On Women Entrepreneurship Day, Business Advice speaks to Natalie Lloyd, founder of women’s activewear brand NATTILY, to hear how she took the plunge from full-time employment to launching a new brand, and what’s made the first few months so exciting.
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Natalie and I have just launched a new ladies activewear brand called NATTILY (www.nattily.co.uk). It’s an exclusive range of Polartec fleece gilets with bright neon trims and detachable pom poms for the zippers. Designed by me here in the UK and made in Portugal, these colourful and cosy gilets are Ideal for any activity. Also, I’m working towards being as sustainable as possible and the Polartec fleece I use is made from recycled plastic – on average 20 plastic bottles make each gilet.
I named the brand NATTILY because, I’m Natalie and a quintessential term, if you’re nattily dressed, you’re well tailored, looking smart and dressed to make a difference.
“I’ve only been trading for 5 months, but the gilets have been selling really well and I’ve just received my second order from the factory.”
What challenges can women expect to face in business?
As a woman, I haven’t faced any challenges which are solely due to my gender. It’s hard for anyone starting a business. Finding the time, the money and the right support is always hard. However, I’ve been lucky and the majority of people have been extremely supportive, women especially.
I think the main challenge women face is that perhaps we lack the confidence and courage in our convictions to get going. However, as I’ve progressed and asked lots of questions, I’ve found there are so many support groups and networking opportunities available, I would definitely recommend any women who are thinking of starting their own business to give it a go.
Do you think there are enough women running their own businesses?
I have met loads of great women running their own businesses which is so great – and gives me the inspiration to keep going. I would love to encourage and inspire more women to take charge and be their own boss.
Also, the women are all ages and backgrounds meaning that it’s never too late to start. A lady the other day started her fudge business with £500 redundancy money and she tripled her salary as a support teacher in her first month.
What do you think are the advantages of having more women in business?
There’s a great support network available and with more and more women starting their own businesses, we all support each other, giving more women the courage to go solo. I live in the countryside and so am looking to join my local WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) to get out each month to meet new businesses and share advice/support.
Have you ever had any discriminative experiences because of being female?
Not especially, most people have been very supportive however, I find the best way is to be gracious and smiley to everyone – you never know who you will meet in the future.
How do you handle knockbacks?
I try to be as positive as possible. In the 2 years researching and getting the business going I’ve had lots of hurdles. It’s been hard to find the right factory and fabric suppliers but I’ve always remained open to options, asked lots of questions and never accepted no for an answer.
Things have definitely taken longer and cost more than I’d anticipated but it all worked out in the end as I have taken the time to develop a great product which is very well made and everyone loves.
What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own business?
Definitely give it a go! I did it for as long as I could alongside my full-time job in my evenings and weekends so I could benefit from a regular income and test ideas. I also gave myself a budget which, worst case, I knew I could manage without. I just knew I’d be annoyed if I didn’t try – I could always go back to the day job if it didn’t work out.
What can the business community do to help more women entrepreneurs?
I think it’s really important to share as many stories as possible. As well as the success stories, it’s also important to share the stories of those who tried but perhaps weren’t successful – I think think this might give more people the courage to try and perhaps those who’d shared their stories might find other advice/support to help them crack their business venture?
There’s a lot of support available and I think it’s not always so easy to find about this, so also making the support more accessible would be helpful.
I’m also looking for any grant options as I quit my full-time job and invested my savings into my business. I know that people love them and I will be expanding the range in the new year but would love the extra funding to help me do some more professional marketing videos for the future.
How do you hope your business to develop in the future?
A lot of people have been asking what I’ll be doing next and I’m very open to options. In the short term I would like to expand the range to include more colours then I can look into doing different styles. Ultimately, I want to keep things simple.
The Polartec fabric I use is made out of recycled plastic and on average, 20 plastic bottles make every gilet. I use biodegradable postal bags, tissue paper packaging, paper bags and am always looking for ways to ensure I keep the business as sustainable as possible
Who are your business heroes?
JK Rowling has done brilliantly and I’m a HUGE fan of hers. I like the fact she speaks her mind but she’s gracious too. I think it’s important to have an opinion but also to have respect for others too.
What your reading at the moment?
43 Mistakes Businesses Make by Duncan Bannatyne
Which one song is always on your playlist?
I love Disney songs, total guilty pleasure. Let It Go from Frozen or How Far I’ll Go from Moana are favourites at the moment #girlpower. I also love ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman – a great one to sing along to in the car at the moment as I’m travelling around lots of Christmas Fairs.
Where was your last holiday?
It was in June this year – I got married to my lovely husband Nick and we went on our honeymoon to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore. I knew I’d be fully focused on NATTILY when we got back so wanted to have an amazing, once in a lifetime trip to somewhere we’d never been before. It was full on but great fun – we were never bored and the food was incredible.
When are you happiest?
With my family, husband, outdoors with animals. Whilst I love talking to happy customers and growing my business, I love the simple things money can’t buy.
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