From lads' mags to business leader: the extraordinary journey of 'ordinary girl' Caprice

Caprice Bourret addressed the annual enterpreneurs' conference on the challenges and joys of launching her own lingerie company

Caprice at the Baltic for the annual Entrepreneurs Forum

Models, suggested BBC Radio presenter and entrepreneurs’ conference host Alfie Joey, have to work extremely hard.

It’s unlikely he could have anticipated the reaction he’d receive from interviewee, Caprice Bourret as she appeared at the annual Entrepreneurs Forum at the BALTIC in Gateshead.

“Oh, honey! Modelling is a walk in the park," she said.

“I just have to look in a damn camera and make 15 grand every 10 minutes.”

It was a typically blunt response from the model-turned-businesswoman, who’s gone from being the It girl of 90s lads’ magazines to the shrewd and forward-thinking boss of By Caprice Lingerie.

The real challenge, the 42-year-old said, was running a successful business around a satisfying family life with her boyfriend and two baby sons.

“It’s not easy, but you’ve got to do it.”

 

Originally from the US, Bourret moved to the UK in 1996.

She was an “ordinary girl”, she said, suddenly surrounded by paparazzi, and making a “ridiculous amount of money overnight”.

“I’m not six feet tall - I can’t do the catwalk - but I had the boobs and the hips and the attitude, and I had to find my niche,” she added.

In an early hint of her potential business acumen, Bourret realised she didn’t have to be exploited and put a high premium on the use of her image, negotiating contacts that worked in her favour.

“I would only do four photoshoots and make several hundred thousand dollars a year,” she said.

On reaching her early 30s - “one foot in the grave”, as far as modelling is concerned - she realised she needed a plan B and, since all the rich men she met were “gross”, she realised she had to make her own money.

One route was reality TV - Bourret, notably, is a former Celebrity Big Brother Contestant - but continued fame came at the price of being slated at times by the media that had helped make her a star.

“Initially, it hurts,” she said.

“Now I have a thicker skin.”

At the time, celebrity endorsements weren’t anywhere near as commonplace as they are now, and, with the popularity of lads’ magazines, Bourret saw an opportunity to put her name to a lingerie range.

She got in touch with Terry Green at Debenhams, who eventually gave her the break she needed through a licensing agreement.

“Initially, he was reluctant; then I started stalking him,” she joked.

“We went for it and it was one of the best decisions he made.

“I thought ‘Okay, now we’re getting rich, really rich’.”

Eventually, however, Bourret decided she wanted full control of her business, and, buying back the license, experienced what might be described as a steep learning curve.

“I learned a lot because I lost a whole lot of money,” she said.

“I should have brought a technician in, but I didn’t pay attention.

“I also designed according to what I like - I’d held on to all this research for years, but I didn’t utilise it.

“It was silly and naive, but after that, sales just soared.”

It hasn’t been easy - By Caprice Lingerie is competing with established names like Gossard and Wonderbra - but the entrepreneur is to building on the “brand integrity” she’s already established while expanding into the likes of beachwear and maternity wear, and making extensive use of social media.

While expansion may be positive, though, greed, she insists, is not.

“Don’t be greedy.

“Lots of people start up businesses, see the money, then cut corners.

“It’s really important to stay true to the product.

“You want longevity and cashflow is my Bible - I know what’s coming and going for the next nine months.”

And does she have an exit plan? Joey dared to ask.

“Honey, I’m only 42! I’m not dead!”

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