Founder Stories. Dealing with personal pressures as a business owner

We spoke with Nina Clark, small business owner and founder of Nightire about her journey managing the pressures of starting and running a business. One of her key learnings was understanding that "it's essential to make peace with the fact that things will go wrong - and often".

When my husband and I moved to London a few years ago, I started struggling with sleep.

It led to many months of research into little changes that I could make to get to sleep easier.

I tried everything – herbal teas, long baths before bed, lavender mist pillow spray, herbal teas. I also bought a set of good quality pyjamas – and was amazed to find that it made a real difference.

Through further investigation, I learned that maintaining the right body temperature is essential to a good night’s rest. Wearing temperature regulating sleepwear, which keeps your body temperature even, can be game-changing.

I dug deeper and discovered two things:

Firstly, looking into the UK sleepwear industry, I found that it was actually a very under-appreciated market, which struck me as strange. Pyjamas are comfortable – we wear them to relax, to mooch around the house, to decompress after a long day – not to mention to sleep in. Yet we’re not loyal to certain brands and we don’t recognise how sleepwear can affect our health. This suggested a gap in the market that could be filled.

It also led me to my second observation: many people don’t necessarily understand the important relationship between sleep and our wellbeing either. We know sleep is a necessity, but not why. I wanted to create a brand that addressed this education gap, to build a brand that’s approachable, laid-back and relatable.

So I set out to create a product that functionally benefited sleep.

Nightire is made of 100% organic bamboo material. Super soft and temperature-regulating – the fabric is woven in such a way that moisture is wicked away from the skin to keep you cool when it is hot, and vice versa. In addition to being organic, it’s also environmentally friendly, as bamboo grows without fertilizer or much water, and has a low impact on the soil. However, I also wanted to help people understand why we’re using these materials, why a good night’s sleep is so essential. I created a blog, started a newsletter, and launched across various social channels – sharing content that focused on sleep in accessible, interesting, inspiring ways; debunking the myths and exploring the different ways to not only sleep but sleep better, more deeply and more consistently.

Along the way I’ve learned lots of important lessons that I wish I’d known from day one – not least that I had to build this company from my own strengths.

The fact is that I have a background in marketing and brand management for big FMCG companies, but no fashion or design experience whatsoever. When I started Nightire, I had to teach myself everything from the nature of materials to pattern design, print creation and dealing with clothing manufacturers.

Getting to grips with these new skills was one of the biggest pressures I had to overcome in the beginning, and growing a support network made up of the right people has proved invaluable along this path. I met a fabric technician at a networking event, who ended up showing me how to check that patterns were right, garment finishes were of good quality and gave me advice on the prints themselves.  However, I still had my own skills, my own learnings that I could build from – even whilst I was starting from ground zero in some areas, I could excel in developing our USP, our identity and business brand. I could have confidence in myself.

Saying that, I also learned to surround myself with friends from different creative industries – photographers who could help with lifestyle shoots to other brand owners who could share their own stories and experiences with me.

Without support, it would be a lonely road, and I wouldn’t have anyone to share the exciting wins with, or the crushing blows. There are many of both of these, and it’s so valuable to have your squad around you.

It’s essential to make your peace with the fact that things will go wrong – and often. At the start you need to be ready to deal with rejection – this might be in the form of journalists ignoring your product, slow sales or unsuccessful marketing activity. Or it might be your own tendency to compare yourself to others – to see the shiny Instagrammable success of your competitors and feel like you’re failing. Developing a thick skin, learning to fight for every tiny win, holding fast to your community – it all helps. And it all comes back to learning to have confidence in yourself and your brand. To find the positives and run your own race.

After all, alongside the glamour and excitement of running your own business comes admin. Lots of admin. It pays to be organised as well as creative – understanding every part of your business process will help you out in the long term. This also applies to the question of money. As a business owner, often any money you make goes into your own pocket. This feels great. Unfortunately, this also means that any money spent feels like it’s coming out of your own pocket. There’s so much information out there about money – how to earn it, how to raise it, how to make it go further. The pressures we face as business owners are often inextricable from the ones we experience as people.

When I launched the brand at the end of 2017, I could never have known how much would happen, how much I could learn in just less than 12 months. Sometimes the fear of failure can be really tough, almost paralysing, and I absolutely hate having to admit to friends that I’m struggling. But staying closed up about failure doesn’t make it any easier to go through.

The pressures we face as business owners are often inextricable from the ones we experience as people.

What does help is that all of those pressures – the admin days and financial quibbles and realisations of how far there is yet to go – are balanced with the positives of being an entrepreneur. Nothing beats the feeling of following your passion, receiving positive feedback on something you’ve created, the amazing people you’ll meet, and the flexibility that comes from being your own boss.

If you’re passionate about what you do, surround yourself with the right people and prepare for the pressures you’ll face, being a business owner can be the most exciting ride of your life.

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