Want to one day own your own empire? Don’t we all. Well Kelly Hoppen’s career journey is one we can all be inspired by.
Kelly started working as an interior designer at the age of 16 (!) when she designed a family friend’s kitchen. She’s since worked on the interiors of A-listers’ homes everywhere, including the Beckhams.
As if that wasn’t all achievement enough, Kelly is also keen to give back. You’ll probably recognise her from being one of the Dragons on Dragons’ Den, where she supported numerous start-ups including Skinny Tan and Reviveaphone. She’s also an ambassador for the Britain is GREAT campaign, where she works with UK Trade & Investment, acting as a mentor for different businesses.
We chatted to Kelly about how she got to where she is, and it hasn’t been as smooth sailing as you might imagine! Read on to find out the secrets behind the success story.
1. How and why did you decide to start your own business?
I am not sure if it was ever a conscious decision I made. I started my business when I was 16 and from the moment it began I knew that I never wanted to work for anyone, I wanted to be my own boss. I got a great opportunity to design a family friends’ kitchen, and from there, my business grew by word of mouth and before I knew it I was in demand. Once I realised I was good at what I loved, everything fell into place and to officially start my company seemed the next logical step in my career. I haven’t looked back since.
2. What are the biggest challenges you faced when you were starting out?
I am severely dyslexic and as you can imagine there is a fair bit of reading, numbers and understanding needed to start your own company. Luckily I have a wonderful family who were on hand to help and was quickly supported by a great team as I started to hire my staff but it was certainly difficult at the beginning.
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3. What advice would you love to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself! So many people lack the confidence to push themselves, even though they are absolutely brilliant at what they do, or have an amazing passion or vision. My theory has always been if you don’t even believe in yourself, how do you ever expect anyone else to? Whether that be a potential client, a bank manager, an investor etc – they all need to feel as passionate and as excited by your business as you are. Determination and perseverance are also key. You are most definitely going to come up against problems and make mistakes but the important thing is to keep going. You make a mistake? That is fine, get over it, learn from it and keep going. It’s not easy but so worth it in the end!
4. Tell us about your involvement with the GREAT campaign. Why did you want to get involved?
I have been involved with GREAT Campaign now for some years and I am extremely proud to be a part of it. It is a brilliant platform to showcase amazing British talent in all fields. I have nearly 40 years experience in the industry so I wanted to be involved, as I absolutely love to support and encourage UK design and creativity. Mentoring is very important to me and to be able to help share my experience and advice with people to help them grow and expand globally is a brilliant feeling.
5. Have you ever experienced bullying or sexism? Do you think being a woman in the business world makes it more difficult and what would your advice be for overcoming this?
I was bullied quite terribly at school actually, which is why I like to work with the brilliant Anti Bullying Campaign Charity. It was really hard to deal with at the time but I suppose it helped to push me to become exactly what I wanted to be and that is great. I don’t think being a woman in the business works makes it more difficult at all, it is all about self-confidence and your skill set. If you are great at what you do, your sex shouldn’t affect how successful you are. Push yourself.