From finance to fashion

Erika Nilsson-Humphrey
- Leadership - Nov 13, 2015

Entrepreneur Erika Nilsson-Humphrey talks about her journey through career change, chauvinism, illness and motherhood to pursue her business vision

I started my career in finance on the trading floor within a sales role doing Equity Derivatives, where I enjoyed the fast-paced environment and the excitement that comes with trading.

Being entrepreneurial and managing my own clients was the most valuable experience I gained, as well as building up an understanding of money and business. However, the market changed a lot and personal relationships were replaced by machines, making the job quite commoditsed. I am also quite an active person and to sit in front of a screen for ten hours a day just didn’t really suit me.

The one thing that has been a constant in my life has been my love of fashion and personal style, but working within a male-dominated industry like finance you don’t get much of a chance to express this side of yourself, although I did try and push the boundaries of what I could wear. There were both upside and downsides working in finance, just like in any industry. What I like about men is that they are good at being quite uncomplicated and straight talking, but because almost the whole workfocrce is made up of men the industry is almost purely set up around how men live, both in and out of the office. The attitude can be hard and often unforgiving although it is trying to change, it still has a long way to go before it is conducive to both sexes.

I spent a total of eight years in the City and my final position was as Executive Director at Nomura. In my last year in finance I realised that there were a lot of men who had a huge passion for personal style, but were both time-poor and bored of traditional and online shopping. It was during this time that the idea for Dappad started to develop.

I seeded a large amount of my own personal finance into the business and have managed to raise a further £200,000 from external investors, one of which was a really valuable contact I made through my career in finance, and I’m also lucky enough to have funding from the Dappad Co-Founders, Tine Green and Ewa Andriesz. Moving forward we plan to grow organically.

We launched Dappad in September and we’re really excited for the future! Dappad offers men a bespoke shopping experience. By signing up online from the comfort of their own home, customers can discuss their style needs with the Dappad stylist who selects a range of products which are then delivered to their door.

Setting up Dappad has been one of the hardest things I have done, but also one of the most rewarding and exciting. One of the most diificult parts of running the business has been ensuring we communicate the right messages. You have this great idea and concept but communicationg it so that people understand it is a big challenge, but we’re getting better at it every day.

Working in finance, I learnt that being a woman in business is something that can hold you back, but both sides need to embrace change in order to move forward. Companies need to introduce measures that provide both men and women with flexible working hours and days so that life and work can meet on a good level. Women also need to start believing in themselves that they can achieve what they want and that they are entitled to the same career success as men.  I am a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In, I identified with a lot of the things she talked about.

As I embarked on my new entrepreneurial business venture, I also gave birth to my first child and then nine months after giving birth, whilst balancing demands of work and family life, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’m currently undergoing chemotherapy for the illness. It is a gruelling treatment that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but thankfully, I’ve been given positive news and I will be making a full recovery.

Throughout starting a business, becoming a mother and battling my illness, I have been determined to stay positive, beat the odds and keep striving forward. I just hope now that by sharing my story I can inspire others to maintain a positive outlook when experiencing similar trials within their life.

I’d definitely say the most important piece of advice I would share with other budding entrepreneurs is to have a clear strategy and stick to it. That’s the only way to grow the business. The journey has been such a rollercoaster of emotions; excitement, fear and exhaustion to name but a few, but as long as you’re patient then it will all come together in the end. 

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