This interview is with a LHW Patron and member who has spent the last few years working hard to support pregnant women and mothers of very young children accessing the outdoors.
After finding she could not obtain clothes that supported her active lifestyle whilst pregnant, Clare made it her mission to develop and create them herself! Bravely, Clare created her startup business Grow Wild and has now produced the type of technical outdoor wear she’d needed so much. Set to launch next month, Clare has had quite a journey to get to this point so I was really excited to have the chance to ask some questions about her experience.
Hi Clare, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your journey creating Grow Wild! Firstly, what was it that sparked your idea?
Hello! It really came from the sheer disbelief that there wasn’t good quality, practical, comfortable outdoor maternity clothing already available. I found it hard to find maternity clothing that worked for my outdoor lifestyle – and that I actually wanted to wear! It’s a time of life with so many changes, and my outdoor passions (particularly walking in the Welsh mountains) were really important to me – both for my mental and physical health, and my sense of identity. I spoke to many other women who said they shared a similar experience – so I decided I would do something about it!
Had you ever had any experience in starting up a business before?
I have been working in and managing my dad’s business for 10 years (quality assurance auditing scientific research – nothing to do with the clothing industry!), but this was the first time starting something for myself. I have had many exciting ideas over the years (food blogger, iced biscuit maker, non-alcoholic gin distiller…), but Grow Wild Outdoorwear really combines all my passions – the outdoors, being a mother, supporting women’s wellbeing and equal opportunities – I’ve been living and breathing it for over 3 years now!
So what does Grow Wild Outdoorwear offer?
I’ve created a collection of outdoor clothing for women and babies, and accessories for an active lifestyle (baby carriers and sling covers). We are manufacturing our own range of maternity clothing (suitable for pregnancy, breastfeeding and babywearing) here in the UK, and I have partnered with other brands with similar values to complement the range. It is really important to me to offer women quality clothes that have been designed for their outdoor lifestyles, that will last and be loved for longer. I’ve spoken to hundreds of women over the last few years about their preferences for features, fit and even colour – including many Love Her Wilders! I have also thoroughly tested everything personally – including walking in the hills, yoga, horse riding, camping, mucking out chickens!
You mentioned values, what does Grow Wild stand for?
One of the key values of Grow Wild is to support women – I aim to cultivate a community that offers inspiration to women entering motherhood, to empower with practical tips and shared experiences.
The product range is designed to make it easy, comfortable and enjoyable to enable women to continue the activities that they love during this stage of their lives.
Ethical business practice is also very important – Grow Wild has Pending B Corp certification – a pledge to “do business for good”. Transparent, sustainable supply chain relationships, that make the best choice for suppliers and customers, at a fair price have been built into the business model. We also support two charities – 2% of all sales are split between PANDAs UK (mental health support) and Refuge (domestic abuse support).
When are you due to launch?
The live launch is scheduled for the 20th October, when I will be exhibiting at The Baby Show at Olympia London – I am so excited! It’s been a long journey, but fantastic to have it all coming together at last. We are actually running a giveaway to celebrate the launch – it is live now, and will be running until the 27th October. We are offering a bundle of products worth over £175 for one lucky winner – with more options to enter the draw and win if you refer friends (I’m working really hard to spread the word about Grow Wild at this stage!) – check it out at www.growwildoutdoorwear.com
What were your first steps?
My very first steps were to interview lots of women, so that I could be sure that what I created was really what people wanted! For the actual clothing development, I initially contracted a clothing design consultancy to source materials and manufacturers (they were based in the UK, but worked with China), as I had no prior experience or contacts within the industry. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite go as planned, and after two years I made the decision to pull the plug, bring everything back to the UK and manage it myself.
As a small business owner you must wear many hats! What has your role involved?
I actually made an Instagram reel about all the hats you have to wear (with literal hats)! It can be overwhelming at times, as you have to source everything you need from fabric, to labels and packaging – and make all the decisions surrounding this (sustainability, quality/fit for purpose, supply logistics, price). You have to work out your branding (visuals, values and strategy), design graphics, arrange photoshoots, write so many words for everything from the website to emails, to social media. You need to think about how your business will operate, both the logistics of day to day management and plan for the future. And you need to go through all of the numbers to make sure your margins are actually going to work out and your business will be viable! And all of the marketing and building connections – if no one knows you exist and trust that you have something they will enjoy, then those sales won’t happen and your dream will disappear.
What has been your most positive moment so far and what has been the most challenging?
Honestly, I actually love all of that crazy list of stuff I just mentioned! But my biggest thrill is really getting out and talking to people – from visits to manufacturers and discussing their work, to meeting new women during my fitting and testing processes and collecting their feedback – it’s impossible to pick a single moment.
The most challenging was definitely ending the contract with the consultancy agency. There had been multiple factors in my decision – I wasn’t happy with the communication and ethics/transparency when working with China via a third party, costs had skyrocketed (from raw materials to freight), there were more risks (Covid shutdowns, economical fluctuations). So I knew this wasn’t the right path for me, but at that point I had no clear alternative – which was very scary!
Have you received help from a mentor?
Yes I have – I have tried to collect many people around me for support! Shortly after I made the decision to bring Grow Wild manufacture back to the UK I joined a brand accelerator program – a bit apprehensively having just been burned by “experts”! But it was the best decision I ever made – “The British Brand Accelerator” run by Kate Hills of Make It British has been incredibly supportive, and I have learned so much over the last year. I also applied and won a place on the Santander Women in Business Mentorship program, so have had one on one monthly coaching sessions with a business mentor, which has also been brilliant.
How do you fit it in around Mum life?
It’s certainly challenging! (I’m currently typing this while on holiday in Italy while my little one watches Netflix on my phone next to me!) It definitely got easier when she started nursery – suddenly I had 4 whole hours of peace! And I have been very lucky with my family support – my mum looks after my daughter a lot, and my dad is very flexible with my working hours for his business too. My husband is also running his own business from home (repairing classic cars) so we end up juggling work and parenting between us.
What has your feedback been like so far?
It has been so positive, which is really fantastic! One of my favourite things is when a new person tries on a prototype and they go “Oooooh!!” I’ve worked really hard to find fabric that is both soft and durable (I have sampled 126 individual types of fabric over the last 3 years!), so it is really rewarding when someone comments on how lovely the clothes feel. I’m also obsessed with details like how well a phone fits into a pocket, or where a seam sits so that it is both flattering and comfortable. I was slightly nervous with my last tester, as she warned me that she would be a harsh critic of the maternity leggings, as she didn’t find any she liked during her last pregnancy – I was very relieved when she was impressed with them!
What item of clothing is your favourite?
Ooh I think it is the bamboo maternity and nursing top – the fabric is gorgeous and it is incredibly comfortable – I have slept in it while camping many times! It has a longer cut (so it goes below a bump nicely with no drafts, and sits well below a rucksack/carrier hip belt), but is also flattering for postpartum wear (no baggy tent clothes!). It is designed to be really easy and discreet for breastfeeding – to work with layers of clothing when out and about. There are offset shoulder seams so that they are comfortable for babywearing, and a scoop neckline that sits nicely but doesn’t expose too much skin to the sun. And there are thumbholes too!
What would your advice be for pregnant women or new Mums who want to stay active?
Life (and your body) changes, but your activities are both important and achievable. Try to be gentle with yourself, your body is doing incredible things growing a whole new person, and the experience is different for everyone – be flexible with your expectations. Find a community that you enjoy – either online or in person – both moral support and practical tips can really help when it comes to being active as you go through the different stages of motherhood. If you sign up to the Grow Wild newsletter, I have actually put together a free guide to getting outdoors with a baby!
Lastly, any words of wisdom for someone hoping to start their own business?
Spend the time doing the customer research – really be sure that your business idea is what people want, and that there is a viable market for it. Do the numbers! Even if it involves a lot of guesstimating at first! Surround yourself with positive, supportive people – including a mentor(s). Learn when to outsource a skill, and when to give it a try yourself first. Expect to make mistakes –actively work on building your resilience and confidence. Spend time on yourself (you are your biggest asset) – recognise and avoid burnout before it gets too much. And just keep taking the next step to make your dream happen!
I would really love readers to help me spread the word about Grow Wild in this early stage – please share with your friends and family – all support is hugely appreciated!
Check out the website and our launch giveaway at www.growwildoutdoorwear.com
Please do consider supporting the Love Her Wild community by becoming a Patreon! Not only will you be helping women in accessing the outdoors, but there are great benefits including giveaways and access to an exclusive newsletter.
Bex Band founded Love Her Wild. Alongside running the community, she is an author, blogger and speaker on all things adventure and conservation. For her work championing women in the outdoors, she has been nominated for multiple awards and was named one of the UK’s Top 30 inspirational entrepreneurs.