Founder Focus: Lucy Greenwood of Lucy and Yak
Having begun it’s life on a beach in New Zealand, Lucy and Yak is now the UK’s leading dungaree brand. Founded by Lucy Greenwood and her partner Chris, Lucy and Yak has come from only a few items being sold on Depop, to a dedicated store in Brighton, and sales across the UK and beyond.
We caught up with Lucy to find out just what makes the brand tick, and also get some advice about following our gut…
What was your eureka moment?
When we started out we’d not planned to create a brand, so it kind of just happened accidentally when we were on our travels. But, when we made the first lot of dungarees, we instantly realised that there was no dungaree brand. When you think jeans, you might think Levis, when you think boots, you might think Doc Martens, there was no brand that just specialises in dungarees, so we thought that we could be that brand.
What was your elevator pitch?
We’re an all-inclusive community that looks after the workers putting them at the forefront of everything we do. We’re also a dungaree brand, and we’re doing it in a sustainable and ethical way.
How did you test your idea?
We just threw it out there to customers. We had a Depop account which we’d been selling vintage clothing on to begin with, so when we set off with our own designs, we already had a platform with a lot of followers. I think we had 18,000 followers already, so when we decided to make the dungarees, we just made 30 pairs and threw them on Depop. They sold out, and we were like, “Shit, we need to make more!” So with that money, we made 60 pairs of dungarees, and we just kept doing that.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
I think the biggest thing would be to just follow your gut. A lot of the time, there’s a lot of people in the world that want to give you advice, and at the beginning, we thought, “they know best, they know better than me, they understand that better than me.” If someone gives you advice and it feels right, then take it, but if someone gives you advice and something just doesn’t sit right in your gut, don’t take it, because there’s usually a reason for that.
Do you have a mentor, or are you one?
We work with a couple of consultants from the industry now. We worked with a woman called Elizabeth Styles, who was amazing. She’s worked in the industry for 8-9 years, and she’s been really great. I think it’s important to have people from the industry that are there to advise, but not to push their opinions.
What’s your Plan B?
I would hopefully be living in a community in Portugal, doing a lot of yoga and meditation. That was my Plan A actually, Lucy and Yak was my Plan B.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
Spending time in the countries that we get our products made in. I’ve heard in the industry that people are scared to go and visit the factories. It’s so important to do because to build those relationships over the phone or email is nearly impossible. We spent so much time in India the last two years that now we’re best mates with our suppliers.
What has been the hardest thing about starting up your business?
Working with people – I’ve never managed anybody before, I’ve never even had a management role, and I jumped from being an employee to being a director. Everyone is suddenly looking at me for answers, and I’m like, “I don’t have an answer!” I suppose it’s the fact that everybody’s so different, so it’s trying to find that balance of trying to make the workplace somewhere that makes as many people as possible happy which is quite difficult.
Which book you would recommend that everyone reads?
I think I would have to say Eckhart Tolle, his newest book, Power of Now. For me, that book is just like a Bible.
How do you find balance?
I wasn’t managing it early on, but I’m starting to get back into it. Before this, I was doing a lot of meditation and yoga, and not much work. Now, I’ve flipped to the other side, and so trying to fit all that back into my life has been quite challenging. Every morning, I get up quite early and I like to spend a few hours in the morning before we start work doing things like meditation and yoga and I always have weekends off work. We live in Brighton and I just like sitting on the beach, doing yoga, going for a run, all those kind of things.