My former college, Hills Road Sixth Form College, have put together a short piece on how I got into business straight out of education (despite not studying any creative A Level subjects!) Have a read of what I had to say below.
INTERVIEW WITH HILLS ROAD ALUMNA JEN FOREMAN, FOUNDER AND OWNER OF ‘CUSTOM CONVERSE’. 6000 PAIRS OF CUSTOM CONVERSE CREATED SO FAR!
We are very interested in where your creative idea for the customised converse originated? And if you have people helping you run the business or is it completely independently run?
My first pair of customised converse were gifted to me by my friends for my 17th birthday, I’d suggested they get some Sharpie’s and doodle little memories and stupid quotes to symbolise our friendship on them. I wore them a lot during my time at Hills Road and it was always amusing to see people trying to read them and work out what it all meant. Two years down the line and with another birthday approaching I was looking online for a new pair; the Converse website has a customize page but it’s very limiting in what it offers. I wanted to be able to add my favourite band logo to a pair and nowhere else offered this service so I decided to do it myself. I also knew I wanted a cleaner and longer lasting finish compared to the Sharpie’s so paint seemed like the way to go!
Five and a half years on from then and I am still running Custom Converse independently. It’s nice to be able to work with each customer all the way through the process from initial request to producing the product and then getting feedback, photos and comments from them. You build up trust and a lasting reputation which always helps with repeat custom!
What advice would you best give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
My main advice is don’t be put off by other people’s opinions or comments. If you believe you’ve got a good idea, that there’s a gap in the market and people will benefit from what you’re doing then go for it. I’ve had people ask me if I do this as a full time job and ‘What if Converse go out of fashion?’ (the brand has existed for 109 years so I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening!). You probably won’t have success overnight but you definitely have youth on your side. Social media is free advertising so consider it your best friend and use it wisely!
Was there a moment of realisation or experience during sixth form that prompted you to follow your creative path? Or was it an idea formed consequent to completing education?
I had planned to study Psychology at University but soon quit and moved back home after struggling with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. My therapist at the time had suggested doing something creative as it’s relaxing, productive and would also be a good use of my time since I had nothing else to do! I’d not done anything creative since GCSE Art so I took things slowly and built up my confidence day by day. The first pair of Converse I painted took me a week!
Specifically, we would like to hear about how your experience at Hills Road equipped you with the entrepreneurial skills you have today?
Hills Road gave me a lot of freedom compared to secondary school and with that came responsibility. You had to manage your time well and balance seeing your friends with getting work done. It also gave me deadlines to work within and I’d say that’s the most crucial skill I’ve taken forwards. The Wedding industry doesn’t allow for deadline extensions so I have to be spot on with my timings and make sure I don’t promise things I can’t deliver. It’s a big balancing act and Hills Road was good practice when it came to prioritising subjects and coursework.
Finally, how would you describe your time at Hills Road and do you think it gave you the creative independence necessary for starting up and running a successful business?
I absolutely loved my time at Hills Road and I look back on it fondly. Despite not needing my A Level results for a future career I’m proud of how hard I worked and what I managed to achieve. My creative confidence has developed with time and practice outside of education, but Hills Road has given me the all-round skills needed to be able to learn how to run an independent business with no prior experience.