Claire Harper gave up a high-flying career when her second daughter was born but couldn’t stay away from the business world.. Today the Kirkburton mother is the founder of a new home-based fashion venture. She talked to HILARIE STELFOX
CLAIRE HARPER surveys her elegant dining room, crammed with boxes of T shirts, mini fleeces, packs of baby socks and bootees and apologises for the mess. The rest of her beautifully-appointed period farmhouse in Kirkburton is, by comparison, incredibly neat and tidy, especially for a household with two young children.
However, the 38-year-old is discovering that running your own fashion business from home makes certain demands on space.
After a high-flying career in marketing, Claire recently gave up a steady salary and corporate life in order to spend more time with her children but says she is too driven to give up work altogether, which is why she’s now knee deep in childrenswear.
It’s 11 weeks since she launched her new online venture, www.indiacoco.com, selling British-designed brands, and so far she has been encouraged by the response.
But then it will be surprising if she doesn’t do well, given that she has nearly two decades of experience behind her in some of the country’s biggest corporate businesses.
Originally from Northampton, Claire studied for a BA Hons in business studies with marketing and French at Southampton University and was quickly snapped up to fill a graduate placement at the headquarters of the national retailer Argos.
“It was a fantastic start,” she says. “I was thrown into the deep end, producing Christmas flyers, catalogues; getting involved in TV advertising.
“At the time the company was the first to lead the multi-channel multi-product retailing that is so common now. They invested in the internet and I was working with some amazing people.
“I have been fortunate throughout my career to have been mentored by some inspirational people.”
After five years at Argos, Claire was head-hunted by Ocado, which was at the time a new on-line shopping venture by the John Lewis and Waitrose partnership.
“They were just setting up the business and it was at the height of the dot com boom,” she explained.
“I was part of the team that developed the Ocado brand and, again, it was a fantastic opportunity.”
Although on-line shopping is now commonplace, Claire says her team had to think of ways to persuade customers to put their trust in the Ocado brand. “There were lots of problems to solve. It was quite maverick really. We were taking on Tesco and Sainsbury.” It is experience that she is now putting to good use.