this out. I ended up moving and it was very challenging but I graduated with honours 3 years later with 3 years of practical experience which was invaluable.

The creative industry is not particularly good at preparing students for professional life and in particular binding creative and commercial skills together. I was lucky to get exposed to the real world years before I graduated and this proved extremely valuable as I built my career.

I was the youngest associate in the firm and led projects all around the world. When I left Foster and Partners after 9 years and having been made a partner, I was introduced to Brent Hoberman who was looking for design professionals to join his new online venture Mydeco.com. I didn’t know anything about the internet and had no experience in this area. Brent was very keen to get me on board and I had to make a decision very quickly so decided to leave my job with one of the biggest architects in the world to take on this new challenge. I don’t know why I did it and can definitely relate to the gut feeling expression. My family did not take it very well…

Three years later, I felt I was ready to create my own company and with Brent’s support and direction, we came up with the idea for Made.com which took inspiration from a french business. Brent, myself and my two other co-founders launched Made.com in 2010 with the bold ambition to create good design that could be accessible to all.

2. Why did you decide to start MADE.com?

I really wanted to have a change of direction and get more personally involved with a business that I could create from scratch. I don’t think that you need to do the same thing your whole life. Changing careers has been a very positive way to grow my knowledge base and keep objectivity. Moving into the tech industry from architecture with no knowledge or experience was tough, but it worked, and in this industry, succeeding is not all about prior skill. It’s about taking the opportunities, looking at things from a different angle and disruption, which I also think is aligned with my personality.

3. What would your advice be to aspiring, young entrepreneurs?

Your determination needs to be bullet-proof but adaptability is at the core of success. You need to be extremely resilient to what others are thinking and how they might try and influence you, while also being able to recognise and understand when your idea has to adapt to meet market needs.

There are 2 quotes which have followed me around all these years:

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.’ (Darwin)

‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’ (Einstein)

It’s important to find your motto and stick with it once it has proven to be aligned with your ways of thinking/working.

4. What do you wear to work?

Between getting the kids up, ready, fed and to school, I have had to elaborate an easy and fit-all-purpose-dress code that requires minimum thinking and adapts to all situations. I have meetings, workshops, site visits and events all mixed up in one day, so I usually wear strait tailored jeans, a neat shirt and a blazer. I have multiple versions of each of these items. I bring heels in my bag if i have to go out after work and otherwise wear loafers of brogues. I actually rarely wear dresses or skirts. But ultimately who cares what I wear at work? Imagine asking a men that question!

5. Do you feel that women in business have a tougher time than men? Do you have any stories of experiencing sexism?

My experience with being a women in business is that you need to use it to your advantage the same way you would approach your other skill sets. I am French and was raised by a single mother with my sister. I never thought that men and women should be treated differently and even if it is often the case and it’s unfair, I built a career based on hard work and respect, and I got that back from the people around me. It was not easy to be a woman in the architecture world, it was a little more so when I joined the tech sector.

What you have to remember is that because you are a women, men often lower their guards as less ego is involved, and this means that a lot of good decisions can be made. It’s important not to hide your femininity but embrace it and reassert that you are a woman, this is how we will make things evolve, not by hiding behind grey suits!

I came to the UK 3 times a minority: woman, immigrant and entrepreneur and all I see is opportunities. I have had my share of bad experiences but I certainly don’t think it has stopped me getting to where I am today. I have also found some great supporters and in particular my mentor Brent Hoberman who offered me a job in his new startup when I was pregnant.

Being a women comes with its challenges but it also offers huge opportunities. I however, could have not have done this without the help and support of my husband Alastair who makes it possible by sharing 50/50 on all aspects of our family life. Sadly he somehow never gets asked how he manages a demanding full time job as well as raising a family!

Now what?