My advice for young entrepreneurs | Aileen Gilani

Aileen GilaniArticle provided by Aileen Gilani, founder & CEO of The Luxury Student

Aileen Gilani is the founder of The Luxury Student.

Aileen quit her law degree to set up start up, The Luxury Student following advice from her mentor, and hasn’t looked back!

The Luxury Student is a private members club and concierge for students, which was born from Founder Aileen’s love of luxury brands and experiences to offer students a truly unique service for those who seek the finer things in life whilst studying in London. From the moment members of The Luxury Student wake up to the moment the party ends, and they need a last minute hotel reservation organised, this service covers everything and anything to make student life that bit more luxury.

These cherry-picked perks include, but are by no means limited to; private members club access at the South Kensington Club, a private shopping experience with Burberry, complimentary luxury gym membership, spa and hair salon access including complimentary treatments, complimentary Michelin star meal for two every month and a gifted Nespresso machine as a warm welcome to the club. As well as an ‘access all areas’ pass to some of the most exclusive spots in town, The Luxury Student organise monthly social drinks and events available for students to take advantage of to encourage networking with fellow members, the perfect way to meet like minded people who enjoy similar experiences in life.

Here, WeAreTheCity hear from Aileen and her advice to young entrepreneurs.

My business, The Luxury Student, an online private members club is all about the luxury lifestyle.

Our platform originally catered to those who seek a luxury lifestyle. We’ve had a number of different memberships in the past depending on where the students are during their education and what type of lifestyle they are looking for.

We have worked with exclusive brands such as Harvey Nichols, Nespresso, Maiyet, Glow Bar, and Private Members Club to deliver our members the most premium service. In the past six months we introduced different masterclasses teaching young people everything they need to know to start a career within the luxury industry. With industry experts by our side, students and young entrepreneurs alike get the opportunity to connect and build a network with like-minded people.

Sounds rather exciting and very luxurious, right? – Well, my personal journey of building “The Luxury Student” brand was not that luxurious at all. In my autobiography ‘From Student to Entrepreneur’ I discuss my journey in detail and share all tips and tricks on how to make it to the top. But let me share a little bit of my story with you today. I faced many obstacles, but these bumps on the way shaped me into the businesswomen I am today. Before this, I was pursuing a postgraduate law conversion, after having completed an International Hospitality course. I know it sounds a bit random but I really felt like I had so many other industries I could explore.  During my studies, I started my lifestyle blog ‘The Luxury Student,’ which I then grew into a business. I love thinking outside the box so turning a blog into a business was so much fun, even to this day, developing and relaunching!

Being around my international classmates, who were living a glamorous lifestyle with great luxury goods, but more importantly appreciated luxury brands, made me realise there could be a market for my business idea. That’s essentially where my idea came to life, a community for students who enjoy “the finer things in life.” Nobody had done this before, so my business idea was one in a million.  This is when I deferred, or in other words, dropped out of university and started my entrepreneurial journey with TLS (abbreviation for The Luxury Student).

During my undergraduate course at Oxford Brooks, I was doing work experience at a luxury hotel. I was a receptionist assistant, dealing with all sorts of guests, which in hindsight was vital to my success. I believe all the skills I learnt, helped me develop my professional business language and the delivery of the ultimate customer experience. I would suggest everyone in a similar boat, to gain all the essential skills and experience that can help you accomplish your business plan.

Starting a business so young and inexperienced was scary at first and I didn’t know if I was on the right path.  Being inexperienced was one of my main worries, which ended up causing a lot of unnecessary anxiety. My lack of experience in running a business on my own, meant that I had to figure out how to be the Salesperson, HR, Social Media, Visionary and a lot more. It ultimately took a lot of brain power. To accomplish my dreams of building my own start-up, I chose to invest a large chunk of my own money into TLS. Although I was supposed to use that money to pay for my studies, I had no regrets. I didn’t want to give up any shares of my company to investors I couldn’t trust or worse, didn’t understand my vision.

Nonetheless, I was approached by some investors interested in my business. Out of interest, I did meet with them, simply to explore my options. However, this proved to be pointless, as those meetings turned left rather quickly. Not only were my life choices questioned, but also my capabilities to run a business. Due to the nature of my business, I was multitasking a lot on my own, but I was still not taken serious by investors. Some didn’t even like the fact that I was engaged to be married at that time and wanted a family. They believed I would get easily distracted. Those sexist remarks only pushed me further away from investors and I was determined to build my business from scratch by myself.

Unfortunately, this “Me against the World” attitude didn’t last long and only led me to feel miserable, because not everything was going according to plan. I was overwhelmed and overworked. I felt like nothing was working, so I went on a break. I went cycling in France to recharge and accepted all the help I could get. Honestly, one of the best pieces of advice I wished I had received sooner was that it’s okay to ask for help. Ask your family, friends or even hire an intern, don’t get stuck by yourself. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re failing. You can still lead even with some help.

Another obstacle I faced was my age, some companies didn’t think I was ‘adult’ or ‘mature’ enough to manage a business on my own.  As silly as it sounds, some businesses won’t work with you just because you are young. Some will even want you to work on projects for a fraction of the price or constantly have a chip on their shoulder. Avoid those people at any cost. You’ll be surprised how many established brands are ‘on a budget’. This is where the laugh out loud emoji relates.

I would also recommend to network, network and network! Shake them hands till you can’t feel it no more. Overcome the fear of going to events by yourself. I went to so many networking events, even those I wasn’t interested in. Once I went to an Irish business event although I’m not Irish myself, best believe I had a great time and connected with many via LinkedIn. I did it because I knew one day those contacts may prove to be valuable. For example, networking and socialising with the right people led me to be invited to Philip Plein’s store opening, where I gained access to so many well-known people within the luxury industry. It was this access that helped me on my journey with TLS and helped me gain partnerships with some of the most exclusive brands in the world.

Persistence is really the key to success. At least in my experience it helped me conquer the luxury world. There were moments I questioned everything, moments where many were doubting me, moments nothing was going according to plan, but that is part of everyday business. These obstacles can only shape you and your brand for the better. Believe me.

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