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It’s always exciting to talk to women who have followed their passion and managed to deal with life circumstances to build something amazing. Many of us have been taught that you have to work hard to earn a living, and that life and happiness happens outside of work.

We talked to shoe designer Tracey Neuls about her passion and her belief that you can follow your passion, work hard and be happy.

Tracey was already making shoes out of cardboard as a kid and decided to start her own shoe company 17 years ago. After moving from Canada to London she got a job at shoe industry  and ended up making no money, working long hours, but learning a new language in Italy. She thought “why don’t I do this for myself?”

Some of the biggest obstacles she faced setting up her business has been finding the time to do everything.

“If you’re entrepreneurial you’re probably a bit of a perfectionist and when you have your own business there is never really any time to stop. The big thing is probably juggling and keeping balls in the air while more being thrown at you. It’s still probably the biggest obstacle, finding the priorities, what to do first, and decide when it’s the time for bed.”

Tracey defines success for her as the success of her brand and the fact that her shoes are not inspired by anyone else. She’s following her strong vision and not chasing trends. There is nothing you can only wear for one season. On of the nicest moment for her is when mothers and daughters come and shop for shoes together. The brand is timeless. A lot of fashion brands start with a direction in mind which then gets watered down during the process. Tracey has a very strong idea about what her shoes should be, why they’re there, the quality and the timelessness of it. Not compromising on the expression of her vision makes her proud and is her definition of greatest success.

She thinks it’s important to follow your core values rather than follow a trend. but you must also be practical. What ever you create has to be made.

When you do what you love it changes the definition of ‘work-life’ balance completely.

“I have a daughter who’s 12 yr old and I remember being in labour and talking on the phone to the team who were packing up for a trade show. When you want something to work out you find a way, it’s unexplainable. But you need supportive people around you. I have my partner and a great team. My business is my passion, it’s what I want to do. Making money is secondary for me.”

“I don’t separate my work time from my family time either. I want my daughter to see me in all aspects of the business. I take her to trade shows and it’s incredible what she absorbs. I remember when she was a baby and this man came to the store and said “Look how smart you are” to her and he told me “what if we were to tell all the women and all the little girls in our life how intelligent they are instead of pretty and so sweet”. Tracey explains.

If you follow your passion you can work hard and be happy at the same time.

Tracey works from where she is: hot desk, the stores, at home. She has a studio and she thinks it’s important to have a space where you can go anytime and don’t need to pack up every day. When her daughter was younger she put up sleepy time and the baby was a great napper. You find a way and work it out, she says.

” I don’t have a strong routine. I share everything with my partner and keep juggling. But it’s good to keep a good list and your calendar up to date.”

Her tip to women who are considering to go for entrepreneurship or a creative role is to be confident if it is their passion.

“Give it a go. and also, seek for advice. Don’t be shy to ask. Be curious. Try to do business plan but in this world everything is changing so get some good advice. If you have a dream, that’s a lot more than a lot of people have. You almost have the responsibility to pursue it!”

~ Raphaelle

Raphaelle Hernu is a DrivenWoman Group Leader in Shoreditch, London. She talked to show designer and entrepreneur Tracey Neuls. Get inspired by stories of other women and join DrivenWoman‘s growing network of ‘doer’ women. 

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