Nadia Tucker and Stevie Angel are the founders of Active Truth, an online activewear retailer catering to all women, no matter their size, shape or stage of life.
“Nadia and I were new mums going to the gym together, and we were frustrated with buying activewear online – tights didn’t fit properly; they sagged, rolled down or were see-through,” says Stevie. “After doing a bit of research, we realised many women were being underserved by the activewear market. In particular, there was a gap in the market for maternity styles and larger sizes.”
Active Truth offers high-performance activewear (including tights, tops and crops) and swimwear in sizes 6 to 26, including maternity styles.
“We are really passionate about creating an inclusive community around health and fitness, and we use a diverse range of women to model our products,” says Nadia.
The online business recently received the CCIQ Award for Outstanding Small Business at the 2018 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards.
What is your role in the business?
Stevie: We are the owners and operators of Active Truth.
How many employees do you have?
Nadia: There is Stevie and I, and we have three additional staff members.
How did you raise the capital to finance your venture?
Nadia: We both dipped into our savings and contributed $10,000 each. We then reinvested the profits from sales into growing our inventory. We haven’t sought any external funding to date.
What value do you place in business plans and why?
Stevie: Our business evolved and grew really quickly. You need to be clear on what your vision is and your why - what problem are you solving. Our business decisions stem from this and knowing our customers well.
What is your professional background?
Nadia: I was a litigation lawyer.
Stevie: I worked in communications in government.
Stevie: Neither of us had any experience in fashion or business or e-commerce. When we started the business, we stayed in our full-time corporate roles for 12 months, but it was very clear after 12 months that Active Truth was resonating with women. We then made the decision to quit and invest our full-time energy into the business.
Where is your business located and why?
Nadia: Our head office is in Clayfield, our factory in Brendale and our warehouse is in Eagle Farm. We chose Clayfield because Stevie said she wouldn’t drive further than five minutes to the office! As we both have children at school and live in Kedron, this location enables us to get to and from the office as quickly as possible and maximises our working time.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning a small business?
Stevie: Both of us feel a strong sense of achievement from what we’ve been able to create. We’re really excited about the potential– it’s only been two-and-a-half years but we’re looking forward to seeing where we can take it.
What is the biggest challenge in running this type of business?
Nadia: For us, it’s been inventory management, including making sure we’re not over-ordering but also having enough stock to meet demand. Our other challenges are predicting what prints and styles will sell best, as well as managing cash flow to reinvest into new products.
How do you market your business?
Stevie: Most of our marketing was online in our early days; we had no marketing budget and had to rely on social media and creating a community on Instagram and Facebook. We now do some paid online advertising, and try to get offline and network with other business owners in Brisbane. We also enter our business into business awards, and earlier this year we won the Emerging and Energised Award at the Queensland Telstra Business Awards, along with the Lord Mayor’s Outstanding Small Business Award.
What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
Nadia: It was probably the addition of new staff members, which helped us to focus on high value projects and tasks.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
Stevie: As we’re both self-starters, you’ll usually find us with books that are marketing or brand related, or recommending podcasts to one another. We also recently attended an email marketing conference, and share a mindset that focuses on personal development and growth.
Who do you seek advice from for your business?
Nadia: We try to network with other local business owners, and we have a group of them that we regularly speak with.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Five years’ time?
Stevie: We’re currently working on introducing new products to expand our manufacturing. Our ultimate vision is for Active Truth to be a household name.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in business?
Nadia: The greatest lesson would be to trust your instincts. It’s very important to speak and listen to the advice of other people, but ultimately you know your business best.
How do you manage risk?
Nadia: We start small and test our products on with our customer before we scale. We started our business with just 100 pairs of tights and have now sold more than 40,000.
What three things should someone consider before starting a business?
- Decide whether you’re willing to put in the hard yards and remain flexible with your time. In the early days, we missed many social events because we were packing orders.
- If it’s a partnership, you need to select who you are going into business with wisely. The reason we work so well together is that our skill sets complement each other.
- Be clear about who your customer is and why they would want to purchase your products. You also need to be clear on your business purpose and determine what your point of difference is.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Nadia: We would have trusted our instincts, as there were a couple of instances when we listened to our head and we should have gone with our gut. Nothing is going to be smooth sailing and you must accept that you must roll with it at times. You should try not to look at it as challenge and more of an opportunity.