For our latest Team Tuesday we grabbed a quick coffee with LS CEO, Marie Owen.
“Don’t be frightened. I am dead relaxed.” Marie laughs as we park ourselves in the boardroom first thing on Monday morning. I’m one week into my time at LS and have been given the chance to have a pow wow with Marie for the monthly Team Tuesday interview. Despite my slight apprehension, Marie puts me at ease straight away.
Inspiring. Stylish. Influential. Energetic. Glamorous. Supportive. Life and soul of the party. These are just a few of the words that members of the LS team use to describe Marie. She is, as she aptly puts it, ‘the conductor of a world class orchestra’, the glue that holds the company together, and a recognised and respected Scottish entrepreneur. So much so that not only was she nominated for this year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, but she was also approached by an excited follower of LS on George Street in Edinburgh, who recognised her and asked if she could send in a CV for work experience.
So, let’s turn back the clock …
Marie, can you start from the beginning? She laughs, “where do I start? I didn’t go to university. I got onto a languages and economics course at Heriot Watt but I didn’t like economics so I decided not to take it. I did really like languages though.” I interject, “can you speak any?” She recounts that after a few glasses of rosé on a recent trip to Cannes she managed to dust off her French skills enough to be able to direct her Uber driver back to her apartment (we’re impressed!). She then vows “that’s what I am going to add to my bucket list, learning a new language.”
After a short digression, we are right back on track as she informs me that after leaving school she became a Customer Service Assistant at the airport before being egged on by colleagues to consider becoming a flight attendant. “I thought ‘why not? I’ll do that for a year and see what happens’ and I did it for 9. I just loved it. It was really interesting and I learned loads.” It was during this time that Marie went to Tenerife for £20 (yes, £20!) and met her fashion photographer husband, John.
Tell us, what was your lightbulb moment? She pauses to think on her answer before saying that it wasn’t really a lightbulb moment, it was more of a flicker. “It really all started when John relocated to Edinburgh and began to wonder why he hadn’t done more shoots in Scotland. In his opinion, he was always shooting in the same places in London and they were becoming overused. He was sure his clients would shoot in Scotland if they were aware of what was on offer but no one provided service production at the time. This was 11 years ago, so I had a 4-year-old and a set of twins who were one. It seemed like a lot but I wasn’t working at the time so launching a business gave me something to do and I just decided to go for it.”
Who was your first client? “It was Crew Clothing, which was really exciting because it wasn’t John and I always thought it would be. We’re a team of 15 now but at that time, it was just myself and Michelle, so we did everything from picking up clients to making sandwiches in my house and bringing them to set. I was even driving them round in my Volvo! That experience was really valuable because it gave me an understanding of what it’s like on a shoot.”
Let’s get to the nitty gritty …
What does a day in the life of Marie look like? “Busy! I hate that word so I need to think of a better one but I have three kids so I juggle business life and family life. It actually makes me really effective. I like to think about what I’m doing when I’m in the moment. My family are a major part of my life but when I am at work I think about work and when I am with family I focus on family.”
How would you describe your role? “I always describe my role as being the conductor of a world class orchestra. Everyone is amazing at their jobs, they don’t need me to do their jobs for them so I am here to provide support, leadership and a vision. It’s totally different to what I was doing 10 years ago or even 5 years ago so I’d say I've been on a journey of learning what a CEO is and what kind of boss I want to be.”
Travel is a major aspect of your role. Any favourite locations to date? “Funnily enough, after the kids were born I developed a major fear of flying. It knocked me for six. When living a busy life, an irrational fear can really creep up on you but I forced myself to get past it because there’s a whole world out there. I’m still not great but my job has taken me to some amazing places. My favourite is definitely LA. We stationed ourselves in an Airbnb on Venice Beach and the relaxed lifestyle over there really appealed to me. When I retire, whenever that may be, I want to spend 6-months in LA. I have big retirement plans!”
Any particularly memorable clients? “The Pringle shoot with Tilda Swinton always stands out in my mind. It was quite an experience and it helped put us on the map with high end fashion brands. I also remember shooting with Peter Lindbergh for the Haig Club. David Beckham was on set but I was more interested in Peter! He was incredible to work with and such a nice person. There are a few people I still haven’t worked with that I’d like to, such as Mario Testino but apparently he doesn’t like coming to colder places so that’s a challenge I’d like to accept.”
Quick fire round …
So what’s next for LS? “Our focus right now is to keep doing what we are doing at the standard we are doing it. I believe there is scope for us to tap into Asian markets so that’s something we are looking into. We want to keep securing international clients, developing the business and doing more service production throughout UK.”
What advice would you give to someone just starting out? “Stop being so nice to everyone! I once heard someone say ‘don’t let your what if become your if only’ and I thought that summed it up beautifully. If you have an idea, run with it. You have to start somewhere and my ‘somewhere’ was my kitchen table 11 years ago. Trust your common sense and be kind to yourself. That’s a lesson for all of us.”
What do you do in your spare time? “I have a caravan at Pease Bay, which I love. In fact, I was having lunch with someone in New York a while back and they were telling me about their holiday home in the Hamptons, so I told them about my caravan in Pease Bay. There is nothing more therapeutic than heading there after a busy week.”
Tell us something about yourself that we don’t already know? “I’m aiming to read 35 books this year. I am on book number 16 so I’m actually on track!”
Any hobbies? “I love socialising. I’m a very social person and am lucky to have a large circle of friends through work but also from my school days. And of course, I love wine … perhaps a little bit too much!”
Don’t worry Marie, we are all partial to a glass (or three!)