Alumni Story – Lucy Given (1982)
Posted on July 14, 2022
Lucy Given graduated from Friends’ School in 1982 and has gone on to have a successful career in Interior Design within the retail industry giving Hobart an iconic and stylish store in LUC and recently her second store CLUCK. Lucy has very kindly shared with us her inspiring story about that journey.
Could you tell us a bit about what happened when you left School, and the path that took you overseas through your love of design?
I wish I knew what I wanted to do when I left school – I was envious of my friends who had quite directed and studious career paths planned. But, in hindsight I think I was just more aware of what I didn’t want to do.
I was very conscious of wanting to ‘live life’ and was very keen to see more of life outside Hobart.
Having said that, my friends have gone on to have rich, rewarding and successful careers – my unconventional path was a little rockier.
Back in the 1980s Hobart was a far cry from the destination city it is now – opportunities were limited and I chose instead to live interstate and I then travelled overseas – however, often returning to stints of life back in Hobart.
I was in my early 20’s when I fell into work within a fabric company in Melbourne and found I really enjoyed dealing with the interior designers. It all evolved from that first serendipitous job in the design industry, I wouldn’t call it a career path – more of a career orienteering course!
When did you first have your vision of a Hobart store? What was your vision?
When I returned to Hobart in my mid 40’s I was disappointed that there was such a lack of good design on offer. MONA had just launched, the food and wine scene was expanding and exciting, the art scene was solid – but retail and specifically design, (homeware and furniture retail) was lack lustre. I had been employed to source products for clients and was disappointed that this alway meant I had to shop outside of the State. Opportunity met with experience and I decided to launch my own business (having talked about it for well over a decade – I think friends and family were relieved I had finally made the decision and commitment).
I wanted to bring world-class design brands to a regional area. I wanted the same retail shopping experience that was available in design stores in Melbourne, London or Milan to be here in Hobart.
I firmly believe our store is world-class, and the vision has come to fruition. We have been recognised nationally and internationally for our presentation and brand representation.
How did your time at Friends’ influence your journey after leaving the school?
I have always been very proud of my educational background and the fundamental beliefs of the school. I have always held close the concept that we are all equal, I have embraced that belief and it has held me in good stead in my work life.
Also, I never, never underestimated the power of a team – I am extremely conscious of the belief “no man is born an island” . This may sound trite but, years of playing school hockey, and captaining teams, taught me so much about how to act within a business. Never underestimate the power of team participation and working within a team – it has been invaluable to how I operated through my working life, both as a team player and as a leader. I now lead a group of exceptional women across 2 retail stores and we work as one united team. The torch burns brighter with the collective all working together.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
I was lucky to have a mother who was passionate about work, passionate about working. I was always influenced by women who thought working, and a career, was fundamental to who they were. My mother chose to work in an era (the late 60’s early 70’s ) when it was expected a wife would stay home – an era when it was not unusual to have to ask your husband if it was ‘ok’ to work. My mother not only worked, but she was successful and she chose to then continue her ‘pathway’ by gaining a PhD in her late 60s. I was always aware that it was never too late to commence a dream, as long as you were committed and worked hard – anything was possible.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are the goals you most want to accomplish?
Being independent is a principal motivation. I want to be financially independent – which is not easy when you own your own business, you tend to focus on the business and not on your self needs. I want to create a legacy – and…. as I have not had children, I hope that legacy is the memory that I created some great retail within Hobart.
How did you overcome the challenges your business faced during Covid to successfully open your second store?
It was definitely a difficult time at the beginning – this situation has continued now for 2 years and we still are dealing with issues around COVID.
My business relocated during the first few months of COVID and we had to juggle not only a new fit out but an expansion of our online presence to increase our Online store sales.
But, if that wasn’t enough I decided (against all odds!) it was the perfect time to open a 2nd store and opened CLUCK (Our children’s store – opposite our new premises) in the middle of a pandemic!!
Thankfully, it has been a very successful store – but we are still juggling the side effects of COVID with staff absences and reduced foot traffic.
I have a great team who really rally when things get tough and we all love a challenge. It is important to be ever-evolving in business. Nothing is static and I am constantly reinventing both stores to try and be the best we can be, to keep not only our customers interested but to keep us (as a team) motivated and agile.
What are you most proud of in your career to date and what is next for you?
It sounds self-aggrandising but the awards we have won have made me extremely proud – and the recognition is very satisfying.
In 2016/2017 I was awarded Australian Small Retailer of the Year and that same year Gift Guide Australia chose my store to represent Australia in Chicago at the Global Innovations Awards – a platform for outstanding retail from around the world. At those awards I was honoured to win the top award for Excellence in Visual Merchandising. (That same award was won by Harrods the following year!).
In 2018, I was once again honoured to win Small Retailer of the Year with Life Instyle and Reed Gift Fairs. This award opened the way for me to speak and mentor on a national platform.
My store has been described as one of Australia’s best concept stores and I was featured in Vogue Living, as one of the top 5 design influencers in the country.
In 2019 I won The Small Business Award at the Telstra Women’s Awards.
I am extremely proud of all of these accolades as owning your own small business is a difficult, and often thankless, career choice – but when you are rewarded for your efforts it is such an honour.
Is there any advice for our current students or your younger self!
Travel! Travel! Travel!
If nothing else, it opens your eyes to the fact that we live in an incredibly privileged and free country.
But travel makes us interesting people, with a more open and generous mindset.
I get such inspiration from travel and it has been one of THE most difficult outcomes/fallout from COVID – the lack of being able to travel. 2023 is my year to get back out there.