Meet the MD: Julie Fowler-Drake of Talbots Group

Meet the MD: Julie Fowler-Drake of Talbots Group

After inheriting the family business in 2010, Julie Fowler-Drake has since restructured Talbots Group and turned it around and into a profitable company. BQ caught up with her to find out how she made it happen and what advice she has for aspiring business leaders.

What does your company do?

Based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Talbots Group provides jewellery retailers with a range of solutions to meet their packaging needs, offering them both a high-quality signature range and a luxurious bespoke Tailor Made service.

We offer a full design-to-production service across a range of different packaging markets, and have established the business as the UK’s premier packaging company with our functional, beautifully designed packaging at competitive prices. 

Established in 1913, Talbots Group has a long history operating from Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, supplying the global jewellery, beauty and fashion trades. Our clients include David M. Robinson, Gemporia, QVC and Cash Converters.

 

What does your role involve?

As managing director, my role is to oversee the day-to-day smooth running of Talbots Group, including such varied aspects as finance, recruitment and business strategy – no two days are ever the same.

From a strategic point of view, I am always looking at ways to develop and grow the business by targeting new business and raising awareness within the trade of our full design-to-production service.

I also spend a lot of time meeting new and existing clients, as our industry is quite a traditional one that values the personal touch when it comes to business relationships. 

 

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

My first step into the business world was setting up a children’s fashion company called Brights and Stripes, which did really well and got up to 100 stockists worldwide. Then my father died and I was plunged into my family business – a world that could hardly be more different.

The Talbots Group specialised in making boxes and packaging for the jewellery trade. With my brother and sister both running businesses of their own, it fell to me to decide whether to take it on – and then what to do with it, as at that point the business was making a loss and had been for some years.

When I became managing director of Talbots Group in 2010, I had to identify the opportunities for the business and the changes that had to be implemented to make it a success.

I restructured the business and totally turned it around and into a profitable company – a real challenge but a breakthrough moment for the company. I have since re-positioned Talbots Group as a creative, designed-focused and -led packaging partner for retailers and brands.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Three things, really. The tenacity to stick by what you believe is the right path for your business, even when that means making the most difficult decisions.

Passion for your business – I love what I do and that shows through in the way I have transformed Talbots into a more creative and forward-thinking company.

And finally communication – if you are going to be a successful leader, it’s essential to have a supportive team behind you, so you need them to be fully on board with your strategy too.

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Taking a business that had been making a loss and transforming it into the successful, profitable and innovative company that Talbots Group is today.

 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

It can be hard to switch off, but I love spending time with my family. After a hard day at work, there is nothing quite like going home to my kids – it tends to be able to switch my brain from work to home as soon as I walk through the door.

 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A farmer’s wife!

 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

My pet hates are people who lack passion, enthusiasm, attention to detail and sophistication. I train and spend time with people like that to see how I can help them.

 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

As the largest, most creative packaging company in the UK with a reputation for producing fabulous packaging.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Be true to what you believe in and stick with your vision if you believe it is right. Know your point of difference and make it count.