Level 2 Business students were visited by Simon Smith, Member of the Board at home and accessories brand, Fenella Smith
Like our students, Simon studied a BTEC when he was 16, with the view to working in graphic design. The BTEC really opened his mind and gave him the ambition to succeed, so during the second year of his course he embraced his love of products and retail and started his own business designing window displays.
When he left college Simon worked for Harvey Nichols, later moving to Ted Baker as the brand’s window designer.
After working for retailers around the world Simon moved to O2 as Head of Customer Experience, playing a vital role in the UK launch of the iPhone in 2008.
O2’s core purpose is to create a better-connected world, and Simon spoke about the importance of brands and businesses having a similar clear and simple purpose, and finding ways to understand how it connects with what their customers want and need.
He also stressed that when he started out he didn’t have lots of skills or knowledge but had masses of ambition and loved the brands that he was working for.
Simon is now working with his wife at Fenella Smith, to help grow and develop the brand. By next year, Fenella Smith’s products will all be made from recycled materials, creating a unique selling point for an increasingly green conscious consumer market.
Simon’s key advice to the students was to test their great ideas on their friends and family, and really feel like their idea is worth sharing. When launching Fenella Smith, Simon’s wife Caroline hired a market stall and displayed three handbags and asked customers which they liked the best. This was really key to understanding what customers wanted and showed the importance of product testing.
Simon also spoke about how vital it is to innovate and stay ahead of competitors, sighting his time as Creative Director at the recently collapsed Arcadia Group (owners of Tophsop and Topman) as a great example of how when a business doesn't innovate and move quick enough with the changing landscape of retail they can fail.
Students asked some fantastic questions and showed that some of them were already working on their own business ideas outside of the classroom.
A huge thank you to Simon for taking the time to speak to the class!