Karen J. Gerrard, Founder and Creator of SEAMS Beauty, is the modern day woman balancing responsibilities in business and family.
Born in London England in 1964, Karen nurtured her entrepreneurial spirit through education in the creative arts and fashion. In 1990, after working a decade in the fashion industry in design, wholesale and retail, Karen opened a fashion accessories store that quickly became a success. After several years, she chose to sell her shop to focus on building her family and supporting philanthropic endeavors.
SEAMS launched at London Fashion week in 2013, and quickly became the go-to hand cream backstage at film and TV studios used by seamstresses and make-up artists.
SEAMS takes the practical need for comfortable hands, and has developed a beautiful product that renders skin soothed, soft and silky to the touch. Key ingredients that are natural and safe to use are at the heart of this luxurious, yet affordable product.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I left school at 16 and went straight into the fashion industry, working in design, wholesale and manufacturing for the high street stores. At 26 I stopped work to focus on my family and charity work. Then in 2012 I set up SEAMS and have been working ever since. My main interests are Fashion, Music, Drama, Film and TV and creating through sewing and crafts. I did many evening courses over the time I was at home with the children, including Drama, creative writing, and sewing, all of which have been useful in what I am doing now especially a Millinery course which led me directly to the idea for SEAMS.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No I tend to work on instinct and what I am happy doing.
Although I do now have a plan of monthly goals, and a business plan that I regularly up date, and a to-do list that I write every night.
What inspired you to create SEAMS?
I was taking part in a Millinery course at The London College Of Fashion, our hands got cut, burnt sore and dry. I was going to bed at night with antiseptic cream on my fingers and was unable to find a hand cream that didn’t sting or transfer grease onto fabrics. I asked the tutor if she could recommend a hand cream that would heal and moisturise and that wasn’t greasy but there wasn’t one! So I created SEAMS.
It was called SEAMS as I was sewing a seam at the time the idea came to me.
To start with SEAMS was used by Seamstresses and couturiers and used backstage at London Fashion Week the make-up artists from film and TV stated asking me for some, then I had many requests for hand bag size SEAMS. At this point I manufactured on a larger scale and set up the website, it has grown from there.
I have become obsessed with hands! They are our biggest tool in everything we want to do, they show the first sign of aging and have more nerves in them than any other part of our body. I love to hear what people do with their hands in a day and see what they create, then help solve any skin or hand problems they may have. Taking just a couple of minutes to massage SEAMS into your hands will relax the tension. We should all look after our hands as well as the skin on our face.
Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?
The main challenges have been:
- Learning a new business – ‘Seek and you shall find’ has been my mantra, and I’ve been blessed have met some wonderful people along the way who have guided me, many of whom I work with. I also have a great mentor who has made an incredible difference. Just being able to talk things through with him and get professional advice regularly has been invaluable.
- Working alone – was one of the hardest aspects at the start, I joined a number of groups including CEW the women’s beauty network, going to regular events and speaking with others was informative and also gives renewed energy. I also have regular catch-ups with other women whose businesses are at the same stage, we have grown together and give each other energy, inspiration and pass on contacts.
- Social Media has also been a help in many ways – not only by giving brand awareness and growing the business, but also when I was alone in the office all day it’s a quick and easy way to keep in contact with the outside world.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
It starts on my Mac and usually ends on my Mac! The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on my Mac and iphone and send any emails that I have prepared the night before. I always eat a full breakfast then off to the gym or a pole class, shower and have green smoothie. Then it’s to a full day of work, creating new products, and meetings. I usually stop around 6:30pm for dinner unless I’m going out socially or to an event, I stay in and read or watch a movie. Then I tend to work again late at night, my biggest inspiration comes late in the night when there are no distractions. If I’ve got a particular problem or decision to make I go to sleep thinking about it then most times when I awake in the morning I have the answer.
What tips and advice would you give any budding entrepreneurs?
Follow your passion, don’t overthink and learn from experts in your field of interest.
It’s very important to find a mentor there are many successful people out there happy to pass on advice. Even a chat or meet every couple of months can be invaluable.
There will be days when you are jumping with joy and other days when you are on the floor crying, everyone has the bad days just work through them or step back for a couple of hours and say to yourself there will always be a good day to follow.
If you think of yourself as if you are rolling a bottle on the floor, sometimes you roll forward fast others it stops or rolls backwards, the backwards roll just give more momentum to push forwards faster. Keep going and think of the end result you want to achieve and see a path to that.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Building SEAMS to where it is today, and creating the best hand cream possible that I am proud to sell.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I think it would be for there to be more opportunities for women returning to work after their children have grown up.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I am in the process of creating a full range of incredible products for SEAMS, especially to keep skin soft. I am also launching in Stage Stores in the USA this year and am excited to build SEAMS into an international brand.
For the future SEAMS will be the household name for Hand Cream and dry skin – The Practical Made Beautiful.