Jenny Parker - College of Arts - University of Derby

Jenny Parker, Product Design and CIM, 1993

What are you doing now?

I set up Country Attire directly after graduation in 1999 as my dissertation covered future business planning. Originally I focused on selling equine related clothing but over time spotted other opportunities to grow and adapt. The business currently employs 36 staff and is thriving, turning over £10+ million per year with healthy profits too.

I'm proud as the Marketing Director, running one of the fastest growing online retailers in the UK, to say we've been listed in The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100. This details the fastest growing private businesses in the UK over the last two years. 

Plus I'm delighted to announce we've recently won an award for Best Pure-Play Etailer under £10m having been shortlisted for the last three years. The PayPal Etail Awards are now in their third year and are described as the ultimate accolade to etail excellence.

What were the main reasons you took that course? 

I had an inherent love of design and an interest in improving products. The course was perfectly suited for me as it played to my strengths, gave me a good understanding of how products are put together, the chance to develop my business acumen plus the desire to think innovatively and tread my own path. 

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby? 

I was very particular when prospecting for courses and didn’t want a ‘run of the mill’ course. I knew I wanted to progress a product design skillset without losing the ability to make the most of an opportunity and maximise value from my creations.

James Dyson was an idol of mine and his tenacity spurred me on giving me inspiration to see my ideas through to completion.
Derby offered this perfect course and it fitted the bill completely. I was thrilled to get an unconditional offer to attend, tied into the fact it was not a million miles from home which meant I was able to continue to compete with my horses at the weekends and for the University teams.

I also studied the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Professional Diploma as part of my degree.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

It’s moulded a significant part of my career as it’s given me focus and my original business idea.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

Dave Sarll and Mike Veveris, were always incredibly supportive, even for my more wacky ideas; who would have thought you would have a live horse walking through the engineering block for a final year presentation. It even made the local press! They were the ones who encouraged me to push my ideas forward and see if it was a viable business opportunity. Of course I have a lot to thank my then boyfriend (now husband & Co-Founder) and family for a they gave me unwavering support and belief in my ability to see it through.

What are your future plans?

I am incredibly happy in my current role, every day is different and presents learning opportunities. The speed of change in our industry is fascinating and I will continue to push and question boundaries. I will ensure that Country Attire and its employees become the best they can be, until that point I will not be satisfied. I hope to be regarded as one of the early adopters of online retail and a true entrepreneur.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

The training, guidance and support I received at Derby was second to none. However, I would stress that it’s what you make it, no one will hand it to you on a plate, it takes hard work, the will and belief that it can be done.

"The training, guidance and support I received at Derby University was second to none. However, I would stress that it’s what you make it, it takes hard work, the will and belief that it can be done." Jenny Parker