Helen's Startup Story: From corporate life to sustainable swimwear

Helen is a Development Economist turned Founder of Davy J: a swimwear brand for the wild. She completed the Startup Accelerator programme in October 2015 and is now based in Devon, working full-time on her business and preparing for the launch of their second collection of swimwear.

Where were you working before Escape?

I was an Economist at KPMG, but I just knew corporate life wasn’t for me. It didn’t excite me.

Why did you decide to join the programme?

It came at a time when I was looking for something new. I’ve always wanted to start my own business but I didn’t know what sort of business I wanted to launch or what it was going to look like. I had the idea for Davy J written in notebooks for years and I played with the idea of making better swimwear for watersports and activity on the course. It prompted me to test the idea and that then evolved into Davy J.

What changes did you make during or after the programme?

I left my KPMG role just before the Startup Accelerator started and I got a job working at a local pub and doing freelance work to pay my rent. Then I moved from London to Devon and worked full-time for 9-12 months on Davy J, designing and developing the swimwear before it was ready for trading. Then I launched Davy J in early 2017.

What is day-to-day life like for you now?

I work full-time on Davy J and I expanded the team in February to include a marketing manager. I design the products in-house and work with suppliers to source the fabric (from Europe) and manufacture the swimwear (in the UK). We mainly sell online direct from our website with a few small boutiques elsewhere.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced since starting Davy J?

Ah there are lots of them! But I suppose the hardest challenge has been finding a manufacturer in the UK that can produce the swimwear in line with our requirements, from a quality and volume perspective. And they’re often looking for partners who have established brand credibility already and a level of guarantee for order size. It remains a constant challenge to keep quality high and manage stock flows while balancing price and volume.

What are your plans for the future?

This is our second summer coming up, so right now we’re very focused on launching the new range and executing an effective PR, marketing and events strategy to support the release.  But further expansion for the brand and products will follow longer term as well as development of our circular business model looking at ways to recycle and reuse our waste material.

What would you advise potential escapees considering the Startup Accelerator?

If you’re serious – you have to just go for it, you have to start. A lot of people talk about ideas forever, and there’s never a perfect time to start and there are never any guarantees it will work. You just have to make a move, test something, put the work in and keep trying. If you never start, you will never know.

To find out more about Davy J and check out their sustainable swimwear visit www.davyj.org

Before launching Davy J, Helen completed the Startup Accelerator in late 2015. Find out how the Escape School can help you launch your business idea into the world.

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