How Sudden Celebrity Changes Everything When You're Running A Startup

Amber Atherton, Made In Chelsea, My Flash Trash

Photo: Photo by Alistair Guy

Amber Atherton certainly isn’t the first celebrity to own a business. Many of those in the limelight become their own brands and start companies.But unlike other celebrity entrepreneurs, Atherton — a model who has appeared in magazines like Vogue, and the star of the UK-based reality TV series Made In Chelsea — started her luxury online jewelry boutique long before she was being recognised on the street.

Still, My Flash Trash really took off in 2011 shortly after Made In Chelsea first aired, and Atherton, now 21, has plans to expand the business to the American and Middle Eastern markets this year. Celebrity is a surefire way to quickly spread news about your brand and gain followers and trust, and this is something Atherton recognises.

We caught up with Atherton, in her first US press appearance, to talk about the impact of fame on her business.

Tell me about the start of My Flash Trash.

Various sort of entrepreneurial ventures throughout my teen years led me to Flash Trash when I was 16. Initially I bought some costume jewelry in Hong Kong where I grew up, and I came back to boarding school in England and started selling it, but I wanted to reach a wide target audience. So I started writing a fashion jewelry blog and sold jewelry on there, and then it sort of grew organically.

While I was at the London College of Fashion I decided that I wanted to do luxury brand management after meeting different people in that realm. So I started a fashion management degree, but by this point I was struggling to keep up with running Flash Trash and filming the TV show, so I decided to take a year out after two years, and it was then that everything kicked off. 

What caused that take-off? 

I think it was various things, because I started it at the same time I was modelling, so it gained sort of a small cult following in the fashion scene, and then in that year suddenly we had a lot more designers and a lot more press; more celebrities were wearing the line, and then ‘Made in Chelsea’ started coming out, and that was when it became much more of a commercial success as well.

And how did you start bringing the initial attention to Flash Trash? 

Through modelling I got to meet insider contacts who work in magazines, or stylists and other models. It started organically with the blog gaining a popular following, and then through modelling and getting the jewelry placement in magazines and on other models and celebrities it started growing that way.

So you were able to wear your own jewelry during photoshoots? 

Yes. Either I wore it myself or other models did, or if I was shooting with a bigger model or celebrity I would talk to them about the line as well. It was at that time that I started getting more out on the scene, so I was bumping into a lot of celebrities, and I would introduce the line to them. But it happened so naturally as well; it’s not like it was premeditated or anything. It was just like I was doing this or that, and it fit. 

Do you think you would have had the same success without the fame? 

It would’ve, because even when I was doing it at school I was modelling, but not loads. I was probably doing more business, and then modelling. So I think it would have naturally happened anyway, but modelling sort of helped with it. 

When did you start filming ‘Made In Chelsea?’

I started filming the pilot for that in 2010. At the time I was interning at an agency called The Saturday Group, and a friend of mine working at same company knew a TV guy, so we started talking him about the show, and that’s when we started filming the pilot, and then it got picked up. I think it must be on the fourth or fifth by now, but I left after doing one episode in season three to focus on my business. 

Was the business a big part of the show? 

Flash Trash featured heavily on the show because that’s what I was doing in my life, and it was a reality show. I had to balance my day like I did when I was modelling. It was difficult, though luckily at that point I had two employees at that stage, but it was all about time management. 

When did you really start to become well-known and recognised, and how did it affect the business? 

It was 2011 when it started. The show was on TV, and people were recognising me in the street. I was becoming more involved in the celebrity world with parties and charity events and working with brands, and in that year that’s when my public profile started to get bigger. I started to go from just a model “it” girl into a celebrity. It feels very strange talking about myself like this, but that’s kind of what happened, and that’s when I started getting profiled more by magazines about high-end style, and Flash Trash started getting a lot more attention at the same time. 

Has being famous ever been a hindrance to the business at all? 

No, not really. I think it’s only done good things for it, because it just put more attention onto the business—more press, but at the same time we had jewelry mentioned in many fashion editorials that were very separate from anything having to do with me, so it almost just captured another market. 

Has being famous made you more aware of yourself as an entrepreneur? 

It has made me more aware, but fame in general I think makes you more aware of yourself. You’re kind of on a pedestal, and even just the way people interact with you in public changes. It does make you feel slightly alienated, in a way, but that was sort of OK with me, because I could still run my business. I almost found sanctuary in my office because that’s where I was just normal-business-owner-Amber, in my office with the staff. 

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