It seems remarkable to be writing this today. You see, I didn’t quite know where this one dream would take me.
Back in 2014, I had the idea for Charlotte Elizabeth. I had the idea for The Bloomsbury when my older sister came into my room one evening. She raised my awareness of there not being a bag on the market that was classic in design that was an affordable luxury. I had the vision for The Bloomsbury flash into my mind, and ever since then it has been an incredible journey.
Initially I went to The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Course, which was where I spent four days learning all of the basics to turn an idea into a business. My eldest sister happened to come across the course in a newspaper article on her commute home one evening, and so I signed myself up after being inspired.
I actually went along with a few ideas, as back then I felt that Charlotte Elizabeth was destined for big things, and I didn’t know if I could handle it! After drafting my business plan over two years due to ill health, I went to pitch my idea to The Trust, to gain a £3,000 loan and two years free mentoring. Thankfully, The Prince’s believed in my idea, and so with £3,000 I bought my first stock.
I searched for leather from Scotland and found a factory in Somerset who could make a small run of bags for me. I launched The Bloomsbury in four colours, a rich Chestnut, a unique Grey, a deep Chocolate and a classic Black. I received my final prototype for The Bloomsbury on January 14th 2016 and launched on March 10th 2016.
As I was unable to go out anywhere but hospitals due to how poorly I was, I would use the opportunity of face-to-face market research on the doctors and nurses I met along thew way! I wish I could re-trace them now, and show them how far that one bag has taken me.
I built the website myself and took the photos (quite literally!) from my bed. I remember my dad positioning the Bloomsbury’s in a row along my white dressing table. It so happened to be against a white wall, which I thought was the perfect makeshift studio!
I remember posting a photo on my personal instagram page at the time, with a photo of The Bloomsbury’s with a message along the lines of ‘so this is something I’ve been working on!’. It was to around 100 followers, was a private account and was among many a photo of my dog (To say I’ve learnt a lot about marketing along the way is an understatement)!
Throughout the time of building Charlotte Elizabeth, I was suffering from severe, life-changing health issues. At my worst I’ve been in a wheelchair and unable to leave my bed. It was the one thing that kept me going amongst endless hospital appointments and ambulance call-outs. To see one customer’s email saying they were happy truly made it all worth it. It truly was my light within the darkness.
My family have played a significant role in my Charlotte Elizabeth journey, my parents doing quite literally anything and everything I’ve asked for, including attending meetings with or on behalf of me, and posting off every bag with love at our village post office.
My sisters have played a role from the beginning also. I remember us all saying we wanted to work together on it in the future, and what’s remarkable is that my sisters are now part of my CE team.
I cannot begin to state just how much it means to me to be building it alongside them, along with our other talented team members we’ve met along the way – we couldn’t do it without you!
Along the way I have had many friends help out, offer advice, lend a hand and be there at any hour for support. I didn’t know just how much this would mean to me in my lower moments. I could not have fought to continue my dream without them and I am forever grateful for their time, love and advice. Thank you. You know who you are.
Two years after launching, something quite incredible happened. The Duchess of Sussex wore The Chestnut Bloomsbury on a royal visit to Belfast alongside her soon to be husband, Prince Harry. It was a moment I will never forget. To have my product worn by anyone is something I am truly grateful for, but to have it worn by someone who I admire the work of, who has such grace and passion was truly amazing.
Being practically a one-man-band and trying to get this vast number of units produced within days was a challenge I will never forget! It was the time I learnt so much about myself and who I could trust. These days were actually really hard, but the lessons I learnt and the support I received within them is something I will forever treasure.
Often I find myself looking forward too much, excited for the possibilities which lie ahead, instead of pausing for a moment and taking in just how far we’ve come.
So today, I will be taking a moment to reflect, to feel the strength in how much Charlotte Elizabeth has grown. It’s incredible to think how just one simple idea has resulted in so many dreams coming true.
Thank you for all of your support. Each and every one of you have made this dream possible.