IWD 2021 | The Female Founders: Carol Lovell, STOW

Rounding off our Female Founder profiles – in support of this week’s International Women’s Day – is Carol Lovell, founder of luxury leather accessories brand STOW, and yet another former Brand of Tomorrow. Inspired by female adventurers of the past, Carol was inspired to set up her brand at the age of 47, after discovering a niche in the travel market.

Why did you choose to start your own luxury business?

I knew what the product purpose would be, but I wasn’t immediately decided on exactly how luxurious the materials should be, or that I would target that sector. However, once I understood that no one in the UK was totally dedicated to luxury (small) travel accessories, that was where I knew my niche was. Around the same time I was introduced to the finest leather and suede (in my opinion) in the world, by the factory partner I still work with exclusively, and there was no going back for me.

What is it about British luxury that means new, female-led brands thrive? 

I am fascinated that 75% of Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow are female led. (I believe it’s 30% across luxury c-suite.) I wonder how many have children. Are they from a particular sector of luxury? Fashion and lifestyle ecommerce? B to C?

You have to have a great belief in your idea, be flexible, be hugely creative in thinking, with a long-term vision and an ability to work really hard come what may. Ecommerce suits those attributes, and can be done initially from home, which could be why female founders have flourished recently. I was able to start STOW from home, making the business’s growth work alongside that of my two children.

Tell us about the women that inspired you on your journey? 

From a very young age I was inspired by female adventurers of the past. Their get up and go approach to travel in centuries past, often regardless of a patriarchal society within which they lived definitely emboldened me to set up STOW, aged 47. As a teen I was especially drawn to Robyn Davidson who rode camels across the Australian Desert – I learned from her that setting out on your own despite the odds was very much worth doing. I used to work in the travel industry which had a good proportion of inspirational female senior executives – Chris Browne, Jo Rzymowska, Sue Biggs to mention a few – all CEOs of large travel companies. While they didn’t found their own businesses they    were setting the pace for younger women to follow in the late 90s.

I now love hearing about female entrepreneurs of all ages and I especially admire Gabriella Hearst for her ethics and entrepreneurialism.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female founders looking to set up their own brands?

Believe in your idea, and always follow your gut. If something feels wrong in your gut it usually is.

Surround yourself with supportive people and never be afraid to ask questions.

Running and growing your own business is hard – be prepared to live and breathe your business day in day out. No one else will or should.

stowlondon.co.uk

 

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