I thought it might be interesting to write a blog post about the story behind Liberte Lifestyles. I guess to explain a little about how it all came about.
For those who don't know me personally, I am Nicole Cowell and I am the person behind the brand. I am the owner, CEO, designer, order packer, accountant, marketing person and any other job you can think of. I launched this business less than 6 months ago and couldn't be happier with what has happened so far.
So where did it all begin?
2 years ago I was living with my family in Sydney, Australia. I am a Mum of 2 kids (6yo and 4yo) and back then I was working full time running a windows company (as in windows for houses). I also trained 5 times a week. I guess you could call me a competitive athlete (I wasn't a Masters athlete then as I was still 38 but I was on my boxes team that competed at the Australian Regionals).
Back then I owned 3 pairs of knee sleeves. Yes 3 pairs because that's how I roll! What can I say? I like shopping and I like to match! So I had 3 pairs but I wasn't 100% happy with any of them - I just found them boring. My first pair were plain grey (yuck) because that was all I could get! I also had a friend who couldn't actually get any knee sleeves that fitted her as she was small. So at that time, I started to talking to people about this idea I had about starting a knee sleeve business.
About 6 months after that, my husband was offered a job in Toronto, Canada. I quit my job and the family moved to Canada.
I had a tough time at first, not because we didn't like it, but because I had I guess you could call it a career identity crisis. It was the first time in probably 24 years where I didn't have a job. Yes, I did have maternity leave breaks but this was different. I had no career network here, no certainty in getting a job I wanted especially as I didn't want to keep working in construction. I had some loose ends I needed to tie up in Australia and I didn't want to start looking for a new job until those ends were tied up and the kids were settled in school etc. So while all that was going on I spent the first 6 months feeling lost, having mental battles with myself about what occupation to write on the Immigration cards & how to answer when people asked "what do you do?". I used to jokingly tell people I was a professional athlete but that didn't really cut it.
During those soul searching months I thought more and more about starting a new business and read the book "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss. It was in April 2016 that I finally decided I was going to give this business idea a go and I set up the Company.
I love fashion and I love fitness. I have come to realise I am also a natural entrepreneur. I wanted a business/career that would combine the two. Something that would allow me to train and satisfy my competitive goals, allow me to be there for my children at important events but also challenge me mentally (I do have a tendency to get bored very easily). Starting a business seemed like the obvious thing to do but it still took me a while to make the decision. I do have a business background (I am an Engineer with an MBA) but it is still a big decision to start a bootstrap business from zerio.
My concept was knee sleeves in fun prints - something that was edgy and cool and fun. There were a couple companies around doing something similar but none that were doing exactly what I pictured in my head. I had ordered from every single one of them and I knew what they did well and what needed improving. My goal was to bring out great products in prints people loved and add to that an excellent customer service experience.So I set about setting up the company, researching suppliers, getting products designed and tested.
It took over 6 months from deciding to push the GO button to when my products were launched and on my website. There were a lot of nervous decisions made during this time.
When you run your own business and it is just you, there is nowhere to hide. Every single decision is on your shoulders. When you put a brand and products out there they represent you, your decisions, your beliefs, your ideas. If people love it, it's you. If people hate it, it's you. I think everyone understands there is a financial risk when you start a business but for the person behind it there is a personal risk too - a risk that is hard to quantify, a risk of learning that you are not as good as you thought and that failure is real. Entrepreneur life is very confronting at times but when it goes well the smile runs deep.
So I sit here 6 months after launch typing this and feeling happy. In the early days, our dinner table discussions were focused on how I was going to find strangers to buy my products. That after all my friends and family had bought from me the real test would begin. Fortunately I did something right, I did find a stranger to buy some knee sleeves from me and then another and another.
Liberte Lifestyles is a small company but growing. I still get excited when I hear the "cha-ching" sound on my phone - the notification when an order comes in. My kids know the sound too and will proudly tell me we have something to sell in the shop. Today my outbox was full of orders and that made me happy.
I have made mistakes and will continue to make some but by being authentic, real and service focused I hope to keep this thing going and growing. Growing to the point where I can permanently add to my staff and keep adding fun and style to training gear.
Thanks for listening and to everyone who has bought a Liberte Lifestyles product THANK YOU.