Welcome to my very first Bra Boss Blog!!
My name is Joanna and I am The Bra Boss of Kent! In this blog I am going to give you a little insight into how I got into the wonderful world of lingerie and what inspired me to quit my day job and set up my own business!
I didn't grow up wanting to be a bra fitter - I don't think anyone does, do they? Having completed a degree in Criminology with Sociology, I had plans to join the police, or something similar and started working in a local department store just to get a few pennies whilst I decided what to do with my life!
After a stint in the Xmas decoration department (where my daily life was basically trying to wash glitter off my hands!) I was asked if I would like to move in to the Lingerie department. "Why not" I thought! It would be different everyday and I would also learn a new skill along the way! They say that when you enter the world of bra fitting + lingerie, you either LOVE it or it's not for you - and I just absolutely loved it!! I loved the personal touch, being able to actually properly help the ladies that came for a fitting, and I loved learning about all of the different products. It was a bit overwhelming to start with, as there was soooo many different brands, styles of bra, shapes, fabrics and obviously loads of different sizes!
After completing a fitting course with one of the best lingerie brands out there and some hands on experience in the department, I quickly got the hang of it. There were times when we were extremely busy, and I would have to fit about 3 or 4 ladies at the same time. Even though I started fitting with a tape measure and a bit of mental maths, I was quickly able to fit by eye (not needing to use a tape measure) as I saw so many ladies on a daily basis.
After a year or so working in the department store, I was poached by the brand Gossard and started working for them, helping out at bra fitting events and merchandising their stock in other department stores such as BHS, HoF and Debenhams. I was involved in some really cool events, such as The Clothes Show Live up at the NEC and some great live window events in Debenhams, where I made the local press!
I was then offered the role of Area Sales Manager for Gossard. My job was to sell in the bras + knickers into the independent stores across the South of the UK. I met with the owners of beautiful lingerie boutiques or the buyers of some fab department stores and would present and advise on the upcoming seasonal lingerie collections. I would also help with fitting days in store, marketing and PR. I was pretty much out on the road everyday with a boot full of bras and a mini suitcase! I loved that it was so different everyday. One day I could be sitting in a meeting with Amazon and the next day be on the ferry to the Isle of Wight to visit a small boutique! I absolutely loved my job.
Over the space of 10 years, I worked for a few different brands - Gossard + Berlei, Bestform and Panache Lingerie. I gained so much experience working with product, innovation, talking with store owners and all sorts of marketing, social media and business strategy.
After 9 or so years of driving around the UK and staying awy from home, the excitement sort of wore off. I had just bought a house and quite fancied actually living in it! I had always daydreamed about running my own bra fitting boutique and thought that if other people could do it, so could I! One day I just thought, "let's give this a go!" and I handed my notice in the following day. (FYI, this was after lots and lots of thinking, saving and planning - I'm not that daring!)
In my previous career, if I wasn't on the M25, I would work from home, Trust me, you need a LOT of willpower to sit down and be productive when all you want to do is watch the whole of This Morning & Loose Women whilst eating bacon sandwiches & drinking tea! So when I first sat down to work at home and start planning my business, I had my shiny new notepad, a new pen and my boyfriends laptop (I had to give my one back to work!) and started making some lists and some pretty colour coded brainstorms.
I quickly realised that it was going to take a LOT of planning, organising and researching and if I'm being completely honest, I didn't know where to begin. Do I start looking at shops for sale? Do I need to set up a business Instagram? What brands was I going to stock? What does public liability insurance actually mean? ...To say I felt a little overwhelmed was an understatement!
My lovely friend Leah was also going through the exact same situation as me, as she had also recently decided to leave her job in London to opt for the countryside and launch her own wedding prop hire company "Boho & Bloom" - little name drop for you there Leah! This meant that we could watch Loose Women and drink copious amounts of tea - sorry - I mean help each other with our businesses and brainstorm ideas together. It was during one of our get-together's where we decided to attend a brilliant week long course with the Pop Up business school which was coming to Kent in a week's time. The timing couldn't have been better and this gave us that extra boost we needed to help guide us and focus our ideas.
I could write a whole separate blog post about the Pop Up business school (and funnily enough I will be doing one for them soon!) but to sum the week up in a few words, it was a life-changing week. It was great to be in a room full of like minded people, excited to get going with their own businesses and everyone supporting each other. The course was so insightful but more importantly very practical - their mantra is "done is better than perfect" and they encouraged you to just get going, start selling and to network, network, network. And network we did. I made friends with photographers, jewellers, restaurant owners, fitness instructors and local artists. It felt nice to have a structured week with the course covering a different topic each day. I learnt how to create my own website for free (and behold, you are on it now!) I learnt what public liability was (yay!) and I discovered how to utilise my social media channels to gain more engagement. Towards the end of the week I even ran a pop up 'bra check' service during lunch and the queue was 15+ ladies long. The fact that all of them were in the wrong bra size also cemented my business idea and that there are definitely ladies out there in Kent that need my help!
I want to be able to create a private, relaxing and enjoyable experience for my customers and have the flexibility to be able to travel around to ladies rather than expect them to always come to me, plus who doesn't want to have all of their friends over, drink prosecco and come away with a new bra size?!