Inspirational Women: Katie Halford (What Katie Did)

As a self-employed business woman, I choose to surround myself with positive, motivated and inspiring people. So I started a networking group called 'Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business'. I also interview inspirational and creative business women, and I have picked the brains of Bernie DexterAngelique HoutkampMichelle WardTara ScottKat Williams and many more! They remind us that great things can happen!

Katie Halford is the 'Katie' in What Katie Did, the world's leaders in faux vintage lingerie, which has been feautured in places such as Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, W, The Sunday Times and many more. Surely the dream of many a small business!

ReeRee Rockette: Can you tell us about the history of What Katie Did? What did you do before? How did you start the journey?

Katie Halford: I started my career at Skin Two, a fetish store (and magazine) which was based just up the road from our current boutique. It was there that I was introduced to fully fashioned stockings and steel boned corsets. All of the girls there were really into vintage lingerie - this was in the mid '90s, years before it became fashionable - and I was introduced into a whole new world of longline bras and girdles. Whole mornings would be wasted discussing the merits of Wolford Opaque Devilles! When the Skin Two showroom I was left without an affordable source of seamed stockings so decided to set up a little website which allowed me to buy at wholesale. At the beginning the plan was really just for the site to pay for my expensive stocking habit, but very gradually it took off.

ReeRee: What was the biggest challenge in starting your own business?

Katie: The biggest challenge on starting up was money. I didn't have any! I literally put £100 on my credit card for my first stocking order (the minimum amount I could order at wholesale prices) and built a little website myself. I can remember the artist Vince Ray offering to design me a logo for virtually nothing but I just didn't have the money! That's why What Katie Did has taken so long to grow. I've never borrowed any money (apart from having a scary amount on credit cards 6 or 7 years ago!) and all growth has come from reinvesting any profits. The first few years were incredibly hard for the first 4 years I really wasn't earning enough to live on and had started to wonder if it was all worth it.

ReeRee: What advice would you give to other women who want to run their own businesses? 

Katie: 1. Get on with it! There is no perfect time to start a business. Things will never get any easier. When I started WKD I spoke to my Dad and he said that I wasn't married, didn't have kids or a mortgage and it was probably the only time I could start a business without having to worry about anyone else.

2. Put your life on hold. Expect to have no social life for the first 18 months. For the first year doing WKD I was temping full time during the week. doing mail order before and after my temp job and working at my shop in Camden market at the weekends. It wasn't easy!

3. Be persistant. Keep going! Things will be tough but don't give up. I wasn't planning to temp when I started WKD but immediately realised I wasn't earning enough money. Read as much as you can about business, network with other small business owners an keep going.

ReeRee: Have you made any mistakes along the way?

Katie: I make mistakes all the time, hopefully I get away with most of them! If you try new things you're going to make mistakes so you just need to move on. One of the shocking things we had was a stockist go under a couple of years ago owing us £8,000 - with the courts not able to do much about it. We don't really give credit for wholesale accounts any more, it taught us a valuable lesson!

ReeRee: What have been your most proud moments?

Katie: Obviously there are all the celebs that wear WKD - I get really excited about our press coverage. I'm also very proud of the WKD team - everyone works extremely hard and really cares about what they're doing.

ReeRee: What is your average day like?

Katie: I tend to work 9-5. Most days I'm in the office, and most of my time is spent doing boring stuff! I do all the marketing and web updates which takes a lot of time. Design tends to be kept to evenings and weekends - as it's 'fun' I still don't class it as work and feel bad doing it doing it during working hours! I spend a month or so a year developing  on new designs in our factory which is probably my favourite part of my job. I get up to our London shop about 3 times a month to catch up with what's going on up there, and for the next few months will be spending 1 week a month in LA at our Hollywood store.

ReeRee - What do you hope the future will  bring for What Katie Did?

Katie: I have no idea! When I started WKD my aim was for the turnover to reach just below the VAT registration limit (£60,000 per year at that time) so I could simply earn a good living for myself. I certainly had no idea we'd ever open a store in LA ! Technology is moving so fast these days doors are continually opening that we never knew existed, so your guess for the future of WKD is as good as mine!

Katie's journey really inspires me, her brand is really going from strength to strength. to browse more lovely lingerie...

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