I can't quite believe we reached the 3 year mark since I launched the Kickstarter. In some ways it's been an age, and in some ways it's just flown by! I keep pinching myself, I'm so thrilled that to have got this far and to now be a 'proper' business, albeit still a small one. In many ways, the 3 years is the tip of the iceberg of the 3 businesses I launched prior, since 2012, that didn't quite make it. I've learned so much and made so many mistakes along the way, it really does take a long time to get to the point of actually running a viable business. When I spoke in Detroit at Sustainable Brands almost 2 years ago, one of my fellow panellists described himself as a '5 year overnight success' and I think that just about nails it, although I'm still to reach his level of 'overnight success' to be fair!
So what have I learned on this remarkable 3 year journey?
- That when people find something they love and in whose values they believe and trust, they are really prepared to back that brand on it's journey
- That my idea of 'plastic free' is very different to that of some suppliers, who over the years, have inserted polyamide and polyester into some of my pieces without thinking to mention it, they just don't see it as 'plastic'!
- How genuinely kind and forgiving customers can be when you don't get it 100% right. When I sent my email telling you my french supplier of hook and eye tape had inserted a polyamide stabiliser without mentioning it, I received over 60 emails of support telling me it was OK and to not give up. One of the worst days in my life transformed into something so positive. I have them printed in a file and refer to them whenever I have a bad day - Thank you
- That starting before you're ready is the best advice for any small business. You will never be 'ready' and will never know half of what you need to know until you've stuffed up enough times to know better
- That not having technical experience in your chosen field makes it a high, but not insurmountable barrier to entry. Sometimes being naive and not knowing any better means you just ask 'why?' so often that in the end you confuse the experts into eventually conceding - OK well why not!
- That the most remarkable people will come out of the woodwork to help and support you when you need it. From pro-bono photo shoots, to advice both big and small, at my toughest times I've benefitted from the support and experience of industry veterans who've had my back and helped me along the way
- That worms can eat a bra in 8 weeks - who knew that?!
- That the image of what's left can after the worms can cause an entire room to erupt into applause, and also go viral on instagram!
- That 1000 bras = 100kgs = the weight of a baby elephant - of which we've now saved 5 from landfill in 3 years. 5000 bras, 500kgs of potentially toxic bras, saved from landfill by those who've purchased plastic-free.
There's more, I know there's more, but I can't keep you here forever. I still work alone, but I have a fantastic community around me of freelancers, customers, and local and global suppliers who have all become my friends and family. I'm grateful to you all every day, and for the opportunity that I've had to do this zero-waste thingy which brings me so much joy - Thank you!