Taking time out to do an MBA helped Graziashop.com’s operations director break into the fashion business.
What does your typical week involve?
Now the dust has settled after the launch of Graziashop.com in November, I’ve been getting to grips with the everyday running of the company. As part of the five-strong London-based management team, I work to bring structure to everything we do.
It’s a varied role, with an assortment of challenges given the complex operational requirements of the business. Much of this is due to our ‘drop-ship’ model, meaning we ship direct from the brands and boutiques we work with, which differ in size, structure and location. Some are in the UK and others in Italy.
Over the last few months my focus has been on developing and overseeing our key operations such as our partner on-boarding programme, which involves adding new brand and boutique partners to the website. It includes everything from contract negotiations and product integration to training on order fulfilment and stock management. I also oversee our in-house order and customer service procedures, as well as packaging distribution at
our London headquarters, and am responsible for ongoing partner management.
What task are you most looking forward to today?
I’m looking to streamline our partner programme. Now our launch has taken place it’s a good time to look back on where improvements and efficiencies can be made.
How did you get to where you are today?
I began working for advertising firm JWT London in 2004 as an international account co-ordinator. Next I moved to BBH Global, another London ad agency, as account manager, eventually becoming account director. Working for these agencies was challenging, exciting and fast-paced.
However, after five years I wanted a change of direction towards the business side of fashion, an area I’ve always been interested in, but was unsure how to make the leap. In 2009, I undertook an MBA at Copenhagen Business School to give me the knowledge, experience and training I was looking for. CBS was a leftfield choice in some respects, but it worked for me as I wanted the chance to be able to throw myself into it with
Following the MBA, I was introduced to Tina Lake, creator and chief executive of London-Boutiques.com, and joined her in 2011 as retail and operations manager. I was able to offer the structure, operational experience and business training required to balance the editorial, buying and creative skills already in place. In 2013 I was appointed retail and operations director.
In May 2014 London-Boutiques was acquired by Mondadori - Italy’s largest publisher and owner of Grazia magazine - to facilitate Graziashop’s launch. In November 2014 London-Boutiques was closed and Graziashop launched.
What has been your career highlight?
The last 12 months has to be up there with two major highlights, namely the acquisition of London-Boutiques and the launch of Graziashop. In just two years we took London-Boutiques from a start-up to a rising player in the market, securing more than £1m of investment from a mix of seed funding, private investment firm Venrex and individual backers, which was used to grow the business to the point of acquisition.
The launch of Graziashop has been a steep and exciting learning curve due to the scale of what was required in a limited time, a relatively complex business model and the sensitivities of launching under a globally established brand. I’m proud of what we have achieved so far.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be? My degree in History of Art and Architectural History was more of a passion project than a vocational course. If I could take that decision again, I’d have considered a more vocational pathway, such as a combined business and fashion degree, and looked to explore the operational side of fashion earlier in my career.
Who is your mentor?
My father Ken Vere Nicoll, a businessman specialising in venture capital and corporate finance, for his unwavering support coupled with fantastic advice. And Tina Lake, the founder of London-Boutiques, whose dogged determination, with a ‘cup half full’, anything is possible mentality, is hugely inspiring.
What’s the best advice they’ve given you?
My father always told me Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Tina that no door is ever closed.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Understanding how business fits together is vital and I found taking some time out to do an MBA helped me to change career direction, as well
as setting me apart from my peers. Also, understanding the minutiae, like the intricacies of each partner’s contract, is just as important as taking a larger view of the strategic landscape.
As a fashion etailer, how do you see the future progressing?
In the immediate future, curated aggregation will continue to be the direction for online - offering the consumer the opportunity to shop all corners of the globe, choosing from a mix of international, national, established and upcoming brands. Providing a secure shopping experience for the customer and access to the market for brands is key. The lines between retail, publishing, marketing and content will continue to merge and blur, while product personalisation will gain momentum, focus and development.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
In another life, I would like to have been a womenswear designer. I have no training in this whatsoever, but I love clothes, fabrics and the idea of creating beautiful pieces.
- Salaries for this role range from £90,000 to £130,000 (estimate by The Di Bridges Partnership)
2014 Operations director, Graziashop.com, London
2013 Retail and operations director, London-Boutiques.com
2012 Retail and operations manager, London-Boutiques.com, London
2009 MBA, Copenhagen Business School
2007 Account director, BBH Global
2006 Account manager, BBH Global, London
2006 International account manager, JWT London
2004 Account co-ordinator, JWT London
2003 BA (Hons) History of Art and Architectural History and Theory, Newcastle University