Our wonderful ladies in the Bags of Joy Facebook group are at the centre of everything we do at Sarah Haran. From chatting abou handbags, to being there to bring joy to one another in difficult times, the group has been the most rewarding way for us, as an online business, to really get to know all of our amazing women. Now we're giving our ladies the opportunity to share their incredible stories on The SHcoop so that we can all be inspired by one another.
Today, we are fortunate enough to have the wonderful Andree Graham here to share about her incredible career, life and SH obsession! From bumping into celebrities (quite literally!) to running a crafting business on top of her hectic day job, Andree has quite the story to share with you all!
Hi Andree, Thank you so much for coming onto the SHcoop! We hear you’ve worked in plenty of different sectors, all of which must come with their own challenges. Tell us a little about some of your favourite jobs.
I think one of my favourite jobs was buying antiques for the US market. We'd travel to antique markets with miners’ hats that had lights on them so we could start shopping at 5am in the pitch black. There'd be 3 teams, each with 2 of us and carrying £1/4m in CASH - talk about a security risk! On one of my last jobs, we actually had to have plain clothed security guards and they scuppered our plans. We'd always stayed in the same hotel and had our favourite rooms to stay in, but when we checked in, the security guards switched us to protect us and so we got their small, boxy rooms instead of suites!!!
Working at Harrods was great; I moved to London at the age of 18. I used to wander round in awe, 7 floors, merchandise I wanted (bags being my go-to!) - I was an under buyer in perfumery and cosmetics (so tons of freebies.) Then I went on to buying Harrods branded merchandise for franchises all over the world. I even used re-stock the QE2 when it docked!
Of all of my jobs, the job I am in now is my most challenging. On May 20th we bought 105 accountancy practises across the UK and Ireland. I work with an amazing bunch of people all working towards transforming IT, HR and Finance through those practises - every day is a challenge (sometimes frustrating but really rewarding!)
A little birdy told us that your first ever job saw you mingling with the stars, can you namedrop any VIP’s?
Ohhhhh!! I once ran into "Rodney" from Only Fools and Horses - running through the store at opening time I slammed through a door and ran into someone very tall - it was Nicholas Lyndurst looking down at me flat on my back - I was mortified and scared I'd be fired! But he was a gallant gent and picked me up and apologised to me!
We used to have to close the store when Princess Di came in, she was so beautiful. Actually my ex-husband and I got "that" call, as it happened, as he was the Logistics Director, he had to bring Dodi's body back to the store, so that was an interesting time to be in Harrods ....
The nicest though was George Michael. I helped him twice choosing his Christmas presents for his family. I saw him again years later when we used the classical electric string quartet called Bond (4 stunning girls.) I took them on a purchasing trip to buy any clothes they wanted for a photo shoot with us, and George was there at the restaurant.
One of the oddest though was a photo shoot at a very famous models house where a very expensive fur coat then went missing and I was sent back to ask "very nicely" for it to be returned lol!
Your current job is extremely full on, can you tell us about it, and how you cope with the stress of it all. Do you have any good tips for unwinding?
It is extremely full on. I worked out my phone usage in 1 week was more than 3 years at my previous firms! I think now at my age I've learnt to handle people’s assumptions better. Now I face up to if I can’t deliver something by just picking up the phone and talking to someone, rather than hiding behind emailing them. I find that working with them face to face (thank god for Teams calls) builds great relationships. I also have a very wicked and naughty sense of humour which I sometimes have to rein back in depending on my audience - but nerves still get the better of me at times. I met my new CEO the other week and he went to shake my hand but instead I blurted out "oh give us a hug instead - hello!" Then I thought what the hell have I just done!
As for unwinding, I love to cook, even after a 12hr day. I put good music on (I have been known to dance with Mollie the Jack Russell) and a good glass (or 2) of red wine always helps. Or I craft to unwind, which always makes me smile.
You also run your own vintage jewellery business outside of your day job. How do you ever find time for yourself! Do you always make sure you get enough ‘me time’ or are you an absolute workaholic!
It started off when I was in a job which didn't pay me enough, so I started to make handmade christmas decor using vintage beads. When I eventually changed my job and got really busy, I decided to start listing my stock. Sales took off (doesn't say very much for my designs right?!) and now I have around 3000 followers and crafters who literally argue over the one-off's. I've met some AMAZING ladies who are so creative (I have even been know to buy my own jewels back once they've been reworked into something else by one of my crafters!) It was ok to work constantly when I was single, but since meeting Ian I try and restrict it to Sunday mornings or when he's travelling. So I finish my normal day job, then crack on with listing both vintage jewellery and crafting pieces I source from all over the world!
You boast quite the collection of SH bag, what made you fall in love with the brand?
Ian actually bought me Jessica as my first bag for our weekends away in our campervan. I fell in love with the quality, but what really sealed it is the customer service. Being in the industry I am in, I've always valued good customer service. You can have the best product in the world, but if the customer experience is bad, at some point you decide it’s not worth it. With SH I've never, truly seen customer service like it. The team are available at all times of day, weekend or late at night, and that means the world to me. If I'm going to invest in products, I want to see value and quality, but I also want to feel valued. I think every one of us SH ladies feel valued, whether we have 1 bag or 100 (don’t let Ian see JUST how many I have....!)
Who are your inspirations in life? Either personal or in the public eye.
I have two inspirations. The first, my sister, whilst younger than me, is the strongest woman I've ever met. She's also the most amazing mum to my beloved niece and nephew who are my joy in my world. She works as the UK ambassador for Ferrari and has been in the motor industry her whole life. She used to struggle with her dyslexia but has always found ways to overcome it. I admire her and she cracks me up with her sheer incompetence at staying upright (if she can fall over something she will do).
My other inspiration is my late best friend. We lost her on her 53rd birthday to cancer. She was the most incredible woman with the dirtiest laugh you've ever heard. Loved red wine and good times and I promised her in our last conversation together that I'd pull my life together and not make the same mistakes she had. Within a couple of months I met Ian, grabbed life by the horns, moved down to the coast and finally before my 50th birthday started living my best life! She would have loved Ian and my life now, but I think about times like when we dressed as Starlight Express, in roller skates we'd never tested and rolled into a pub, couldn't stop and rolled straight out the back door!
We know it’s a tricky decision, but if you could only choose one SH bag to use for the rest of your life, which SH bag would you choose?
Oh you know how to ask a hard question don't you! I think it would have to be the bag I never thought I'd like, but I now have several of - Jasmine! When I go out I don't like carrying things so a cross body suits me. I can dress her up or down and have bought one for Ian’s mum's 80th after she commented on mine. There's also one heading my sisters way for her 40th (sssssshhhhhh don't tell her!)
We know you love your handbags and jewellery. Do you find that taking time to style yourself nicely makes you feel more confident and altogether better throughout the day?
I've never been happy with my body shape (voluptuous is probably the nicest description) so I've never really been into clothes or shoes. Instead I love scarves, jewellery and of course bags, all of which give me enormous confidence. I also love to compliment anyone I see in the street if they have a lovely outfit, scarf or handbag. Giving compliments makes all of us feel a bit better, doesn't it?
There’s nothing the SH ladies love more than our fabulous four-legged friends, tell us a bit about yours!
Up to last year we had 2 - Lulu the naughty Bichon Frise, who loved to drink Baileys Irish Cream and be the drunkest dog our vet had ever seen! As well as the infamous time she ate her own body weight in roast beef and couldn't lay on her tummy for days! We lost her at the grand age of 17 last June and I really do miss her. Now we have the lovable, drama queen that is 6yr old Mollie the Jack Russell. She loves working at home with me, and my jewellery business is named after her. She's sassy, feisty, loving, dramatic, cute as a button and knows just how to milk it with everyone she meets!
You love travelling and even have a campervan! What are some of your favourite places you’ve visited?
Since Covid we've not been abroad on holiday. Instead, we had our campervan fully converted in the Isle of Wight and now take her everywhere. Norfolk is one of our favourite places, as is Canterbury, but we're looking forward to taking her to France between Christmas and New Year (along with Mollie of course!) There is the most amazing beach about 15 mins away from us where we can drive straight onto the beach. We'll go there on an early weekend morning, throw open the door and rustle up a cooked brekkie while watching the sea! I even had Ian's 50th birthday cake made as the campervan along with Mollie and Lulu and him on it - he was blown away and refused to cut it for a week!!
Do you have any go-to SH accessories, or do you like to switch it up every time?
I love my webbing and pearl straps as well as my large pom poms. When the pub calls after working from home all day, I have to choose an Ivy to go with me. That's where most of my pics of bags get taken lol, normally with food or wine next to my bag of choice!!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the SH ladies?
The BoJ Club gives me such great pleasure. Whether I grab a few minutes while getting ready for work, or unwinding afterwards, the BoJ makes me smile. What a fabulous bunch of ladies we are, all with different stories, body shapes, hairstyles, from all over the world, yet we all have one thing in common - our SH bags. When we see a post that doesn't have a bag in, but is a cry for support or help, or comfort - we're there for each other. That is something money can never buy. The solidarity that winds through our souls and keeps us looking out for each other is priceless and unique. I find it extremely comforting, so I thank each and every one of you for being YOU - keep doing it and smile - you're SHuper!
Thank you for sharing your story. When I feel cream-crackered after a hard day at work and that’s all I’ve had to worry about, I shall remind myself of this story and then think I could probably squeeze in a little something else. Life is too brief, we have to grab every precious moment. A short wish list and a shorter bucket list because I have and have done those things including grabbing the SH new releases I have my eye on.
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