As a self-employed business woman, I decided to surround myself with positive, motivated and inspiring people. So I started a monthly networking group called 'Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business'. To encourage and motivate us I interview inspirational and creative business women, and so far I have picked the brains of Bernie Dexter, Angelique Houtkamp, Michelle Ward, Maureen Jann, Hayley Southwood, Rebecca McWattie and Jess Purser.
This time I had the joy of picking the brains of Tara Scott , the gorgeous lady behind Tara Starlet, a vintage inspired fashion range which not only produces awesome clothing for us retro ladies, but also has responsible ethics (all of the clothing is made in the London, and often includes upcycled vintage elements). Finally a way to buy new clothing but still get some ethical brownie points. Tara Starlet has also made it into Topshop in Oxford Street, which is surely a dream come true for so many SMEs (Small and Medium Businesses). Wow, surely inspirational.
ReeRee Rockette: Where did the idea for Tara Starlet come from?
Tara Scott: My mum was making one dress, an original 1940s pattern, in end-of-roll fabrics and selling them under her name Joanne Scott London at Portabello and Spitalfields markets. I was helping her run the stall and it was going really well. One day, at Spitz, we were approached by the buyer for Topshop. She loved the dresses but thought they would be too old for Topshop, so she suggested that we create another 'daughter' brand using my name, so we did!
ReeRee Rockette: What was the biggest challenge when you started out, and how did you overcome it?
Tara Scott: The biggest challenge was my mum's health, the day the collection launched in Topshop mum got diagnosed with Leukemia. It meant that she really needed my help running the business and I had to take on a lot more responsibility than was originally planned. I had just finished my A levels and was about to go straight to uni. I decided to defer for a year to help look after mum and run the business. This business has been a strange force that has bound us together as a team as we battled through the highs and lows together.
ReeRee Rockette: Have you had to learn any business lessons along the way?
Tara Scott: Yes, I have become quite business savvy at a very young age. Probably growing up around my mum at the markets, always working hard to earn a good honest living, has given me a real respect for hard work and a determination to achieve.
ReeRee Rockette: Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Tara Scott: I wanted to be an actress! This business kind of just fell into my lap, but it is the best thing that could have happened for me. I really see it as my calling now and I am watching myself grow and flourish into a competent and successful business woman, which makes me very proud.
ReeRee Rockette: What advice would you offer to other women running their own businesses?
Tara Scott: Connect and network with other business women and support other women who could benefit from your expertise. It is very easy for women to become competitive with each other, but that is a tactic that has been put in place to disable us. When we work together we can make the most amazing things happen!
ReeRee Rockette: You're stocked in Topshop - firstly congratulations! and secondly, did that alter any of your business practices? Did it pose any challenges?
Tara Scott: When we first started to branch out into wholesale and our own retail, it did cause problems because the sizing in Topshop is very limited. We always produced size 6-12 and sometimes 14 in order to meet their demands, but since branching out we have changed our sizing to 8-14 and often 16. The other problem it has caused it that there is quite a demand on keeping our price points low which means that we make very little profit because our production costs are so high due to our manufacturing ethics. However, these glitches are minor and well worth the support and exposure of being in such a high profile store.
ReeRee Rockette: Who or what inspires you? Are you inspired creatively or in a business sense too?
Tara Scott: First and foremost my mum inspires me. Creatively we are both of course inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. Business-wise I am inspired by women like Sam Roddick and Safia Minney for their ability to run successful retail businesses and use that platform to support and facilitate social and environmental change, they have created totally new business models that put to shame businesses that are solely about profit.
ReeRee Rockette: What have you been most proud of?
Tara Scott: One of my most proud moments was being accepted to show at London Fashion Week in the Estethica exhibition. Getting the thumbs up by Estethica meant that Tara Starlet was really recognised as an ethical business. This affirmation felt really good. It can be difficult in ethical fashion to feel like you are doing enough (and there is always more to do and strive towards), and because we don't import fairtrade products or buy new organic cotton, we don't have any certification to prove we are an ethical business. So it was very important to get that nod of approval from such a high profile institution to recognise how we are running an ethical business in our own way.
ReeRee Rockette: How has your life changed since starting Tara Starlet? How long has it taken to get where you are today?
Tara Scott: It has been 6 years since Tara Starlet was first created, we have been online for 2 and a bit years. Without this business we would have really struggled through my mums illness, because all of our income came from market trading. Tara Starlet has given us financial stability for the first time in my life and allows me to pursue my other interests which involve campaigning for workers rights and women's rights, working for an international peace charity and helping to run my local WI. These all contribute to a good quality of life.
ReeRee Rockette: What is the goal for Tara Starlet? Where would you like it to take you?
Tara Scott: My ultimate dream for Tara Starlet is to be making the garments using organic cotton, adorned with beautiful 40s and 50s surface designs, printed ourselves with ecological dyes. As well as using British wool and locally produced buttons etc. and still continuing to use waste fabrics. I would love to also source and use more genuine vintage materials. However, all these changes would mean a steep increase in our prices so I'm not in any crazy rush to start implementing them yet! Practically, I would love our offices to run on solar power and our cars to be electric. I am interested in working out how I can use my business to support charitable projects, I hope to get this implemented quite soon.
I hope you agree that the story of Tara Starlet is a great inspiration; Tara is running a successful vintage-inspired business, and has balanced joining the high street while keeping her strong ethical values a key message in her brand.