This Start-Up Story comes from Eirlie, founder of Over All 1516, an ethical denim brand for modern, eco-conscious humans.
Tell me a little about you & your family, what your business is, and the inspiration behind getting started…
Hi! My Name is Eirlie and I have two sons. When they were quite young (two years old and 10 months), I became a single parent. Suddenly, it was on me to not only care for us but to financially carry us too.
Both my boys wore cloth nappies and as winter approached, I was unable to find durable and warm clothes to dress them in that were suitable for exploring our local rough-surfaced east London playgrounds, looked cool and fitted over the rather bulbous nappies. I bought some 2nd hand dungarees on eBay but I realised that they weren’t designed to fit over bulky cloth nappies, I squeezed one pair on and could see how restricted the hips were, so I used my training in fitting garments, and my love of streetwear, to design a line of dungarees that were completely unique in their details and met all my functional needs.
I also knew from the outset that designs would be gender-neutral – I couldn’t see any reason to segment clothes by gender from infant years into childhood and it always bothered me that shopping was set up this way, online and in stores.
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
I’d been working on the design and concept for a while, and made the first sample when my youngest was two months old. In the days of long breastfeeds and even longer nights trying to get a colicky baby to sleep, I had a lot of time to think about how the business might be set-up. Then, when I became a single parent, had this conundrum because I didn’t qualify for benefits because of my visa. I needed to earn money to support us, but also had no time to work because I was caring for my children 100% of the time. The option I could see was that I needed to do something at night, at home, when my children were asleep. It kind of forced my hand really, and so I took the leap and launched Over All 1516.
How did you get your first sale or client?
I was very lucky that I had some lovely and supportive family members who bought the first few pairs of dungarees for their grandchildren and friend’s babies. After that it was some fellow small business owners who I met at a design market I went to. From there I think the next purchases came through people who followed me on Instagram.
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
Definitely mentions by other businesses and individuals on Instagram. It’s really helped spread awareness of my biz, particularly as my marketing budget is £0! I ran a competition quite early on to win a pair of my dungarees, and at the same time as it was running, Carrie of Mere Soeur mentioned my dungarees on her stories a few times, which was a massive co-incidence. So her followers were introduced to my brand, and then the ones who decided to follow me, then saw I was running a comp which suggested tagging friends, so all those new followers tagged their friends too, that was very lucky timing – something I could never have planned!
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
I love making clothes that kids really love. There is something about the pockets that kids seem to instantly get a kick out of. I also get a great deal of satisfaction out of the fact that I’m building up not just a business, but a brand, with its own aesthetic, and unique story. In doing so I’m hoping to make it easier, and dare I say, a bit cooler, to shop sustainably and consciously.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
Spend money, and then spend some more. I do approach business finances fairly conservatively, however I also invest in quality materials, which has a high upfront cost. Sometimes I wonder if I’m slightly mad investing all my time and money in a business that I’ve essentially made up. It feels self indulgent because I love it, but I also massively believe in what I’m creating, so the investment is worth it.
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
Instagram friends have become true, real life friends & I just couldn’t have gotten through the past year or two without them.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
I’m launching a new website that will have some really helpful sustainable lifestyle resources as well as a slick new e-commerce store. I’ll be shipping stock from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres in 2020 which will cut down on postage costs and times. Plus, I’ve got some very exciting fabric developments, I have to keep the details under wraps because I’m still sorting out the details of that but will share as soon as possible.
On your own start-up adventure?
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