On the up · 21 June 2016

A feminist lingerie brand that began life on The Prince’s Trust enterprise programme

Neon Moon Feminist Underwear (photographer Yasmin Benamar)6
Neon Moon promotes a Photoshop-free approach

With less than £5 in her bank account, but a clear business idea in her mind, Hayat Rachi has built up a lingerie brand challenging the status quo – and shared her story with Business Advice.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Hayat Rachi, the CEO and founder of Neon Moon – feminist lingerie for women with feminist values.

(2) How long have you been around for?

As a concept since January 2014, and as of trading since March 2015.

(3) How do you make money?

I launched Neon Moon on Kickstarter in March 2015, where we were successfully funded and went viral. We now sell our amazingly comfortable and luxury lingerie direct to our amazing supporters via our own website.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

It’s hard not to notice an unapologetically feminist lingerie brand that’s for sure. Neon Moon is proudly Photoshop, sweatshop, sexualisation and objectification-free. We pride ourselves on being inclusive to the LGBT+ community as well as women of colour. Reflecting our amazingly diverse community is so important to us.

Our size guide is also a world’s first. We size everyone to compliments, so we currently stock sizes Lovely, Gorgeous, Beautiful, Fabulous and Stunning. Celebrities have also taken notice during our body positive campaigns and supported us along the way. We deserve better, and we are creating better.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

I was homeless and unemployed when I finally decided to work for myself in 2014. I approached The Prince’s Trust who accepted me onto their year long enterprise programme to make my idea a reality. I have no background in fashion or lingerie. I studied economics at university and was the only woman to get a first with honours. I never let my lack of formal fashion education hold me back. So long as I had guidance, learnt from people smarter than myself and had Google on my phone – I was ready to get started. I literally had nothing to lose.

Hayat Rachi Head Shot
Hayat Rachi has built her business up from nothing

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Having Neon Moon successfully funded on Kickstarter by 150 per cent over the amount I initially needed to create a viable business was the most incredible feeling in the world. I felt like I had the validity from the world’s press, feminist celebrities and from people all over the world who have supported us along the way. I literally had £3 and something pence in my account before I launched Neon Moon on the crowdfunding platform – there was no plan B. That’s why I have always been so humble and grateful to our amazing community. Everyone who has bought Neon Moon lingerie is literally family to me.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Before I launched Neon Moon I was told by my previous sample maker that I’d fail, and I’d might as well quit while I’m ahead because I’m competing with “actual lingerie designers” as well as having another factory try to tear me down before I had even begun. Ah, fun times.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

A millionaire. I will have a Neon Moon feminist lingerie store here in London, as well as see Neon Moon become the multinational lingerie brand it deserves to be. Neon Moon will take over the world, and at the rate in which we’re growing at the moment it’s definitely going to happen.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Believe in yourself. Hustle. Never give up. And learn quickly.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Personally it all begins with my parents making me sell my old toys and clothes as a child at car-boot sales. I’d always start at £100 an item with the biggest smile on my face and haggle down to a couple pounds. My mentor, Paul Allen, has and is an incredible influence on my life and how I see business. He also puts it into perspective that the successful are just normal people among us. There’s also my ex-partner Benjamin Doherty, for making me believe in myself and helping me through the hard times – he also taught me how being a cheeky chappy can go far in business. I also have to mention the Bathtub 2 Boardroom co-working space, for giving me an incredible six-month bursary this year, as well as allowing me to pitch to other businesses and network with their incredible entrepreneurs and mentors.

And for the people I have yet to meet, Sophia Amoruso for showing me if she can go from shop lifting to a successful business owner, so can I. Martin Lewis, for teaching me to always be a scrimper in both my personal life and business. Jim Rohn, for having been an incredible motivational spokesperson.

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

Business development