Nine months ago, Oxford University graduates Nina Faulhaber and Meg He launched an activewear brand called ADAY in London. Their vision for beautifully made, high quality sports apparel that could be worn both in and out of the gym instantly took the UK and America by storm, with the pair winning a slot in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30.
Here, they tell stylist.co.uk how they founded their company, and offer a unique insight into making it as a successful brand in the world of fashion e-commerce.
What inspired you to found ADAY?
MH: Two years ago, in late 2013, we had a lightbulb moment. We discovered that women are always busy — we are natural multitaskers and planners. Nina and I were living lives where we wanted to 'do it all', combining work and play to make the most of our time. Our lives were spontaneous and often, our clothing couldn’t keep up with us when our plans changed.
We wanted clothes that accommodated our lifestyles and could be worn anywhere, but were cut for movement. So we set out to create technical staples for everyday life, combining technologically advanced fabrics with contemporary design.
NF: Our generation has moved on from fast fashion and instead likes to own pieces that can do more for them - and last. We want to eliminate the need to replenish wardrobes every season by creating better, higher quality clothing, which also has a conscious impact.
We didn’t have any experience in fashion whatsoever. All we had was experience in consumer technology, a passion for sports and a longing for a product that would use technology to create something fundamentally better for each day. Meg did her yoga teacher training when she lived in San Francisco, I’m a former competitive gymnast and I’ve always loved to dress for movement. All of these factors didn’t make us designers, but it has been a source of inspiration for us and allowed us to ask the right questions. And we asked a lot of them!
How did you secure financial backing for the brand?
NF: We raised a round of investment from angel investors [individuals who provide capital for business start-ups] shortly after we incorporated the company primarily to get the product development, branding and e-commerce build off the ground. We carefully curated a group of helpful angel investors and funds, who had started consumer brands, run fashion businesses and built high growth technology startups.
How did you make ADAY stand out?
MH: Ultimately, we’re trying to reinvent clothing, from how people wear it to what they can do in it. We would love our customers to take the clothing way beyond the gym and become staple clothing for their everyday lives. We're most thrilled when people write in and tell us that they wore their jumpsuit to Barry's Bootcamp on Thursday and then to a wedding rehearsal dinner on Friday.
By combining contemporary design, with the most technologically advanced fabrics, and manufacturing at the world's most innovative factories, we aim to seamlessly mesh together the worlds of activewear and contemporary fashion.
What was the role of social media in building the brand?
NF: Social media has been a great way for us to connect with our audience, both to inspire them and be inspired by them. As an e-commerce brand, social media is so important for us to drive brand awareness.
We share what’s on our mind and inspiration from our community, such as the inspiring women around us who follow their passions, build great companies, create inspiring blogs or have interesting stories to tell. We built ADAY for these badass women.
How long was it before you made a profit?
MH: We launched in June 2015, so we’ve only been operating for nine months! We’re so proud of what we’ve achieved since, like growing our customer base, launching new products and receiving incredible feedback from clients. We’re growing month-on-month and had a record revenue day last month. As we’re set up for growth, making a profit will take some more time, but we’re hopeful since many very large companies don’t break even in their first five years. (The founders have chosen not to release specific sales figures.)
What do you believe is the key to launching and maintaining a successful business?
NF: Vision, purpose, determination, optimism and timing. We’re very lucky to have an awesome team of creative women who come to work because they’re passionate about what they do.
Success has so many meanings for us: cash flow, or the potential of future cash flow, is a necessary ingredient, but we also define success by having a positive impact on all our stakeholders. We think a lot about employee happiness, our supplier relationships, an ethical and sustainable supply chain, our community and those we could inspire with what we do in the future.
What is the one thing that can make or break a fashion brand?
MH: Every brand needs to know its market, specifically its customers. If you don’t understand what your customers want or are targeting a group that’s too diverse, this can result in ineffective marketing that can often break a brand that’s just starting. It’s important that the customer can identify with your product, which in our case, has an emphasis on living life better and an active and healthy lifestyle.
Generally, how can you make money from a fashion e-commerce?
NF: For any fashion brand, whether e-commerce or retail-based, we believe the key to success and to making money is to offer a product that your customers will love. This group needs to be large enough for the company to grow and allow you to make a profit. In our segment of the fashion industry (activewear-ish), competition is very tough, so we need to make sure that we offer a product that stands out, has a compelling story and is of extremely high quality, so it makes a lasting impression.
Five top tips for launching your own lucrative fashion brand
- Customer: Once you've honed down who your customer is, always ask yourself in every decision you make: "Will they love this?"
- Investors: Don't restrict yourself to one investor. Approach and use a few to support your business.
- Marketing: Use social media to express your brand values. For example, on Instagram, capture your brand's ethos in life, not just your products
- Communication: Interact with all of your customers - whether across social media or at organised events - to build brand loyalty.
- Knowledge: Don't expect to know everything and don't be afraid to ask questions - it will help you develop a better product.