GIRL BOSS // Karen Willis Holmes

Name: Karen Willis Holmes 

Location: Sydney

Current Title / Company: Owner / Creative Director of KAREN WILLIS HOLMES

What was your first job out of university and how did you land that position? 
I studied Fashion Design and Manufacture at Bentley TAFE in Perth. During this time I was waitressing while at college. Once I left I was waitressing, working for myself from home and I also I worked from home for an upmarket fashion brand in Perth making made-to-order gowns for private clients. I met the owner of the store through college.

What inspired you to create your business?
I worked for myself and another company while I was in Perth before moving to London. I stayed in London for a couple of years and worked for companies specialising in evening and special occasion day wear. When I moved back to Perth I started a store designing evening wear.  During this time I started to get people asking me to make wedding gowns for them.  When the lease finished on my store at the time I had to make a decision about which direction I was going to take. My husband recommended I specialised in wedding gowns. I don’t know why I could not work this out myself and it took Geoff to suggest it for me - designing wedding gowns is perfect for me, I love the quality, the fabrics, corsets, trains…..

Take us through a day in the life of your business?
I am a workaholic … but out of choice and I am very lucky that Geoff (my husband) supports me with the business. My work is also my hobby - I love what I do and I am very driven to create a bigger and better business.  In a normal week I work 6.5 days per week usually 8/8:30am - 7pm.  My day usually beings about 8am when I will check my emails before meeting my husband for a coffee at 8:30am.  I am then back at HQ either in the workroom designing and sampling the new collections, in the office planning international tradeshows, overseeing the boutiques and working on all the paperwork and notes of new designs.  During busy periods I will take my laptop home with me at night to finish of work.  Sunday mornings is my time off and I usually start work at 12-1pm. 

Has anything surprised you about the journey to creating your business?
How hard it is to start a business and keep it going, it is not for the faint hearted but I am an ambitious workaholic. 

Obviously, your business has grown! So, let's talk money. Tell us about the intimidating process of finding funding for your business. Any advice for women who need to find funding for their own startups?
I have preferred to be cautious and save – I don’t spend it until I’ve saved it. The business is completely self-funded, this way we don’t have any debt. Any risk and decision making falls back on me. My advice is to research borrowing money before you do as it can be a very dangerous path. 

Your business has developed quite a following. Can you tell us a little bit about marketing your business? How did you spread the word? 
You have to adapt your marketing efforts to what is relevant - I adapted to print media when this was popular and since then have seen the impact and important of online media and adapted to the rise of social media, online marketing and wedding blogs. 

What do you think is the key to the success of your business?
We make a beautiful, value for money gowns with great quality and fashion forward design. Also a lot of hard work, long hours, dedication and tenacity is important.

Best advice you ever received? That I should specialise in bridal. 

I wish I knew how to... clone myself. 

What is your coffee order? Extra hot cappuccino 

TV show do you wish was still on the air? Sex In The City

Next travel destination? Travelling to our boutiques in Australia and then my next overseas trip will be to New York for Bridal Market. 

What advice would you give your 23 year old self? Trust your own judgement, the hard work is worth it.