After a career in the NHS, Carol Westwood decided to embark on a new career journey by setting up an independent lingerie business. Carol talks to The Industry Leaders about how her search for proper lingerie lit the touchpaper for her business and how she flipped a bad situation into an opportunity to extend her offering.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I retired early from my NHS career (nursing, midwifery, health visiting and psychosexual therapy/specialist nurse). In these roles, I learned the importance of being able to accept and feel good about oneself. I wanted some anti-chafe lingerie/shorts that were pretty and made as 'proper' lingerie rather than purely functional and frumpy. Having been unable to find anything that fitted the bill, I decided to create my own.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Facilitating a whole new business, being responsible for organising design, material sourcing, manufacture, marketing, advertising. Basically being the sole driving force behind a product that is completely new to the market.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Anti-chafe wear is a niche market, as is luxury lingerie. Getting feedback from customers telling me how our garments made them feel and how wearing our shorts/bloomers gave them confidence and comfort. I find feedback from brides particularly special, knowing that our garments allowed them to enjoy their wedding day without having any discomfort from thigh chafe.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"Don't even think about embarking on a business if you're not 100% convinced that you want to do it." I was taken aback when someone told me this, but it was some time after the company had been formed. I suspect that if they'd told me right at the outset, I'd have been even more determined to prove that I could succeed!
What, or who inspires you?
Women who have persevered and triumphed when all looked lost.
People who are not afraid to talk about their failures as well as their successes.
People who first and foremost come across as regular people - warts and all!
I find it cringeworthy when I read social media posts that claim that "they" (the business posting) can solve all your problems, or know all the answers, or that only they have the solutions that you're looking for (and half the time haven't thought that you needed)!
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
By engaging in content from our industry body and by networking with others in the industry. By attending UK and overseas-based trade shows (albeit virtually for the past year).
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
Spending a lot of money on creating specific garments, getting them modelled and photographed, and attending an overseas exhibition at the request of a buyer that failed to materialise into any contract. I turned that into an opportunity to have an extended garment range for sale to trade buyers.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
See that the business is secure, sell it, then retire. I'd give my family financial security.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Watch TV. Sing with various virtual choirs and projects. I call singing "food for my soul".
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
For buyers to see that good quality products - sustainably and ethically sourced and made - are a different thing altogether from 'cheap and cheerful' fast fashion.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
It's a very recent Ted Talks video, which reminded me to look after myself and recognise the signs of heading for burnout. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoYTIpHD1qU&t=145s
How should people connect with you?
Business website: www.bloominsexy.com
LinkedIn: Carolyn Westwood
Phone: 01626 830122
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