Theo Paphitis backs The Cool Line
ENTREPRENEUR Claudette Cooling impressed a Dragon’s Den star with her online fashion business, The Cool Line, selling silk scarves decorated with her original designs.
She achieved recognition for her new venture when she won the Small Business Sunday competition backed by former tv ‘Dragon’, Theo Paphitis, and is now encouraging others to pursue their own start-up dreams.
The 24-year-old from Stockton studied for a BTEC National Diploma in textiles and A-Level in fine art at Cleveland College of Art & Design (CCAD) before graduating with a First Class honours degree from its university-level campus in Hartlepool in 2013.
She then went on to complete a PGCE (Post Compulsory Education and Training) teaching qualification but was already planning to combine her creativity with commerce.
“I knew that starting a business was what I really wanted to do,”explained Claudette pictured above with Theo Paphitis and her boyfriend, Connor Kerr. “Throughout the year I was studying the PGCE, I created a brand, reworked designs, built up contacts and sourced suppliers in the hope of using the research to start up a business.
“In the year following my PGCE, I spent 12 months sourcing the right supplier, with endless samples and back and forth with suppliers. It felt like it would never find the ‘right supplier’ I was happy with, but I did eventually find them.”
“Prove them all wrong… nothing is more powerful than the desire to show you can make a success and make your dreams a reality. Positivity and belief in yourself and your brand is key to progression.”
Her hard work and business acumen was praised by former Dragon’s Den star, Theo Paphitis, who runs a weekly competition on Twitter between 5pm and 7.30pm called Small Business Sunday (SBS) where people tell him about their business with the #SBS hash tag. He then chooses six businesses which he then retweets to all of his 500,000 followers.
As an SBS winner, Claudette was delighted to meet the famous entrepreneur at a special event, and has gained a place on the dragon’s SBS winners’ website as well as receiving exclusive support, networking and business opportunities.
As part of the event, Claudette met with representatives from Ryman, Robert Dyas and Red Letter Days to discover potential business opportunities and benefit from useful advice.
A question time session provided inspiration and networking opportunities, with UKTI business ambassador and co-founder of Not on the High Street Holly Tucker MBE, Mike Pickles from The Really Useful Box Company and Theo Paphitis.
On finding out that she had won, Claudette said: “I was shocked, very shocked! You have to remember I only launched the business at the beginning of November 2015 and to win an award at the end of the second month was very unexpected!
“It gave me a sense that things might happen for the business and it could be a success. Anyone who supports The Cool Line, I am extremely grateful too, but when it is someone with such prestige as a former Dragon it does feel amazing!
“I knew that starting a business was what I really wanted to do. Throughout the year I was studying the PGCE, I created a brand, reworked designs, built up contacts and sourced suppliers in the hope of using the research to start up a business.”
In the week following the SBS win I doubled my followers and became part of a brilliant community of small businesses, who are always on the other end of a Tweet should I need any help or advice.”
Claudette credits her time spent learning, developing her creative skills and honing her craft at CCAD as part of her success. She added: “CCAD gave me an insight into the possibilities that are out there for creative people and where possible gives you the chance to taste these before you go out into the world.
“I most enjoyed the freedom to try everything and anything without the constraints of deadlines, budgets etc and to be able to do those things around like-minded people and established professionals. CCAD has and always will be close to my heart, it’s a place I will always go back to, I visit the shows year in year out and love the foundations it instills in the people who study there.”
She is now determined about growing her business as well as encouraging others to pursue their passions and become entrepreneurs. “Prove them all wrong… nothing is more powerful than the desire to show you can make a success and make your dreams a reality. Positivity and belief in yourself and your brand is key to progression,” she said.
“I am passionate about The Cool Line and this passion is infectious so I say grasp every opportunity with both hands and never underestimate the power of the smallest opportunity. Never settle for anything less than you expect, if its perfection you want, go out and make sure you make perfection happen!”