Pauline Clifford, founder of StarSparkles is a 27 year old creative girl who's hobby of customizing shoes has spiraled out of control. Starting her business from nothing,working in a shoe shop to now having her amazing designs adored internationally!
Hi Pauline, How you doing? Welcome to YHP!! What inspired you to start Star Sparkle?
Im good thanks, I've always known I wanted to have my own business I just didn't have a clue what it would be! I've always been creative and loved fashion and things that were different. A great inspiration to me is my Dad who had his own antique shop in Los Angeles for over 40 years. Spending every summer in LA while growing up inspired me to be successful at whatever I did. Around 8 years ago I started to customize my own trainers with swarovski crystals, it was only a hobby and after a while I stopped. Then in 2004 I started working in Qube shoe shop Glasgow where I met my supervisor nicknamed Tina Sparkle. One day remembering I had crystals left over from years before we decided I should customize a pair of Converse for him. He loved them as did all the customers who endlessly remarked on them and wanted a pair of their own. I began taking orders through the store and a few months later StarSparkles was born with help from the Business Gateway and the Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust!
When did you encounter your first entrepreneurial experience?
I guess my first entrepreneurial experience was my Dad with his antique shop in Los angeles! I never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur, I was doing something I loved! When I started to enter some business competitions particularly the Shell LiveWire Young Entrepreneur of the Year, I met lots and lots of great young entrepreneurs.
Have you always thought that the line of being an entrepreneur or having to run your own business?
Yes, as I said I really have always wanted to be my own boss as I was used to seeing my Dad run his antique shop. I honestly didn't have a plan of what my business would be and then my hobby of customizing shoes spiraled out of control!
Before we move on, can you briefly give us some background information about yourself?
I completed school with 8 standard grades and 4 highers, I wanted a career in the entertainment industry behind the scenes so I went on to study TV Operation and Production at college and then realized I wanted to be a makeup artist which I studied also at college. After finishing my makeup course I took the job in Qube shoe shop to tide me over while looking for makeup work and as they say the rest is history!
What do you think makes your designs unique?
I think my designs are unique because they are hand crafted with love and care!I apply each crystal individually by hand which makes the finished result more personal to the customer!I have tried to create a brand not only Sparkle designs,I want my brand to reflect me and my personality and I like my customers to feel special!
You said you have celebrities such as paris Hilton, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Osbourne, Ashlee Simpson,
Britney Spears and Scarlett Johansson wearing your designs, I know you even designed a pair for Sir Tom Hunter? how did that come about?
While working in Qube before I actually started my business officially I thought it would be great to try and get some celebrities wearing my designs. Being inspired by my time in Los Angeles I joined a website called contact any celebrity and I then called various celebs agents, managers and publicists to find out their clients shoe sizes. I sparkled around 12 pairs of Converse,travelled to LA and delivered the shoes to all the managers, publicists etc.I took a big risk and spent a lot of money but it payed off as Paris Hilton was photographed wearing her Sparkle Converse!That resulted in me getting a lot of free publicity.I Sparkled shoes for Sir Tom Hunter as he owned Qube shoe shop where I worked and he found out about my entrepreneurial ways!I have since Sparkled Converse for him to give to the Prince Of Bahrain as a gift!
I know the Swarovski crystals are quite expensive, so how did you raise money for your business?
I wouldn't have been able to start my business officially without the help of the Business Gateway who gave me a £1000 start up grant. I then approached the PSYBT where I had to present my business idea to a panel who then awarded me a £5000 loan. This all enabled me to buy stock of crystals, get my website designed, business cards printed etc.
I know you just keep collecting awards, such as the Scotland's Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2007, featured in Evening times? How did it feel getting that much press? And getting that much publicity on your product?
It felt amazing to win awards,I remember being at the Shell LivewWre Awards and I was dumb struck when my name was announced.The whole experience was great to meet lots of supportive people and other like minded young entrepreneurs.It was also extremely nerve wracking as I had to do presentations and speak to a large audience!All the awards I have won have really meant so much,it gave me confidence and drive to be more successful and achieve my dreams.When other business people really love your ideas and are 100% supportive it really does drive you forward!I am really thankful for all the great press coverage I've also received,which has generated great pr for StarSparkles!
Who is your role model?
One of my role models would be my Dad.I also love Tarina Tarantina(jewellery designer) as a business woman and Sir Tom Hunter is a great role model.
Have you faced any setbacks so far and how did you overcome it?
I have faced quite a few setbacks,it took me a very long time to get a meeting with Converse and be able to buy shoes wholesale from them.I just had to be persistent and patient and remain positive.Their have been times when I feel down and think negatively but you need to work through it and I'm lucky I have a very supportive family.Running my business has been a big learning curve for me,it's only natural to run into some problems and make a few mistakes along the way.One of my favorite quotes are "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly".
What advantages do you think one has starting their business at a young age?
I think it's advantageous to start a business young because you are more likely not to have commitments like family.You have the whole world at your feet you can be naive,ambitious and take risks without really thinking about the consequences like an older person may.You can learn a lot by starting your own business and making some mistakes along the way and it's a chance to make your dreams come true!
What advices do you have for young entrepreneurs out there?
My advice would be to be true to yourself,always be positive and passionate,believe in your ideas and get as much advice as you can from places such as the Business Gateway and the PSYBT.Don't be scared to take risks as you will never know unless you give it a go!
What has been your proudest moment so far, running StarSparkle?
I have quite a few proudest moment's,one was seeing the photo of Paris Hilton wearing her Sparkles,
I couldn't believe it!Definitely winning a Shell LiveWire Award and also seeing my designs in Selfridges Christmas window display and having my Sparkles sold in Selfridges!
So what should be expecting next from you and Starsparkle?
I have just launched StarSparkles brand new look website which includes an online store.This will allow me to sell to an international market and reach customers worldwide.Some of my designs are already sold in boutiques in England and Saudi Arabia but I would love to see my designs in stores in Los Angeles,I will be traveling to LA this September to try and arrange some meetings!As demand for Sparkles grows I will hopefully be employing some Sparkle assistants next year to help me expand the StarSparkle empire :) In the future I would love to collaborate with other designers and to create a T-shirt and clothing range and one day I would really like to open my own boutique in Los Angeles!
Thank you for your time , we wish you the best
Contact Pauline Clifford