Caprice Bourret may have graced more than 350 magazine covers, but it’s her business nous that has led to her longevity in the public sphere. Angela Sara West talks to the model, actor and entrepreneur about her ever-evolving brand
Multi-award-winning entrepreneur, model and actress Caprice Bourret first shot to fame in the 1990s, when she became one of the world’s most photographed women, bagging the cover of Vogue and appearing in more than 300 TV shows and films.
Now she is just as lauded for her business acumen, having founded By Caprice, a successful and affordable lingerie brand, two decades ago. By Caprice Home followed suit – a stylish line of media and celebrity-endorsed homeware products, including cushions, curtains, duvet covers and throws.
“Transitioning from model to businesswoman to further my career was a turning point,” says Caprice. “From the age of 18, I have gone out into the world and made my own money. It is all down to hard work. I am very business-minded, and go after what I want.”
As the founder, designer and CEO, Caprice now travels the world to support the growth of her business. A regular host/ keynote speaker at high-profile corporate shows and events, she enjoys reaching out to a range of audiences, from university students to entrepreneurs and start-ups.
“I’ve been grateful to receive lots of awards in my career, and most recently, in business,” she tells What Franchise. “I’m honoured and humbled to be recognised by my peers.” As such, this model is much in demand for hosting award shows such as the British Youth Travel Awards, alongside speaking at a past ICU Business Show and International Performance Marketing Awards. She also gives masterclasses on how to develop a brand.
“At this stage in my career, I like to give back and help budding entrepreneurs,” she adds. “I have been there, and I know the struggle.”
The most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur? “The best bit is the freedom you have – managing your own time, building your own business on your terms, and the financial freedom you get from it. It’s also something you can pass onto children if you choose to.”
The start of Caprice’s career happened more by accident than design. “I entered a beauty pageant as a teenager, and it all took off from there… I wasn’t really looking to take it any further than entering the competition, but I was introduced to a modelling agent in NYC and she signed me. I was a little surprised I did so well in the pageant and, to be honest, I did it for a bit of fun and to make my mom happy.
“During my early modelling days, I started off doing major USA retail catalogue campaigns, and my first editorial was for Vogue. With my family’s blessing, I moved to the UK to further my modelling career, which would then see me travel the world.”
Once established in the industry, Caprice applied the same business mindset to modelling as she now does towards her company.
“I have always seen my career as a business,” she explains. “Even in my modelling days, I would negotiate deals with photographers to make sure I was being paid fairly and to ensure I received the maximum amount.”
“In the early days of By Caprice, however, I had to fight the stereotypes. Back then, ‘celebrity-branded’ ranges and ‘celebrity licensing deals’ were not what they are today. Retailers thought I’d be gone after 12 months, so I had to prove my numbers. And today, I have those numbers to back me up.”
Her big business break materialised on signing her first licensing deal with Debenhams. “They essentially took all of the risk,” she continues. “This is when I immersed myself in the industry, educated myself and I learnt about the integral parts of the business. After seeing how well the line was selling, I eventually bought back the licence.”
A stylish business ethos
Caprice’s luxurious homeware range is glamorous but affordable, with clean, sleek designs that add luxury to a room. “Our customers love glamour, glitz and sparkle,” Caprice explains. “We see what is working and we have a number of bestsellers that we update every season, while also adding a number of new designs that we know our customers will love.”
By Caprice Home is all about individuality, style and design. “We use the highest-quality materials and we don’t follow trends, as such. We see what’s working with customers and we design with our customer in mind; that’s what makes Caprice Home unique and sets us apart from our competition.”
What drives and inspires this hardworking CEO outside the boardroom? “My children. It’s all for them.” As for her business icons: “I’m a big fan of Kathy Ireland, an entrepreneur in the US. I respect her and what she does, and take a lot of inspiration from her.”
But Caprice confides that it’s her own mother who is the secret behind her success. “She’s a successful interior designer in LA. She was a single mom, raising two of us by herself. I admire her work ethic, and she always taught us that the harder you work, the luckier you get. I’ve always kept that in mind.”
Another key factor at the heart of her business success is in acknowledging customer feedback. “I do love and appreciate input. I believe in brand integrity, and I care about what consumers think. This is one of the contributing factors as to why we are going strong since launching in 2000… luxurious designs, good quality, brand integrity, understanding our target market, and giving customers the best competitive price.”
Driven by success
So, what sort of person does it take to drive success at the helm of a business? “Being your own boss is not for the fainthearted,” Caprice warns. “It takes a lot of hard work and determination. You get told no, a lot! And knockbacks – you must keep picking yourself up and trying again, no matter how many times it takes. It takes strong character, and you have to have lots of passion and integrity. You will live with your business, and it becomes your heart and soul.”
For budding entrepreneurs and franchisees, Caprice reckons 2022 is the perfect year to start your own business. “Now is a great time, with lots of change afoot. In terms of general business, Brexit has led to huge transitions in law, not just in the paperwork, but physically in getting products into the country. All businesses have had to learn to work around these changes and adapt in selling outside of the UK into the EU and following new protocol.
“People are working from home and evaluating the way they live and their work-life balance, being inspired to work differently to how they would have done pre-pandemic. Priorities have changed and people are choosing to work on what they are passionate about.”
Caprice has stacks of advice for aspiring business owners. “I advise young people to get the proper experience. Work placements and shadowing are so important. Find out what industry or job you fit into best and use the time to gain those insights. Then you won’t get stuck in an industry or job you don’t like. Also, talk to other people doing the job you see yourself doing as their knowledge and advice is invaluable.”
This hugely-successful CEO is all about empowering women in business. Caprice’s message to fellow entrepreneurial women, especially those who are no longer in their twenties or thirties, and want to start their own venture: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old, for starters! Life is just beginning, and you have all of that wisdom and life experience behind you.
“Middle age is a great time to start a new business. I am launching a new brand soon and looking for gaps in the market. It’s all about confidence, and if you get knocked down, pick yourself back up – you can do it!”
Learning from mistakes
Caprice’s most valuable business lesson came when the recession hit. “I lost over £1m literally overnight with the exchange rate. I lay in bed for days, and I remember my mom calling me and saying: ‘Cap, get it together, this is not you’. It was a conversation that made me get up, wipe the tears from my eyes, and get back to my desk. I am not going to lie, it was a hard lesson to swallow, but I tell you what, I never made that mistake again.”
Back on her feet, the American business guru educated herself on hedging currency exchange so that in the event of future changes in the stock market, she wouldn’t get stung again. “In business, bad things can happen. It’s all in how you deal with the situation, learn and grow from your mistakes. Rising to a challenge is what makes a successful entrepreneur and the key to longevity in business. Picking yourself back up is what you need to keep doing because you will get knocked down time and time again throughout your career.”
Up next for Caprice Bourret? “Lots more mentoring and building the brand internationally,” she reveals. “2020-2021 were strong years for sales, as people spent more time at home and wanted to redecorate and add freshness to their homes. Autumn and winter proved to be a busy time – we sold out on many lines and had to re-order.”
Caprice has a plethora of projects in the pipeline for 2022. “I’m launching another brand that I am very excited about, and predict an even bigger year ahead! We’re expanding into more markets, and growing the core range to meet customer demand, so will be launching other products soon. I want to make By Caprice Home one of the biggest home brands in the world… and I’m really proud of how it’s evolving!”
Motto: “The harder you work, the luckier you get. I am blessed with the career I continue to have.”
Highlights: “Being able to travel all around the world. I have been to some incredible places I will never forget. Also, landing my first licensing deal in 2006, which kickstarted my business empire. Then buying the licence back – the brand has grown from strength-to-strength ever since.”
Any regrets? “I turned down the lead in ‘Baywatch’ after Pamela Anderson left. I should have kept my ego in my back pocket… I thought I was too big for the show. In hindsight, I wished I hadn’t overlooked the opportunity as it would be have been really fun!”