Have confidence to design your own future, says Belgian entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs can often pour all their experiences into their venture, even when these experiences might at first appear to be unconnected. Belgian designer Aurore Havenne for example has combined her passion for international exchange, communication skills and creativity to forge a successful jewellery business, with a boutique in the heart of Brussels. “I was inspired by the city and its energy to design jewellery that is deceptively simple and minimalistic, but which has a lot of thought behind it,” she explains.
An international outlook
Aurore grew up far from the busy streets of the Belgian capital, in a small village in the south of the country. As a teenager, she began to develop an interest in travel and culture, a passion that has never left her. “Although my childhood was spent in a quiet small village, I’ve always thought about the world,” she says.
At the age of 18 she participated in an exchange scheme with Australia, where she began to think about a career in the creative industries. “I then studied communication at the ULB (the Free University of Brussels) thinking perhaps that I could apply this knowledge in any sector, and also went to Italy on an Erasmus exchange,” she says. “I then did a Master’s in Business.”
Life can take unexpected turns, and Aurore’s first graduate position was doing communications for a major aircraft maintenance company. “This was unexpected!” she says. “But I learned a lot, the job was great fun and there was a real international aspect to the work.” At the same time, Aurore felt that she needed a creative outlet and so started studying jewellery design in the evening. “I had no intention of launching a business,” she says. “I was enjoying my work, and this began as more of an interest.”
Nonetheless she began selling jewellery to friends and when an opportunity emerged to leave the company and set up her own business, she took it. “It felt like a moment where if I didn’t do it then, I’d never do it,” she says. “I had friends that encouraged me, and I also felt that I could always go back to getting a ‘real’ job if this didn’t work out!”
Make yourself heard
One of the first challenges she encountered was the fact that she was on her own. “I was used to working with a team so this was a change,” she says. “However, opening a shop gave me the opportunity to meet people, and I’m currently looking to hire my first employee.” Aurore suggests that women of her generation were brought up to be less confident than their male counterparts in taking risks and becoming entrepreneurs, though she thinks this is changing. She would urge young women to not be afraid of speaking up. “At the start of my career I was careful not to make waves, but I soon learned that to do my job well, I needed to be heard,” she says.
Aurore enjoys the communication side of her work, which can involve organising the shooting for a new collection and disseminating photographs on social media. “My previous career in communication came in useful!” she says. She is also passionate about increasing her global presence, noting that about a third of her company’s turnover now comes from sales abroad.