‘As a 20-something female, there were times when it was tough to convince people I knew best’ – Stylist Courtney Smith on Their Break
04th Jul 2018
With The Pitch, we’re backing business women that are shaping the working world. Women that defy the odds, that believe in their brand and that push their businesses to the top. As part of The Pitch, our partnership with Samsung, we’re shining a light on women who are inspiring others and how they got ‘Their Break’.
You may recognise Courtney Smith from her incredible street style snaps over on Instagram, but where she really shines is in her career. Working as a stylist; creative director; writer and presenter (got all that?), she has built a massive reputation for style in Ireland, working for a diverse portfolio of clients that includes Louis Vuitton, Brown Thomas, Tommy Hilfiger and Lipsy London. In Their Break, we chatted about misconceptions, the freelance life and glasses of red wine.
What was your big break?
I’ve always found it hard to define my “big break” because I still always think there is so much more to achieve. Every year, there seems to be a new stepping stone that helps me along the path to success. However, my first magazine print was when I was 21 years old (10 years ago) in U magazine and really after that, it spitballed slowly but surely. However, it wasn’t until year three in business that I felt financially or career ‘safe’.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Not particularly, but I knew I wanted to be a stylist and there are very few in-house positions here, so being freelance was the only real option for me. Also, I grew up with my dad being self-employed and working from home and I loved the freedom and flexibility I saw him have. But, on the flip side, I also knew how hard it was also going to be because I always remember my dad bringing his laptop on holidays with us and working into the evenings and weekends. You definitely need to be resilient and not afraid of hard work to make running your own business work. There’s no such thing as 9 to 5 and knowing when the next paycheck is coming isn’t always a given.
What have been your biggest challenges as a female entrepreneur?
I definitely found it hard to be taken seriously early on in my career; I looked very young and as a 20-something-year-old female, there were occasions where I would be in a boardroom pitching fashion campaigns to a room full of men (and/or women) in business suits who had been in the fashion retail industry for years and had always done their advertising and campaigns a certain way – and then I come in insisting on something totally different and telling them their brand needed to change with the times. There were times where it took a long time to convince them otherwise but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding and 80% of my clients are recurring and have been for the last 8 years. I like to think that I stick to my guns and know where my talents and strengths lies and that I can get a client to trust in my vision and my teams’s collaborative efforts.
Have you had doubts/ felt like quitting?
Absolutely. It can be a frustrating industry at times and I think it’s only human to feel doubtful and want to pack it all in! Everyone always assumes that, because I clearly love my job and enjoy my work, that there are no bad days but it’s far from the truth. Running your own business comes with enormous pressure and stress and the nature of what I do can be very seasonal – so there are quiet periods when you have to just get used to it and know that there is work coming along the line. But I am constantly grafting and pitching. And when I feel like quitting, I just give myself some breathing space; get a friend to give me a pep talk and learn to love what I do all over again by being as creative as possible on test shoots.
What piece of technology is your business most reliant on?
Definitely my Samsung phone. It’s a huge part of how I run my business – from the emails I send; keeping my diary; the images I take and of course, running my social media. I even have my new website launching soon which I can edit via an app on my phone.
What have you found the most rewarding aspect of setting up your styling business?
Probably the people I have met and the travelling I get to do. I feel so blessed that I have a job that sends me around the world and that I get to work with people who have become my best friends every single day.
What makes you bounce out of bed in the morning?
My alarm clock on my phone usually letting me know I’m running late for the gym, or sometimes cute licks from my dog Lexi.
What does success look like to you?
Success, I hope, equals finally being content. I’m constantly striving for the next thing and I’m never satisfied no matter what. I definitely feel like if I am recognised for my work and contribution to the fashion industry, I’ll be happy with my success!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What do you do to relax?
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