A graduate from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) has impressed business leader and former Dragon’s Den star, Theo Paphitis with the launch of her new online fashion retail website.
24-year-old Claudette Cooling from Stockton-on-Tees has created her own fashion accessories business, The Cool Line, which specialises in silks scarves in bold and daring designs created by the young entrepreneur.
After studying for a BTEC National Diploma in textiles and A-Level in fine art, Claudette went on to achieve a first class honours degree, graduating from CCAD’s university-level campus in Hartlepool in 2013. After graduation, Claudette went on to complete a PGCE (Post Compulsory Education and Training) but was already planning her new business.
Claudette said: “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 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.”
Claudette achieved recognition for her new business, which she launched in November last year, after winning the weekly Small Business Sunday competition backed by former Dragon’s Den star, Theo Paphitis.
Theo runs a weekly competition on Twitter between 5pm and 7.30pm called Small Business Sunday, 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! 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 said: “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 likeminded 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 instils in the people that study there.”
For anyone considering setting up their own business, Claudette offers some inspirational advice: “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.
“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!”
Theo said: “I admire people who have passion and energy. If you cannot bore your friends to death about your own small business then something is seriously wrong.
“I was struck by the number of business owners on Twitter who wanted to tell me about their new products and services. Small Business Sunday was born so that people have a specific time slot to tweet and can pitch their ‘sell’ directly to me.”