Although students are best known for budgeting and beans on toast, this entrepreneur aims to attract students with cash.
Aileen Gilani runs a luxury membership service for students studying in the UK.
Business Advice caught up with Gilani to discuss the difficulties business owners can face when investors don’t believe in your product.
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Aileen Gilani, and I run The Luxury Student. Known as luxurystudent.com. We run a membership site for students who wish to live a luxury lifestyle whilst studying at university.
Where did the concept come from?
It started from a blog and turned into this membership site fairly quickly, within a year I realised that there was no club or community for students who loved luxury, so I just knew it was going to be a good idea. I knew there was a market for it out there from all the social media posts I would see of people my age buying luxury items. My blog started from my love of luxury, not because I was buying any luxury items, it was more celebrating the new trends, and bags and shoes. I found that other bloggers and other students really liked my content.
How did you fund your business?
Well I didn’t go directly to investors, because I was so nervous! I also didn’t feel like I really needed much to get it started. I think a lot of start up owners, think that they needs hundreds of thousands, but sometimes you can actually do it within your budget and it can still do the same job. My only funding was the savings I made to study law which I used to start this business, it was a major risk but also studying the course was a major risk too, at the end of the day, I know I have made the right decision as I am here today with a successful and interesting business.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?
So many, too many. I think rejection was the worst, and also a lot of people were so naive, some are still very much in a bubble and mind set, thinking that every single student is on a budget. They compare their uni days to what they think it is now, so it comes to them as a shock when I tell them its very different now. When I used to pitch to other companies to work together, partner, collaborate, it was hard to convince them as well, which to me was so shocking because in my head it was a no brainer – of course you would want students to go to your store and buy your luxury products. But no, I was rejected for the same reasons. It’s a different story now, but back them it really hurt. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t take these things personal, but for me I always took it personal. I laugh at it now. It is 100% their loss if they don’t work with us now.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
I think overall just running a business on my own. I think it’s sometimes hard to pat yourself on the back but lately I have been quite proud of myself, for not giving up and keep going. I have more bad days, than good days, but you have to keep going. Partnerships with brands is always an exciting achievement.
What marketing strategies have you used?
My own presence at events, fairs, talks, networking, pitches and meetings. I represent my brand and my business. But of course marketing strategy for us is social media and word of mouth, and trying to work with as many established and new brands as possible, we have also welcomed bloggers because they are brilliant and we offer them exactly what they want.
In five years’ time, I’ll be…
All over the place! I am soon to finish my first book about my entrepreneurial journey so I really want to help students and young people grow their confidence to start their own journey. I want The Luxury Student to grow into something that I would have never expected it to. That’s what makes running a business like mine exciting, you never know what’s around the corner.
Who are your business heroes and why?
My parents are my only heroes right now. They work so hard and have run their business together for years, I love their inability to switch off but also their ability to have fun outside of work. They have a great balance. They have always encouraged me to be different and do something exciting. I have this confidence because of them. I also think that anyone that has the time to support me in even the smallest ways, is a business hero for me. Especially at the beginning, all I needed was motivation and people to tell me to keep going. I can give you a list but it will be very long!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just be patient and don’t let people take advantage of you. Value yourself from the very beginning and give your time a price as well, I wish I was more powerful in my pitches and negotiation. I think entrepreneurs we tend to offer so much of ourselves to people, to make things happen, to make business happen. There should be a point where you need to see exactly what you’re getting out of something and if it’s worth all the hassle and effort.
What’s your favourite way to spend downtime?
I honestly can’t say, I’m still trying to figure that one out. Recently I have been browsing through interior design and properties. But really luxury properties, I like watching Grand Designs and program like Homes by the Sea. I am turning just like my parents! I think downtime for me is on Netflix, which actually isn’t the best because it doesn’t make me switch off, it actually makes me more alert, I can be on it for hours over the weekend. I should say the gym or a yoga class, but I hate exercising. I do love a spa treatment, I know I have made it when I get a spa treatment every day. I haven’t reached that point yet.
Last series you binge-watched?
I’m currently in between Queen of South and Gilmore Girls. Really odd combination but I love it!
What three things can’t you live without?
Music, latte and bed. The best combination. I guess I should say my phone is something I cant live without, but it’s not my favourite thing.
What app do you use the most?
Oh god…Instagram, sometimes the app that adds makeup on your face. And a quick cheeky glance of Daily Mail.
What song is always on your playlist?
There is a Motivational Speech I listen to on Spotify called Maybe: Motivational Speech (Shoutout to My Haters) from Fearless Motivation. It’s such a good thing to listen to in the mornings or just before you go into a meeting, it gives you this revenge confidence. I love Ariana Grande and The Show Must Go On from Queen. Plus a bit of Stevie Wonder never hurts. It’s a very odd list, but it works so well for me.
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