Emily Jupp-Eastwood ( Known as Milly J) is the force behind Milly J Shoes ® & Bridal Shoes By Milly J. She solely hand creates and designs Strikingly Unconventional Art to Wear Shoes & Shoe Sculptures, mostly with a highly bespoke element. She has been in business since 2013.
What drove you to start your own business?
My own internal drive and want to create something from my own core. I had worked in jobs from marketing to professional acting to speech consultant and yet, after the sad passing of my brother, it seemed to be the fitting time to launch myself into being the driver of my own future.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I think it is self-limiting to strive towards one goal, be it within career or personal life, if there is the foundation to branch out. I was brought up within a very diverse environment that nurtured both my artistic and academic side. I did however attend leading arts schools and universities and was trained to be a Classical, Opera and musical theatre singer and actress with a strong art base, though I also excelled particularly in Sociology and Speech.
Despite working within footwear, I also still maintain my other capabilities. It’s not a case of lack of focus or a Jack of All Trades approach, but the fortune of swinging fluidly between several areas. I’m not unique here and that is the beauty of the human ability. Once it’s tapped into, most strengths can be harnessed.
Tell us about the business planning stage.
I had not been in business prior to Milly J Shoes, I would say that I am more of an entrepreneur than a business woman, but I am learning. Certain areas came with ease more so than others.
The one useful aspect that a well-known philanthropist advised me of was to complete a business plan. I find that plans are of course constantly transitioning and what I implemented a year ago starts to transform into something else. Though plans are a reference point in which to assess your bench marks.
I connect with as many experts as possible, both in the UK and overseas. Some have been far more helpful than others and this boils down to how well you know your own business, how much you are willing to absorb, how open they are, what they can also offer you and a host of other elements. You do start to learn that because your business manifested from your own visions, it ultimately relies on you to move aspects forward and the more creative the business, the harder it is to find the right people, as creativity is so subjective.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I appreciate organic planning and it works for my situation at the moment. However, it will certainly change later on and I am always open to new approaches. I encourage myself to focus on what is working and plan and innovate from there. Continually improving through what Milly J Shoes is seeking to be, rather than what it is trying to achieve. I know what I do best and I plan through that.
I have been organically planning for the future of Milly J Shoes for a long while now and I find this vital to keeping me on track, I use it as my road map. Though the map may occasionally require road works and maintenance. There is nothing worse than allowing your future to ignore your current and that includes clients. I do find it slightly foolish to plan something to a tee when obstacles and visions change dependent on your current situation.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I am sure my business is not too dissimilar from other home based businesses in terms of execution. I do notclaim to be a maverick of organisation or administration! In fact, I have to work harder in these areas, as I work for and by myself. What may be different is the way in which I process ideas and information and how this comes out in my work.
How do you work on making your business grow?
I do ensure that each day I come up with a new innovation. This is not solely a footwear idea, but could also be another area of interest of mine, tech. Advancement is key in a fast changing world and sits comfortably in what I do. I am certainly committed to the growth of Milly J Shoes and as mentioned, it includes doing what works and what will work. Organic strategy is important for my growth and I often liken it to a game of the board game, RISK!
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Being as creative and developmental as you like and giving back in your unique way. Knowing that your variance was a direct result of your enthusiasm and dedication.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
Getting people on side can be a challenge. Creativity and entrepreneurship can be very personal and learning to communicate that into something universal is daunting. Having the courage to convince yourself first that what you do is of merit and passing that through to others is the next stage. Some investors and those you need to expand can be linear in thought and cannot understand that there are indeed other ways to progress. I try to ensure that I become a chameleon in terms of the processes of others.
Motivation and time keeping are also challenges, especially for those who are self-employed or with genuinely identified reasons for poor time keeping such as myself. I was lucky to grow out of those difficulties mostly. I do prioritise and throughout school, I was trained to learn coping mechanisms for poor time keeping. It occasionally creeps up on me, though I am excellent at handing shoes to my clients on time!
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I suppose my answers will tell you partly about the kind of person I am. I am invigorated by diversification and progress. I am also inspired by those who haven’t had it easy and yet find their own way. That’s the importance in many ways, to find a way, not someone else’s way, but a way that allows you to flourish whilst respecting yourself and those around you and handing something to this world.
- David Bowie – a man who was so sure that what he had to offer would change the face of culture. A creative genius simply because he could cross over many forms and constantly transform, including into business.
- Joy Mangano – The scarcity of a female to push her way through the invention world, owning over 100 patents.
- Steve Jobs – a fellow adopted, his passion for perfection and design revolutionised several areas from tech to animation.
- Oprah Winfrey – role models are vital, no matter the race. It infuriated me when I watched, Michael Parkinson who once asked Morgan Freeman if he felt he was a role model for black people. Morgan corrected him by saying, he would like to be considered a role model for all people. This is also the beauty of Oprah, a highly sleek, courageous and dignified woman who has surpassed race, with many respecting her business and creative acumen and self as a whole.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
“Even with your innovations, don’t stop doing your bonkers designs. This is your signature and your brand. It is up to you what you choose to do” – my cousin who is a well-respected member of the business world (who shall remain elusive as he likes to be!)
What are the 3 books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
I tend to be slightly skeptical when it comes to motivational business books. Taking delight in catering to those who believe one rule works for many. If the inkling for business is not already within you, it won’t be superficially sparked by a business book.
I do find The Big Think and especially TED nourishing for learning outside your usual bubble. Learning about different perspectives and theories opens you up to gaining new insight no matter what your field.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I find sociology, anthropology, the arts and humanity very important and I also work within these areas. My own time is very private to me and I like to keep this aspect sacred to myself and those I share it with. It’s important to keep something back for yourself. In an age of selfies and over sharing, to recuperate both by being confident in your own company and with those you choose to share it with are one of life’s last remaining private pleasures.
Emily was the winner of the Outstanding Woman in the Creative Industries at the 2015 PRECIOUS Awards