Kelly Hoppen’s rise to fame, from designing a family friend’s kitchen at the age of 16 to becoming one of the most sought after interior designers in Britain, has been nothing short of meteoric. So much so, she was awarded an MBE and appeared in two seasons of Dragon’s Den. Now, after the launch of her online store in 2014, more and more budding designers the length and breadth of the country can get the ‘Kelly Hoppen look.’ Words by Simon Grant
Hi Kelly, thanks for speaking to Exclusive Magazine. First up, what is the best thing about being Kelly Hoppen? Do you still have those ‘pinch me’ moments and, if so, when was the last time that happened?
I love that I have the creative freedom and the ability to make decisions on my own terms. I am lucky enough to be doing something every day that I love and am increasingly passionate about. So every day is full of moments of feeling incredibly grateful and proud.
What aspect of your career – interior designer, author, entrepreneur (to name but a few) – do you enjoy the most? Or is it impossible to differentiate?
They do all come hand in hand, but my passion has always been for interior design. I can’t imagine doing anything else, which is why I work so hard.
Can you describe what it was like to receive your MBE and how does that accolade rank among your many accomplishments and awards?
Obviously all of my awards are so special to me and I feel so honoured to have each one. However, receiving my MBE in 2009 was a major achievement. Getting recognition from the Queen was a real honour, and something I will always treasure.
For the uninitiated, can you describe the ‘Kelly Hoppen look’? What inspired your love of Eastern cultures and taupe?!
I would describe my style as timeless, harmonious and simple but opulent. It is all about elegance that will stand the test of time and will always be chic. I am always inspired when I travel to different countries. I love to reinvent my work but keep the philosophy of East meets West as the base of my designs. Honestly, I think my love of taupe is because of its elegance and versatility. It is neither warm nor cool and instantly adds a sense of harmony to a space.
What are your proudest achievements to date and why?
My daughter Natasha is my proudest achievement, but if we’re talking business in general, I am so proud that I started my own company and have been able to see it grow over the years with all my hard work. Also, launching my online store www.kellyhoppen.com was another highlight, it was something I had dreamed of for so long!
What was your time on Dragon’s Den like and what prompted your decision to say ‘I’m out’ for good?
It was amazing! I had followed previous seasons of the show, so when I was approached I knew I had to go for it. I decided to leave because I had so many new exciting things I wanted to put all of my energy into. I wanted to refocus my career back to what gave me my success – designing.
There are many examples of entrepreneurs, such as Sir Richard Branson, who have succeeded in spite of – or perhaps spurred on by – their dyslexia. What barriers did that pose for you and how have you overcome them to succeed?
I was terribly bullied at school, but actually through dyslexia I have probably achieved more than I would have without it. My confidence has been my main tool to overcome the barriers that dyslexia has posed. Once you start making money in something you are good at you end up forgetting about the rest of the challenges and you focus on what you are confident in. I also focus heavily on visuals, so I use tools like mind maps when I am trying to organise my ideas. It’s all about visual memory!
You come from a very creative family, how much influence has your upbringing had on your career? Who or what is your single biggest source of inspiration?
My family are very creative, my mother has an art gallery and my family was in fashion. So I guess being immersed in a creative environment has helped to encourage me. According to my mother, I was always rearranging furniture when I was young; I always knew what ‘worked’. My mother has always been my biggest inspiration throughout my life. She has such determination and a strong work ethic – she still works to this day. My father, who sadly passed away when I was 16, was also a huge inspiration.
You’re a keen advocate for helping aspiring entrepreneurs, through your ambassadorial work with the Prince’s Trust, for example. Why is it so important to help the next generation of business leaders?
Simply put, they are the future. I love to see their passion and then I can do my best to help them. My key advice for anyone starting out in business is to find a mentor; someone that helps you find your feet and encourages you to believe in yourself. Also, an extensive awareness of your target market, and confidence in yourself and your aims, allows for endless possibilities.
You’re also a multi-award winning inspiration for many businesswomen out there. How does that mantle sit with you and what more can be done to narrow the gender divide in business and commerce?
I truly love what I do and strongly believe that’s why I have been able to do it so well for so long. I am so proud to be seen as an inspiration for other businesswomen and entrepreneurs. I love to support and encourage others to follow their dreams. Instead of focusing on the gender divide, I think it is more about the individual’s drive for success. I believe if you work hard enough you can achieve anything.
Do you spend much time in the North West and do you have any favourite places that you like to visit when you’re in this part of the world?
I filmed the last series of Dragons Den in Manchester, so I got to see a lot of the city and loved it! There’s a really great culture up there. I have also opened a store in Redbrick Mill (www.redbrickmill.co.uk) to make my products more accessible in the North.
Finally, what do you like to do to relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?
I tend to relax at home in the countryside, where I love having dinner with friends and family. Nothing beats great conversation and laughter, and a delicious meal cooked by my daughter Natasha. Simple things like watching TV on my cosy sofa help me to relax. I also make sure I take a lovely sunny holiday every year, which lets me switch off and take time to let my hair down.
Visit www.kellyhoppen.com for Kelly’s full range of stunning homeware.