International Women’s Day – Inspiring Uncommon Members: Cecily

Every woman has an incredible journey to share with the world.

We’re putting the spotlight on our very own members and their career paths this International Women’s Day.

Here is Cecily’s story:

What is it that you do and why did you choose this career path? 

I am half of the founding team of Motley London, a direct to consumer brand set on righting the wrongs of the antiquated jewellery industry. 

Motley is about tearing apart what we accept but should not in the jewellery market – poor quality, vast expense or mediocre design. It is about re-jigging the value chain, putting design talent at the centre of what we do and allowing more people to be part of a world that is closed off to the vast majority

I work on the brand side of the business, I onboard and work with designers on our collaborations, as well as all on the creative and organic marketing side.

Why did I choose this career path? Maybe it chose me! I actually started out in the Art world – I worked at Christie’s before becoming the Director of Louisa Guinness Gallery in Mayfair – where I specialised in artist made jewellery. From there I started Motley with my co-founder Ilana Lever. 

I studied History at university (where I met Ilana as it happens); the Art world – buying and selling objects that are important because of their history, or what they say about a moment in time, felt like the closest thing to professional history that wasn’t being a teacher (No disrespect to teachers. I think I would have enjoyed being a teacher but felt it would have been a rank betrayal of my authority-and-institution-hating teenage self)

Would you say there are equal opportunities within your line of work? Did you have to face any challenges related to inequality in your career and if so, how did you overcome those? 

The art world is famously inequitable. Despite being very female heavy, the split tends to be male senior management and female “gallery girls”. 

Since leaving the Art world, I have raised 2 rounds of investment for Motley with my co-founder; one Angel round and one institutional round. The first was probably the hardest; raising capital as two women for a “womany” business, from male investors with limited or no interest in the product, was no walk in the park. We found the right investors in the end, but we had some real horror stories along the way. (We were asked “who does the business side” by one investor- the assumption being Ilana and I couldn’t possibly build a business plan. The same investor asked what our boyfriends thought of the business…hah! (/sob)) For context, 1p of every pound of Venture Capital pound invested goes to female founded companies.

What women inspires you the most or is your biggest influence?

I am relentlessly inspired by our designers – they are creative entrepreneurs through and through. It is no small feat to pull off an independent jewellery business.

On the business side, I am super inspired by Kirstin Green – the founder of Forerunner Ventures. She was one of the first amongst a male dominated tech investment landscape to realise the huge opportunity in brand. She started her own fund which has gone on to back some of the biggest e-commerce players. 

What advice would you give to young women looking to start working in your sector?

Resilience, confidence and imagination. Resilience, because sometimes jobs are really hard, and starting businesses is really hard, but remember – resilience sorts the wheat from the chaff. Nothing worth doing was ever easy.

Confidence because I have always worked in a highly competitive sector, where there is always a feeling that you are replaceable –  now I know the power of making yourself indispensable, I wish I had had more confidence to push. 

Last, but not least, Imagination. Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it, or don’t do it because no one else is. You are much more likely to do well and achieve great things if you are doing what is right for you – what you find interesting. Don’t mind what everyone else is doing.

As we continue going through the challenging times of change, what are your professional plans and career focus for the rest of 2021? Please mention any new projects you’re currently working on. 

Our challenge is to keep Motley running at full throttle and navigate these uncertain waters with our full team all on board. I can’t predict the future, but I can have faith in our ability to think on our feet.

You can follow Motley on Instagram.