I can’t quite believe we’ll be celebrating one month of Mauda on Saturday! Time flew and I feel like there’s still so much to do. The impatient me wanted to be full steam trading, but things aren’t quite like that.
People looking in from the outside see someone who’s left a job at the end of December and before the end of January had a business set-up. “That’s amazing!” An almost impossible task, but I made it. Well… it may appear that way, but the reality is things don’t just happen like that. Regardless of how much effort you put into something, a full blown business just doesn’t get set-up in 3 weeks. Unless you know something I don’t…
So, to demystify what this entails, I decided to share my Mauda experience with you. If running your own business is one of your goals, then maybe this can help set your expectations and avoid unnecessary disappointment. Don’t want you feeling frustrated because such-and-such woke up one day and made it happen in 24 hours, but it’s taking you months to make things happen (you’re doing just fine)!
1. The spark
This is an interesting one. The spark has been there for a looooong time. For a bit of background: my parents have their own business, my grandmum taught me to crochet, my mum taught me to knit and my auntie (mum’s sister) taught me to sew. She’s a professional seamstress andhas these sewing and overlocker industrial machines. I loved it! She didn’t lol! Anyway, the truth is I remember creating outfits for my Barbie from fabric scraps when I was around 6.
Being a seamstress didn’t seem like a safe or prosperous profession, so I went to Uni to study European Studies (oh – the irony…) Every spare penny I made afterwards was saved and in 2004 I bought my first sewing machine – a Singer! Some of my first wonky designs are still in my old closet at my parents’ home in Portugal.
2. Bubbling ideas
It wasn’t until I moved to the UK in 2012 that the idea of owning my business started bubbling. British expats usually describe businesses in Portugal as hand to mouth, i.e. don’t expect to make money or grow wealth. Having a business in Portugal means long hours and average earnings, which is the reality I experienced with my parents’ business.
In the UK however, owning a business is a lot different. Sure a tough gig, but so is being employed by someone else working long hours without extra pay, which is the reality in most large organisations. You’re just expected to do it – that’s it! So, the prospect of working long hours but for me, decide when to take time off (like my parents, which was never lol), possibly working from wherever… hum… appealing…
3. The decision making process
Well, this was something else let me tell you. From launching a fashion brand (I thought this was to much for me), to opening an eatery, again a fashion brand, to a clothing repairs shop, then fashion brand again, to a souvenirs shop (with some fashion in it), accessories shop (again could squeeze in a few clothing items), soaps, candles… The ideas were endless. Not uncommon though. But all the way through I kept defaulting to fashion! Designing and sewing was my thing. So, eventually I decided I was going to launch a fashion brand at some point in the future! Seems painless right? It took me around 3 years to make this decision, even though it was what I wanted to do from the outset.
4. How am I going to do this?
The million dollar question! Well, I’m good at designing fashion and turning the designs into real clothes, so that’s a start right? I also a few years of experience managing services and grew up literally working at my parents coffee shop/restaurant, so that ticks the “retail” and “customer service” boxes – right? It can actually be that simple. Trust me, my parents started their business out of experience and a huge drive. No Business Plans, or the kerfuffle they expect you to do these days.
In 2016 I was working as a contractor, so had a company set-up for that reason. Later in the year I was in permanent employment, but given my future plans I decided NOT to close the company just there and then. On the fashion front I felt (here comes the imposter syndrome) I needed to know more. So in 2017 I enrolled in a Fashion Design course, whilst in full time employment…
5. The Course
The course was well worth it, but studying and working full time is tough! As you get older you start cherishing your free time more and for a few years I had barely any free time. Delighted it’s all in the past! Don’t know how I did it, but it’s done and I’m over the moon!
Despite the pain and stress, studying does push you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to things you haven’t considered before. I used the course as the means to define this future business. This is when the brand’s identity was woven. Inspired by a strong Scottish woman (Elsie Maud Inglis) and a merge of the word moda (=fashion in Portuguese). The two countries in my heart and my soul reflected in the to-be-brand! You can find the Mauda’s detailed background here.
6. The day that changed everything
As if working and studying wasn’t stressful enough, a restructure in late 2018 meant my role was made redundant. I wanted to change careers paths but that wasn’t (or so I thought) the right moment. Anyway, this was the big opportunity to turn Mauda into a reality. I managed to secure a temp role for the next 2 years and during that time I saved and invested as much as I could in the brand. Initial investment, some savings and an already registered business would likely help me get started.
Those 2 years were non-stop planning and preparation, but then I was ready (and so was Mauda)! In January 2021 during lockdown (why the hell not) Mauda was launched! And here we are now.
So, as you can see, things don’t just happen. And Mauda wasn’t set-up in less than a month! There have been lots of tears, laughter, self-doubt, anxiety, planning, idea exchanges over several post-dinner drinks, sleepless nights and some feeling of accomplishment along the way.
I’m still getting used to this idea of being my own boss. I imagined drinking wine whilst designing (kind of like Mary Quant), but that hasn’t happened yet… I think that’s only allowed when you’re super famous and someone else is in charge of manufacturing! Planning for that day though