Today’s business market is more global than ever, with women making international boss moves from coast to coast. In a special series on women entrepreneurs of the diaspora, BlackEnterprise.com will bring you highlights on power females who have taken their passions and made them profitable — from North America to Europe to Africa and everywhere in between.
Deborah Millington wanted an avenue to fully engage her interests in business, fashion, and retail merchandising. She decided to found RedBorder, a London-based creative retail design company now responsible for visual merchandising displays for leading British retailers and local authorities. The company recently launched an education division in 2011 providing courses for youth with a passion for fashion. Her company’s recent projects include an exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the creation of the merchandise visual displays for the London 2012 Olympic Games at official training venues.
BlackEnterprise.com spoke with the British businesswoman to uncover how she got started, her motivation and passion for the retail industry and her tips for those on the come up.
BlackEnterprise.com: How did your company come to life?
Millington: I started RedBorder in 2006 as I’d worked for different companies but couldn’t find a role that encompassed everything I wanted to do. I enjoyed the creativity of my visual merchandising posts but not having total autonomy was very frustrating. Trying to find a post that offered creative independence led to developing the ideal role for me and the creation of RedBorder. At the back of my mind I always wanted to start up my own business. I studied marketing and thought that I would venture down that route. I’ve always been naturally creative. Combining my creativity and utilizing my marketing credentials enabled me to create a role where I use both skill sets.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you? I’m inspired by the success stories I read about women. I find it easy to motivate myself when I’m passionate about something.
What has been your biggest triumph? It has to be realizing my ambition and bringing RedBorder to fruition. Following on from that is seeing the impact that our courses have on the students and their parents. Those moments really make all the hard work worthwhile.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to launch a visual merchandising business? It would be the same advice I’d give to anyone who wants to start a busines: Do your research and surround yourself with positive and trustworthy people. If you want to get into any creative industry build a portfolio of pictures and testimonials. This will pay dividends when you go to meetings with potential clients. There’s a lot of work involved, but use your creativity to your advantage and think of new and innovative ways to stand out from the competition.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt so far? There are two – give your clients more than they expect and word of mouth is the best form of recommendation. I have gained several new contacts and contracts from these mottos.
To find out more about black women entrepreneurs, visit at Twentytenclub.com.
Octavia Goredema is founder of relocation resource Crash Course City and the Twenty Ten Club, an award-winning networking organization and online resource designed to connect, inspire and support black female entrepreneurs. Goredema is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an international network of accomplished individuals in the arts, manufactures and commerce patroned by the Queen Elizabeth II.