You can call me Al! And one half of the due that created Martha Loves.
Tell us about yourself...
I'm Alex and I live in a little village on the Llyn Peninsula with my boyfriend Jack, our bunny Smithy and our Cocker Spaniel Puppy Alfie. I 'moved' to Wales when we started Martha Loves just over a year ago, and I'm still in that stage where it doesn't feel like you've actually moved out, so my other home (and where I'm from) is Bridgnorth in Shropshire. You'll probably find out a lot about me in this blog so I won't ramble on but some little fun facts are: I'm a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 14, favourite bands are Coldplay and Mumford and sons although I literally love ALL music, I have a really good ability to memorise song lyrics and movie scripts, OBSESSED with Gavin & Stacey and probably reference the program or quote a line at least once a day. I'm also quite clumsy...we once brought an electric rotary cutter for work to cut out fabric and I cut straight through the iron wire, whilst it was on, and blew all the fuses and lights in the office block! And I run Martha Loves Ltd with my business partner Rach, who is my boyfriends Mom! There's a few facts...now let's go!!
What did you do before Martha Loves?
Our business mentor Phil, told us that by the time you're in your 40's you will have had four different careers... safe to say I have already surpassed that! I always wanted to be an Interior Designer, but I dropped out of Sixth Form and never went to uni; I studied Interior Design via distance learning and worked as an Interior Designer for about a year for a well known home interior brand. And that just didn't go to plan, I didn't love the job, I didn't love the company and after leaving the company I felt super deflated and lost with what to do next. I worked for my Dad in scrap metal for about a year, I got to meet new people, visit different places and worked away from home Monday to Friday on different demolition sites around the UK. The demolition job on site was coming to an end and I really felt like I wanted to do something different, work away, be by the sea, and it really clicked that I should look for jobs around Nefyn. So, in the summer of 2018, I worked in a bar/restaurant in Llanbedrog and that summer I met my partner Jack, who is Rach's (my business partner) son and spent the next few months after my seasonal job ended, enjoying my time off and travelling between Nefyn and home.
How old were you when you stared Martha Loves?
I was 22 when we started Martha Loves!
What made you take the plunge and start your own business?
I really was at that point, that I think a lot of 20 somethings go through, where I was thinking 'what do I want to do with my life?'. It's such a daunting thought, but one we're expected to figure out and know, all before we are 'meant to' go to uni. So I was in this limbo, and speaking to my parents and to Rach, they all really encouraged me to go into Interior Design again but freelance; I had done some freelance design work and had enjoyed it so it made sense but I think I more so just loved the idea of being my own boss and working for myself. Rach and I went to Spring Fair in Birmingham at the NEC, to give me some style ideas and inspiration, but the whole time both of us were OBSESSED with the baby/child section. Having taken so much inspiration from the day, and knowing Rach could sew and make THE MOST GORGEOUS kids clothes, especially little pants, the whole car journey home was spent thinking 'what can we do?' 'What can we make that people will want?' 'What is there a need for?' And it really really did just come together and sparked an idea which we put so much time into trying to figure how to make it come to life. And within a month it had...we had Martha Loves!
What or who inspires you?
To be my own boss and to work hard to grow a successful business, my Dad is definitely the person who inspires me. He started his own business about 12 years ago now and every day I've watched him work harder than anyone I know, to grow his business to where it is now.
His drive to be and do more, the way he holds himself and handles business, everything he has done for our family and his belief in me are just some of the reasons why I aspire to be like him. If I have a just little bit of his work ethic and determination then I will be ok! We have met so many incredible businesses and people along this journey, especially incredible, inspiring, business women. Shoned from @TanyaWhitebits, Emily from @PrettyLittleProps, Jolene from @Babipur, my business partner Rach and my beautiful Mum are just a tiny portion of the women, Mums and business women that inspire me to do more and be more. I have a very clear image of where I see myself and Martha Loves in 5 years time and this drives me every single day.
What's your role in the business?
On my desk, I have a A4 piece of paper with a mind map on that we made when we were brainstorming how we were going to go into business. Under our jobs it says Rach will do all the making, every single step, and I will do the branding, website and marketing...But I swear, since starting Martha Loves, I have turned my hand to EVERYTHING. I still do the branding, marketing, PR, social media and website but production is now a two man job and so I can add 'seamstress' under my list of job roles. I'm actually really proud of this; when we started Martha Loves I could sew but had no real experience except for textiles GCSE, and now I think I could make a face mask or pair of undies with my eyes closed! I think, to have your own business you really have to be willing to try and do anything you need to to make it work.
Favourite tool/thing in your work space you couldn't be without?
To choose just one is too difficult, so top three would be my phone, fabric clips and a pair of hand snips...and Rach will definitely agree with the hand snips. For anyone who doesn't know, they're like a little pair of scissors that hook into your finger and sit in your hand always. To sew or make without them in my hand feels bizarre. And the clips, we use them instead of pins, to clip pieces together throughout the production process. The amount of evenings spent clipping leg bands into undies, straps into face masks, labels into harems, I can't even tell you. But these fabric clips are a god send and a NEED.
What helps you to work?
Entirely dependent on what I'm doing. Laptop work...I need quiet concentration, maybe some chilled music, but nothing to distracting. Any work with production however, whether it's sewing, clipping, stamping, finishing off, I NEED distraction. Music I can sing to, a good movie on the tele, anything! I just find production can get so repetitive and tedious that I need something else to keep my mind occupied.
Favourite product/design? Every single time we get a new design in, it becomes my favourite. From the beginning I have always LOVED the bunnies boxers, the charcoal banding and the pink is just dreamy. But saying that, the new Doodle Bug boxers could possibly be my new favourite; the powder blue banding with the little doodles on the fabric are too cute and every time I'm making the boxers up I just look at them and think 'you.are.amazing.'
What does Martha Loves mean to you?
So cliche but it means everything. Tears, long hours, car journeys, money, sacrifices and so much more has gone into Martha Loves in the last year and we have grown a business that you put everything into without a second thought. I have such a clear image of where I and the business will be in the future, and I am working to get to that point, if we didn't get there it'd be devastating. Martha Loves has become a big part of my identity, my purpose, my social life, my achievements...it's the thing I am most proud of, so yes, it means a lot to me!
What have you found most difficult about running your own business?
Balance. Definitely. When you start a business, you give it your all, sometimes you feel like time not spent working on something towards the business is time wasted rather than time earned. So work starts to go home with you, flicking through your phone before bed turns into two hour work on social media; my first evening on the beach during lockdown I had a pile of clipping with me. It's 7pm and I'm in bed writing this blog watching tele. The lines get blurred, but it's always justified because you want to give your business your all. We've been going for just over a year now, and don't get me wrong, hours are still long and we are working flat out, but we are starting to find the balance and I'm setting boundaries (20 minutes more and
I'm putting the laptop down and watching a movie!).
***update...it's 11pm on a Sunday evening 4 days letter and I'm proof reading and editing shh.
If you could travel back in time to when you first started your business, what would you tell yourself?
Believe in yourself, you'll get through the hardest days and don't be so critical and hard on yourself through the process, because you're doing great and have done SO MUCH in a year. Everything you do for work is for your future and for the business and it's all worth while and for the end goal, so keep going and be proud, because you're both doing AMAZING. Also be extra nice to Jack, because you couldn't have done the last year without him.
Best thing about your job?
First thing is seeing people love, wear, purchase and compliment anything we've made. One day I will be sat sewing a pair of trousers for an order, and the a couple days later a lovely customer will have sent us a picture of their little one in the trousers and it just AMAZES me that something we have taken SO MUCH time and care into making looks so so amazing on and that someone has actually purchased our clothes and loves them. I don't think that feeling will ever stop, it's still surreal. I think even as we grow more and more we will always be more than appreciative of every single person who messages us to tell us
they've got their order and are super happy with it, or any person who sends us a picture of their Martha Loves clothes on their little ones. So that's definitely my favourite thing about my job, knowing that people love what we make and represent as much as we love it. Secondly just has to be being my own boss. It's not easy, everything is on your shoulders and all the decisions come down to you, even the hardest ones or the ones that have so much depending on them, but it's so worth it. I just love having my own business and seeing it become what is it because of the hard work Rach and I have put in.