"It's amazing what women do for each other"

with Kat Fellows, founder of Lesh

Show notes:

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains discussions of baby loss which may be difficult for those with similar experiences.

Kat Fellows is mum of two and founder of the innovative, soon to launch revolutionary nursing bra – Lesh. With over 10 years in the beauty industry, Kat, like a lot of mums, found that the big corporate lifestyle just wasn’t working for her, especially once she had children.

Thanks so much to Kat who shared so honestly about her struggles throughout pregnancy with all consuming HG (hyperemesis gravidarum – acute morning sickness) and the impact that had on her mental health, perinatal and postnatal depression. I could hard relate to thinking the second pregnancy and birth would be “rinse and repeat” but finding that in reality they were two totally different ball games.

Kat and I are alike in that early doors we both realised that as solo business owners, networking was going to be key. For Kat, it’s the most important part of her business, not only in terms of making useful business connections and those 6 degrees of separation, but keeping her motivated and preventing that loneliness that can sometimes happen when you’re working solo.

She also has some really interesting perspectives on ownership and funding. VC funding seems like a silver bullet in many ways, but it can mean a lot of compromise. If you started your business to have more ownership and autonomy, is it right for you?

There were some real practical golden nuggets in this conversation – a game changing product platform that Kat recommended, local funding possibilities, where to spend and where to save when it comes to budgeting as a brand, and how to network as a new mum.

Resources Kat mentioned:

Chinaimportal
Female Founders Rise
Founders Social

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

About Kat Fellows and Lesh:

Kat is a Surrey based mummy to two and Founder of Lesh.

Kat started her business with one goal in mind – to help breastfeeding Mums who experience leaking to breastfeed with dignity, and give them one less thing to think about in the minefield of motherhood.
Lesh is soon to launch, you can sign up for the waitlist now, using the link below.

Kat’s Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I’m welcoming Kat. Kat is a Surrey based mummy to two and founder of Lesh. Kat started her business with one goal in mind to help breastfeeding moms who experience leaking to breastfeed with dignity and give them one less thing to think about in the minefield of motherhood. Lesh, the nursing bra revolution will be launching in Q1 2024. Hi Kat, thank you so much for coming today.

Kat (00:59):
Hi Caroline. Thanks for having me.

Caroline (01:01):
I’m so pleased to have you on this podcast. So exciting. I think you’re the first person we’re having on who’s in that business stage of about to launch, and I think it’s so important to share these stories at the time and then maybe in a couple of years we can share your success story at the same time. It is a real pleasure to have you on and I really, how I like to start these is to get started, is that, find out a bit about your background and what you did as a career first and the person behind the business and your motherhood journey so far.

Kat (01:29):
Yeah, for sure. My background is mainly within the beauty sector, so in marketing. So I’ve been working in the beauty sector for large FMCG beauty companies for well over a decade, and that’s kind of all I’ve really known. But something that I loved within the sector is when I was working for global brands where I was able to be very strategic and really come up with new ideas, think outside the box and really display those more entrepreneurial facets of myself. And I’ve been working in the beauty industry for such a long time and I think I worked with many, many different big corporations over that time. And I just think as time has gone by, I’ve really realised how much that the kind of corporate lifestyle just wasn’t really for me. I found myself consistently struggling to get ahead, really not having that ideal corporate mindset, if you will.

(02:41):
So I am the type of person who always stick up for what I believe is right, whether or not it’s the most popular decision. And sometimes that can get you into a bit of hot water in a corporate environment. So what I started to see is a pattern emerging where maybe this corporate just wasn’t the right fit for myself. And the more I thought about it, I did think maybe what I need to be doing is something on my own, which led me to Lesh really throughout Covid in 2020. Obviously life changed for everyone, didn’t it? And whilst I was really, really passionate about beauty and the beauty industry, when it got to covid and we all started staying inside, I just kind of lost that desire and passion for makeup. I pretty much stopped wearing it. I think a lot of people did. And during that time I got pregnant and as many moms will agree, once you become a mom, your life just changes so dramatically and the things that you were once so passionate about, it just changes for you. So for me, pretty much overnight during that period, I just kind of lost my love and fell out of love with the cosmetic industry and I just thought there was going to be a better fit for me by potentially working for myself or working in a different industry, however that may look.

Caroline (04:09):
So you kind of decided to go alone before you even had the idea for less yet?

Kat (04:13):
It had always dawned on me when I was younger. I remember having these really vivid ideas of this, what I thought to be a really great idea. I remember once I was shopping in the grocery store for toothpaste thinking, God, what boring experience. I was like, if I think there is a challenger brand for toothpaste, I mean totally random. But at that time I just didn’t know how to get started on that and I was just like, I left it there as an idea, but I would find myself having these repeat patterns of these little ideas coming into my head and really sparking this fire, making me really excited. But then reality would set in and they go away. But it was at this point during my maternity leave when I had the idea for Lesh and kind of that vision and that passion just never kind of dulled or died away. So it’s something that I continued with. I

Caroline (05:13):
Love that. It’s so true though. All those little ideas that realistic, you aren’t going to come to anything or all the things that start planting that seeds for when the good idea comes along and the one that has legs and that you should grow and build. I really believe that I can really relate to just being someone who always has these little ideas and like, oh no, I’ll leave that one. This one might be something kind of thing. So 2020. So when did you have your first child then?

Kat (05:39):
So Felix was born in May, 2021.

Caroline (05:43):
Oh, fantastic. So a little bit post, but you still had that covid pregnancy experience. How did that feel?

Kat (05:50):
Yeah, exactly. Well, I mean it was interesting. I had kind of two covid pregnancy moments, so I actually had a miscarriage on the very first day of lockdown, which was an interesting experience, something that people weren’t really talking about at that time. That was, I mean, it was a difficult moment and I think it was mostly so difficult because I didn’t know how common it was at the time. I just didn’t know that people had miscarriages. It didn’t even occur to me that that was a thing. So I had the miscarriage and that happened after I told my work that I was pregnant, which was interesting as well. I didn’t realise at the time, but you are only legally protected for two weeks after having a miscarriage in your workplace. So when I told my work, they were of course really, really sympathetic and understanding, but you’ve all of a sudden told your business, I’m planning to start a family, and they know that that’s looming over your head and that’s what you decide to do.

(07:05):
So I had that first little experience having that miscarriage, and I was fortunate enough to get pregnant about six months later with my son Felix. And that whole experience was really difficult. I find it so fascinating that so many women experience pregnancy so completely different from one another, and I had no idea how bad it was going to be for me. I remember hearing about Princess Kate having HG and that it was kind of a rare form of morning sickness, unfortunately, that’s what I ended up having. Oh gosh. And the term morning sickness seems so nothing. And when you see it in movies, oh, it’s funny in movies, isn’t it? Someone froze up. Yeah, it’s all funny. They just have a little throat and it’s back to normal life, but it’s not, it’s completely all consuming and it’s not just a sickness, it’s your hormones, everything.

(08:06):
It can just change who you are as a person. It can change how you react to the most normal situations. It can change how you and your partner get along. Yeah, oh definitely. Yeah. And for me, it was really being a prisoner inside my own body. So I really, really struggled with that. And I’ve just recently had another baby outside of Covid, so a completely different experience. So while Covid was a scary, crazy weird time, it was possibly the best time to be pregnant because everything was cocooned. You were shielded, there was no germs, you couldn’t go out and do things. There was no pressure, no fomo. Yeah, exactly. You could just sit inside and look after yourself and work from home. Whereas with my daughter, Lily, pregnancy life had gone back to normal and I actually found the stress and the strain of that so much harder than the first time round. Did you

Caroline (09:09):
Have HG with Lily as well?

Kat (09:11):
I did, but what I had done this time is really educate myself a lot more on HG and understand what I could do to make it better for myself. So with Felix, I was prescribed some medication, didn’t work. I just said, oh, well, it doesn’t work. There’s an amazing website, can’t remember the name of it, but it’s basically a HG support site, which explains to you the stages that you can get support in terms of medicine with HG. So I think there’s something like three different stages. So they’ll start you off on the least what they say is risky medicine, and then if that doesn’t work, then you step up and then you can step up again based on what your symptoms are. So I knew about this and I educated myself, so I knew that I could get more help this time around. And whilst I ended up on a medication that took the edge off, I never totally take HG away. So it definitely was a help and I felt a lot more in control and I knew that this was going to end, but what kept me really positive and going through my second pregnancy was just knowing what comes out at the end of it so that the bond you have with your baby and all the lovely things that are ahead, but then at the same time you’re also terrified because of what’s ahead as well. So second time round is just a totally different ball game, and I just expected it to be rinse and repeat.

Caroline (10:38):
Yeah. Oh, it’s so true. No matter what your experience, it’s always different to the first one and it makes sense because we’re all different people and thank you so much for sharing because someone close to me had HG throughout, actually two family members had HG throughout their pregnancy and it just seems all consuming. And something I’m quite passionate about, we’ve spoken about briefly, is it really must impact your prenatal mental health as well, which I feel there’s still a lot of dunno about you. I feel there’s a lot of stigma still attached to that. Like we should be grateful we’re pregnant and we can’t share how hard it is for some people. It’s not for everyone, but it can be a real tough journey pregnancy.

Kat (11:20):
Oh, a hundred percent. And for me, really, really difficult. I think there’s a lot of awareness of postnatal depression, baby blues that’s communicated a lot within NCT and people know about it. But something I experienced, which I didn’t even know was a thing, was the perinatal. During the entire perinatal period, you can have depression. So from the second you get pregnant and all your hormones are going wild, you can have depression from the get go. And I probably experienced this in my first pregnancy, but I just wasn’t aware because I was so consumed with how ill I was and the fact that I didn’t have these other social pressures. So it didn’t make the depression seem quite as obvious and kind of think, oh it’s it’s a depressing time anyway. And I think we’re talking a lot more about mental health then I guess. Yeah, definitely.

(12:17):
And I think with my first pregnancy and pregnancies are like snowflakes, aren’t they? No two are the same. So with Felix, my firstborn, I was so lucky with when I gave birth to him, I didn’t experience baby blues. I had that rush of love, all the things, the all singing, all dancing experience and connection I had with him. But when Lily was born, that wasn’t there and that was so upsetting for me. I spent my whole second pregnancy gearing up for this magical moment, setting my expectations super, super high and just to be like, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I don’t feel these things. I don’t feel that strong connection. I don’t feel that bond right away. Oh no, what if it never comes? And that kind of added to this depression that I had and I had an amazing team around me in terms of NHS.

(13:15):
Honestly, I could not fault the services that I have had and the support I’ve had through the midwife team, but something that I was constantly asked I wanted was a medication to help with it. And because I was so optimistic about how I would feel when Lily had got here, I was like, Nope, once the baby comes, I won’t need anything. I’ll be fine. It’s just pregnant and once the pregnancy’s over I’ll be fine. But that wasn’t the case. So I said to myself, it’s six weeks post giving birth, post my C-section surgery. If I’m still struggling then I’m going to seek the help. So that’s what I did. Six weeks postpartum, I still felt like I wasn’t myself and I decided to get some medication to help me with that. And I was prescribed sertraline, which is something I had actually been prescribed before in the past.

(14:14):
And it comes with some really difficult side effects initially, really difficult ones, but it’s something you have to push through. And I’m pleased to say that once you really push through it and give it the time it needs to set in, it has really helped things. But at the same time there are some side effects which do make working as a mom with a newborn really challenging. So it impacts your focus, your concentration. I will find, I have periods of time where I completely forget everything and sometimes you’re like, is that my baby brain? Is that the medication? Or is just like,

Caroline (14:51):
It’s harder to know, which I can imagine.

Kat (14:54):
So that just adds another layer of complexity and challenge on top of trying to start your own business with a newborn at home.

Caroline (15:03):
Thank you so much for sharing. And it is so true. I’ve heard that a lot through friends. Now I’ve had two myself and that experience of one you have, and it may not be your first, it might be your second, but one baby, you get all that hormone rush and joy and the other you don’t. And I feel like that’s so important to raise because I think if you’re lucky enough to get it the first time, you really do assume, oh, that’s how I have babies. And it’ll be like that the second time.

Kat (15:27):
Yeah, definitely.

Caroline (15:28):
And prenatal mental health as well. I think it is so important to share our stories and to share that you can get help and how to get it and what possibilities there are out there. So thank you so much. And now I’d love to share a little bit and find out, so how did you actually come up with the idea for Lesh? What was your personal journey with breastfeeding? Obviously you’ve got to have a great story in order to have just thought of this amazing product.

Kat (15:51):
Yeah, for sure. So let me start off by saying I’ve never been the most maternal person. I’ve always found motherhood to be quite daunting. So when I was talking earlier about kind of setting expectations, I think I had such a low expectation for myself. All I had heard from other women is how challenging breastfeeding was, how mastitis is the most painful thing in the world. And I thought, oh my gosh, I’ve got HG, I’m not taking to this whole pregnancy and motherhood thing very well, so I’m probably going to struggle with this as well. It was all very negative, but that’s just the way my brain was working. Oh, I

Caroline (16:29):
Can hard relate to that. I really struggled in my first pregnancy, so I was like, this is going to be awful when I have a child. And it was actually better.

Kat (16:37):
Exactly. So I had the formula ready to go and everything and I always looked at women breastfeeding and I’m ashamed to say it, but I really was like, oh, it’s a bit icky. I’m not sure about it. Oh no. So I was never initially one of those people who was like, yes, I’m going to breastfeed all the benefits. I was very much like, it’s probably not going to work for me, but let’s give it a go. And in my time running up to giving birth, I had some time off and I actually took a free course with a company called Blossom, just a free breastfeeding kind of seminar. And it was the first time I had heard this really positive narrative around breastfeeding. And the lady who ran the course was just talking about all this oxytocin that it released and can help bond with the baby.

(17:23):
And I thought, oh, my biggest fear is having postnatal depression, having this baby and being like, it’s not mine. And I was terrified of that. So I thought, oh my gosh, well this can help with that. She actually made it sound pretty good. I was like, give it go, of course I will. And the second I had Felix and just that hugely overwhelming experience when you have a C-section and there’s a human being pulled from your body, which is just incredible. He was placed on my tummy and he did the breast crawl and it was just the most euphoric, incredible feeling when he latched onto me for the first time and I was like, oh my God, I’m doing it. I’m breastfeeding. This is insane. And I was just hooked. I was just in love with it with him and everything and I was just like, I’m going to do it.

(18:14):
I’m going to smash these stats where women, it’s nine out of 10 women who stop breastfeeding before they want to at six, at six weeks. So I was hearing all these statistics, which I heard from NCT as well. I was like, I’m going to do this, I’m going to smash these statistics, I’m going to breastfeed longer and dah, dah, dah. And I was just really hell bent on doing it and I was so, so fortunate that I’ve always had a massive supply of milk. My milk came in quickly as I said with Felix, I didn’t get the baby blues when my milk came in. Everything was just happy, happy lovely. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding initially was extremely painful, but I was just absolutely driven to make it work. And I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed Felix for 11 months, but I suffered with one key thing and that’s that I leaked all the time, day and night and nothing prepared me for this.

(19:17):
I took NCT and there was nothing that mentioned that I could be literally leaking liquid from my breasts for the best part of a full year. Everything I read said that it should regulate by 10 weeks, which in itself is a long time to be leaking, but it just never did. It just kept going and going and going. And I was like, oh my gosh, is it just me? Is this a really weird thing that I’ve got? And I did the research and I looked online and I could see that there were loads of people who had the exact same problem that I did. And I was looking at it and being like, well, what are they suggesting? What are people doing? And I just couldn’t believe the things that people were resorting to. So women were sleeping on towels, women were sleeping with muslins down their bras, in a really extreme case, someone said they slept with nappies on the bed. I was like, what is this? It sounds like some sort of 1940s cure for when women had their periods. Yeah, exactly that none of this is a suitable solution and there’s only really three things on the market. So it’s either reusable breast pads, which me, I would soak through them in a matter of minutes and then that’s done. So I was like, well, that’s not going to work. They’re breast shells, which do catch the milk, but you can’t leave them in for any long period of time. You can’t sleep in them,

Caroline (20:51):
Not comfy for sleeping. I had some

Kat (20:53):
Days, what am I going to do when I’m out in public and I’ve got this cup of milk, how am I going to juggle that?

(20:59):
And so it just meant that the only option I had was disposables and I was going through these disposables at an alarming rate and they’re big and bulky and they create a huge amount of waste. So that was the first thing being like, oh my God, I’m creating all this waste and really there’s a list as long as my arm as to why I just hated wearing ’em. They’re just so awkward. They move around, they bunch up, you can see them, you can smell them. If you’re breastfeeding in public, you got to take ’em out. And how unhygienic and awful is it to be sat with them

(21:35):
on the table and you always kind of try and put it somewhere to screen and when you’re done feeding, you try and find where you put it and you’re like, oh God, I can’t find it now. I mean I think my husband even woke up one morning with one stuck to his face. It’s just ridiculous the amount of issues that I have with these. And I was like, there’s got to be a better solution than this. There just has to be. And I was like, it was just owning my life and impacting my self-esteem. So that’s really when the idea for Lesh was born, I was like, I just want to be able to put on a bra, not put any pads in, just let happen what’s going to happen, let the leakage happen and then throw my bra on the wash at the end of the day and just never have to think about breast pads again. So really that’s where the idea for Lesh came from. And that’s basically it in a nutshell. It’s a bra that absorbs and captures your leaks. It’s reusable and you check it in the wash at the end of the day and you’re good to go as soon as it dries

Caroline (22:40):
And it works. I love your talking about you going out to breastfeed and all of this because it literally showcases one small piece of getting out the house as a mom and start and all the things. This is just literally one piece you ran through of what’s going through our head. Obviously you would’ve also been watching a baby who also needs its nappy changed and trying to function as a human. And I think that was just such a good example of one problem you were having, which you’ve found a solution for, but that we all go through at this. And so let’s just yet to launch yet. But I love what I want to really share is your journey. There’ll be people listening to this who have an idea and it’s like, where do I physically start this business? And I think it’s so important to answer that I think we can forget this if we’re talking to someone who’s four years into their journey and got several products. So tell us the real early stage stuff. How did you go from concepts to actually doing

Kat (23:36):
For sure. So I mean maternity leave is the perfect time to be able to do that. So I think I was talking about the toothpaste example earlier. I was in full-time employment, so you just don’t have the head space for it. So maternity leave is just the perfect time if you’ve got an idea to just make that decision and go with it. I mean, this time around on maternity leave, I’m not watching as much Netflix as there was the first time, but there’s always something else you could be doing with your time. So if you’ve got a good idea, why not just kind of crack on and at least get the early stages going? So I’m the type of person who has always wanted to have kind of a step-by-step process for everything. It is overwhelming when you’ve got an idea and you’re like, oh my God, how do I launch this?

(24:25):
And whilst I had been exposed to product development by working in marketing for big brands, I didn’t actually know how to go about it. So I think to be honest, the early stages, which really mean Googling, how do I launch a brand? And what I did know is that manufacturing in the far east is going to be a lot cheaper and more affordable, which is obviously something that plays on your minds when you’re in maternity leave and getting paid barely anything. So budget comes into it and I discovered a platform called Chinaimportal and it was this, well, it is still around, but it’s this great tool that basically breaks down the product development cycle for you and the process, especially if you are dealing with factories in China. So it gives you every step, it’s project management tool. So you go through each of them, tick ’em off, and you work with the team there.

(25:30):
They allow you five questions you can ask them, but outside of that, everything is there that you need. All the templates, all the process. I mean not everything is entirely suitable, but it gives you the bare bones and the process and it gives you tips to protect yourself. Like don’t put a deposit down without this or here’s the agreement you need to sign with the factory to make sure that they do it. And so you’re protected of anything that goes wrong and all those kind of safeguarding practises are in there, which if you’re someone like me who’s learned to be rather risk averse due to the kind of companies you’ve worked with before, having that kind of guideline really helped set you off on the right path. So I think if I hadn’t signed up to Chinaimportal and used that, I don’t know if I would’ve moved along as quick as I had. Mainly what it really does help you to do is approach the factories in the right way because I had done it before when I’ve had ideas and just never had a response back or I struggled with the communication. But by asking in the right way with the right information that they need, then they know that you’re serious and you’re more likely to get a response and be able to move things along. So that was pivotal for me in the early stages.

Caroline (26:55):
I’ve never heard of it. So Chinaimportal, did you say? Yes.

Kat (26:58):
It’s called Chinaimportal.

Caroline (27:00):
That’s great because sometimes these little snippets, well, you never know that it’s just going to help someone actually be like, right, I can do this. And then yeah, like you said, not have those blockers that you’ve clearly experienced before and I’ve never heard of it, so thank you for sharing that. And so let’s talk about finances because I doing a lot of work on financial wellness myself, and I know people ultimately actually also want to know is how on earth will I get the money? But reality is what money do I need to start this? So I think people know how did you approach budgeting and funding for your business?

Kat (27:36):
Yeah, well, I guess the benefit of my background is that I used to manage a brand budget, so I understand all the things that would need to go into it, but obviously I’m not paying 50 grand for a photo shoot. So I think for me, what I also didn’t know was the amount of grants funding, VC funding, angel funding, all that stuff. I didn’t know that was a thing. I just thought everyone who appeared on Dragon’s Den was remortgaging their homes and taking out their own cash to do these things. So I think that’s why Lesh appealed to me so much because it was a consumer good. I could work on a low minimum order quantity, and even if I couldn’t sell one, it was not going to bankrupt us. And I’m not going to lie, I am in a position of privilege because my husband has been hugely, hugely supportive of me doing this.

(28:31):
It’s come at the cost of me having a full-time job. I do think it can still be done on the side for people who are still working, but for me, I couldn’t find a part-time job, like finding a part-time job in marketing is really, really challenging. And I think in an ideal world I would be doing both, but that just hasn’t been an option for me unfortunately. But my goal with Lesh was always to keep the costs down and spend the money where it kind of needs to be spent. And from having worked on photo shoots in the past, I know that the most important thing really in a photo shoot is the model. I’ve done a lot of shoots with models who are amazing. I’ve done a lot of photo shoots with models that are okay. And I always find that the models that are amazing always sell the product really well.

(29:23):
So I knew that that was where I wanted to spend a lot of the money that I had. I got a little bit of a payout from my work when I left and I put all that money into it. I was lucky enough to obtain a local grant from my council here. And a lot of local councils will have grants, so definitely check out what’s going on in your local council. And I got the money to put towards building my website. So for me it’s being in marketing, the way my brand comes across is really, really important. So something I wasn’t prepared to compromise on was the way that it comes across. So like I was saying with the model, that’s really important to me, the way the website looks, how it functions, how it’s being communicated, what the claims are, everything about the product, product that is really, really important.

(30:21):
I want to make sure that people are seeing this brand and seeing it as aspirational because I think that’s such an overlooked area for moms. And I think that’s also why motherhood sometimes is just not looked at as aspirational because you just see this sea of beige and everything is frumpy. And why, because we’ve had children, does that mean that we lose our personality, our right to choose a brand that’s aspirational and aligns with our values? Why should we have to lose that? It’s so true. And I just don’t think that society values motherhood in that way or makes it seem like a cool thing to do.

Caroline (31:06):
Oh no, there’s still the cool mom mean girl thing going on. I’m a cool mom and it’s not even said in a great way, is it? And we’re like, we’re still the same people. We are just probably a bit more knowledgeable than we were before.

Kat (31:24):
Yeah, actually I think it’s just amazing once you have a child and the mom community just full of these incredible women and you just think all the things that we’re doing multitasking, why is it that women are just so undervalued when they go back to work and motherhood is seen as such a kind of, oh, you’re a mom. Oh, it’s mumsy. Mumsy is such a negative term

Caroline (31:50):
If you won’t want to work as much now she wants to do school pickup and

Kat (31:56):
Like no one wants to, they just have to. You don’t have a choice. And that’s the thing, it’s like actually when you’re giving everything before you have children, the fact that you have children, they go, no, I actually do have to leave at five 30 and that seems a bad thing. It’s like, no, that’s just taking back control of what you were actually meant to be doing

Caroline (32:22):
And how productive we can be before five 30 or whenever we have to leave our work as well. I think every mom I speaks to thinks they’re hugely productive now compared to pre-children.

Kat (32:34):
Oh, absolutely. When you’ve got that time and they’re nothing, you’re like, right, go, let me get, you don’t end up spending all this time on the stuff that’s not important or filler. You really get down to the nuts and bolts of what’s important to do and you just become so much more efficient. And

Caroline (32:49):
I think thank you for sharing, again, back to that finances of grant grants and things, that’s so important knowledge to share that there are grants out there. Look at your local councils, national ones, especially ones for women as well. I’d love it if there were more grants for mothers to get them back in as it’s a struggle in the workplace. But I can’t think of any right now. But is this something then you’ll think you’ll have to go further and get further investment for? Have you thought about that for the future of your brand?

Kat (33:14):
Yeah, so it’s interesting you say that because again, in my naivety I thought the only way you get funding is through VCs. And I actually did go through a VC programme and I just realised so quickly how it was just not the right path for me. If I think about why I wanted to start Lesh, it was to have ownership. It was to make a difference in the world. It was to have the ultimate say in my own brand, which is something I hadn’t had before. And that’s what I wanted. And as I went along this accelerator programme, I really realised actually it really does work for some people, but I’m so passionate and so heavily involved in what I’m doing. I don’t want a VC to come in and tell me, oh, this needs to have a tech angle or this needs to be this way. It’s not commercial enough, it’s too niche. I don’t want to hear those things. It’s too niche.

Caroline (34:11):
I hate that with women’s products. It’s what I’m learning.

Kat (34:15):
Yeah. So for me, it was just really, really important that it’s something I own. And because I went into it going, okay, well I didn’t even know bootstrapping was a term, but it’s a bootstrap business. I want to own as much equity in my own business as possible. It’s mine. And when I look back and see other really successful brands which have started from a similar place, like Spanx for example, she owns that business. She’s not got VCs involved in it, and she did that on her own. So I think there’s a lot of similar businesses like mine out there who have managed to stay bootstrapped and as a result of that, they’re not giving up any of who they are or what their company stands for. And that’s super important to me.

Caroline (35:10):
Thank you. Yeah, thank you for sharing the benefits of bootstrapping because I think that’s really important. And also sharing the term bootstrapping, just in case there’s anyone listening who’s still really new to this, we all start learning this language somewhere we, so we just normalise that not everyone knows this as well. And so marketing, I love the fact as well. So your marketing background, I speak to so many women who hate marketing or just business owners in general. I don’t think it’s just women. They really struggle with this side. Do you think your background has really given you good solid foundations for your own business on this side?

Kat (35:43):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’ve done all the brand building from scratch before, so I know the power of having a really strong brand. I think the other thing that was really important to me and something I’ve learned along the way in the beauty industry is that anything can be copied. Anything regardless of whatever patents and whatnot you’ve got in place, someone can always find a loophole and copy. So at the end of the day, if you’ve got a really strong brand, then that goes a long, long way. Your brand values, you have to live and stand by them as well. As the founder, I am part of my brand and I would hope that women would align with my story. And I think we’re in a day and age where more and more people are willing to buy smaller female founded led brands. So that needs and must be part of my brand story and my brand identity, and people just don’t want to buy from faceless brands anymore. But I will say the one thing that is the most challenging, of course, is the whole social media side of things. So marketing itself and doing the branding and whatnot, sure, I’ve got the experience in that, but what’s the most challenging, and especially whilst you take time out in maternity leave is keeping up with social media. So I think whilst I’m not deterred by any of the branding marketing side, I think the most intimidating part is that social media piece because it really can be all consuming,

Caroline (37:13):
Right? Said from a marketing professional herself, let’s just acknowledge that social media is intimidating, hard work, and a lot of work, so especially if you’re on maternity leave. So yeah, thank you for sharing that. So we actually met a networking once while you were pregnant, so I’d love to also note what’s it been like that is a challenge as well is networking and kids, but networking. And I think I really benefited from having lockdown with a newborn, so no one was going anywhere. So that was great for that stage of that particular element for me. How has that felt for you? Have you felt pressured to get out there when realistically you can’t?

Kat (37:53):
Yeah, totally. I think the biggest thing, and I think the biggest benefit when you decide to start your own business is really networking with people. I was used to these buzzy environments where I’d work and chat and get all that with your coworkers in the office. And that was such a motivating factor for me. Obviously we went into lockdown and no one had that, so I could at least experience what that was like and everyone was going along with that. But then when I decided to go it alone, you go, hang on a second, it’s just me. It’s just me. Oh my gosh, I’m alone in this. And something I realised quite quickly is networking was going to be key. And if you had said to me five years ago that networking would become one of the most important parts of my business, I would’ve been like, Ugh, God, no, absolutely not because I hated doing anything like that when I worked in the corporate environment, but there also wasn’t really that need for it.

(38:50):
Now, a hundred percent you need all the help you can get. And what I’ve been so amazed by is just the amount of female entrepreneurs who are so willing to give their time and help other people. And I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything that’s necessarily that different other than just coldly reaching out to people on LinkedIn and saying, Hey, I love what you’re doing. I love your business. I’m trying to do this, and I would really, really appreciate your time just to chat and understand what you’ve learned. Or if you could give me any guidance. And I’ve been shocked by how many people do actually respond to that. And they come back to you and say, yeah, of course, invite you in, or they give you help and support and contacts. And it’s really that whole, it’s that six degrees of separation. You’ll end up meeting someone who, and it’s serendipity as well, you’ll meet someone who happens to be at the same factory as you out of all the factories in China, and you form these friendships with people.

(39:53):
And it’s amazing. It really is amazing what other women do for each other. I mean, there’s been some fantastic organisations like Female Founders Rise, which is where I met you that do amazing meetups, founder social and whatnot. So these things are just phenomenal and really, really important. But the big challenge is being able to do it with a baby. And I think when I’ve voiced these concerns, so many women are like, whatever, just do it. And you’re like, yeah, yeah, I should, I should. But then for me, at least I get down to the time and I just think, oh no, I’m going to have to go into London and rush hour with a baby. And I’ve had it before. I’ve gotten stuck on the tube and the people behind me couldn’t get off the tube because my baby got stuck in between the two carriages at the end. Oh no. So I’ve got quite a big fear of going into London with a baby, but I haven’t been able to do it so much. But something that I do really need to do, and what I did early days was just that cold reaching out on LinkedIn and chatting to people because it really does build your network. You never know who’s on what WhatsApp group or is part of something else or knows about some fun that’s going on. And really kind of all the most positive wins I’ve had have been through networking.

Caroline (41:17):
That is such good advice especially. And also because we’ve got the privilege of being able to get into London and things like that. And we live somewhere with so many founders and not everyone has that. So whether it’s a baby or literally your location, such practical advice of just reach out to people. Yeah, I mean maybe five out of 10 won’t respond, maybe five. And that’s it. It’s the ones that do respond that are the ones are going to build your network. And then like you said, you always find out you’ve got someone else in common and things like that, and you start to build your own network even if you can’t get to others. So thank you so much for that advice. And Kat, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. You’ve really given some excellent advice on, well sharing your story firstly, but advice on how to actually get started with your brand. And is there anything else you can share about Lesh and the launch and what’s next for you?

Kat (42:09):
Yeah, for sure. So the wait list is now live. Exciting. So the website is www.wearel.com. So I’m just in the midst of finalising all the sizing and then I’ll be putting in the full order. We’ll be having product come hopefully, hopefully by the end of the year, if not early next year. But I’m very, very excited to receive the final product and get the brand out there. But it’s coming very, very soon.

Caroline (42:41):
Oh, fantastic. Thank you, Kat and everyone head over to the Lesh website, buy them for your friends if you are not expecting another baby. And I really look forward to having you on again in the future to see your growth and what products you’ll be working on next.

Kat (42:56):
Thank you, Caroline.

Caroline (42:58):
Thank you, Kat, thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rates review, follow or subscribe, whatever you are listening. It really helps us to connect with more moms and business owners. You can dmm me on at Bump to Business owner on Instagram, and I’ll be back next week.

Outro:

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.