Lexie Sport was actually the very first business to receive a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp. It was a women’s sportswear brand and we featured in Vogue, on the BBC, had a huge investor, and even celebrity fans. So admitting that enough was enough, and closing the doors on my business, left something of an awkward silence.
Having sweated, starved and slaved for more than four years, I’d grown the business to something impressive. We were held by international stockists, sold online and in-store, and even had some serious interest from the big boys. But personally, it just wasn’t the right fit.
My Start Up Loan had allowed me to bring manufacturing of the products back to Britain, an epic move that improved things no end. But margins were tough, and to make the kind of money we needed the brand would have to seriously scale up. As a one-man band, this was tricky.
While launching and running the business I had also got married and decided to start a family. As a staunch feminist, this wasn’t going to stop my plans for world domination. Except that… it kind of did. I’m not saying that you can’t have a family and run a super successful business, many do. But I found a colicky baby, teamed with startup wages and a brand that needed to go to the next level, nearly impossible.
I slugged on until my little girl was six-months old, working away at an investment campaign to take us to the big leagues, designing the next collection and pitching as usual - and then the penny dropped. This wasn’t the right thing for me at this time.
I knew this just as I had launched our crowdfunding campaign, a project that in itself had been a mammoth task, and the questions from investors began. I suddenly realised I didn't want the responsibility of playing with other peoples’ hard-earned cash on top of keeping a tiny human alive. At this point I was getting less than zero sleep, and the appeal of design for hire really started to shine through. While running Lexie I’d had interest from lots of other brands about designing as a freelancer. Designing was what I loved and Lexie gave me an amazing platform to springboard from. So in December 2015 I closed the brand and made a sharp turn.
I can't pretend it wasn't a little strange selling off all the stock and filing everything away, but it genuinely felt like a relief. I'd achieved a lot but I'd taken on too much, and it was actually okay for me to admit that it wasn't the best fit.
After finding my feet with a house move and generally getting my non-Lexie life in order, in April this year I launched my new website and set up full-time as a freelance designer. I’m probably just as busy as I was with Lexie but I’m able to manage my clients better, pick and choose jobs, and now I solely work on the thing I’m most expert at. Plus the financial rewards are nice, and I really find it exciting and rewarding.
I don’t regret launching my own business - my CV would be drab and boring if I’d just stuck to the mainstream.
Making a business work is all about hard work and sticking it out, but just sometimes it’s a good idea to take a really hard look and see if there is another way to achieve your dream. Don’t fail: pivot.