From PA to Ethical Fashion Entrepreneur
"I am happy, challenged, creative, full of beans and satisfied in my new career and those feelings extend to the other aspects of my life."
- Tersha Willis, Co-Founder of Terrible Movement
What did you do before you decided to start up Terrible Movement?
After I graduated college with a Fine Art and History of Art Degree, I went to work in the financial sector in the City of London. This is as out of place as it seems for an art graduate, but after years of waiting on tables whilst at college and only being offered unpaid internships in creative roles afterwards, I felt as though I had to take a step in a different direction. Initially, I started out as a personal assistant and event manager at a press office in the City and then 3 years later I went on to work as an assistant for a few analysts in another firm.
What was behind your decision to launch Terrible Movement?
There are a lot of things that get an idea like Terrible Movement started, but I think it was borne out of a lack of a creative outlet in my role at work. I felt restricted and as though I couldn’t fully express myself in the role. At this point, I realised that I needed to free myself of those restrictions and look for a way that I could take control of my life, as well as challenge myself. Terrible Movement turned out to be just that.
As with most start-ups, we identified a problem and then created the solution – Terrible Movement started as the solution to my everyday situation and it aspires to be the solution to the everyday situation of workers around the world, who are exploited for the purpose of fast-fashion.
How did you make the transition from day job to business owner?
I worked and saved every penny, so I could put it towards Terrible Movement. When the time came that TM needed me to be there day and night to be able to really start functioning as a business; we packed up our flat on Brick Lane, got our dog a passport, took those savings and moved to Berlin in Germany. This move gave us more space to live and work in, as well as a far cheaper cost of living than in London. We were also able to get our supply chain set up and working smoothly in Europe, which really allowed the business to grow. It was definitely a “needs must” moment rather a transition.
How do you feel about your career now and what impact does this have on the rest of your life?
I am constantly learning new skills and I really see my personal growth alongside the growth of Terrible Movement. It’s very rewarding to devise and implement ideas and solutions. It’s just as rewarding that we are able to take real steps towards changing the way the world looks at buying fast-fashion. I am happy, challenged, creative, full of beans and satisfied in my new career and those feelings extend to the other aspects of my life. Although, I do sleep a lot less and hardly ever go out! I guess I am a little bit of a Terrible Movement addict!
What are the biggest challenges in running your own Business?
The biggest challenge in running your own business is never getting ahead of yourself and trying to always remind yourself that you’ve never ‘made it no matter what any one else tells you.
Finding people you can trust is also incredibly difficult. Sometimes you aren’t the best person for the job – knowing when you need to find the best person for those jobs can be just as difficult. Don’t put your business in the hands of any one who doesn’t truly believe in what you are doing – they will not deliver results. Work with people who are genuinely passionate about what you are doing – they are out there, they just take a little more effort to find.
What's been the highlight so far?
Late one night, we received an email from a high street multiple who wanted our products in their UK and European stores. It was the moment we were waiting for since we started! We received a purchase order from them and successfully managed to fulfill it without abandoning our ethics or compromising on quality. I think it will be difficult to match that feeling because there’s nothing quite like the first time.
What would your advice be for other women looking to start their own online fashion business?
There’s a lot of advice I wish I had before I dived in, so here it ALL is:
- Know your market. Pay special attention to your direct competitors and what we term “aspirational competitors.” You can learn a lot from their strengths and weaknesses.
- Be original, creative and brave without compromising on quality or your values.
- Build a strong brand identity that you believe in and will believe in for years to come and stand by it.
- Make sure your brand looks the part – It is Fashion after all!
- Don’t ask for or expect favours from friends – it’ll slow you down.
- The great thing about the Internet is that you can be just 2 people in a living room or a multinational retailer and still look the same online – Use that to your advantage.
- Be prepared for a fight to get into the market and to be able to stay there – it’s an overcrowded place.
- Finally, be honest with yourself. If you don’t have something better than what is out there, move on and forward until you do. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong at first – it can be a great way to eventually get it right.
‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ – Samuel Beckett
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