3 Incredible Women On How They Forged A New Creative Chapter
Having embarked on a career change and entered an entirely different industry, three inspiring founders share the challenges and achievements of launching a new creative business
Sandrine Zhang Ferron, founder of Vinterior
“I majored in finance at university. I love diving into data and have always enjoyed the challenge of navigating various spreadsheets. Back then, in the early 2000s, the City and financial markets also had a glamorous appeal. To graduate, I took an internship at a brokerage firm in London as a structured products sales assistant before being offered a permanent role. While I became more cynical about the financial markets, I loved the creativity, energy and international crowd that London has to offer.
“The idea for Vinterior came following an extensive search for a yellow Poul Volther chair. I spent endless weekends scouring vintage dealers around London for this particular piece and I realized there was a real need for an online marketplace where time-stretched people could more easily search and buy quality pre-owned furniture.
“When I quit my (well-paid) job in finance to pursue this idea, my family and friends thought it was a rash decision. It was a stretch: I didn’t know anything about the furniture industry, antiques or tech. But I thought I’d learn and that if my initial idea didn’t work, I could always pivot and adapt it to meet customers’ needs. Ultimately, I thought that a marketplace needed to exist and that someone had to make it happen – so why not me?
Building a team of talented, engaged and passionate individuals is one of the most rewarding parts of my job”
“My sales experience taught me how to pitch and also gave me a thick skin from cold calling asset managers. My role in an investment team meant I was able to digest and understand large amounts of data, which was vital when I started Vinterior. As a fast-growing, early-stage start-up, being able to process and analyze large sets of data and using this information to make informed decisions was, and still is, key.
“However, a start-up is constantly evolving. We iterate on the product, scale the team, adapt our ways of working, test different growth tactics and markets – all in a fast-evolving macro environment. As a result, everyone’s role at Vinterior adapts and changes every six months, including my role as CEO. To stay relevant and be able to lead my team, I have to upskill constantly. I have found it useful to talk to other founders and operators to gain domain expertise in areas I have less experience with, but scaling the team while working remotely has still been a challenge.
“Communication has to change when you transition from a team with a handful of people sat around the same desk every day to a team of 50 people operating fully remotely. Now I need to be really intentional about what I say and how I say it.
“However, despite the scaling pains that come with a growing company, building a team of talented, engaged and passionate individuals is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. After all, excellent hires are also people I can learn from, and I am really grateful for that.”
Laura Jackson, co-founder of Glassette
“From a really early age, television was my preferred medium. I’ve always been quite loud and opinionated and outgoing, so I felt like being in front of the camera was the place I wanted to be. I thought presenting was the route I wanted to go down – it meant that l got to meet really interesting people and have deep conversations with different people from all walks of life.
“I’ve also always loved lifestyle and interiors, but I never really knew how to bridge the gap [between that and presenting]. When I started the supper clubs, I liked putting all my creative energy into something tangible – laying the table, curating and cooking the menu and creating an experience for people to enjoy. At the heart of everything I do is community, and I have always loved bringing people together. This was the start of a really creative path for me, from a cookbook to working in global brand-ambassador roles.
“I’ve always wanted to be true to who I am. Having children gave me the confidence to decide to have a gear change and I had a bit of a break to assess what I wanted to do. I have always loved being a broadcaster, and I am really excited about that part of my life progressing as I got older, by looking for ways to merge my off-screen passions, such as lifestyle, food and interiors, with TV. I feel really excited about a new TV career path in factual entertainment, starting with a show coming in 2023.
I’ve always wanted to be in the driving seat. I also want to create a legacy and I want to do something good; I want to make an impact”
“I’ve learned that success looks different to different people and there’s not one path. I think a couple of years ago I found it quite distracting when people questioned exactly what path I was on, but now being multifaceted is seen as something of beauty and positivity rather than meaning your head’s turned by different projects. Staying true to who you are and your passions is important.
“Starting a business like Glassette has been brilliant and really challenging. I suffer from dyslexia and I’ve managed to dodge it my whole life and mask it in certain ways – while presenting, for example, I could learn lines by memorizing where the words were on the page. But with Glassette, when it’s come to reports and legal documents and HR and interviewing people, I’ve felt like it’s been quite prominent, so that’s been a challenge.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the driving seat. I also want to create a legacy and I want to do something good; I want to make an impact. And by having this platform where I’m supporting all these small businesses – where we get to incubate these brands, help them with PR and marketing, HR and design – is just really exciting for me.”
Courtney McLeod, founder of Right Meets Left Interior Design
“When I applied to college, I decided to try two paths – architecture and business school. If I was accepted into my dream school – The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – then business would be my path. As fate would have it, I was accepted and received a BS in Economics with concentrations in finance and real estate. This led to a 15-year career in the financial-services industry.
“I had the opportunity to invest in commercial real estate on behalf of large institutions in various portfolio-management roles. It was an intense, fast-paced and exciting career, but it also had many challenges. I’m a relatively ambitious person and, throughout my career, the pinnacle was to become head of portfolio management for a multibillion-dollar real-estate investment fund. It’s a benchmark that I attained, but I still felt unfilled.
“When my father fell ill – thankfully, he recovered – it was a moment of reaction for me, where I realized life was too short and I wasn’t happy. My passion for design had always been bubbling over the years, and I realized it was time to pursue this creative passion. So, I took a step out of character and quit with no plan. As soon as I made the decision, I had zero doubt.
I realized life was too short and I wasn’t happy… So I took a step out of character and quit with no plan. As soon as I made the decision, I had zero doubt”
“In my first year, rather than attain a traditional design degree, I took several classes at Parsons School of Design, Pratt and the New York School of Interior Design to gain practical tools. I had studied decorative arts and the history of design in my free time as a hobby over the years, but I knew I needed those technical skills if I was going to be serious about being an interior designer.
“It has been a wonderful surprise to realize how applicable my prior experience has been to my current role. The strategic, analytical, financial and communication skills gained during those years have allowed me to differentiate myself in a crowded design field. I always say my superpower is my balance between these skills and my creativity.
“By following a creative path [and launching Right Meets Left Interior Design], I now feel completely fulfilled in my career. Designing brings so much joy to my life and I feel lucky to share that with the people around me.”