Interview: Carla Rizzo, founder Saint Jerome Store

Saint Jerome Store is a new brand dedicated to creating stylish, affordable and timeless clothing for the modern woman to keep her looking chic from day to night.

Founder and designer Carla Rizzo is an ex-banking-and-finance professional and naturally I thought that her career change story – and if not that most definitely her first collection – would provide inspiration for BusiChics everywhere.

“Did you know what you wanted to do when you quit your job?”

“I had some idea. You?”

“I had no idea, I just knew that I couldn’t keep on going doing what I had been doing for the last ten years. So I just quit.”

If your interest is piqued in Carla’s career-change story, make sure that you have a cuppa ready for the first section or skip to the second for “a day in the life” which also highlights how her work style has changed with her career transition or to the third to hear about the inspirations and direction behind Saint Jerome Store. Enjoy!

Carla Rizzo Saint Jerome Store creator

BusinessChic recently sat down for this interview with Melbourne-based Carla Rizzo,banking-and-finance-professional turned founder and designer of Saint Jerome Store.

Background & Biz

What did you study? Where did you start your professional life?

My professional life started after I quit my business degree (majoring in Human Resources) after realising uni just wasn’t my thing. I was itching to be out in the professional world learning and earning. I began working in a finance company which then lead me to spend the next 10 years in banking and finance. Whilst I often used to think and knew deep in my heart that fashion was my passion and that I wanted to be my own boss, I wouldn’t change the path that led to me where I am today. The business skills, relationships, networks, and opportunities I have experienced have been invaluable to starting my own business.

When did you know that you needed to start a business? How long did the process take from having the idea to the launch of Saint Jerome Store earlier this month?

I knew from a young age that I always wanted to be my own boss, it was a natural drive in me, however I knew I had to go into the real world and learn as much as I could, pay my dues and earn my stripes before I could.

About 2 ½ years ago I was incredibly unhappy in my professional life, and the burning desire for my own business was screaming louder and louder. I quit my corporate job with no back up and no plan. During my time off I found the joys of eBay. I started selling women’s clothes and I had success doing this. I earned power seller status very quickly, which then lead me to diversify into leather handbags which I imported. In the process of running my eBay business, I saw the demand for classic, affordable and yet versatile pieces women could wear to work and on weekend. So the concept of Saint Jerome began. I went about spending the next 8-10 months putting together a solid business plan, researching the market, my customer base & profiling, focus groups, engaging experienced people within retail, searching for manufacturers, doing design courses.. and the list goes on. It’s taken from conception to implementation around 18 months.

What do you know about starting up and running your own business now that you wish you knew earlier?

I’ve made many mistakes, and I’m sure I will make many more, but I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason and things lead you to where you are meant to be in life. I wish however, that someone had told me to trust my instincts a lot more. I’ve at times let other peoples ideas or opinions get in the way of what I really wanted because I thought they had more knowledge or experience. I soon learnt pretty quickly that in the end you can listen and learn from others but you are the only one who can steer the business in the direction you want. You are the visionary and so only do things that you truly believe in.

Professional skills from your previous career that help you create Saint Jerome Store?

My finance background has definitely helped me when it comes to crunching the numbers and getting bang for my buck. I don’t make decisions based on a whim. I’m very analytical and methodical when it comes to budgets and profit margins. I don’t like wasting money and in today’s environment when I make a financial output I want to see a return on investment. I also think my experience of building relationships and networks has been pivotal in my dealings with overseas suppliers. My suppliers have put a lot of trust in me and taken a chance on me when many others wouldn’t, I believe that’s all down to relationship.

Carla Rizzo interview Saint Jerome Store

A day in the life

How do you set up your day for optimal productivity?

I generally do a plan for the week. It includes forecast for sales, what marketing/social media activity is scheduled for the week, any meetings I have and what are the week’s challenges that I need to focus on; this could be anything from increasing click through rates on the website to making sure suppliers stick to turnaround times of samples.

I also always try to book meetings on set days, as being out of the office can set you behind and I find can disrupt routine.

Describe a typical day!

First thing I do when I wake is check my emails. I tend to get many emails during the night from overseas suppliers, so I answer them first up. Second is look at sales results and what orders need dispatching. Then I start working through my weekly plan and tick items off my list. I always try to do some design work during the day, whether it be creating a mood board, looking through imagery for inspiration or creating design illustrations. I’m forever looking for great fabrics, and often spend my weekends in a fabric store or sourcing online because I can’t always find the time during the week.

What is your own workplace dresscode?

I like to be comfortable as I spent a lot of time at my design desk. I generally wear black ponte pants, with a knit or blazer and black boots, but if I’m heading out for meetings I wear a heel, tailored pant with a blouse and team my look with a long vest or coat.

Has your own style changed much with the change in careers? How so? Any challenges and how have you over come them?

Since changing careers, I no longer need to force my feet into high heels every day! I find myself being able to express myself a little bit more with colour, textures and layering, which I am enjoying. I live in boots in winter (and scarves) and loafers or brogues in summer. I’ve always been obsessed with blazers, I think they are so versatile and adaptable to both a casual and formal look. That’s one staple in my wardrobe that has not changed since my career move.

Carla Rizzo designer Saint Jerome Store

Saint Jerome Store

Who is your ideal client?

Saint Jerome customers are working women, mums, girlfriends, partners, and overall women who love unstated, classic designs and silhouettes. I want our customers to feel stylish and confident when they put on their Saint Jerome clothes, and know the outfit can take them from work to play.

Who are you thinking of when you design pieces for Saint Jerome Store?

I’m thinking about how the garment can work from day to night. I’m thinking about classic shapes, flattering silhouettes and designs which won’t date. What fabrics feel great against the skin and how it drapes. I’m thinking about colour palette and how versatile the collection is to mix and match with each other and in existing wardrobes.

Celebrity inspiration?

Rose Byrne & Victoria Beckham – both timeless and are always tailored to perfection.

Do you have any favourite pieces from your first collection? What are you getting the most wear of so far and how have you been styling it?

My favourite pieces are the Ariel Vest in faux suede and the Bilson Bolero. I love pairing my vest with a belt for a dressed up look over tights (the vest can also be worn as a dress) or with straight leg pants. For a more casual look I’ll let the vest drape naturally with a pair of jeans and loafers. With the Bolero, I wear both my black and navy with skinny jeans and sky high heels for a night out- I adore the structured square shoulder on this jacket, it gives such a great silhouette.

Carla Rizzo founder Saint Jerome Store chic

Carla wears the Ariel jacket, Sylvie Collared Blouse and Felice Relaxed Pant all from Saint Jerome Store.

Find Saint Jerome Store

Pearl Collar detail Saint Jerome Store outfit

Site: www.saintjeromestore.com
Make sure that you join the Saint Jerome Store “Parliament” to receive updates on new pieces and special offers.
FB: www.facebook.com/saintjeromestore
Instagram: instagram.com/saintjeromestore Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/stjeromestore

Comments

  1. I absolutely loved this interview Cheryl.
    So great!
    I adore the clothing too, will definitely be checking out some of the pieces for work/play

    x Luciana

  2. bharatplaza says

    Ariel jacket is looking great on you Carla

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