Emily Sowden


Everybody has a talent, but not everybody has a platform to express it. Some are denied opportunities; others have their paths drawn out for them. Some don’t seize their chance when it arrives.

But through The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free business loans, which are available to the value of £20,000, creative, skilled and driven people are afforded an opportunity to combine their passion with a career and immerse themselves within an industry they adore. Most importantly, they’re given a chance; a stage on which to shine.

That’s certainly been the case for University of Westminster graduate Emily Sowden, who borrowed from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity in December 2017 and has since opened up her own studio where she works as a self-employed, freelance design consultant and art director.

Based in Loughborough, Emily provides professional and personal advice to new businesses that require a womenswear design specialist, and to industry professionals who need someone to lead on projects or guide their team on a contractual basis.

Emily, who previously worked as a surface pattern designer, a brand designer for plus size and maternity wear and most recently as a designer for George Womenswear at ASDA, claims that skills gained from previous roles gave her the confidence to go it alone.

“I developed a wide range of skills from my studies and from working within the industry. I interned at places like Gareth Pugh (a London-based fashion designer) and Vivienne Westwood and felt like I not only understood the luxury market, but also how it was to work for massive retailers such as George at ASDA. Sadly, there were redundancies late last year, so this pushed me into doing something full-time that I had always dreamed of.

“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss – even my mum will tell you that!” she continues. “Being my own boss and having a healthy work-life balance drives me every day. I love the idea of coming into my own creative space and working 24/7 in an industry I love.”

It’s still early days for Emily and her new career, but there’s already much to be proud of and even more to look forward to.

Having designed new uniform solutions for them previously, Emily recently worked alongside a tailoring company in New York to bid on a project to design a new uniform for Kenya Airways as part of a new, direct flight path from Kenya to New York. The bid was successful.

“I bid for the job through an online site, and worked closely with the company until early this year,” she explains.

“I kept all fingers crossed and found out a month ago that our proposal was accepted and we had won the project! I am currently working on research boards and concepts, whilst planning my trip out to Kenya for later in the year. I eventually hope to be at the uniform launch in New York in November, alongside my own designed capsule collection for the tailoring business.”

It’s been an impressive start to life in business for Emily, but as she confesses herself, there are challenges that come with starting your own company – albeit they’re challenges that can be overcome. “I think the hardest part for me was the initial process of writing a business plan,” she says.

“As a creative individual, it was quite hard to put pen to paper. However, there were lots of great tools available and people out there to help me – from both The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity and local bodies too.”

With The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s funding secured, Emily has been able to make positive steps forward which will help her to improve, expand and compete with the fierce, industry competition. “I have already upgraded my equipment, enabling me to compete with other freelancers at my level and improve the speed at which I deliver projects,” she states.

“I have also rented my studio (right and above) and will continue to do so, in order to have a proper working base and area for all the meetings I undergo. I have plans to move on from the design and freelance side of my business into owning my own womenswear label and brand by the end of this year, if all goes to plan. I am interested in competitions like Fashion East in London – and owning my own brand would give me the chance to compete and progress my design skills further within the industry.”

Emily joins a long list of people to have benefited from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free business loans, and like many others, speaks about the Charity – and the support it provides – in glowing terms.

“I researched a lot of local sites and government incentives for start-up businesses and came across the great opportunity that The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity offered and thought, go for it,” she recalls.

“I found the process with the Charity very clear and quick. After initial help with any questions and concerns, the team really did help all they could. They are very friendly and approachable so I was already at ease with the process from early on. I was, of course, very scared for my interview but as soon as I sat down with the panel I felt confident and was able to just talk about my business – and the passion I have for the industry.

“My message to others would be don’t be afraid and definitely don’t keep thinking ‘one day I could have my dream business’ – because that day could be now! Don’t delay; see how happy a Sir Thomas White Loan Charity loan could make you and the difference it could bring to your life.”

For further information on The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free business loans, please click here