Inspirational Woman: Zoe Ellis-Pennick | Founder, The Curve Fashion Festival

Zoe Ellis-PennickI am the owner of The Curve Fashion Festival which is Europe’s largest plus size fashion event; as well as that I own a Cocktail Bar and Eatery in Chester called Palm with my husband Dan (recent award winner of North West Best High-End Bar).

My background is actually Law (well as much as 3 years then drop out can be!) and after that fashion. Starting as a fashion stylist, continuing on to be Fashion Editor and eventually starting what is now The Curve Fashion Festival. I am a huge control freak, ridiculously dis-organised for someone’s whose job is to literally organise and always thinking outside of the box!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not! Honestly, looking back I see how every little step turned into one big next step. For example; I started The Curve Fashion Festival because at the time I was working as a Fashion Editor for a plus size magazine and I saw the huge gap between the customer and the plus size brands. It was like neither knew how to access each other so I created The Curve Fashion Festival as a one stop shopping event for all plus size retailers. After a few years of being settled we started to work more with brands on their influencer events and I saw that the North West had a lack of what brands would call ‘instagrammable’ venues to host events. Me and Dan had always talked about doing a business together so from this came the idea of Palm in terms of being a venue that was self-marketed via the customer and solely focused all of our marketing on having a strong social media. With that we made sure we created a Cocktail Bar and Eatery that was top service, incredible food and showstopper cocktails with taste and sight!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I wouldn’t say the list is endless but there have certainly been some big challenges. With The Curve Fashion Festival it was always the start up. No one had done anything like it and especially not with plus size retailers. I had to build something from scratch and create something that had substance and was valuable to both a customer and also to a business.

With Palm it has been the same as most businesses; covid. We had to sustain a business during a crisis no one had experienced before or had any knowledge of what to expect and remain calm and hopeful that some sort of normality would enable the business to progress and grow as we had planned. Thankfully it has!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think when I look back to the first year of The Curve Fashion Festival, I realise how big of a deal it was getting certain retailers to sign up. I had a huge idea but no proof it would work so I had to make the leading retailers in the country believe in it the way that I did and foresee that plus size fashion was about to become mainstream and looking back I can really see what an achievement that was to get those fashion brands on board. I always used to check the address as well when ticket sales would come through and I remember when I got our first ticket sale from America and then it hit me that the festival had become a destination event which felt incredible in that moment!

With Palm it is a different achievement; when Covid hit we had only been open a few months so we were still building the business and brand but I noticed people were commenting on our social media that they missed Palm and couldn’t wait for lockdown to be over to come back and have food and drinks and I know it sounds daft but that felt great as we already had loyal customers after just a short few months so that was fantastic!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Support is definitely the main thing. No matter what my husband Dan, parents and close friend Hollie have supported everything along the way. With the festival its everything from working at the festival and packing goody bags to my family literally building Palm for Dan and I! I think the second factor would be having a team that believe in the business that you do; to the point when you tell them your plans, they don’t seem crazy! Instead their reaction is how do we do that? What do we need to get to the
next goal? Team members that have faith in your vision is a huge win and creates a career for them with you and not just a job.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is fantastic; personally, I have never done it, but I’ve certainly been inspired or looked at how other people work and develop their brands. In the early years Dan helped with the business side of The Curve Fashion Festival and would always be like you need a business plan and help me navigate what was a new world for me! Looking back that was so essential in being able to develop and move forward with having the business. Although not direct mentoring; it’s certainly something that has helped me along the way. I couldn’t imagine being someone’s mentor though! My love of swear words and constant changing my mind I’m not sure who would want to be mentored by me! I will quite happily acknowledge I am the most disorganised event organiser!

What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?

Do it! Starting a business to me is like how people talk when they have children. You can plan and plan but really you just need to go for it; it doesn’t mean you are going to not face challenges or have an immediate success but the first step to success is doing! I write lists; I need everything written down on a piece on paper; something physical and not a screen or laptop. I set goals for the day or for the week. There are always some things left over and the list never ends but seeing it written down helps me to actually achieve it or at least attempt too!

I have the mentality of you just have to go for it and if you give it everything you have and it doesn’t work; it doesn’t matter because you know you couldn’t do more than what you have done. There is no right time to open a business; sometimes you just have to go for it and make it work!

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

Don’t change a thing! Everything will help mould your future so embrace everything you do and don’t do and learn from them.

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

Developing Palm and opening the next one is definitely on the cards within the next 12 months and it’s exciting to be looking at new venues and tailoring a business model to the next location. After that I am really excited to get back to the fashion side of things and have some big ideas which I hope to swap into a brand-new business in the next couple of years. It’s a busy time!


WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.

Related Posts

Comment on this

X