Former commodities broker Heather Carley didn’t want to be sat behind a desk looking at numbers all her life – so she turned her passion into a business.

Photo of Heather Carley

Heather, 27, runs unisex winter and lifestyle apparel brand, Friski Wear. Born very much as a side hustle, Friski Wear is now a full-on successful business- and the only numbers Heather has to worry about now are her ever-increasing customers.

Now splitting her time between Manchester, London and, of course, the Alps, Heather says she owes a lot to Virgin StartUp for supporting her with a Start Up Loan

Heather decided she needed something a bit more exciting than finance for a career. Having skied all her life, the path was a no-brainer.

She said: “I just couldn't keep staring at big glass windows that overlooked even more offices with even more glass windows and hundreds of other people staring at the screen like me. I set about deciding on another business avenue I could work on.

“As it was supposed to be a passion project more than anything, I knew I had to find something that sparked fire and wouldn't feel like another job.

“I had skied all my life and much to the dismay of my bank account had a little too much passion for fashion. After a little research, there wasn't a British ski wear brand that I felt sat in the market we're trying to tap into and that I would wear myself, so that was it decided.

“Snow and adventure sports are a huge part of my life. Really when I think about it, everything I have done over the past three years is to be able to facilitate more of that. Friski was born out of a desire so that long-term I could live the winter season in the mountains. There are few feelings that can replicate that of tearing it off-piste in the backcountry and I would happily chase that forever.”

But Heather’s financial background did mean she could hit the ground running.

She added: “Over the various different roles I learnt business systems and structure, how to sell, how to negotiate, an understanding of legal aspects, different financing options- the list goes on. Essentially, I learned a lot of what most people would call the boring parts of running a business; the parts that will make or break the business. It really has been invaluable.

“If finance was explained and broached from a younger age (scrap general studies and learn personal finance!) then I think there would be far more people who might pursue a career as an entrepreneur- doing something they truly love- because they would be armed with the often daunting tools to take the first leap from a realistic stand point and not just a whim.”

Friski Wear

Strong women play an important part in Heather’s life, as her mum’s also a business owner- and Heather’s just teamed up with fellow woman entrepreneur, Lou Jennings, director of Rise Festival.  The pair have since joined forces further to set up events business, Evntmkrs.

Heather added: “You should be able to be a bad ass entrepreneur and raise a new little entrepreneur all at the same time. People with mums like that will take over the world in the best possible way. My mum was a badass that did just that, and I owe a lot of my attitude and business prowess to her.

“I've never wanted to or let my gender stop me from doing what I wanted to do but that isn't to say that gender barriers aren't there in the slightest. They definitely are, but I think when you're prepared to fight them it helps you fight in other areas of the business where you need it and to not give up. Even things as little as new business partners always addressing a business partner instead of me because he's the man in the meeting, even when the relevant meeting isn't his department in the slightest. It's annoying but there are always other people you can work with if you need to, or you carry on with the business knowing that as a female you often don't need or have the desire to engage like that.

“The ultimate goal is to do the best you can to carve out a little space so that women in the future might not have to fight so hard on dealing with gender bias and instead they can focus all their energy on the career itself.

“Running a business, you need autonomy and respect. Having to fight for it is do-able but is just an unnecessary waste of time that could be better spent elsewhere. That isn't even factoring the obvious barriers like the decisions you have to make for the business when you want to start a family yourself that isn't the one you've created in a company. It may be cliché, but women really are incredible at multitasking- I seriously think that helps.”

Heather says she owes a lot to Virgin StartUp, after receiving a Start Up Loan to take her business to the next level.

She concluded: “Having a background in finance I knew how difficult it would be to access affordable finance for the company and at the time it really was a make or break year to make that next step in building the brand. The loan allowed us to build a great brand partnership with Rise Festival, which increased awareness for the company in wider markets and legitimised us as a winter ski wear brand. It opened great doors I was more than happy to walk through.”

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