Our motto is: Happiness is the greatest measure of success.
Heidi and Adèle is a new handbag and accessories brand started by childhood friends Heidi Carneau and Adèle Taylor. Their designs; inspired both by their Franco-British upbringing and their love of the unique are a combination of Parisian elegance and flirty London exuberance. Passionate about leather and uncompromising on the quality and finish of their creations, they have travelled the world to source the suppliers and manufacturers who share their dedication to produce exquisitely crafted products whilst upholding the values of ethical trading and sustainable sourcing. Eighteen months in, they have already designed and manufactured 5 capsule collections with materials sourced from all over the globe. Heidi and Adèle specialise in eco-exotic leather, a viable and sustainable alternative to more traditional and well-known exotic skins.
Using high quality supple leathers and incredibly vibrant eco exotic skins, Heidi and Adèle create inimitable pieces that fuse beauty with practicality – a spot of every day luxury for the relaxed, glamorous and confident woman.
Adèle Taylor has a history of working in small start-ups. After graduating from Kings College she ran the office for a French animation company in London before con-running a system integration business for 6 years.
Heidi Carneau qualified from the prestigious ESCP School in Paris and went on to work for Goldman Sachs for 7 years before starting Heidi and Adèle.
Where did the idea for using eco-exotic skin in Heidi and Adèle’s bags and accessories come from?
When we launched the brand Heidi and Adèle in September 2013 it was not just with the intention of creating a viable company. We wanted to create a lasting lifestyle business for ourselves that would provide us with constant stimulus and reasons to develop ourselves as individuals and entrepreneurs at least as much as to develop our products. To make this a reality we needed to find something that we passionately believe in to constantly drive us on and motivate us to succeed. Eco-exotic leather is a beautiful and sustainable alternative to more traditional exotic skins. It alleviates fashion’s need to harvest the skin of rare and endangered species using brutal practices at a high human and animal cost. Promoting eco-exotic leather and creating beautiful pieces with these skins has become that passion.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We both work from home, which is to say not together although we spend most of the day communicating via the phone or email. We have very complimentary skillsets and we have learned – admittedly with difficulty, to divide up the tasks. We start the day with a to-do list and we both work through ours individually although everything is vetted by the other once a task has been completed. This helps to give us structure and also to keep each other in the loop at all times.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are both naturally excitable and fearless. So, if we get an idea then we make it happen. The wonderful thing about creating a product is that you have something tangible to see at the end. We turn our ideas into samples and then refine them continually until we are happy with them. It’s an exhilarating process. It’s the Disney or Christmas morning syndrome every time we get a delivery from our factories.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The ‘green carpet’ and ‘sustainable fashion’ trend. As firm believers and supporters of ethical trade and sustainable sourcing, we are enthused by this emerging trend in fashion. Especially as it is endorsed by numerous celebrities that are very influential within the industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Lists, lists and more lists. Firstly it is essential to keep track of what needs to be done. In our case, aside from the manufacturing we do absolutely everything ourselves. This amounts to a pretty colossal amount of work and it is easy to forget certain things when everything appears more or less urgent. Secondly, being able to tick off completed tasks is very rewarding. And thirdly it provides us with a structure. If we were to sit down and abstractly think of everything we still need to do and achieve it would probably seem a little overwhelming. Itemising tasks makes them appear a lot more achievable.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Data inputting as a temp. How wonderful and essential it is to have to use one’s brain in a job. And that days can really feel like a lifetime.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
There are lots of things that we should do differently such as being better organised and not diverging our focus on things that we ended up not doing at all. We should have had a better idea of what we were trying to achieve and a working business plan. However when we started Heidi and Adèle we knew nothing about fashion or eco-exotic leather. This was a real adventure which we immersed ourselves into completely and we have learned from each and every one of our mistakes and digressions. We have discovered so many things by diving in head first which we probably wouldn’t have considered if we’d had a clear objective. So the head would give you a whole range of things to do differently and yet the heart says we’d not change a thing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Prioritise. Everything is not urgent or important. It sounds obvious but actually it’s very easy to get caught up in a spiral of adrenaline when you’re on the receiving end of 400 emails. That’s the time to take a deep breath, and go and make yourself a cup of tea. Give yourself five minutes and then sit back down and look at everything again with a calmer head and work out what needs to be done immediately and what can be put on hold for a while. Being an entrepreneur is challenging on numerous levels, these include among many others – not having anyone to delegate to (at least for a while), not having a fixed or pre-determined structure to work from and being responsible for each failure and success. The only way to make it work is to deal with things one at a time, methodically.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Our motto is: Happiness is the greatest measure of success. As we have mentioned, Heidi and Adèle was created as a long term lifestyle business, we are crafting it around our lives and our loves. Choosing to build on something we are passionate about, to develop as people, to be our brand and to do it because from it we get a sense of achievement and fulfilment is key. Happiness and passion is infectious and we exude it. We have been helped and guided by friends and mentors because they believe in our enthusiasm and in us just as much as they love our products. By getting people involved and making them also feel like they are a part of our journey we have extended our network and our reach all over the world.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we started the brand we both lived in London. Our days were spent together. We attended seminars and fairs and travelled all over the world to source our materials and suppliers and everything was new and amazing. Once that period was over and we were no longer living in the same city, when work became well – work and there was too much for us to do together we found things a little more difficult. We have been friends since primary school. We know each other inside and out and we have faith in each other and in our skillset. But we were used to micromanaging everything. We were clear on who was better at certain tasks but we still weren’t good at dividing them up. We wasted a lot of time still trying to work on the same task together remotely, occasionally getting very frustrated with each other as well. Eventually we didn’t have an option. There really is too much to do and we have had to “let go” and focus on what we are individually good at. Aside from that being the more sensible and productive thing to do, we enjoy our specific sections better anyway so it’s a win-win!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Eurostar tickets to Paris! We’ve just come back from 5 days of private sales and meetings. We are part French and we would love to become a successful brand there as well, not to mention that we got to spend some quality time with a few close friends while we were there. Mixing business with pleasure and living by our motto.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We are very active on social media and use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to communicate about our latest products, events, promotions and press articles; they are great platforms to communicate visual and editorial content to a large crowd.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
We have always been huge fans of Terry Pratchett and in the wake of his death wish to recommend his novels. Why? They paint a fantasy world that has much more in common with our reality than you might think and pass subtle social messages shrouded in his inimitable wit. Not just a greatly entertaining read, but sound advice on how to improve yourself as an individual without any of the moralising guilt trip!
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Our passions are sustainable fashion and innovative thinking, we follow blogs and websites who put these ideas forward; such as Collectively, Triple Pundit, Ecolife and Ecouterre. There are many entrepreneurs out there who dream of a greener future and the more numbers grow the more of a difference can be made. We enjoy hearing about new ideas and also use this means to find like-minded partners for potential collaborations.
Heidi and Adèle on Twitter: @heidiandadele
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