Meet the MD: Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible

Meet the MD: Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible

What is it the company does?

We are trend forecasters - we help retailers and brands understand the future of life at home so that they can develop products and strategies that will resonate with future audiences.  It’s our job to know what will shape and influence householders so that our clients can predict what they should make and when. We know what shoppers will feel, think and do anywhere from two to ten-years in advance.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

Really I’m here to serve my employees. I’m here to inspire, enthuse, support and coach them so they can grow and deliver the best possible products and services to our clients. I am also here to provide clear direction in terms of where we’re headed as a business and then get everyone on board with that vision.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I studied fashion design at Kingston University, where I learned about the deeply mysterious world of trend forecasting and knew I wanted to break into this industry. It would be years until that was actually possible, having been warned by a university career advisor that there were only 200 jobs in trend forecasting worldwide, and that nobody would hire a ‘green’ graduate with no experience.

My first job was menswear design assistant for American Eagle Outfitters in New York, then I came back to the UK for a job at Topman before finally landing my dream job as a trend forecaster for Bureaux Design Agency in London. I then set up as a freelance trend consultant and worked for five years as head of trends for Tesco and for other brands including Nokia and Calvin Klein. Over time this workload simply got too big for one person, and I decided to create a trend book outlining the seasonal trends, thinking this would free me up from consulting and allow me to sell my knowledge into businesses in a different way. In the first season I only sold two trend books, now we sell hundreds all over the world to brands like Microsoft, Marks and Spencer, Paperchase and Lego. 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think it’s someone who is on a journey themselves, who is prepared to continue to learn and improve and grow. I don’t always have the answers in my business, in fact I rarely do, I try and encourage my team to bring problems ‘with the solution in mind’ so that they can have a go at trusting their instincts and their grasp of the Trend Bible culture and way of life. Nine times out of ten they make the same decision I would have made, so it’s an important step for building self-confidence. Giving people freedom to make important decisions is really hard but I think it’s pivotal to great leadership.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I think the step from Start Up to Scale Up is really difficult. Once you’ve got over 10 employees it’s a different ball game – your own team’s needs becomes equally important to your client’s needs so it feels like there’s an extra layer of people that needs real devoted attention. That’s also the stage where you’re trying to delegate quite dramatically, building a management team and ensuring that you have strongly defined ways of working so that delegation is consistent and transferable. 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I cycle, I go to Speedflex and I do yoga. Exercise is so all-encompassing that you haven’t got the brain space to think about work! I also have two children who are a great leveller and a distraction from the pressures of running a business but they bring their own brand of stress with them to be honest! I make sure I get regular holidays and when I do, I completely and utterly switch off.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Strangely enough I wanted to be a stuntwoman. I had even designed my own logo and decided on which van I would keep all my motorbikes in. This was built on a complete obsession with 80s TV show The Fall Guy.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

It would be lack of responsibility; when something is broken or not put away in its place, no paper in the printer or a wobbly chair leg. Thankfully one of our company values is ‘Own It’ and it means we all have to take responsibility for dealing with whatever obstacle we face.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

We’ll double our turnover by 2020 and increase our team from 14 to 20 in that time too. Within 5 years we’ll be the foremost thought-leader in the future home in the UK and US markets.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Be open to learning and make sure you mix it up. Broad reading, accessing mentors (different ones are sometimes useful at different stages), going to talks and staying inspired will ensure you have that fresh energy needed. Also don’t forget to look back and see how far you’ve come. It can be so easy to always look forward and keep striving for the next step, but it’s so important to see where you’ve come from, what obstacles you overcame and celebrate the successes along the way.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

To be patient, it will all happen at the pace it’s supposed to happen at.

Published: 20 September 2017

Article by Suzy Jackson
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