The SMART Interview #14 Kelly Hoppen
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The SMART Interview #14 Kelly Hoppen

  • InteriorDesignerKellyHoppen
  • 17 Jul 2014

She took on her first design project at the age of just 16 - creating a new kitchen for a family friend. Since then Kelly Hoppen has designed homes, hotels and yachts for the likes of the Beckhams, written highly successful books about interior design and starred in the BBC's Dragons' Den. So, how did she do it?

At Heathrow Express we like to celebrate doing things that bit smarter. Each month we seek out someone who really exemplifies this approach to work and life and we ask them some questions. This month: Kelly Hoppen MBE.

Are people born entrepreneurial or is it something they learn?

I think it’s definitely something that can be nurtured, however some people have more passion and drive than others.

Thinking smarter, being creative; it’s something many people struggle with – is there a secret?

It’s always important to take time out and gain experiences that fuel your creativity. Also, the biggest tip to give anyone in business is to always be charming – that can open a million doors! There is something so wonderful about being old fashioned and polite in the 21st century.

Having a good idea is the easy bit. How do you take a good idea and make it commercially successful?

Know your competition and do some thorough research into the market you’re entering. Remaining passionate is definitely key, as well as being open to suggestion and constructive criticism for other people. You need to be open-minded. Set business goals and always remember what you are trying to achieve – this will spur you on.

What’s the best way to motivate the people working for you?

I believe people feel empowered when you explain to them that they are actually their own ‘business’, working under your brand’s umbrella. Delegation without fear is a wonderful thing! Also learning to praise good work is vital. When you note the achievements of your employees it shows them that they are valued and motivates them to aim higher.

You've invested in several businesses in the BBC's Dragon's Den. What's the secret to attracting investment? What drew you to these businesses in particular?

It’s not just the product that’s important, but also the person behind it. I’m attracted to innovators who think outside the box and have something with great potential. Each of my investments is great product backed by a passionate and enthusiastic entrepreneur who believes in it – and in themselves. I am always there for support and advice, but when it comes down to it they need to be able to drive their own business to success on their own. They need to have that drive!

Interior Designer, Kelly Hoppen
Image: Interior Designer, Kelly Hoppen

Were you a working mum? Do you have any tips for achieving a good work/life balance? 

I took some time out at the beginning, but then I was straight back to work . Your children will always come first, of course. However, maintaining your career is vital to provide for them. The balance will come naturally, and every person is different. You need to spend some time working out what is best for your situation.

What's the biggest mistake people make when it comes to designing their own home interiors?

Failing to plan and rushing the design. The biggest mistake people can make is not having a specific design plan or a set budget. You need something to work towards or you’ll end up spending more than you imagined on a poorly designed home.

You must travel a lot – is there a particular part of the world you love to visit?

I absolutely love it! I am constantly travelling for work and some of my favourite places include Asia, Tuscany – and especially Africa. I also love Mauritius. I’ve designed a hotel there called Lux Belle, so for me it’s a home away from home. 

What do you always take with you when you travel and why?

Either my partner, John, or my daughter, Natasha, Good company is essential! Also, I never travel without a great book and my iPad.

Read more #SMART stuff

15 minutes to… sort your summer reading
The Business Traveller - a handy guide to Hong Kong
The Luxury Traveller - smart tips for upgrading your trip

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