Kelly Hoppen, BAFTA-nominated interior designer and former Dragons’ Den investor, talks to Angela Sara West about her illustrious career, working to promote British small businesses and championing women entrepreneurs
Nothing screams luxury like a Kelly Hoppen design. With 45 years’ experience at the forefront of her industry and an estimated net worth reported to be £50 million, London’s ‘Queen of Interiors’ is synonymous with designing rooms for the super-rich and famous and collaborating with brands worldwide, from high end to high street.
The award-winning designer has won multiple accolades during her illustrious career, but she considers her greatest achievement to date to be her much-coveted MBE, for services to interior design. “It was a huge honour to meet the Queen and be presented with such an award,” she says.
Now, Kelly is a proud Government-appointed ambassador for GREAT, which supports global trade by showcasing the very best Britain has to offer and promoting British creativity, business and commerce internationally. Her subsequent CBE for her services to the campaign recognises Kelly’s exceptional contribution to the UK as an entrepreneurial and self-made female business owner and positions her as a powerful example of the talent and forward-leaning nature of global Britain.
“I am truly humbled and thrilled to be honoured for work that I feel so passionate about,” Kelly enthuses. “Working together with the GREAT campaign has been rewarding and exciting, and I look forward to continuing to support and mentor UK SMEs and entrepreneurs, which is more important now than ever.”
Kelly believes British craft is crucial to our nation’s success and is a big advocate of creativity in business. “Craft, like design and art, plays a vital role in our economy,” she expands. “This is why I am actively involved with the GREAT campaign, helping small businesses showcase what they have to offer to global buyers. I’m a huge supporter of craft in Britain and would hate to see this tradition die out. Creativity is what makes the world go round!”
A simple philosophy
Kelly’s love of design and understanding her clients’ needs has always been at the heart of her business modus operandi. Kelly’s big break came at 16 when her father’s friend asked her to design his kitchen. “It was my first assignment and I haven’t looked back since,” she says. “The passion grew stronger and the projects bigger!”
Since her first foray into the world of interiors, the designer has collaborated with a diverse range of luxury brands, from Hakwood to Samsung, British Airways to Wedgewood, as well as partnering with select brands to create a range of products for the home, such as with her modish homeware K by Kelly line for QVC.
Known for her muted palette and minimalist aesthetic, Kelly’s cool ‘n’ contemporary signature stamp is emblazoned across a wide range of commercial projects across the world, including eco cruises, five-star hotels, private jets and superyachts. Having achieved iconic status, the interiors queen is the go-to designer to the A-list, counting the Beckhams, the Lampards and Simon Cowell among her clientele.
Passionate about making her design ethos accessible to the masses, Kelly has authored nine books, launched a podcast and is a highly successful social media influencer, regularly posting positive messages on her public platforms with a business bias. “I feel incredibly lucky to have such a large social media following,” she says. “It allows me to offer insight into my work, as well as other aspects of my life on a personal level. I always try to make my social media platforms a positive and inspiring space to be.”
Mentoring new talent
Her digital platforms also allow her to mentor and nurture both emerging and established entrepreneurs. “I try to offer advice as much as I can. This helps me channel everything I’ve learned over the years and pass the knowledge on to young creatives all around the world. I have a real desire to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs – there is so much fresh talent emerging, and I love how social media allows me to connect directly with them.”
The celebrated designer also chats candidly with game-changing businesswomen renowned in their industries on her eponymous podcast series, The Kelly Hoppen Show, on iTunes and Spotify. Many of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs are featured, including Karren Brady, Dame Kelly Holmes, Jo Malone, Melissa Odabash, Lisa Snowden, Amanda Wakeley OBE, Trinny Woodall and the CEO of BAFTA, Amanda Berry, each sharing unique insights into how they built their businesses, their successes and failures, and how they balance their life goals with work.
“As a big podcast fan, I was very excited to launch my very own show. I set out to explore and share the challenges and successes of some of the UK’s most experienced entrepreneurs, to give listeners inspiration and business advice so they can grow and reach their own goals. And one thing I have found is that they all have one thing in common – belief,” she emphasises.
Work hard, play hard
Striking a life-work balance is especially important to Kelly. “I work in a very focused way, but when I finish for the day, and at weekends, I relax and recharge my battery, unless I’m filming. I’m lucky – I have a great team of people behind the scenes who help me to balance everything.”
When it comes to avoiding burnout, Kelly focuses on the positive… and has a rule. “Wellness! I work out every morning… it helps set me up for the day. Starting the day with exercise and without my phone is a non-compromise.”
As former stepmother to Hollywood actress Sienna Miller and her sister Savannah, with whom she remains very close, Kelly always carves out time for loved ones, too. “They’re the most important thing, and I always try to make time to call or video call my family when we can’t get together in person. There’s a lot to do with my business, but I enjoy every bit of my work and my family. I think it’s about working hard, putting all that you have into your projects and making sure that relaxing comes in the form of the most incredible holiday or time out. I like to give myself a complete creative break.”
The secret behind Kelly’s success is actually quite simple: “Hard work and passion,” she says, shortly. “I love and I’m proud of what I do, so it’s easy to put all my effort into it. I work equally hard on every assignment, they’re all so different and unique. When each is finished, I get a feeling of immense pride.
“I’m happy with how things have turned out in my career. I’m very fortunate to have a great business doing something I love, and any mistakes in the past have been nothing but a learning curve to get me to where I am now.”
At 62, Kelly is not planning to slow down, kick back and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime’s work. Instead, she tells What Franchise, she has a plethora of projects in the pipeline. “I am working on many exciting projects around the world, including one in Sydney, and I can’t wait to share these with you. I’ve never felt so in love with my job or excited about what is to come.”
“My design for life”
Setting up a franchise? Ex-Dragons’ Den investor Kelly has plenty of top tips for budding entrepreneurs:
• If you have a dream, chase it
• Do your research, know your market and your unique selling proposition – and be credible
• Write down realistic steps towards hitting your targets
• Stick to your vision, be inspired creatively by everything around and follow your gut
• Before committing too much in funds and time, test the market. It’s a low-cost way of seeing if your business idea has any chance of success. A small research group made up of your target audience will offer valuable insights
• Have good accounting – it’s the vital glue of any business. If you’re already an entrepreneur or about to start a franchise or business, check out Sage Cloud Accounting. With Sage, you can send and track personalised quotes and invoices immediately after finishing a job. This means you can stop chasing invoices and spend more time doing what you love
• With more people working from home than ever, a beautiful desk space is incredibly important. Spend time styling your surroundings to create a truly inspirational place to work
• Most importantly, have self-belief. I strongly believe that passion and self-belief are the most important things you need as an entrepreneur. If you don’t have faith in your franchise, or yourself, how will anybody else? If you have confidence in your ability and designs, paired with determination, you’ll go far!
“Resilience isn’t everything”
“Running a business is always incredibly challenging, even at the best of times, let alone during periods of uncertainty,” says Kelly, who mentors women in business. “Building up resilience over time is very helpful and comes with practice. However, I believe that vulnerability is also so important and underrated in running a company. As women, we often think we have to prove our strength and independence, but it’s just as valuable to be able to ask for help and guidance when you need it.”
Angela Sara West is a BBC-trained celebrity journalist and freelance writer.