Tamara Mellon shares the strategy that has helped her find new opportunities throughout her career.
6 min read
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
The co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Tamara Mellon, believes that you can find inspiration and opportunity anywhere. All it takes is determination to keep going and a keen eye for observation.
Mellon began her career in the early 1990s working as an accessories editor for British Vogue. Always on the hunt for up-and-coming designers, she came across Jimmy Choo, a cobbler working in London’s East End.
She would commission him to create shoes for fashion shoots. They were so well received by readers that the pair realized they could expand beyond one-of-kind pieces for the pages of the magazine.
The pair raised the funds, found factories to produce Choo’s creations on a larger scale and co-founded Jimmy Choo. From 1996 to 2011, as Jimmy Choo’s chief creative officer, Mellon focused on the growth of the brand, taking it from on shop in London to over 100 storefronts all over the world. After 15 years, the company was sold for $800 million.
In 2016, Mellon, who was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to the fashion industry in 2010 and has sat on Revlon’s board of directors for a decade, launched a new direct-to-consumer luxury shoe brand called, aptly, Tamara Mellon.
We caught up with Mellon to ask her 20 Questions and find out what makes her tick.
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1. How do you start your day?
I start my day with coffee and the Financial Times. It’s extremely motivating to read what other founders and companies are doing. I also read Women’s Wear Daily each morning for that reason. It’s important to know absolutely everything that’s going on in my industry.
2. How do you end your day?
I end my day with dinner with my daughter Minty and my partner Michael, followed by a hot bath and Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy tea. It helps me to wind down by turning the focus inward at the end of a long day.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution by Steven R. Gundry. I learned so much about the gut-brain connection and how important gut health is. I believe being healthy includes mental acuity. Gut health and brain health are extremely connected, so it’s important to understand probiotics to promote your brain function. I’ve changed by diet to incorporate these learnings into my day-to-day eating.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. He shares how he handled difficult moments and decisions when things went wrong in his businesses. It resonated with me. Every business person struggles with turbulent times. It’s unheard of to experience a straight upward trajectory. What interests me is Ben’s honesty in how he handled these moments.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Daily meditation. It works! Meditation is really just relaxation. It de-stresses me, which clears my head and refocuses my energy on what’s important. The best way to work is with calm focus.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be in the fashion business, or a psychologist. While it’s obvious which one I ended up in, I still love being an armchair therapist with my girlfriends.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
Never manage by fear.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My father, who built Vidal Sassoon alongside Vidal. He spoke to me frankly about business from a very young age, the same exact way he spoke to his sons about it. It stuck.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
I worked with the Elton John AIDS Foundation to raise money to build rape shelters for assault victims in South Africa. We had an opportunity to visit the centers once they were up and running. It was extremely moving to see what an impact they made in their communities.
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10. What inspires you?
Everything — art, architecture, culture, music, film, other people.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I sold concert t-shirts at [London’s] Portobello Market as a teenager.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
Working on the shop floor at Browns. I learned to listen to my customer, which allows me to better offer her what she needs.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
Don’t ever stop working. No matter what you’re doing, working creates opportunities that lead you to where you want to go. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what you want to do, one thing always leads to another through the people you meet.
14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
Don’t start Jimmy Choo, it will never be successful. Thankfully, I didn’t listen.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
One thing at a time.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
The Calm app for meditation because it guides me through my meditation. It was actually the top app in the App Store in 2017.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
There’s no such thing. But when I’m home, I do my best to be focused and present with my family. That said, I have my moments when I get stressed, like rushing to make my daughter breakfast when I’m running late for a meeting.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
Having relaxing rituals that I can do every day, like a workout, even if it’s only 15 minutes.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Get out and see things. I go to museums, vintage shops, flip through photography coffee table books and listen to music recommendations from my daughter. You never know where inspiration will originate.
20. What are you learning now? Why is that important?
I’m learning a whole new business language on how to create a digitally-led business. It’s the future.