Inspiring Individual - Sally Smy

Sally Smy, founder of Queen Bee Styling, tells Inspired Mum how having her own "beige" moment after the birth of her first child gave her the inspiration to start her own business helping mums get their sense of style and confidence back on track. 

You clearly have a real love of fashion, tell me about how you started your career?

I have always been interested in fashion, and took Saturday jobs in shops from the age of 13 to enable me to buy clothes. I left school thinking I would become an accountant and work in the City, however I soon realised I wasn’t cut out for it. I tried a couple of other things before I found myself in a buying office. I loved it and immediately felt at home there and I’ve never looked back. I think I get my love of clothing from my mum. She always looks very chic and taught my three siblings and me to take pride in our appearance.

What made you decide to change career and start your own business?

I went back to work as a buyer after my first child was born but it’s strange how one of the things I loved about the job – travelling – became the thing I hated the most. I would sometimes be away for two weeks at a time and childcare became tricky to manage.

I had been thinking about setting up a business even before I had children but when they came along it made me reassess what I really wanted. I also knew the possibility of working part-time as a buyer was highly unlikely. Many of my colleagues had requested it but they had been rejected. When I went on maternity leave with my second child I knew it was now or never.

What was the inspiration behind Queen Bee Styling?

After the birth of my daughter I had what I call my ‘Vicky Pollard’ period. A good few months after the birth I suddenly caught sight of myself in the mirror and didn’t like what was staring back. I had my hair, which was in desperate need of highlights, scraped back in a messy ponytail and I was still wearing maternity clothes. I sensed the local shop assistants eyeing me up with apprehension! It took a real effort to feel happy with my appearance again following a trip to the hairdressers and clothes shops.

It was whilst sharing this experience with friends that I realised how many women feel like this, especially after giving birth and being on maternity leave. It dawned on me that I could use my fashion skills to help women in a similar position if I became a personal stylist.

Buying is an excellent training ground for personal styling as you have to create a range of clothes that appeal to real women. It isn't about dressing a size 6 model in the latest trends for a photo shoot. All the clothes have to be fitted on size 12 models, be excellent value for money and stylish enough to persuade people to part with their hard earned money.

One of the services you offer, is a “Back to work styling”, what role do you think this plays in helping mums return to the workplace after a career break?

For many women returning to work after a break, what to wear can be a stressful issue. I realise that this isn't the case for all women but for those that are not happy with their image it can be a barrier. Even a brief maternity leave can make us feel out of step with current workplace dress codes. I've seen first hand the positive effect that feeling happy with our image can have on our confidence and self esteem. Ensuring you have a selection of outfits that you feel great in and an organised, tidy wardrobe means there is one less thing to worry about when returning to work.

What do you love most about the work you do?

The most rewarding aspect by far, is seeing my clients' confidence increase and knowing that I have helped them to do this. I'm always touched when I receive an email telling me how I have made a difference to their lives. I love the fact that what I do is a straight-forward transaction between women wanting help and me wanting to help them.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being your own boss? 

I do miss the office banter, working alone means you have to make more effort to connect with people. It's very easy to be distracted when working from home with household chores so I've learnt to be more disciplined about them. Also, when you are in a large office you have a support team that can help when the printer breaks down etc but when you are your own boss that's generally you. I've had to fight my natural instinct and embrace IT issues, which is a challenge!

Do you feel you have found a good work life balance?

I'm happy with my balance overall and I don't regret making the change at all. I think you have to be realistic though and accept that there is no Utopia. I still work long hours but the fact that I can be flexible about this means that I can be there when it matters. I try to take off as much time as possible during the holidays. I had to accept that I’ll never be the type of mum who stays at home baking when my daughter told me she preferred the shop bought cakes to my home made ones!


If you need help getting your sense of style back on track, please contact, telephone 07956 293845 or visit 


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