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Claire Watt-Smith

Studied: BSc Management Studies with French, MA European Business with Spanish


Place of Work: Bobelle London

Position: Owner and Founder

What did you enjoy most about your undergraduate degree?

With Management Studies at Royal Holloway, you learn about the history of management and how it evolves, which really appealed to me. I wanted to learn statistics, accountancy, history, ethics and strategy. My favourite module was strategy - it’s so interesting and all businesses need strategy. Despite accountancy being my most difficult subject, it has really helped me in my business, especially for structuring my balance sheets and profit and loss. Business ethics was another module I loved, as were the international management modules.

Were you part of any societies at Royal Holloway?

I set up, and was President of, the French Society in my second year, which gained around 70 members. We went to the cinema to watch French films, had wine and cheese nights, organised a French book club, and speakers came in to share their experience of their year abroad.

Why did you decide to do a Masters?

I went on to study for a Masters at Royal Holloway in European Business because I knew I wanted to learn more. My Masters has helped so much in terms of my business – it is like the ribbon on a gift. I really enjoyed it, because you start to come out of your shell and learn so much more.

What was your overall Royal Holloway experience like?

I couldn’t have asked for anything more – the whole Royal Holloway experience helped to mould me as a person. It was fun – you work hard, but you play hard. You get out what you put in – this has always been my philosophy. I also made some really great friends.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

I’ve always wanted to set up my own business. I love business because that’s my passion. I love reading about it and I’m a keen observer of marketing tactics.

Can you tell us about the philosophy behind BoBelle?

My mum has an eel skin wallet, and this is where the idea for my business came from. I also came across it whilst travelling. The skin is so soft and strong - they are hand-made and hand dyed. I am environmentally friendly and ethical in everything I do acid free tissue paper, for example, that the products are wrapped in and recycled ribbons. Also, the jiffy bags are 100 percent recycled and the packaging is biodegradable filler. I always try to use small businesses as much as possible such as the local hardware shop.

What do you do on a typical day and what are the best parts?

No two days are the same. I love the networking, meeting new people and exposing the BoBelle brand. It’s all about growing and getting the name out as much as possible. I love reading people’s feedback. When I get an email saying, ‘thank you so much for the bag’, and asking when the new collection is out, it’s such an amazing feeling. Also, I love going past a shop and seeing my products - that is such a nice feeling too.

What would be your top tip for students wanting to set up their own business?

You have to 100 percent believe in what you are doing. You need to have determination, because I can tell you there are some days when you can feel rock bottom. At the start of setting up my business, I got little recognition - this is always difficult in fashion. You have to think logically and juggle lots of things. You have people constantly calling you, but I’ve met so many people who can assist me in so many different ways. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses and think about where you want the business to go.


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