How to get designer glam with just a click

Nicola Ford's got glamor for Desperate Housewives—and you.

Ford HauteheadquatersWhat did you have for breakfast?

Whole grain wheat toast. (I am a creature of habit.)

Your workout?

I use a trainer 3 days a week. We focus on weights and cardio, and on my alternate days I try to get a boxercise or Pilates class in.

What’s on your phone?

A photo of a former press placement we had in InStyle Magazine. It was the first press placement for HAUTEheadquarters.com

What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

My job is to provide women with the most fashionable and glamorous quality designer costume jewelry and accessories. I had a website back when the Internet was just beginning. I put it all together on my own and called it SheSheParis.com. Financing and legal issues made it impossible to continue, so I went back to school, but I was always interested in e-commerce. Probably three or four years ago, I was working in the jewelry business and had a lot of clients I was styling. People were always asking me where I was getting my designer jewelry from. It was clear there was an unmet need in the designer jewelry market for costume jewelry that wasn’t junk. So I thought I would try to put it all online. I gathered a lot of independent designers who didn’t have a strong online presence and gave them one. That’s how I started HAUTEheadquarters.

nic36What do you see for your future?

The future looks bright! I see us expanding into more designer brands, adding more SKUs and creating an in-house private label line whose designs we’ll sell retail as well as wholesale.

How large is your business? How many employees do you have?

We are still a small startup. I run most of the daily operations, but I have 3 interns who assist in the office, and 10 contractors for everything else. Right now, we’re completely self-funded but when the time is right, we will seek outside funding.

What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

Our biggest challenge is consistently obtaining traffic and maintaining customer loyalty. There are thousands of places to shop online and maintaining your customer base has to be a top priority. Changes in SEO are constantly a concern, as well as the rapid advancement of social media platforms and apps. Maintaining capital to run the business as well as grow the brand is also an ongoing concern. However, we’re growing steadily and strongly, constantly adding new designers, private label designs, and building our wholesale business.

Ford hauteheadquarters productTell us a story about a success in your business? A mistake you overcame?

We had tremendous success early on when by chance several of the Real Housewives’ cast members wore our jewelry on screen. It generated a lot of sales as well as brand exposure. As for mistakes, I think of them as learning experiences. The first really big learning curve for me was putting public relations in front of SEO. Another big learning experience was being featured on a national talk show. Part of that required that we give the audience gift cards to the website. At the time, I assumed that since it was such a large television show, that gesture would drive traffic and result in sales. It actually did not because the target market was not aligned with my brand. It ended up costing us an enormous amount of money. This was a lesson in targeted marketing and was costly but effective.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

I love being my own boss. I am in charge of my own destiny and I can explore and share my creativity and designs with others.

Ford hauteheadquarters jewelryWhat about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?

Customer service is so important to me. I know you cannot make everyone happy all of the time, but for me it’s imperative to keep my customers informed, happy, and satisfied with their purchase. Small details are critical in this line of work and quality is also very important to me. Not all of my designers manufacture in the US but a few do and that means a great deal to me: even though the price may be higher, the product quality is amazing and we get to support American jobs.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower”?

Hmm. My superpower might be being able to constantly move forward and not let setbacks throw me off course. Entrepreneurship can be like riding a rollercoaster. You have to have the stomach for it!

Ford hauteheadquarters headshotWho is the entrepreneur you admire most right now?

Tamara Mellon. She was hugely successful in building Jimmy Choo and now is doing it again with her own private label. I also really admire Natalie Massenet, formerly of Net-a-porter.

What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman? And do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs?

My field is mostly run by women, so I cannot speak to having being treated differently than a man. Being a female entrepreneur for me is empowering: I am in control of my decisions and my destiny. I am not 100% sure but if I were to guess I would say that men are possibly less emotional when it comes to decision-making, but I think women are more goal-oriented!

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

The best advice I ever got was from my British parents who live by the ever-steady British motto of “Get on with it”—meaning no matter what adversity you face, just move forward. It’s the less formal way of saying, “Keep calm and carry on.”

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