Nichola English is the Wardrobe Provocateur. Newcastle-based Nichola’s unique business combines style insights, sartorial advice and one-to-one life coaching.
Now 43, over the years the fashion expert has overcome more than her fair share of adversity including life-threatening health issues and a significant accident. Despite this, she has an excellent entrepreneurial story to share with us. Having attended Meet a Mentor a few months ago, she also told us a little about what mentoring means to the Wardrobe Provocateur.
Tell us a bit about your professional background, Nichola.
Professionally, I’ve worked a lot up and down the country in retail management and fashion. I worked for Ann Summers at one point, which was really exciting. It was a really good job actually. I loved it. My life was very happy, I was in a good relationship, everything was going really well and I had a great career ahead of me. Then a lot of life-changing incidents events took place, which were the catalyst for me having to change.
They were quite major events weren’t they?
Yes, I had an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed me, then the accident happened which meant I had to learn to walk again. In a very short period of time I probably experienced more than what some people experience in a lifetime! I just really had to concentrate on my rehabilitation. After the accident I wasn’t able to continue my career.
So going back to retail wasn’t an option?
I was going between a wheelchair and crutches all the time and it just wasn’t feasible. I was actually on long-term sick for quite some time. I lost a lot of confidence and my relationship broke down. So I wasn’t in a fit state to work for anybody. I was lucky to have a supportive family and my mum was amazing. It was 13 years ago and I still struggle now with walking and various other things but you’ve just got to be positive.
So how did you come to work for yourself?
I’d had experiences with life coaching before and I’m quite into alternative therapies. I actually did some training in various therapies thinking that’s what I wanted to do, then I trained as a life coach. I just kept feeling that something was missing. I didn’t just want to be a personal stylist but I did a lot of research and then I came across style coaching, which I really, really love. It’s basically a holistic approach to styling. It’s not just about the clothes you wear. It’s a self-journey to become aware of and appreciate who you are inside and out.
It sounds great. When did you actually get set up?
A few years ago. I’ve had a few different names - in business you evolve, but The Wardrobe Provocateur really resonates with me and my clients, who seem to like it too. I went along to the Meet a Mentor event in February. I wanted to meet somebody who had been in business, who could steer me in the right direction, give me some support and help me stay motivated. Sometimes it’s very hard on your own. That’s where I met Sophie, my mentor. I also met another girl who I’m collaborating with on a project with and she’s been just as helpful as Sophie. The event was a really good way to meet people.
So you met a mentor and a business contact?
Yes, I see the lady I’m collaborating with as a bit of both, whereas Sophie I really see as more of a mentor because of the suggestions she made, which were really helpful.
What sort of support has Sophie given you?
She helped me set out my business objectives and get myself out there, market myself more and not be afraid to show people who I am and what I do. It’s about using my persona to communicate what Wardrobe Provocateur is all about. I really enjoyed spending time with Sophie and I also owe her lunch! She was very, very kind. She’s such a lovely person. She really is.
What are your hopes for Wardrobe Provocateur’s future?
My goals are to enter the American market, to provide more Transform Your Look, Transform Your Life workshops, and at some point it would be great to get a teaching qualification, as I’d love to share all the knowledge and skills I’ve learnt and been taught over the years. My business is currently working on providing a team of experts from make-up, to photography, which allows my clients and future clients to have access to everything in one place.