Inspirational Woman: Ana Lesiak | Founder of Saint Bustier

Ana Lesiak1
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I came to London 13 years ago from Spain where I cut my teeth learning about fashion retail at the international headquarters of Zara and overseeing the early rollout of their business in the UK. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to live in several countries in Europe as well as the US and to travel the world both professionally and in a personal capacity. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I started my career in Silicon Valley. I then joined the world of privatisation corporate finance which led me to become a venture capitalist. Whilst doing my MBA at Insead, I decided to follow my interest in consumer goods and convinced the guys at Inditex to let me join their International HQ. I have since pursued an entrepreneurial path and, after managing the turnaround of a heritage British sporting brand, I set up Saint Bustier – a fashion solution business specialising in designer clothing for women who wear standard clothing sizes but have busts of a D cup or above.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think many women can relate to challenges they have had to overcome because of their gender; I also have had to deal with nationality and sometimes age biases too. This is what led me down the path of setting up my own business; I wanted to be able to be in control of my destiny and to establish an environment free of these barriers. But this path also has a number of tough challenges. You have responsibilities to your shareholders and to your staff which can weigh heavily at times, but the single biggest challenge is turning a business plan from paper to reality; the plan is never right so you have to adapt, and try different ideas, while remaining true to the original business mission, the core customer needs and the key promises your business makes. In setting up Saint Bustier we focused on the segment of women who, just because they have been born with a bust bigger than standard fashion measurements (the industry generally cuts to a B cup), have largely been ignored by the premium fashion world. We are taking on this big challenge for them – a challenge of having great quality, premium fashion brands participate – and are fighting to bring top brands on board.

So far so good – but every day brings new insight into how much effort it takes for women who are big busted to be able to buy truly flattering, fashionable clothes that really fit them.

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

I think it was going to America alone, at the age of 17, from a regime oppressed Poland. I hardly knew the language, had $200 in my pocket, had no family around to support me in any way. I had to find a job, I had to find my way and support myself whilst learning about the new world and this unknown society. I needed to work full time whilst studying to get into Berkeley and helping my father, who followed me to America, in obtaining his political asylum. It did not feel like a great challenge at the time – I was just doing what needed to be done – but now, when I look back at those times, I do recognise what I did.

But I would not re-write my life and this experience helped me build my character and my willingness to face challenges in the following years.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

I think I am in a place I want to be. But, I must admit that I watch with passion and amazement the nature films of David Attenborough who is one of my lifetime heroes, so I think that, if I could be a naturalist like David Attenborough, making the world aware of the wonders of the earth’s creatures with the most captivating story-telling voice, I would like that.

The trouble is, he started being one at the age of 5!!

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

It is a difficult question because I have admired many people for different reasons. These included my parents and my grandparents, as well as people of whom I knew and read but whom I never met. They have generally been the people who had strong beliefs and did not waver from them; who displayed a great degree of tenacity, honesty and courage in following their dreams, who had to fight adverse conditions and prejudices, and achieved great things as a result. For me, amongst women, Maggie Thatcher is somebody who has been very inspirational. She broke incredibly thick glass ceilings, fought a lot of adversity, faced life threats, and had to take incredibly difficult decisions.

Her courage, conviction, tenacity, devotion and work ethic are inspirational whatever your political leaning.

 What does the future hold for you?

A lot of very hard work and challenges associated with growing Saint Bustier and in balancing this with my personal life, as I have a tendency to live and breath my business 24/7. But, hopefully also great satisfaction from getting support from our customers, fulfilment from each and every member of the team, and from growing Saint Bustier at home and internationally.

What do you consider an inspiring business?

A business that, first and foremost, solves somebody’s real problem. Not a problem created by marketing genius, but a real problem – Saint Bustier addresses the fact that busty women who love fashion but cannot easily buy fashionable clothing that fits them properly as, on the whole, the industry does not cater to them.

That, for me, is a ‘real’ problem

A business whose ethos makes everybody involved attune with the customers and their needs, and which stays true to its promises and values and does not compromise on those. I believe these, coupled with excellent execution and very high standards in work ethic are fundamentals for a successful and inspiring business.

This is how we would like to think of Saint Bustier, and we are always thrilled when our customers give us their vote of approval and their loyalty.

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