"It takes a village to raise a start-up.."
Looking back over the last five years, it is hard to believe how far FINDRA has come since those early days at my kitchen table. In some ways, it feels like yesterday that I started this crazy journey, and in others it feels like a lifetime!
There have been ups and downs, incredible highs and horrendous lows - a true rollercoaster ride - but no matter what each day brings, I have always believed in FINDRA and our aim to design sustainable, innovative, stylish, activewear, versatile outdoor clothing that will help more people enjoy spending time outdoors.
There is no doubt that reaching this five-year milestone is quite an achievement, especially given the statistics around start-ups and failure rates. Taking the time to stop and reflect on this journey has been good for me, and allows me to picture where I want this brand to be in the next five years.
Way back before launching FINDRA, I joined an entrepreneur accelerator programme in Edinburgh called Entrepreneurial Spark. I clearly remember the first piece of advice I was given: ‘Get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ Little did I know then just how often I would find myself having to get comfortable being very uncomfortable!
I always knew I wanted to run my own business, but I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, I just liked the idea that I could do my own thing. An honours degree in Industrial Design and Textiles, and an MA in Fashion from the Royal College of Art, plus 20 years working in fashion design had taught me a lot about working with fabrics, and the cut and fit of clothing. It was the dismay I felt when looking for kit I could wear when out on the trails, either cycling or walking, that gave me the idea for FINDRA. The clothing available was clearly an afterthought of the men’s range, ill-fitting items that were not designed with women in mind and predominantly all made from synthetic fibres. I had personally experienced the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors, and had met a strong, inspirational group of women through cycling. It was this strength and sense of support and community that inspired me to create FINDRA.
From the start, there were three key aspects I wanted to weave into the brand’s DNA: good design; consideration to the planet; and a strong desire to encourage more people to get outdoors and reap the benefits of being in nature.
Having an idea is one thing, bringing it to life is another. It takes a great deal of hard work, commitment and courage. If you have ever read any of inspirational speaker Brene Brown’s work, you will know to have courage ultimately means that you have to be vulnerable.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage. People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses,” she has said.
Whether I am a real badass is debatable, but I am ok with being vulnerable!
When you start out on this type of adventure there is no guarantee it will work, having the resilience to cope with that uncertainty, and still wake up every day and keep looking ahead and believing in what you are doing is crucial.
In the last five years, there have been some monumental challenges and very dark days, but in these moments, I always return to my vision, a vision I set out to achieve several years ago; it’s this vision that drives me forward and gets me out of bed every morning.
But it is only part of the story. A fellow entrepreneur once said, ‘It takes a village to raise a start-up’, and I couldn’t agree more. The support I have been shown along the way has at times been life affirming. From the unswerving support of my partner, my family, friends, my team and our customers, it has made the journey worthwhile and so much richer.
The FINDRA team has worked tirelessly to support my vision and fulfil our three core goals. From designing stylish, sustainable, functional and highly versatile garments, to winning awards and introducing FINDRA to many happy customers all over the world.
Our brand ambassadors inspire people to get outdoors by sharing stories of their own everyday adventures and through joining FINDRA social rides, runs and walks.
And our customers are at the heart of our success. They took a chance on an unknown brand, they champion us and engage with us, offering feedback on what they love about our brand and what they want to see next. It’s invaluable being able to engage directly with our customers and understand what works for them. In that way, we hope to keep bringing new and innovative versatile outdoor clothing to a growing audience.
Alex Feechan is the founder of FINDRA and a WES Ambassador.