Nayna McIntosh is a Retail Expert and Founder and CEO of British fashion brand Hope.
Nayna has worked in the retail industry for many years, she was part of the management team that launched George at Asda and was also a significant part of the founding team for Per Una in M&S. More recently she was on the Management Board at M&S under Lord Rose, an amazing achievement which finished her journey from Saturday girl (Nayna had her first job at M&S) to boardroom.
Nayna left M&S a few years ago with a dream to set up her own retail brand Hope. Hope is a British womenswear brand seeking to embrace women of all shapes, sizes, and ages – and in particular women over 50 who feel invisible to high street retailers due to the lack of aspirational clothing for their age group. Hope celebrates these women, by providing them with elegant and easy-to-wear pieces and making their shopping experience pleasurable.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
“My first ‘job’ was working with my mum on her market stall in Birmingham from the age of 10, following this I then got a Saturday job with M&S and went on to join their Junior Management training scheme. From there I moved onto Next, George at Asda, Per Una then back to M&S so my career went full circle. Throughout my time in retail I have sat in enough customer insight presentations to understand the commercial opportunity of the 50 plus market. When I reached that age myself I certainly had a lot of empathy with some of the commentary. This made me aware of how invisible this woman is and how she is so often ignored by the industry. So, I decided to bite the bullet and walk away from by big job at M&S and think about doing ‘it’ differently. My mum and her Jamaican family have always inspired me, she ran her own business for many years, that’s probably why I had a little voice inside me that wanted to start by own brand, but it was only when I left M&S and had some time out to read, research and reflect that I realised this was what I wanted to do. This challenge transpired into setting up my own company, and now I am the founder and CEO of my British fashion brand Hope.”
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
“I wish! I was certainly influenced by my mum and I guess I was fortunate enough to do my training with M&S which certainly gave me a good grounding. After my training I made the move to the new brand on the High Street – Next which was a wonderful opportunity and can honestly say I never looked back.”
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
“In my experience, being a mother, bringing up children, working full time, and trying to juggle a career is a huge challenge. At some stages in my career, living 250 miles away from where I worked didn’t help either, but my drive and determination always kept me going.”
Tell us a bit about Hope? Why did you decide to create the brand? What do you hope to achieve?
“During my time at M&S it became apparent from my research that there was this group of women who felt totally isolated by the retailers on the high street, and when I reached 50 and my body changed, I started to understand exactly how they were feeling. I knew I wanted to look stylish and feel confident but also comfortable, but I couldn’t find the right brand that acknowledged this. This was the opportunity and challenge I was looking for, and so I set out to create my own womenswear brand which became Hope as it stands today.
Hope was influenced by my British and Jamaican heritage, and my passion to celebrate optimism, hope, honesty and diversity. The brand name itself derives from my family history and my grandparent’s emigration from Jamaica to England, which was filled with the hope of finding a better future. Hope is also my mother’s name, and she has had a great influence on my life and my values.
From the beginning, Hope has always been about family, honesty and positivity and that continues to be our message to date. We use real women and models of all ages, shapes and sizes in our imagery, so everyone feels included and catered for. We speak honestly to our customers and aim to provide high-quality, stylish pieces that are comfortable and easy to wear and make everyone feel beautifully confident.”
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
“My day will start early, around 7am or earlier depending what’s in the diary, the first thing I do is check my phone to review the previous days sales figures. Lunchtime is an important time at Hope HQ! We use this time as an opportunity to all ‘down tools’ together and spend some quality time as a team. This also means we aren’t frantically trying to eat a sandwich whilst typing away at the same time! I strongly believe that taking a break during the working day can make you more productive, by allowing you to reassess your priorities and take a breather. Plus, I also believe this makes the team more content which in turn has a positive effect on productivity and creativity for the remainder of the day. My day ends usually having dinner with my husband Harvey then my mind will often be occupied as I go to sleep thinking about the current challenges for the business.”
Do you have any advice for anybody looking to start their own business?
“The first thing to note if you’re looking to start your own business, is being able to offer consumers something new and innovative that sets you apart and offers a point of difference. Another key piece of advice is to conduct thorough market research into your chosen industry to ensure there is a need and appetite for what you’re proposing to bring to the market. Doing thorough market research will also enable you to really get to know your target audience, in terms of who they are, where they already shop, how much disposable income they have, and how they prefer to be communicated with, which will prove invaluable when it comes to marketing your product with the aim of driving sales and profit. Finally, be prepared to work the hardest you have ever done in your life!”
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?
“Mentoring is incredibly important, and I believe it can have a fantastic influence and impact on people in their careers or those starting a business. Listening to other people, and receiving their guidance and advice, can really allow you to grow as a person and enable you to evaluate your own decisions as you progress through your career. I have personally experienced the benefit of a mentor in my career and am very grateful for the guidance I have received. Whilst I don’t formally mentor anyone at the moment I would like to think I act as a mentor for some of the younger members of my team.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
“The one thing I would change for women in the workplace would be for everyone to be treated as equals. It’s fantastic to see all of the progress being made in Hollywood and in the media through movements like Time’s Up, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to corporate businesses and their equal pay policies as well as issues related to gender discrimination.”
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
“Seeing real women wear Hope and witnessing the effect it has on them from a confidence point of view. Receiving product reviews on our website and hearing how much they love the collection is always fantastic as it makes the ethos and hard work we put into designing the garments, sourcing the fabrics and communicating our unique message all worth it.”
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
“Acquiring more customers, building brand awareness and evolving the collection remain key for this year, as well as seeking further investment to keep the brand going.”
Visit www.hopefashion.co.uk to view the full collection and hear about how their working to make more women across the world feel beautifully confident.