I am the Founder and MD of Jeetly, the first clothing brand for women under 5’3 that puts consumers in control of what gets made. Prior to this I created an online dragons den platform and managed property investments alongside my profession as an optometrist in private practice. My career background is in Optometry, I didn’t plan a start-up in retail; it was just my way of finding a solution to a problem I was facing as a retail customer. As a petite woman, measuring 5’1, I struggled to find work clothes to fit my petite frame. I experienced first hand the lack of clothing in petite proportions and I was becoming frustrated to have to alter every garment I bought. Although clothing from the teen’s department was a good fit, I was mistaken for being too young to do my job and was having to justify my professional credibility to my patients far too often that I felt there needed to be a change. My market research proved that 1 in 3 women in the UK and US are petite and 85% of petite women felt their needs were not being addressed by existing retailers, so I followed my gut instinct and recognised the gap in the market and wanted to make a change for those vertically-challenged like me.
For decades, the fashion industry has operated in a top-down fashion, from designer to consumer via TV, digital marketing and print media. Jeetly is disrupting the traditional business model by working from the bottom-up, giving our customers control over the design and production process finally listening to what real women want.
My passion to democratise the fashion industry for petites, and the support from my husband inspired me to start the business.
What inspired you to start the business?
My passion to democratise the fashion industry for petites, and the support from my husband inspired me to start the business. I grew up in a family of business owners so I believe the entrepreneurial spirit was in my blood. Unfortunately it was seen as a man’s role, the women weren’t involved in the family business, so at the age of nine, I remember saying ‘I will have my own business when I grow up’.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
It can be a very lonely time starting a business on your own- getting people to share your vision and to be as enthusiastic as you. You are accountable for everything, insomnia becomes your best friend and it’s easy to burnout. People remind you how much more you were earning in your ‘stable’ high salaried job but the greatest reward is that you love what you do everyday, can live life on your terms and can balance work around your family so I get to spend a lot more time with my daughter.
You are accountable for everything, insomnia becomes your best friend and it’s easy to burnout.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about managing both successes and failures?
- Discuss your goals with your husband/partner so you are both prepared on how the business will affect your lives. Plan an effective strategy to achieve work-life balance.
- Develop self discipline – there will be no boss to answer to but yourself. It’s easy to press the snooze button on your alarm clock every morning when you don’t have a deadline to get to work; so motivation is key to get you out of bed early and get into action
- Make education your life-long commitment- Read daily to develop yourself and your business to ensure you are constantly evolving with changes in technology
- Think big and visualise your success
- Focus your efforts on evaluating the return on investment of everything you do. Instead of just completing tasks for the sake of doing so, ask yourself, is this task going to move me closer to where I want to be? The key is to become ‘results’ driven rather than ‘activity’ driven.
- Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. The only road to success is by growing yourself and doing things you have never done before.
- If you fail, so be it, pick yourself up and try again. See it as a badge of honour because you had the courage to try in the first place and failure is your stepping stone to success!
Fashion is a cash-intensive business and shares its credentials with the high-risk music industry
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
Funding. Fashion is a cash-intensive business and shares its credentials with the high-risk music industry, as you have to produce new products 4 times a year, so you need enough cashflow to last you four seasons otherwise you risk running out of money.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I have several mentors that I call upon for advice- their input has been vitally important to my business as I have learnt from their mistakes. They see the business from a different standpoint and identify issues and present ideas which I hadn’t thought of. It’s also motivating to have a third person check up on your progress and push you to meet your targets.
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
Networking creates more opportunities than you could ever create from sitting behind a desk all day. From recruiting a team, to finding mentors and getting feedback from potential customers, everyone you meet has something to teach you. The more you network, the more people you meet and the more success you will have.
Networking creates more opportunities than you could ever create from sitting behind a desk all day.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
Thinking global from day one, being visible in the media, ensuring your business has firm foundations -a robust supply chain, strong and reliable team, and a clear vision with short and long term goals which are understood by all involved. I ensure I have a plan B and C in place to account for any pitfalls in our growth strategy and I gain as much advice possible from industry veterans to help me remain agile with the business plan.
What does the future hold for you?
We have launched with work-appropriate clothing but we plan to expand into accessories and other womenswear categories to become the first specialty brand for everything petite. Our future will be shaped by the petite woman’s demands.