Inspirational Woman: Priya Downes | CEO & Founder, Nudea

Priya DownesTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My first job after university was as an Actuary and although it was a great start for getting comfortable with data and numbers, I knew it wasn’t going to excite me enough to spend my whole life doing it. Eventually after a few years of finance, I moved into the Luxury Fashion industry which I was much more passionate about. After 8 years working for some of the big houses, including Chanel and Burberry, I felt the itch to try something new that married my head for numbers with a love of great product.  I knew straight away I didn’t want to create yet another fashion brand, it was important for me to create a product that served a need as well as being made with care and passion. My current role as founder and CEO of Nudea brings together all the best learnings from my unconventional background – developing a great product that I’m passionate about with a great team.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No because if I had I would have taken a path of least resistance and gone straight into luxury fashion. I do often look back and wonder where I would have ended up if I had started on that journey earlier in my career. My journey has given me a unique grounding with lots of useful skills that have massively helped in launching my own business, so it’s hard to imagine my career any differently. The fact that I have a solid grounding in finance has contributed to me being a better business manager.

You’re founder of Nudea – tell us more about this?

I founded Nudea in 2019 which was my first experience launching my own business. Nudea is a fit focused sustainable underwear brand which is disrupting the bra shopping experience from fit to try on.

Coming from a background in luxury goods, I have a keen eye for well made product that is beautiful, long-lasting and designed to be worn with pride. I have always been disappointed by what was on offer in the bra market, something that I wear and have worn everyday of my life since I was a teenager. I saw the opportunity to leverage my skills to create something truly unique; modern essentials and an experience that makes women fall in love with their underwear again.

Nudea is committed to sustainability – how can we as individuals becoming more sustainable?

From the outset, we’ve been committed to our ethos of ‘buy less and care more’ by not compromising on quality and having sustainable business practices at heart. We are carbon zero and super proud to have achieved B Corp status so early in our journey.

People and our planet have gone through some big changes over the past few years, particularly with the pandemic and global policy changes made on climate change. It’s never been more important to care about all our individual actions and the planet we will leave behind for our future generations. Like businesses, individuals should evaluate their own impact continuously. A small analogy I tell my kids is to imagine if everything we threw away ended up in our own garden, it would make you think twice about what you bought, what you consumed and what you threw away because you would need to live with it right in front of you. Landfills are out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind because ultimately it’s someone else’s garden so we should all care.

Priya Downes - Nudea
Nudea products

Do you have any advice for any women looking to launch their own businesses?

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to building a business, male or female. It always comes down to drive, hard work, passion and belief in what you are trying to achieve.  I also believe in integrity as building a successful business is about building relationships whether with suppliers, partners, customers or investors – at the end of the day people want to do business with good people. I do often find that women undervalue themselves and find a million reasons not to take the plunge and start something – and often women are the ones who are the better relationship builders. Most of the entrepreneurs I respect the most are the ones who are the most human.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I would love to see more women making financial decisions and narrowing the gap with men on managing income and assets. It’s amazing to see so many female-led businesses in 2022 yet only 2% get VC funding vs male led ones. It’s a system which needs to change, starting not only with more women in investment decision making roles in venture funds but also all of us educating ourselves on managing risk/reward across assets. In doing so, we can support more women-led businesses which in turn then supports other women. Like this we can create a wave of change, that will lead to more women on Boards and leadership roles.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Life’s too short to play safe, if you’re not enjoying or growing in whatever you do, move on. Don’t waste time focusing on roles or /projects that don’t tick these boxes. You’ll waste precious time and could be passing up opportunities that would be so much more satisfying.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’ve just completed a hugely successful crowdfund where we achieved 188% over the initial funding target and gained 671 new investors which has far exceeded any of my expectations. With fresh funding in place, I have a busy couple of years ahead scaling my startup through the post-pandemic era. It’s never been more unpredictable to be in retail but also, it’s very exciting to see how consumer behaviour will shift over the next few years in the backdrop of some big global changes. It’s a challenge I’m excited to jump into!

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