We speak to Paula and Natalie; partners in lingerie business Lucy May, to learn what it takes to launch a business in Sheffield with global ambitions.
What were your early ambitions?
Natalie: I was always very creative, studying A levels at Art College before completing a 4 year degree in Fashion Marketing. However, I was also inspired by my dad who’d started a business whilst still a teenager which he grew and nurtured until he retired, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Paula: I studied dressmaking, textiles and art with a Contour Fashion degree at De Montfort University. This really ignited my love of lingerie design, and a little voice inside kept nudging me to start my own business.
What support did you get to set up your business?
Paula: We’ve both had unstinting support from our families and friends which is priceless. In addition, Natalie’s husband runs a creative and marketing agency, so we’ve had great help with the brand from the off, and finally Business Sheffield have been outstanding in their level of support and expertise. So we’ve been lucky, having such a great team of people around has helped massively.
Why did you choose to start your business up in Sheffield?
Natalie: I was from Sheffield originally, and after travelling all over the UK and the Far East I really appreciate what makes Sheffield great, both in terms of business and family life. It’s a lovely friendly city, right at the centre of the UK with good transport links, lots happening and thePeak District on its doorstep. Sheffield’s reputation as The Outdoor City is growing in stature which is great as I’m sure this is one of the big reasons that people come and stay here.
Paula: It made logical sense for me to move to where my business partner and her husband’s marketing agency were, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I love it; in fact I think Sheffield has to be one of the North’s best kept secrets! Our big goal over the next few years is to grow the business in Sheffield, strengthen our internet presence, get into a handful of key retailers in the UK and then extend the offer into global markets.
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and what is the most rewarding?
Natalie: Financing is probably the biggest headache day-to-day. The most rewarding thing so far was receiving the package of beautiful samples and seeing the dream come to life. Seeing the brand out in the market place is the next big milestone we’re looking forward to.
Paula: It’s also about keeping the faith on the bad days, and having the belief in what you do and why you’re doing it. That’s where our support network has been so vital, and of course, we’ve got each other.
What advice would you give to your 14 year-old selves?
Paula: If you have a dream or vision of running your own business, always hold that faith and never give up. It does take an incredible amount of effort and tenacity, but always believe you can succeed and you will.
Natalie: it’s a marathon not a sprint, but if you have a good idea and enough belief and determination, then you can succeed. It also helps enormously to have the right people in your corner, supporting you from the start.
You can get free and impartial advice to help you set up and grow your business here in Sheffield.
Contact Business Sheffield on 0800 043 5522 to learn more.