Handbags & Hope: Q & A with Hayley Miller
A hostel for homeless youth is hardly an ideal place for a design studio. As a runaway teen, Hayley Miller’s future seemed anything but bright, but her love for fashion kept her away from treading down an even darker path. Miller began designing when she was just 15-years-old and living in a drug-infested youth hostel in Oxford, England. Her successful handbag line is the result of perseverance and rebellion from parents who told her to quit school and find a paying job. Designing became her escape from the hostel’s poor conditions and frequent police raids. Miller moved in with her grandmother after two years and began to formulate a business plan. Now, as a successful business owner of Hayley Miller Designs Ltd., she encourages other young people to never give up.
Q: What motivated you to begin a business?
HM: I wanted to create a better life for myself, take control of my future. I wanted to be creative and show the world what I do.
Q: Why did you choose handbags over other designs?
HM: Handbags can be any size, shape, color or form. They do not have to fit a certain size. Anyone can have any handbag they choose. I loved this idea of freedom when choosing a handbag. A handbag is a very personal thing. Can you imagine if the bag you loved wasn't in your size? Crazy!
Q: What set you back when beginning the business?
HM: You have lots of little setbacks, or maybe a plan doesn't turn out exactly how you imagined. You just realize that not everything can be perfect and you make the best of the situation. Everything always works out in the end. You just need to stay positive, no matter what happens.
Q: Do you have any specific goals for your personal future?
HM: I don't have much time to think about my own personal future at the moment! To be honest, the business is my future and I love that it is. I'd like to go travelling around the world, that's a big goal of mine too.
Q: What are your goals for the future of Hayley Miller Designs Ltd.?
HM: I just want to see the business grow and grow as an individual and a professional. I learn something new every day, so my goal is to keep learning and keep progressing in this fabulous career that is fashion. Also, to move on with the design aspect with shoes and other accessories!
Q: Who is your biggest role model?
HM: I don't really have one, big role model. There are little things in friends, family and designers that I admire and aspire to.
· What would you say to encourage young entrepreneurs?
HM: Think it through. Have a great, thought-through business plan. Test your market, ask friends, family, colleagues what they think of your idea. If you want it bad enough, you'll do it. It is a rewarding, phenomenal experience when you realize people are taking notice of what you do. Give it a try, all you can do is try.
· What is one thing most of your buyers don’t know about you?
HM: I always wanted to be a lawyer or an actress growing up! Very different to what I'm doing now. I don't think I could be this creative as a lawyer.
With help from an investor, Miller launched her first full collection, which is sold on her website: hayley-miller.co.uk. She recently garnered the attention of high-end department stores and hopes to expand her brand to stores in the United States. Miller’s love for design, she says, helps her company create “accessories that are high quality, fashionable and chic for all women, everywhere.”