'Accidental' £25m entrepreneur is honoured by Sunderland University

Alice Hall.
Alice Hall.

An entrepreneur who began her business on a £90 budget before turning it into a multi-million pound fashion empire has been honoured by the university where she developed her love for design.

Within 10 years of graduating from the University Sunderland, Alice Hall has turned her "accidental" enterprise into a £25million fashion empire.

Her leadership skills, entrepreneurial mind-set and hard work are behind the phenomenal growth of her online fashion brand Pink Boutique and last year led to her being named as "one-to-watch" in European Business after making it on to the prestigious Forbes Under 30 European List.

She joins other big names such as footballer Gareth Bale, actor Dev Patel, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Sunderland-born singer Emeli Sande.

That meteoric rise as a successful entrepreneur has now led to another honour for Alice as she is named the University of Sunderland Alumni Achiever of the Year 2018.

This prestigious competition runs annually with alumni and staff members nominating a graduate who has excelled in their field of expertise and Alice has done that in spades.

Alice says she is the classic "accidental" entrepreneur.

Struggling to pay her bills she bought a pack of six dresses for £90 to sell online.

She borrowed half the money from her mum Julie and when they sold, she bought two packs, and when they sold, she bought four.

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She kept doubling up and the rest, they say, is history.

Alice graduated from Sunderland with a journalism degree in 2009, having specialised in beauty and fashion magazine journalism.

But as the recession bit and she struggled find a suitable reporter role, she took a job as a cover supervisor at a North-East high school before a light bulb moment changed her life.

Having also taken on a mortgage she still found herself struggling to pay the bills and took on two other jobs to help make ends meet.

But the stress of living off 5p noodles made her determined to provide for herself. She says it was stressful but a good thing for her to go through, fuelled by a craving inside to start her own business.

The light bulb moment came when she found a UK dress wholesaler online and saw that she could improve the styling to make it more appealing to buyers, channelling her passion for design and fashion from her university days.

Operating out of her living room, Alice then spent her lunch breaks rushing to the Post Office weighed down with parcels for her eBay buyers.

Now, six year on, Pink Boutique ships out more than 4,000 products a day from a 60,000 square foot factory in Newcastle and employs more than 60 people.

The company achieves annual sales of around £25million with plans to expand into the US and Australia.