MEET THE FEMALE FOUNDERS
MISSFITS Co-founder Tara Adlestone and Founder of Active In Style, the capital’s go-to destination for the latest activewear, Caroline Lucey share their secrets on how to build a successful business whilst also juggling the many other aspects of their life. We sat down with the two entrepreneurs to understand the challenges they’ve overcome, what it takes to sell a healthy lifestyle and how to achieve success in the increasingly competitive wellness market.
Active In Style is leading London’s athleisure scene, whilst MISSFITS is pioneering the all-natural protein space, both designed to cater to the performance of London’s wellness consumer. Let’s meet the two boss ladies that make the magic happen…
How was your idea born?
TARA: It was around 3 years ago now that the idea behind MISSFITS grew. I’d always been into health, fitness and eating smart but was always confused by the growing topic of ‘protein’. As far as I was aware, I was getting enough through my diet and the idea of protein shakes was confusing. I always wanted to learn how I could improve my everyday routine and so started to investigate a little into the protein supplement topic. What I quickly realized was that protein isn’t just for after a workout, and I definitely wasn’t getting enough through my diet. It’s in every cell in our bodies and is essential for muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails and more, we need it to survive. So I began to scour the shelves to find products that I could easily integrate into my diet, through my breakfasts and snacks. It was crazy but all I could find was meal replacement ‘diet’ products or masculine products full of artificial ingredients. Surely there was a brand to fit my needs as an everyday woman? But there wasn’t. So together with my two friends Henry and Jacob we set about creating a brand that did just that.
CAROLINE: I’d been living in Australia and working for activewear label Lorna Jane. I wanted to move back to the UK and was keen to bring the Lorna Jane brand with me and introduce it to the UK market. The activewear industry was tiny in the UK at that time and I saw a need for fun, vibrant, good quality athleisure wear here and decided to try and fill that gap myself with firstly Lorna Jane and then further brands.
What was the biggest struggle you overcame when setting up your own business?
TARA: Educating women on the power of protein and changing perceptions in an industry where people have been so misled over the last 20 years. Our biggest challenge is to break down these misconceptions and educate women in this growing Wellness space. The market is extremely crowded, but we have something new, unique and different that sets us apart from other brands – it’s just getting the positive message out there!
CAROLINE: There are so many struggles to overcome when you are starting out – financial, working by yourself and doing everything yourself, maintaining the belief in your concept or product etc. However, I think the most difficult thing that I faced was changing people’s mindset. At that time (2012) women didn’t see activewear as a staple part of their wardrobe like they do now. You didn’t see people wearing activewear out all day at the weekend and people would go to the gym and then change or head straight home after wards. We needed the shift to viewing activewear as acceptable daily and for it to become a wardrobe essential and therefore be able to drive the sales and ‘must have’ mentality for the pieces we were selling. Both Australia and the US had got there… we just needed the UK to follow. Oh and I was also pregnant at the time we launched which was also pretty challenging!
With the world of wellness becoming increasingly popular, how do you ensure your brand stands out from the rest?
TARA: We have to position ourselves as experts in this growing Wellness industry through our educational marketing and working with top quality nutritionists who give the brand credibility. We will never just bring any product to market, it has to be aligned with our brand ethos – all natural, no BS and full of premium quality ingredients. By working closely with leading retailers in the UK, this too helps our brand stand above the crowd – it shows that big retailers believe in our product and brand direction and in turn leads to more customers.
CAROLINE: It’s hard to remain consistent and true to your brand when there are competitors out there. It’s hard not to look at what they’re doing and allowing that to affect what you do. However, the only thing you can do is keep a vague eye on them and then focus on your product and offering and making it stand out. If you do that and don’t get distracted by the competition then I believe your brand will shine through.
Personally, and for your brand, how important is it to you to work towards a wider purpose?
TARA: This is something we are really working on as a brand, ‘practice what you preach’. Wellness consumers are in touch with the world around them are looking to brands who are moving towards being more sustainable or charitable, and brands who are transparent with what they are doing. It’s important for us as a brand to be a company that is working towards positive social change and we are doing this through our partnership with Women In Sport where we will be donating a portion of our sales to them quarterly. Women in Sport exists so that every woman and girl in the UK can experience the transformational lifelong rewards of sport in ways that many have missed out for so many years. Working closely with them is a natural collaboration as we serve active women and aim to empower and inspire.
CAROLINE: I think its very important. We are lucky to work in the wellness industry as already you feel like you are helping people with their health and wellbeing. However, we are also looking at other opportunities too and will soon be stocking a unique eco friendly legging which is made out of recycled water bottles from the oceans. Each pair of leggings uses 25 plastic bottles to be made. These leggings are amazing, they are high waisted and super soft. They only come in black at the moment but new colours are being developed and will launch imminently. Our Eco leggings will launch on the website by the end of October.
There’s a lot more to it than just having a ‘good idea’ in the wellness scene, what else do you think is the key to success?
TARA: Persistence is key! There are some really amazing brands and ideas in the industry but in order to succeed you need to truly believe that what you are offering is unique and innovative. It’s so important that you believe wholeheartedly in your vision too, because no-one will ever believe in the brand as much as you do and you will no doubt face difficult hurdles along the way, but with the belief that the brand will succeed – you can pursue and succeed.
CAROLINE: A good idea is one thing but you need to make sure that there is the demand there for your idea. Once you have confirmed that then you need to have the right team with you to execute the idea and ensure you get it out there in the right way.
How do you get your ‘headspace’ when managing a business 24/7?
TARA: There’s a few ways I manage my headspace during the week. One of the most effective is through morning meditation. I try not to look at my phone when I wake up and instead meditate and stretch for at least 10-15 minutes before heading out into the day ahead. In fact it allows me to set my intentions for the day so I stay on point. Then often after a day at work, I can feel stressed, which is totally natural and I find a good sweaty workout 3-4 times a week is an amazing way to release any tension I’m feeling.
CAROLINE: You need to be very organised in order to ensure you get your ‘headspace’ time. I need time during the week to think about business with out having the daily distractions of the office and emails and everyday tasks. I try and use my time on the train to and from work for this – for looking at the wider business picture and making notes and plans on future things. Its very easy to get bogged down in the day to day running of the business and not think about developing it further so you need to take time out to do this. I also need time for myself just to breathe and relax; I try to schedule in a few workouts during the week which is me time but other than that I try and walk as much as possible. To and from meetings etc as this is time when I can breathe and think without having to be checking my phone or emails.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs starting their own brand?
TARA: Ensure you believe in the brand more than you’ve believed in anything, because no one will have the passion for the brand like you do and then surround yourself with people who have the skills you might not have. For example, I run the sales team but at times numbers totally go over my head, so my colleague Jacob massively helps me with that. Henry runs the operations side of things, creating new products, logistics and supply chain. Again, I would never be able to do that role, so you need to make sure people have strengths that play to your weaknesses.
CAROLINE: Go for it! You won’t know whether it works until you try and you won’t know whether you love the entrepreneur lifestyle until you make the leap. I do think that Instagram and the way we perceive entrepreneur’s today can make it look much more glamorous and fun that it often is. A lot of the time starting your own business is a constant fight to keep your head above water. Yes you get to be your own boss and run your own time but you also have to pay your own salary and the salary of others and many other tasks which you would take for granted when you’re employed by someone else. Its often a hard slog but if you’re committed and organised then the highs can far out weight the lows.