5 minutes with Deborah Todd from ZAAZEE
ZAAZEE is an award-winning British women’s sportswear brand. Founded by Deborah Todd – a bubbly and buzzing “force of nature” kind of a woman, the brand is focused on creating stylish feminine designs that feel good while you exercise.
Launched in 2014, Deborah has built her brand Zaazee slowly and purposefully. She started small, with just a couple of designs and worked hard to sell her stock, gather feedback and improve with every new design added thereafter. Her hard work has paid off as her brand is gaining exposure, her client base is growing and not to mention a string of industry awards gracing the office shelves.
We managed to grab 5 minutes with Deborah and bombard her with a few questions, that no doubt will inspire like-minded entrepreneurs.
What were you doing before starting ZAAZEE?
I was working in PR for an agency called Brazen in Manchester and I also did some freelance PR consulting for some awesome brands and businesses including MCFC, a pizza manufacturer and other retail projects.
How did you get to start ZAAZEE – what was the idea and drive behind launching your own brand?
There was a gap for quality women’s sportswear in a climate where health and fitness was on the increase. I have always been into sports and love the gym, and I wanted to make women feel good while they worked out, to empower them to get fit.
I always wanted to set up my own retail business so decided to give it a go!
What is your role in ZAAZEE – what are the main tasks you are responsible for?
Pretty much everything! Sales is, of course, the main thing, but I also design the products with my factory and have a hand in the production, quality, style and fabric choices.
With my PR background, I am also responsible for brand growth and do my own media outreach, to get the brand out there amongst influencers in the industry.
Luckily I have a good team of supportive people on board who help me with social media
Why did you decide to launch sportswear brand?
I felt I would regret it if I didn’t have a go.
What makes your brand different from the many others that have come to exist in recent years?
We are true to our sports principles and all our kit is amazing. The gear will last and last, transcend the seasons and it will always look great.
We love sports and we work really hard to use the best quality fabrics to make an awesome kit. We are a British brand and our garments are made slowly by a specialist sportswear factory in Portugal.
What was the hardest thing about launching a fashion brand?
The commitment: you really have to put in all the hours. You don’t realise what that looks like until you are doing it. The investment, each piece costs a lot to make so we have to put a lot back into the brand.
When you started ZAAZEE you didn’t have a previous fashion design or manufacturing knowledge. How have you managed to learn and oversee the growth of your business?
Passion has helped me learn quickly, and being a consumer in the field has helped. I always ask myself – would I wear it? What would it go with? How does it make me feel? It’s a gut feeling that guides me most of the time!
What would you do differently if you can do it all over again?
Ooh, a few things, but hey – my mum did say, “…you won’t get it all right, to begin with.” You have to make mistakes to appreciate the good.
How did you find your factory? Was the first factory you found the right one?
Research. I had a good feeling and after visiting so many, when I visited the current factory I work with, I felt that they were right.
Why did you decide to manufacture in Portugal? Have you tried to make in the UK?
Yes, I’ve explored the UK in the beginning. I went all over and didn’t like what I saw compared to Portugal.
They have a great reparation, I can be there in a few hours, they are our neighbours and I love the climate they have. Why not? Also, the factories we work with are small with mainly women seamstresses who have been working in the trade for years. They are hard working teams who work around having kids and making sure they are good mums. Given the economic climate in Portugal, some of the women are the main breadwinners. So we feel good to be helping them out too.
How important is “Made in the UK” for you and why if yes or no?
It’s important, but what the consumer is prepared to pay is also important. My dream would be to have a ZZ factory in Manchester.
What were or currently are the biggest manufacturing challenges that you face(d)?
The EURO and the uncertainty following the Brexit referendum.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learnt since you started ZAAZEE?
That things take time. People take a while to decide and you can’t rush that.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
You won’t get it right the first time. Wise words from my mum.
How hard or easy has it been to grow your brand in today’s day and age?
I won’t lie to you – it has been rock hard!
But we’ve had a lot of luck and a lot of amazing people who have supported us, friends, colleagues and those from PR who have helped where they can. The power of people is incredible.
What recent actions or decisions that you may have taken or events that may have happened, had a huge positive effect on the development of your brand?
I’ve started working with small stores and it’s great. I get more feedback, more people get to see and try on the brand and I’ve got help from others too in shouting about the brand.
What would you advise budding entrepreneurs thinking of launching their own brand?
Learn as much about the industry as you can and if you love it, try it!
But be realistic. It certainly isn’t easy.
What does “success” mean to you
Having a product people come back to and enjoy wearing.
It’s amazing to see people wearing your brand and enjoying it.
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