Tuesday 11 March 2014

2Inspire Business Profile: Emma Reilly, Founder of Brave & The Bold Apparel

In this 2Inspire Business Profile interview we meet the amazing Emma Reilly, Designer and Founder of Brave & The Bold Apparel, who started her own business after being unemployed for 12 years. Her inspirational story shows us all that it is never too late to start anew, no matter how many challenges life throws our way.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
My day begins about 8.30 when I spend half an hour prioritising what I need to do for the day. I have a day planner on my desk and this helps me keep track of what I need to do. At the moment Im preparing my new Spring/Summer collection so my day is divided between designing new graphics, keeping up-to-date with our social media and dealing with orders that come in. I have lots of meetings dotted about to so much of this work comes with me on my laptop so I can keep on top of things.
My day usually goes right through into the night, with a couple of hours break to see my parents and have dinner. I do find I work much better at night, I think because there is less distraction from emails and phone calls. I find it quite relaxing just to sit and design into the night.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I had been unemployed for 12 years, In fact my only experience of being employed was a very unhappy 5 weeks at a marketing studio. I hadnt been able to communicate with other people until I was 25 and that was because I taught myself. Most of my teenage and early twenties I suffered terrible from a phobia of people because I just didnt understand them. It was so bad that I hid under my bed if someone knocked at our door.
With a lot of hard work I managed to get to grips with conversation making. I was eventually diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome a couple of years ago. At the same time my sisters partner was diagnosed with terminal Cancer. It was the shock I needed to try and create some kind of life for myself. I approached the Princes Trust who gave me financial support and a mentor to start up as an illustrator. My business took off in a big way and I was eventually able to start my own fashion line Brave & The Bold Apparel.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Last year I won my regional Celebrate Success Award for Enterprise. This is the Princes Trust own annual Awards for individuals who have been on their courses. That was an amazing experience. But I was truly shocked to discover that I was then shortlisted for the final three for the National Award.
I travelled to London and it was a VIP red carpet experience. I was presented with an Award by Prince Charles & Kelly Hoppen from Dragons Den. It was such a surreal but truly incredibly experience and I got so much press exposure for my business.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Early on it was getting enough Capital together to buy stock. Banks werent willing to help as a I had a 12 year gap on my CV. Plus most of the local grants and Awards in my area were being withdrawn due to the Economic Crisis. That was quite a tough experience and I had to be quite creative with how I marketed my business and how I got new stock in.

What are your future plans for the business?
Ive got two exciting things lined up for the business. The first is that Im now in talks with a variety of angel investors about producing some products Ive designed myself. Thats really exciting for me.

Secondly a large part of Brave & The Bold is about inspiring creativity in young people. Were running a very exciting project in association with the Princes Trust. Were in the early planning stages, but we already think this could go international due to the fact we are doing something never been done before. Were aiming to launch in late March and Im really excited about it.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
In the very beginning I kind of went about creating my brand on my own. I thought I knew a lot about my sector but really went in quite blind. It was through speaking at a business event I met a retired business woman who had worked in fashion manufacturing her whole life. She offered to become a mentor to me and it really helped both myself and my business. I realised then that its so important having someone who has that experience to ask questions of and get feedback. I would have saved a lot of time by avoiding silly mistakes if Id had someone like her in the beginning. Now I tell everyone who is starting a business to try and find a mentor who has experience of their field. Even just an email every month or so can make such a huge difference.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
I dont think there is a lot of emphasis on young women in particular to follow their dreams. We are very focussed as a society on making women the same, whether that be in looks or career. I was put off for a long time about starting an urban fashion label because if you look at most brands in this sector, they are run by men. But in reality it hasnt been a problem and Ive actually had a lot of praise from male customers, as well as female. Im now a big advocate of telling young women to do what you love. I think the more of us who follow our dreams, the more positive changes we can make for future generations of women.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

I have to say just dont even hesitate. You dont even have to start big. I know many females who have started businesses alongside their current jobs whilst they get themselves going.
All I can say is that make sure its something you love and something you can live with 24/7. Because you might only work physically for even a few hours a day, but its always on your mind and youre always planning. I even dream about my business and often wake up to make notes. I would hate that if it wasnt something I wasnt passionate about.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
I get asked this a lot and I have to say that my parents and sister are my biggest inspiration. I put them through some awful times growing up. Ive ruined holidays and caused them so much worry. But they always stuck by me and spent so many hours doing the things that I couldnt do for myself. Now every day that I work I do it for them. Not only to do something that makes them proud, but I really hope that one day I can make their lives a little easier and thank them for being such a great family.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Heres to the crazy ones the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently theyre not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you cant do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Steve Jobs.

Emma Reilly
Brave & The Bold Apparel
Twitter: @wearbrave

Facebook: www.facebook.com/braveandthebold

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