'If you feel passionately enough about something, then go for it...' Business advice from Jo Salter at Where Does It Come From?
PUBLISHED: 11:29 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:29 18 September 2019
Copyright: Gerard Hughes 2017
Jo Salter is the founder of Where Does It Come From? - an ethical fashion brand based in Ipswich where each garment has a code on the label, so customers know its origins.
How would you describe yourself at 18?
I was bright but lazy at school, so my A level results were only average and I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself. I decided to get a job and started work at a local company as a trainee computer programmer. This was a really valuable life choice - I learned what it felt like to be in the wrong job. Having learned the basics I had a dawning realisation that if I stayed there I could be doing exactly the same thing till I was 60. I was so unfulfilled by my work that I spent the rest of my time learning a new language, re-sitting an A level and becoming a cub scout leader! I also applied for university and merrily waved goodbye to my computing job after one year. I have no regrets - the experience made me grow up fast and take responsibility for my own destiny.
What three tips would you give to your younger self?
Just three? There are so many….
The first one would be to create your own dreams. Dream big. Other people will try and make you be 'realistic' and tell you why you can't do it. But if you feel passionately enough about something, then go for it - if you don't get there, so what? You'll have been aiming for something amazing and you're far more likely to do great things along the way than if you had no plans at all.
Secondly, I would tell myself to focus on what I can give to the world more than what I can get out of it. Of course, we need to earn money to live and pay our dues, but there's a satisfaction in giving of your time, energy and experience just because you want to, not to get something back.
Lastly, I would point out to myself that there is no one else in the world with the same DNA as me (although I didn't know what DNA was then!). Each of us is unique so it's important to learn to be yourself - say what you think, do what's right and don't be scared of people not liking you.
Is there anything you would do differently?
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I probably wasn't daring enough. If I could have made my decisions with the knowledge and experience I have now I would have worked abroad for a while, sung in a band and generally taken up opportunities that I was too afraid of at the time. Most of my regrets are around what I didn't do, rather than what I did.
Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?
One project I'm proud of is setting up the Be The Change awards which ran for the first time this year. Working with friend and colleague Sian Conway we realised that many small, ethical and eco-friendly businesses work tirelessly and passionately towards their positive goals, but with little or no recognition. It's hard to be seen against mainstream brands with large marketing budgets and high street presence, but the impact stories of these little brands are so inspiring. It's also become more and more apparent that brands like these are leading the way, with the big guys just starting to pick up on the eco and ethical message.
Can you point to a turning point in your business?
In 2017 we were fortunate enough (thanks to the lovely Helen Oldfield at Affinity PR) to get the attention of Joanna Lumley - she went on to wear one of our Elephant print scarves on her TV documentary 'Joanna Lumley's India'. That scarf soon sold out because Joanna had worn it, but sadly not because it was handwoven, made in a co-operative and carbon free. However, this did introduce us to more people and gave us to chance to tell our story.
If you could relive one day, what would it be?
My most happy day was the day AFTER my first son was born. The day of his birth I definitely don't want to relive but, corny as it sounds, the first full day of being a Mum was life changing with its realisation of total responsibility for another being and unconditional love. Life is never the same again.
If you were to choose one motto what would it be?
'Be the change you wish to see in the world' is a saying from one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi. It perfectly sums up my belief that we are responsible for defining our world through what we say, do and how we spend our money. Every time we make a choice we are choosing the kind of world we want to pass on to the next generations.