Ones to Watch: From banking to bamboo socks with Bare Kind’s Lucy Jeffrey
In our new Ones to Watch series, we’re speaking to new business leaders about where they get their ideas from, what they think success looks like and the best lessons they’ve learned along the way. And we can Bare-ly contain our excitement about our first interviewee!
Lucy Jeffrey is the founder and CEO of Bare Kind, a provider of high-quality bamboo socks that donates 10% of its profits to animal conservation charities. Pick up their penguin socks, for example, and part of your purchase will be put towards the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.
While still on a graduate programme at HSBC, Lucy started her business in 2018 selling a range of sustainable products, before making bamboo socks her focus in 2019. Last December, she finally decided to take the plunge and go full time on Bare Kind. It’s helped propel her business to new heights, but going all-in on your business is a different animal, as Lucy reveals below…
Welcome to Ones to Watch Lucy! First off, why do you think Bare Kind has been so successful?
It really is about listening to what my customers are saying. I’ve just released a new set of socks and I hit my biggest service day of sales on one day with a 65% return customer rate. So it’s listening to that feedback, figuring out where your customers are at and providing them with more good products.
It’s also having a product that people like. Customer love animals, and now they can have it on a sock and save that animal at the same time – it’s that emotional trigger that customers really like. Also, being able to work on it full time has really spurred everything on because I could commit all my time to it!
How are you getting the message out there? What’s your plan to market your product at the moment?
I work with a freelancer who primarily uses Facebook ads, which is where I put most of my marketing budget, and we always get a really good return on advertising spend because it’s such a visual product. I’ve just recently hired someone through the government’s Kickstarter programme and she’s been brilliant.
I also paid for an advert in The Times just to test if print was still a ‘thing’ and it went mad! I had one of my busiest weekends off the back of that. There are small things that we’re putting together to nudge it forward. I do have a wider strategy, but at the moment it’s very much me nudging it forward each week.
Where do you see the business in five years?
My vision is to have the largest range of animal socks in the world, all contributing to saving the species on the socks. I think I will hit that, because I’m not aware of many businesses doing exactly what I’m doing.
I want it to get to the point where the business is running by itself. Me and my partner are going to go abroad at some point and eventually I want to feel like I could run the business from anywhere. Even a couple of months ago I didn’t think I’d be doing as well as I am now, so maybe in five years, it could be a multimillion-pound company – who knows!
What challenges have you faced along the way?
One of the biggest recently has been burnout. I was really demotivated, I was just not loving it as much, and was like “What have I done? I’ve quit my job and I thought I love this, and now I’m like not feeling it.”
But I’ve realised that’s normal, and there will be peaks and troughs. I’m really loving it again now so I’m working a lot, but I have to be conscious to actually take proper time off. Taking that step back and being able to give yourself a break is so important because once you’ve hit burnout it’s harder to come back from it.
I have a great support network, but sometimes it’s been hard to generate ideas and figure out what’s next because you’re stuck in your own head. Hiring someone has been the best thing for that, because I’ve had to be able to communicate what I’m thinking to someone else on a daily basis.
You mentioned having a support network – what should that look like?
You want people that you can switch off with and people that you can talk about the business with. I’m quite conscious I don’t talk about it all the time, but my friends and family are there when I do want to get their ideas on something.
That support network is important, especially if you’re running a business on your own. I think a lot of people go into business with co-founders because they want that support. I absolutely do not have all of the skills needed to successfully run a business, so you need to be able to lean on other people.
That leads onto my next question – what attributes do you think you need to do well in business?
Definitely being able to build connections with people quickly so that when you need something urgently, they’re happy to wade in and help you.
You need resilience too and a willingness to learn, but that’s the most enjoyable bit for me! I’ve been doing this for five months now full time, and I’ve learned so much. The other day I had to set up a pension scheme, and I was tearing my hair out. And then you come out the other end of it and you’re like, “ah okay, I figured that out, it’s so satisfying”.
Throw yourself into it, but also know when you need to ask for help. I now have an accountant, because I just know that’s not my skillset. Have a bit of humility and know that you’re definitely not good at everything and that’s the whole point – you’re building this business to a point where you can step back and work on the stuff that you are truly good at.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
Speaking to other people. I joined a free mentoring programme for entrepreneurs, and I think having someone who I don’t know that well, but has kind of ‘been there, done that’, has been really helpful.
If you’re having a hard time, just take a minute, because the most important part of your business is yourself. If you’re not functioning, your business won’t. Unless something’s really going down and you need to be there, you can take a minute. That’s probably advice that I should listen to!
If you were a superhero, what power would you have?
Perhaps teleportation. My partner’s Australian and his family live over there – I’d love to just teleport and be like, BOOM, I’m here for dinner, and then BOOM, back in the UK. Think how much time I would have saved on that commute I used to have to do…
In Ones to Watch interview series, we’re speaking to young entrepreneurs and CEOs about the values they bring to business and the lessons they’ve already learned. Feeling inspired? Ready to take your marketing in a new direction? Get in touch today by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.