The Abbey, 1976 Leaver
When I left school, I attended Art College to gain a Foundation in Art, as this seemed like a natural familial progression. However, I soon became far more interested in the prospect of applying my creative skills to film make-up. I then studied for an IHBC (International Hair and Beauty Certificate) qualification at Nuneaton Technical College.
Although this did not take me into my dream career at the time, it gave me a skill and (more importantly) a means to earn money and work for some amazing companies, meeting people from all walks of life.
I set up my own business in Warwick with my Mother (Patricia Welch née Hinksman – also a student at The Abbey) and the salon went from strength to strength. The key life skill I learnt during this early career was to develop keen listening skills. This has held me in good stead throughout my work (and personal) life.
My second career came about in 1984 when my father suggested that I come and join him in the business, which at the time was a three-person team, and I took a deep breath and said yes!
In the early days, I did every job from shop work to packing parcels and learnt the business literally from the bottom up. My first major step for the business was to start marketing what was then only my father’s designs, by selling at the major consumer shows: House & Garden, BBC Good Food Show etc.
Over 20 years later, we are now a company of 70 members of staff and sell to retailers, hotels and restaurants all over the world. There will always be challenges, with fierce competition and the changing world of how shoppers purchase, but for me, a moment which made me reflect was when we were awarded two Queens Awards for Industry. Princess Anne presented them to my brother Rupert and me with the words ‘Your father would be proud’.
What does success look like?
Always look upwards, never down. Success is seeing the next exciting stage of your journey and embracing it with all your energy – it may be terrifying sometimes, but the journey is never dull!
What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t think you need to have sorted your career path when you leave school. Life (and the skills you develop) can take unexpected twists and turns … just have the courage to give all opportunities your best energy and BE BRAVE!