Name: Sophie Kelly
Environment I like the most: Mountains
Best place I have visited: Morocco
Fav adventure: Our 2016 snowbaord trip to Val D’isere with Fellow Founder Susie and a great bunch of mates
Dream adventure: A South American jungle trek
Can’t go on an adventure without? My notepad
Tell us a bit about you!
I grew up in Kent with my Mum and my sister in a very modest neighbourhood. I ran away from ballet classes so I could play football instead. I was talented at school but rebellious. Teenage years lead me astray somewhat, getting in with the ‘wrong crowd’ you could say, however, with a fantastic support network I made it to University in Loughborough studying Economics, where I excelled… in socialising!
I eventually discovered how to really apply myself after being very involved in sports teams and took my role as social secretary very seriously! The enterprise opportunities here is where I have really found myself thriving in this environment. Discovering I am very motivated, resourceful and entrepreneurial.
I have always loved the outdoors. I have always craved adventure! I have pretty much been an integral part of every sports team growing up but ever since first going to the mountains, fell in love with snowboarding, and since then have launched SNOOKS with fellow Founder Susie Beere, designing and creating outerwear for skiing and snowboarding just for the girls. At the core of the SNOOKS brand is the message to really empower women in action sports, especially skiing and snowboarding, focusing on challenging outdated stereotypes for women. We are for women, and will remain true to this. Always.
When did you get into snowboarding?
I was a late bloomer, I didn’t get on a board until I was 18, my snowboarding virginity was taken on my University’s ski trip. It was painful, it was hilarious, it was mostly on my arse, but when you get it…daaamn it’s so worth it!
It really is about the freedom, the thrill, the serenity. As a community as well, everyone I have come across is always so supportive, especially girls wanting to ride with other girls, encouraging each other to improve, to be bold, to have fun!
Do you remember the moment when you first came up with the idea for SNOOKS….where were you and how did this come about?
Well, don’t judge…it was very cold and we needed to warm the cockles! So whilst swigging brandy on a chairlift we got onto gear and how many designs we’d seen that were so not what most girl boarders would actually want to wear. I.e pink, butterflies, cats, flowers…y’know, all the inaccurate stereotypes. Then we actually looked at all of the girls we were on the trip with and we were all wearing guys jackets! Because they were just….cooler, fit better, and awesome designs and colours, sometimes just simple but we were like hey, why don’t we do something about it. And that was it. But rather than just an idea, we continued to talk about it, and continued to get excited about it. We got professional about it and composed it into a business plan and got a pretty good reception for it, winning a business competition after presenting in front of 400 business owners at a finals night and winning £20K funding. We were also accepted onto a graduate commercialisation hub at Loughborough University, The Studio, which has also been pivotal in our growth.
What has the process been like?
It’s been a rollercoaster of a learning curve. We began with pen and paper, and a business plan. We talked and networked, a lot, trying at first to just be a sponge, to find suppliers and to established manufacturers.
In January 2014, we took ourselves off to ISPO, the largest action sports retail tradeshow in the world. Where all the big dogs hang out. We went with NO products, NO business cards, and just started introducing ourselves as the SNOOKS girls!
In hindsight, it was a tenacious move with elements of naivety, but incredibly inspiring. It’s fun to swim out of your depth sometimes. We established the values and visions of our brand, brought our mood boards and designs to life with the help of free-lancers, the expertise at the Studio, various factory negotiations and successfully launched our first range.
There is obviously plenty of ups and downs and lessons learnt along the way but… keeping it brief. It is as we expected, and a million times more plus everything we hadn’t anticipated, if that makes sense? The thrills are so worth the effort and the tough times. When it does go right, the achievement you feel is immense! I mean we don’t even financially reward ourselves yet but every interesting person, event, or opportunity we find just drives us forward.
What has been the hardest part?
This was probably accepting that our first Kickstarter campaign wasn’t going to hit our funding target. After so much energy and work has gone into it, it felt like we had fallen far. Being so involved in the process it was difficult to keep a distant perspective. It was an obstacle but I genuinely believe we have come out of it stronger, more experienced and, taking everything we discovered as a weakness, into a positive scenario! Hence…Kickstarter re-vamp and re-launch, and so far, it’s looking, sexy.
And the most memorable moment of the journey so far?
Our Launch party was incredible! We were completely astounded with the turnout and so grateful for everyone who wanted to celebrate the launch of the brand and in support of what we are doing. We had the female buyer from Snow & Rock come as well as all of our friends and family and supporters. We did a little speech and it just adrenaline for the rest of the night. After 2 years of bringing the brand to life it felt like a huge milestone.
Seeing our jacket out in the mountains being worn by a ‘random’ i.e someone who wasn’t our friend or Mum ha, is definitely up there. It was that moment when we could see…”wow, this is happening and we have created this!” It felt good.
Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign?
Fellow Founder Susie and myself work on the business, with the help of free-lancers along the way, with the help of a bit of funding from competitions and enterprise funding at the University but other than that entirely ourselves, no funding, no big investor – so to raise awareness and funds for production for the coming season, we have turned to Kickstarter, an amazing crowdfunding platform to take pre-orders for the highly acclaimed Union Series Range!
After just launching, we are off to an amazing start with nearly £8K raised in the first 2 days. The campaign essentially means people who are after the new SNOOKS range can do so at better prices than retail, and before anyone else. On offer is our 10k/10k Union Series Jacket, made in the UK to the highest quality as well as limited edition t-shirts and hoodies, there’s even a luxury chalet stay on offer. Every pre-order goes towards our target; we hit our target and production goes ahead – you can check the whole campaign and video out here we’d love to hear what people think of how we act, us challenging stereotypes of women.
What is your hope for the future of Snook?
Our goal is to be global but niche. We carefully develop our designs and don’t necessarily see this going to monumental scale production. We are keen to keep quality high with limited runs each season; craft every jacket as if it is to be treasured for a long time. To us, quality really matters.
We will be expanding our team, which we are excited to say, is happening imminently, and grow our team of sponsored riders with up and coming talented athletes. We will be developing our range to include coaches jackets as well as technical hoodies – and we look to do consult on how we best grow in the most sustainable way possible. We are very sure on our dedication to future events in encouraging girls to ride with other girls and to develop their riding, even if it’s first-time on the slopes! In the next 3 years we will be looking to export to Europe and North America, and by then have our own SNOOKS store. Of course, there will be a SNOOKS chalet in the mountains where we can invite all of our family and friends to enjoy, to eat, and to ride!
If anyone reading this was thinking of setting up their own business, what top tips would you give them?
Have a clear goal and strong values. Be focused on your end goal but be flexible about your methods. Always take on board other opinions and advice, and be open to opportunities. Approach every day with a smile and remember that whilst you work smart and efficiently you must still have fun!
What would your advice be to your 10-year-old self?
Do what makes you happy, and never just stay within your comfort zone.
Whatever you enjoy doing now, don’t forget it, and keep it into your adulthood, whether it’s drawing, running, exploring…keep doing it.
There will also be this thing called a smart phone when you’re older. Don’t get glued to it because you will miss things.
And how about personally, any adventures in the pipeline?
I’m off to Australia soon to spend a month in Perth where I’ll be hiking in the bush and giving sandboarding a go. Plans for next year will definitely feature a SNOOKS trip to the French alps. A goal of mine for next year is to compete in a triathlon, carry out a week of wild camping destination tbc and a backcountry snowboarding adventure. All with low costs but very high on the experience scale!