In a time where many people are considering branching out with their own business ideas or working on a side hustle, we thought it would be a great time to share our time with creator and founder of Love, Sweat + Tees to inspire you to go for it!
It is a lovely, honest, inspiring story of her journey and brand so far. Hayley talks sustainable fashion, being a small business, the joy of saying no and her own wellbeing. We love it.
Please enjoy the read and check out her website for some fab fashion pieces. Think sustainable, trendy, slogan, fashion, capsule wardrobe.
A massive thank you to Hayley!
1. What made you decide to set up your own business in 2017?
It's always been my dream to set up my own business and I'd had lots of ideas over the years, done lots of research and written lots of business plans but never actually taken the plunge. I'd always been stopped by the sense that "someone already does that better than I ever could" or "it's too big a financial risk". Then my husband, Ben, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Bowel Cancer in April 2017, at the age of 40. He was fit and healthy, sporty and strong. It was a huge blow. We had two beautiful young boys and really couldn't believe that it was happening. As we set about dealing with major operations and chemo, we had also started thinking about how we should be spending our time. We had so many dreams, plans and ambitions that we always thought we'd get to at some point in the future. It gave me a real kick up the bum to just go for it and start something, even if it wasn't perfect. So I did! I set up Love Sweat + Tees at the end of 2017, starting with a small range of about five designs. We also both ran the London Marathon the following year, fulfilling another of our dreams. We ran it to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK and Ben ran it in just under four hours only six months after finishing chemo. Thankfully, Ben remains fit and healthy and cancer free. He now packs all of the orders, manages stock levels and runs the accounts for the business.
2. Why did you choose to start a business based around sustainable sweats and tees?
I set up Love Sweat and Tees having spent many years working in the fashion retail industry and I knew I wanted to do things differently. Having so many totally different garments for different seasons, huge production runs, massive "end of season" sales to deal with unwanted stock - none of that sat well with me. I knew that if I were to set up a fashion retail business I wanted to find a way of working in a more sustainable, sensible way. I could see that people in general were dressing more casually and looking for clothing that was less fussy, and looked cool and glamorous without looking like too much effort had been made. For me tees and sweats are the perfect garments to play to those trends, especially if they're designed with a slogan or print. They can be worn year-round and dressed up or down - maximising cost per wear and making them a really sustainable option for a capsule "slow fashion" wardrobe.
3. What's the hardest thing about starting a business/how did you overcome it?
There were two things:
1) The financial risk. I knew that I didn't want to risk our family finances, particular given the circumstances we faced when I set the business up. I had previously spent a lot of time looking into businesses that would have needed me to go all-out from the start, invest a lot of money and work at them full time to succeed. The model that I work within, with small production runs and limited waste, allowed me to start up with a relatively small investment and helped me to manage my cash flow. I start with small test runs for my designs and I only reprint things that I know my customers really love and will keep buying.
2) The time: That's still a tricky one. I have two amazing children and part of the reason I wanted to run my own business was so that I could, in time, be at home to spend more time with them, collect them from school and have the flexibility to go to their school sports matches. I've tried to overcome it by working early in the morning / late at night or occasionally asking my husband to take the children out for a fun activity while I work at the speed of light. I still don't get it right all the time - who does? Also, the vast majority of my marketing is done through social media which can also be all-consuming so I really try to limit my time on Instagram to first thing in the morning, lunch time, and evening to avoid spending the day looking at my phone.
4. What has been the most difficult thing/lesson learned whilst running a business during lockdown and currently?
That we're living in unpredictable times. It's been much harder to plan for the regular peaks and troughs of business. At the start of lockdown, everyone went crazy for loungewear and along with more limited production capacity due to social distancing, this made it hard to keep up with demand. Later in the year, as big high street retailers have discounted early and at higher levels to clear vast amounts of stock that had been purchased pre-lockdown and not sold, that hit small businesses like mine that were not designed with the capacity to offer deep discounts.
5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to go out on their own?
Start small, test and learn. You don't need to be perfect to start. In fact - I doubt any entrepreneur would ever say that they'd got to the point where their business was perfect. Don't invest lots of time and effort in creating a fully fledged business. Do something really small - see what response you get, listen hard to feedback and build on that. For me, constantly listening to customers and tweaking is the best way to grow an authentic brand that customers love.
6. How is fashion moving forwards in terms of sustainability and in your opinion what do people look out for?
It's amazing that customers and influencers are switching on to the importance of sustainability. It's a journey for all brands and no brand has really cracked everything. What's difficult is that as awareness grows, so too does so-called "greenwashing" - the use of "sustainable", "eco-friendly", "ethical" as a sales and marketing tool for businesses that don't have sustainability at their core. Customers should continue to ask questions of brands. Where are their products made, how do they know that they're ethically produced, what packaging do they use? I love discussing this with customers, and being challenged - I learn from my customers and from other retailers. It's important to constantly look for new ways to be more sustainable. A customer emailed last week complaining that my garments don't come with swing tickets attached. I choose not to use them as I feel it's another element of traditional retail that should be challenged - bits of plastic and paper hanging from a garment that nobody ever looks at and which go straight in the bin. But I do want the presentation of my garments to reflect the love and care that has gone into producing them and it bothered me that a customer felt that we'd not presented them in the best way possible. So I've started to look at whether I could create a swing ticket from something genuinely useful and sustainable like a packet of plant seeds. I love the dialogue that is opening up around sustainable fashion, that customers are challenging brands and brands are challenging traditional customer mindsets - I think that people should keep having direct conversations with brands on the topic of sustainable business. It tends to be easiest to do this with small businesses, which does make me believe that small businesses will start to lead the way in sustainability.
7. What does wellbeing mean to you?
For me, wellbeing is about two things:
- Moments of quiet. I'm not a huge fan of pampering - I actually find it quite stressful to sit still for so long. But I do think it's important to have time to check in with yourself each day. Whether that's through a peaceful run, a few minutes reading, staring out of the window while you have a cup of tea. Just a bit of time to breathe.
- I would also say that it's about being able to say "no" and protect the things that are most precious to you. For me, family time is the thing that makes me happy. If I feel like life has taken over and I've not spent enough time with my family, it starts to impact on my wellbeing and happiness. Sometimes it's hard to say no - to extra work, a social event, or the to-do list that never goes away! But it's a really important skill - to say no and not feel bad about it.
8. How do you achieve your work/life balance?
With difficulty! I still have a busy full-time job and squeeze my business in around that, so I would have to be honest and say I'm not very good at this! I'm lucky to have a supportive husband who helps so much with the business and is understanding about the fact that my personal admin list never really gets tackled because work / the business and the family always take priority over the pile of washing that needs folding, or the parking fine that needs to be paid! I have to be ruthless in prioritising the bits of "life" that are most important in the work/life balance. I will always watch my kids play in their sports matches at the weekend, tuck them in at night, spend time each day reading / playing card games / watching TV with them - even if it's just for a few minutes. I also multi-task a lot which is probably not to be recommended!
9. What is your proudest achievement?
My children. I know they're not an achievement but they'll always be the best thing I've ever made!
10. Do you have any rituals/must have items or must do activities each week that you will not go without?
A daily call with my mum and dad, writing a daily list, a run at least once a week (I'm really trying to do more) and a cup of camomile before bed. So rock and roll!
Check out the website
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