Jeetly: Jess Jeetly

Jess Jeetly tells Startups how her own struggles finding businesswear for petite women inspired her to start the business

Name: Jess Jeetly
Age: 31
Company: Jeetly
Staff numbers: 3
Location: Walsall
Date founded: 01/01/2013
Website: www.jeetly.com

Tell us what your business does:

We are a premium business-wear brand for petite women (5ft3in tall or under) incorporating social commerce. We design, produce and retail products directly with our customers who choose which clothes are stocked via our revolutionary virtual buying platform online.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea stemmed from my personal struggle to find chic, premium quality work wear in petite proportions. The few established petite brands in the UK catered to a mature customer, so there was a gap in the market to serve a niche consumer group of petite women my age. Since my fashion style may not have suited other petites, I decided to ask my customer exactly what she wanted in her working wardrobe to help us design a collection which catered to her needs. In this way, petite women will have control of the styles that go ahead for manufacture and they will finally have a say in a clothing industry which has ignored such a large proportion of female shoppers for so long.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I conducted market research and discovered that 35% of the US and UK population were petite according to height, which was a significant under-served market and a big area for growth in the retail sector. I spoke to petite business colleagues and friends aged between 27 and 37, who confirmed that their greatest challenge was to find petite work wear.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was a locum optometrist and had been in practice since I qualified in 2002. Aside from conducting eye tests, I also managed properties and an online business I set up in 2007 with my husband.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Since the age of nine, I have always wanted to run my own business. I love to be in charge and lead, whether these are inherent characteristics of being the eldest child or being motivated by my father who always spoke of business leaders when I was growing up I don’t know but I have always been inspired to create a business that makes a change in people’s lives.

How did you raise the money?

So far we have grown the business organically without external funding. We will be looking to raise capital at the end of the year.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

It was difficult to find a supplier who would be interested in developing Jeetly’s unique sizing blocks because of the extra cost, time and effort involved. To overcome this we visited suppliers in China face-to-face to establish trust and build a good rapport so that they would be happy to do business with us.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We showcase our design samples online so that our customers can vote them in or out of the next season’s collection by considering the merits of fabric and design like a professional buyer. The garments are then produced in bulk and retailed online via our website.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Our first breakthrough moment was when TV presenters Lisa Maxwell and Laura Tobin wore our clothes on national TV. It triggered a flood of enquiries and press interest in our brand only a month after we launched. It was that moment of market validation we were looking for as a start-up that gave us more confidence in our products.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Ignore the saying ‘stick to what you know’ as your business idea could come from an industry in which you have no previous experience, like myself. Of course this makes it a lot harder for it to work but if you have found a solution to a problem and you have the passion, sheer determination, persistence and self-belief that the business will work, you will make it succeed. Be prepared to face rejection and the many pitfalls that come with starting up.  Adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude and always find a way to get over each hurdle with a clear vision in mind of where you want your business to be, then just focus, work hard and take action!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We aim to be the first global petite-exclusive brand recognised for premium quality clothing and to become the first online fashion community for petite women. We hope to have made a change in the fashion industry by democratising fashion so ‘real’ women direct what styles of clothing are produced alongside mainstream designers.

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