As a female founded company, what are your core values and how has that come through and changed as the company has grown?
I have been quite clear from the start of what I wanted this business to stand for, although I think I have formalised that more as the business has grown! Firstly, I want our clothing to empower women to keep active in their pregnancies and after, in whatever way that looks like for them. Hence creating colourful, supportive and high quality activewear – as I know how horrible I felt working out in see through leggings and my husband’s t-shirts!
Another core value is to support women and that comes across in a number of ways. One element is through the information we share in our blogs and Instagram content, giving advice and support on all number of topics. We also run weekly workouts on the Instagram grid to give mums a variety of free workouts that they can join in at home, whatever level of fitness they are at.
As the business grows and I start to employ more people, while I won’t only employ women, I absolutely intend to build a business that recognises the value of parents and carers that have left the world of full time, inflexible work and provide opportunities for these people that have so much to give but who’s experience is lost to industry. For example, I intend to keep dispatch in-house, which will enable me to create flexible work opportunities for local parents that would fit around school runs. I am also about to start recruiting for other part time roles for experienced professionals. My rationale being that as a small business, while I can’t afford full time senior level experience, I would prefer to pay someone part time that has more experience. It benefits my business and benefits the individuals for whom the doors are often closed on certain opportunities. Big business’ loss is my small business’ gain!
Lastly, from the very start it has been important to me that we are a socially responsible company. From launch we have supported the charities CoppaFeel! and Kicks Count to raise awareness of the work that they do and how important it is for mums to monitor their breasts and their babies’ movements. As the business has grown, we’ve focussed increasingly on sustainability – all of the packaging we use is compostable or recyclable for example – and this is something we will continue to do more of. We also launched a programme last year to buy back pre-loved clothing for us to resell. Not only does this ensure our clothing is even more sustainable but it also raises money for the incredible women’s charity Women’s Aid.
What would your main advice be to another female entrepreneur?
I’d say to anyone looking to start a business to ensure that whatever you go in to business in, that it is something you are passionate about. That way every day and all of the work you do, will never really feel like work and when you are working random hours, you don’t mind doing it. It was suggested to me once that I started a cleaning company for local businesses as there was a gap in the market in my area – for me that was definitely not an idea I could get excited about, and while I could have done it, I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it! I absolutely love what I do now, and while its not always easy, I never dread Monday mornings!
Are you part of any programmes to mentor other female entrepreneurs?
I’ve given quite a bit of mentoring and advice to other women in business although not through a formal programme. I have always been happy to give time to other women who need support when it’s asked for. When I started in this journey, I was so fortunate that some amazing entrepreneurs I reached out to gave me some of their time and advice even when I barely had a business to talk about, and that is something I will pay back as much as I can to anyone that needs it. To take someone seriously, regardless of the stage they are at, is the biggest compliment you can pay.
What are the female traits that you believe help you in your job role?
I’m not sure how much are female traits and how many are just personality traits but I would say I am never afraid to ask for help and advice if I need it and I am not afraid to approach anyone for it. This trait recently got me an hour on the phone with the founder of Sweaty Betty who was amazing and gave me so much advice, support and contacts. Its not always easy but you have to put yourself out there and perhaps I feel like its more important to do that as a woman.
I like to think I am also quite intuitive to what my customers want and are going through – having had three babies, I know how challenging and isolating that time can be and that’s so important to bare in mind in the way you communicate with people. When you can really put yourself in the shoes of your customer, you can build a really special relationship with them.
What barriers have you face, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field?> How did you over come them?
Honestly, I don’t think I have ever found being female a barrier to success but having children certainly put a spanner in the works of my corporate career! But then I wanted to be at home with them and my priorities changed so while I did find it hard to come to terms with at times, it was the right thing to do for me. The main issue was trying to get back in to work after. Let’s just say the corporate world isn’t very accommodating of mums that have heaps of experience but have taken time out and want part time working! But their loss was really my own gain as I think I can now say I’ve proved what mums can achieve, even when they are fitting work around their family lives.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing opening up their own businesses?
Think from the start where you want the business to go and what your strategy is for getting there. You don’t need to have all of the answers on day one but how you run your business if you want it to support your lifestyle, versus building a global brand is very different! Assuming family plays a big role in your day, think about how you will juggle the two competing commitments to get to where you want to be. For example, I typically start work very early before the kids get up. This means I get to collect them after school, do their homework and take them to clubs etc and be a part of their day. This is hugely important to me – and if it means I work into the evening then that is what I will do. I have a pretty clear goal for where I want my business to go and I need to put the hours in to get there. I could do a lot less and still have a good business too – there is no right and wrong answer. Only what is right or wrong for you.
How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
To get support from anyone in the world of business is an amazing thing. I’ve had some incredible support from both men and women on this journey and all of these people have left a mark on me and my business. But given that women unfairly are stereotyped as being bitchy or competitive with each other, I can honestly say this is not something I have ever experienced. The support I have had from other business owners, from the personal trainers that specialise in working with pre and postnatal mums and the mums that have worn my clothing, truly blows my mind. And its something I will always pay back.
Check out Natal active here www.natalactive.com