Martine founded her business over 15 years ago when she decided to follow her passions and do something she loved. So she set up her personal styling business and has been styling red carpet looks, celebrities, soap stars and influencers since then.
Introduce yourself and your business, what was your motivation behind starting the business and what do you sell?
I’m Martine Alexander and I am a personal stylist, fashion stylist, and celebrity stylist and have been for around 15 years. My background is quite varied from acting through to retail and project management in IT and I decided to take a leap of faith and change my career 15 years ago.
I wanted to do something that I loved, and back when I worked in retail, I loved putting people in outfits and so I retrained to be a personal stylist and the rest was history as they say.
Tell us more about your service
I’ve managed to build up a bit of a celebrity clientele and my first celebrity client was actually a job suggested by my friend whose wife was a photographer and she needed a stylist for a shoot she was doing. I had never done it before and the client ended up being Michelle Keegan, so going from never doing a shoot to doing a shoot was amazing.
I was then asked if I could dress a friend who was in Coronation Street for the Soap Awards and that was really how the celebrity side of my business started. Once someone knows who you are and they want to work with you again, they recommend you to people they know. Magazines also started to contact me for shoots and it kind of snowballed from there.
What motivated you to create your brand and products?
I just think that life is too short and I had many people say to me ‘that’s such a risk’ but I think it would have been more of a risk to stay where I was because I wasn’t truly happy with what I was doing. I now say to people what hobby do you have that you could turn into a career and make money from? If it’s something you love doing it will never feel like work.
The personal styling course I went on was to help demonstrate that I not only had the skill but the qualifications and at the time it was things like doing people’s colours and that’s not my bag. I don’t want to charge someone a fee to tell them what colours to wear and give them a swatch to take away.
I wanted to give them something tangible like a new wardrobe and show them in the stores so they learn what kind of clothes compliment them – it’s all about education.
Did you have any experience in selling online before starting your business?
Before I started my business I was working as an IT Contractor so I had no previous experience selling online.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting your business?
Being in the North West rather than London where a lot of the clientele I was targeting was based did prove a challenge. That said there is a lot in the North West such as all the Soaps, and since the BBC moved up to Media City in Salford that has opened up a lot of doors.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I adore personal styling because it’s face to face and you get to see the person’s reactions and for me, that’s what it’s all about – their reaction to the clothes I’m dressing them in. Now I work with brands and I style their campaigns for them which is awesome – being able to put my vision of someone’s clothes together and make it work and make the collection sell is phenomenal and really rewarding.
What’s one thing that you would say helped you succeed?
Connections. The connections I’ve been able to build have really helped me grow my business and get my name out there. It’s more about who you know as well as what you know and I’ve been able to build up my business through the recommendations and connections I’ve made.
I decided to take the plunge and set up a website and it was easy. I used the Standard package and I wouldn’t have done it without my Account Manager Bethany, because for me I just needed the help getting set up.
How has the Coronavirus affected your business?
My first response was to bury my head and ride this out and then pick up where I left off from. My friend Katie who is my business mentor said ‘I can’t see you on Instagram where are you? You need to be the first to be doing Instagram Live, you’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to do your website, you’ve got to do virtual styling’.
I did a total of 60 Instagram lives with different guests every night, Monday through Friday. I set up my online shop and opened up my virtual styling to my customers. It’s great to be able to take my business in a third direction and social media is more important than before. I’ve had to learn how to style online, sending links to clients to purchase things whereas before I would be touching the clothes and seeing and feeling them before presenting them to my client.
Lockdown for me was you either take it one way or the other, either bury your head in the sand or make the most of it and turn it into a positive. For me, it gave me 2,300 followers on Instagram over 15 weeks which was great and now I just have to evolve and maintain what else I can do online. I also managed to gain a lot of new clients from my Instagram Live that I might not have worked with before but they found me online.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan on continuing my virtual styling in the future. I want to evolve the virtual styling a lot more and tap into a different market as well and be able to offer different personal styling packages. I want to work a lot more with smaller businesses in the future and support them and get them the exposure with celebrities and put money in the till with clients. Just evolve my business overall. Perhaps open my own academy teaching people the skills they need to be a stylist.