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February 02, 2015
The story of SHERENE MELINDA is one that I find both interesting and inspiring. Having only known the owner and creative director Sherene Robson for little under half a year, one thing that quickly became apparent to me upon meeting Sherene was the passion she had for her brand to succeed.
My name is Nathan and I help Sherene to increase her online presence. Having recently started my own digital marketing agency, one problem I have faced in helping clients with e-commerce websites is that potential customers don’t always feel completely comfortable in making purchases online. It is for this reason that I suggest clients put a face to their website and help customers get to know the people behind the brand. So I set out to fill in the gaps and learn more about her story.
One particular question I always had in mind when thinking about Sherene is what led her to starting a brand based within the fashion industry. I was raised by a father who spent 30 years in banking and a mother 25 years in the NHS. I don’t see myself parting ways with my own job any time soon. Therefore what I found intriguing about Sherene is that she spent almost all her adult life working in industries that weren’t affiliated with fashion at all.
So why start a fashion brand? Sherene explained to me that across the different jobs she had, the aspect she always enjoyed was the opportunity to use her own initiative and creativity. At a young(er) age she was torn between the idea of pursuing a career in technology or architecture (and ultimately chose to pursue technology). This demonstrated to me that Sherene was somebody who enjoys creating and building things, just as she does with her handbags.
Alongside this, it is clear to me that Sherene is also motivated by the desire to succeed in business. This is apparent in the fact that later in life she achieved a MBA and perhaps most interesting of all she then left London and started a microbrewery business in South Africa called Robson’s. This brand became known across South Africa and internationally for creating slowly fermented beer which could be served cold or at room temperature. Although the business was eventually sold, Sherene told me that it was during this process that she reaffirmed her desire to possess a greater creative input in her work life. After selling the microbrewery business, as another stepping stone in her life, she accepted a position in London working as a consultant in the financial services industry; a role which gave her autonomy and a creative licence to deliver a complex programme. And it was when this contract finally came to an end, she felt after much soul-searching that she was ready to take on the tough challenge of growing another business.
It was at this point that Sherene finally made the leap into the fashion industry. It wasn’t an easy decision however; Sherene had to weigh up the advantages of having complete creative control and the chance of entering an industry that was a lot of fun against the disadvantages of entering an industry that was equally as competitive as it was enjoyable. At the time (and still) Sherene was based in London and felt that it was perhaps the most competitive place of all to start a brand in the fashion industry. In this respect, her feelings were in complete contrast to the ones she had before starting the microbrewery business; as in South Africa at the time there was to her a glaring gap in the market for this type of product and not significant direct competition.
With a good eye for design, the time Sherene spent working in South Africa on the microbrewery business was when she first fell in love with the springbok hair-on-hide. She believed that these materials would be popular in London and would do exactly what Robson’s had done in filling an obvious gap in the market.
This is the part of Sherene’s story that is to me most inspiring. With no experience in the industry, with no qualifications in the industry, and as a working mother with two children; she stepped in to the fashion industry with pure ambition and the desire to bring something unique to the market. This was the beginning of the SHERENE MELINDA brand.
After learning more about how Sherene made the move to fashion, I was interested to know; where do you start? I knew from talking with Sherene previously that she had done several design courses before starting SHERENE MELINDA. I currently have several friends completing courses in fashion and a few of them have expressed to me their confusion regarding where to go next. As with most industries there are a broad range of roles in fashion; from editorial, to design, to branding. Additionally fashion is a very competitive industry. The reason I bring this up is that I hope Sherene’s words and experiences will help to inspire them and the many others out there in a similar position.
Sherene told me that before she embarked on a course, she had a goal and the course served a purpose in achieving this goal. Sherene knew that she wanted to start a fashion brand and she knew that these courses were essential to the achievement of this and the development of the brand. For example, if there was a particular technique being taught in class, Sherene wouldn’t leave before she was fully aware of how to independently perform this technique. She told me she knew that once the course was over she couldn’t revisit some of this information and therefore she wanted what she had been taught to be completely engrained. It was during her last course that Sherene completed the design of her leather tote bag and then went home to manufacture the design in just a week! The picture below demonstrates the finished product.
I believe her message to anyone studying fashion, or any other subject, would be to know exactly what you want to do with this topic and attend every class with the view that what you learn will help you to achieve this.
Sherene’s story has shown me three things. Firstly that it is never too late to pursue your dream job regardless of how much experience you have in that industry. This point doesn’t currently apply to me as I am happy with what I am doing, but at some point it may and I will never forget the lessons Sherene has taught me. Secondly that if you really want to be successful in something you have to work hard and continue to learn as much as you can. Finally that if you have the skills and motivation to make something succeed, you can do it!
These lessons are highly valuable to me having just started my own business and I believe they would be equally valuable to anyone regardless of what they do or who they work for.
This article has only touched on Sherene’s colourful life. It is essentially a snapshot which aimed to inspire others who may be thinking of starting a business and to put a face behind the SHERENE MELINDA brand.
Interested to learn more?
Have a look at the rest of SHERENE MELINDA’s blog section (click here) to learn more about the brand’s story so far.
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