One of the side-benefits of building my own business has been the opportunity to meet extraordinary female entrepreneurs. From TED Women to the Red Women of the Year awards, I have been continually inspired and energised by what these women achieve. With that in mind, I am starting a new strand on LLG: A Day in the Life, to give an idea of how these women run their businesses & their lives.
First up is the owner of one of London’s best independent mini-retail empires, the indefatigable Donna Ida Thornton. She opened the first Donna Ida boutique in Chelsea in October 2006, and the brand has subsequently grown to include three more boutiques, & an online store. (She gave me such a wonderful insight into her world that I have split it into two parts.)
“I’m Donna Ida Thornton…if you know me…you’ll know I’m the owner of denim boutique Donna Ida: Jean Queen, Twitter addict, high heel wearing woman-on-the-go…Everyone thinks my job is über glamorous and it definitely has its days, but the key skills I actually need are stamina and perseverance.
So: Here’s a typical day in my world
My day starts at 5am Monday to Friday. The night before I’d been to dinner with a friend and he’d ordered every dish on the menu which I proceeded to march through as if I was at the Last Supper. Still feeling bloated that morning, I pulled on my favourite Nobody Cult Skinnies and had a small disconcerting moment when they were REALLY tight around my waist. My waist is the resolutely skinny part of my body (save for wrists) so when the waist let me down, the brow furrowed. I managed to waddle out of the house but sitting in the car I knew I couldn’t bear an hour driving so constricted, so releasing the top button and zip, I drove off feeling a million dollars. First stop for me is always Starbucks, where I pushed the car seat back, laid down to force myself back into my jeans, and rather stiffly got out to pick up my Grande Black Americano.
Every day is an email nightmare for me. When I first started Donna Ida, I couldn’t wait for people to start coming to me instead of me constantly knocking on doors and now I can’t switch them off — they pour in. I’m even replying to email during the night if I wake up, just to try to stem the flow and reduce the load. So first thing is an hour uninterrupted at my desk trying to tame the email beast while I simultaneously log onto our bank account and start managing the cash flow. The rule that Tamara Mellon lives by, and something I always adhere to, is always have more coming in than you do going out.
By 8am the office is filling up. We have seven full time staff members at head office and two or three part timers depending on what’s going onm and I find it hard to concentrate without total silence. I fill a Post-It note with the most urgent things I need to get done that day and prepare to leave my desk at 9am. My To Do list will never be done; I’ve got over that fact and try now to just plough through as much as possible in one day and keep everything steaming along. Businesses are like sharks — if they stop moving they die, so constant forward trajectory is key.
I have meetings with journalists at 9am, 10am and 11am. I’ve become friendly with quite a few over the years, but always love meeting new people. I talk them through the Donna Ida boutique concept and they all love it. A shop that only sells jeans or things that go with jeans? No dresses, skirts, distractions? No, just jeans! And speaking of jeans, mine have loosened up. A couple of hours of bouncing around and they’re like a second skin and last night’s dinner seems to have evaporated.
Part Two on Tuesday!