In the latest of our profiles of women reinventing themselves in midlife, we talk to Mary Jardine who went from running her own modelling agency, to building a British luxury leather handbag business.
An interview with Mary Jardine, founder of Jardine of London
What made you decide to do what you do?
I decided I needed a new challenge in my life! My two boys were all grown up and I’d spent the last 20 years supporting my husband in the various businesses he’d run or we’d done together. I felt my time had arrived – I had a chance to create something that was mine and I felt determined to make a success of it. I also felt I’d identified a gap in the market for women, rural or urban, who need a big enough bag but without overly flashy branding. Something that is practical but still looks classic, timeless and smart and not out of place either in the country or the town. Our larger ‘city’ bag accommodates an A4 laptop if needed, for example.
Why did you wait until you did to make the change?
It was something I’d been thinking about for some time. My youngest son was about to leave school and it was a case of having lost confidence, despite being involved in my husband’s business over the years and having run my own modelling agency. There had been a time lapse where doubt had crept in. The question kept coming back to me – what if I failed? How would I cope with doing something myself and failing? My family soon put a stop to that and encouraged me to make the leap.. and here I am!
How did you make the change? What or who helped you?
My family. They have been incredibly supportive and encouraged me all the way. If something goes wrong – they pick me up off the floor and dust me off and send me on my way again. I couldn’t do it without them. Jardine of London is a family business. My boys, 24 and 20, still live at home and supper is a great time for us all to get creative. All our family business ideas have stemmed from family meal time occasions.
I’m also delighted to have found the right production team for my bags. They are a British heritage leather company north of London that employs highly skilled craftsmen and women who have worked at the company generation after generation. As a small private label it wasn’t easy finding the right people to do this for me. It’s great to be producing a quality British product in the UK.
How did your family and friends react?
My husband is my mentor and has a great business entrepreneurial mind. So do both my boys for that matter. Their input has been crucial in the development of the business. My friends have looked from afar and probably wondered what I am doing and why I feel it necessary to be doing this, when I could go and get a normal job! This drives me on more to hopefully be successful and make them proud of me.
How has your life changed having gone down this path?
My life has changed quite dramatically. At the moment I am working 7 days a week 12 hours a day in order to get the business off the ground. Hopefully this will tail-off slightly once I have a good team around me to help me do the things I am not so good at, enabling me to concentrate on the things I am good at! My bags are currently sold online or through Luxify, an luxury online market place. So when I get up in the morning I spend time checking orders, organising packing and delivery or visiting the factory if production is in progress and I need to look at new leathers or materials coming in. Getting everything done involves my husband and boys when they come home to rally around and all chip in with household chores and cooking etc. We all work very much as a family unit and pull together. Our end goals are the same in everything we do.
What advice do you have for women considering a similar life change?
Come up with an idea that you are passionate about, do as much research as possible to find out all about it and where and how you will sell your product(s). Then create your brand and story. Surround yourself with positive people –negative people can kill your spirit and enthusiasm.
Once you have that in place – just take the plunge and go for it!
What do you love most about being the age you are?
I love having so much experience behind me – it hopefully prevents unnecessary mistakes being made. This doesn’t mean to say you stop learning – I’m learning every day but hopefully the mistakes become fewer as time goes on! I also like the fact that other people seem to respect you more for being a certain age. In my twenties, some people just didn’t take me seriously, which was frustrating.
What do you hate most about being the age you are?
Looking in the mirror and seeing a 52 year old when I think I’m still 21!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known in your twenties?
I know I probably shouldn’t have lain in the sun for so long to get that tan! Too late now I’m afraid – I am very careful about being exposed to the sun now and always cover my face and use strong sun cream. From a business perspective I wish I had done more research into projects before rushing into them – but that’s being young and fearless isn’t it?
What are the most important business and/or personal lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
With regards to business – be very careful who you trust. Most people are in it for themselves – don’t be fooled that they want your friendship. Many just want to make some money and if they have to trample on you to get there, they will. Personal lessons – family comes first. Work is very important but not to the detriment of your family life. That balance is achievable but you just need to find out how to hit it in the middle.
Do you have a mantra that has guided you more than any other?
Sorry about this but this one always comes to my mind by Mark Twain.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Which woman do you admire most and why?
Julie Deane OBE who sat at her kitchen table and came up with The Cambridge Satchel Company. She had £800 to start her off and created a multi-million pound business in a relatively short time, all at the same time as bringing up her children. She is currently doing an independent review looking at the challenges and opportunities for those who want to work for themselves.
Julie is an inspiration to all women who want to start their own business.
Is there anything people consistently misunderstand about you?
Not that I can think of. What you see is what you get – no hidden agendas. I try to be as transparent as possible to avoid confusion. This does sometimes get me into trouble by always telling the truth!
How can Mutton Club readers find out more about what you do?
Mutton Club readers can go to my website www.jardineoflondon.co.uk where there is an ‘about’ section along with recent ‘news’ items. I am very happy to answer any questions by email via firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing from you!
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