Grace Beverley: Young, Female and Super Successful
Grace Beverley is 23 years old. Over the past five years, she’s founded sustainable style brand TALA and fitness tech brand Shreddy, conceptualising and launching both whilst studying at Oxford University. Starting as a fitness influencer, who’s now featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Grace now devotes most of her time to running her businesses. Her social media success story is one that illustrates exactly how powerful solid following and clever business planning can be and is one that is just beginning.
When did you know you wanted to launch your businesses? What inspired you?
The first business, SHREDDY, was launched less intentionally than my second, TALA. I wanted to help simplify people’s fitness journeys and create products that helped make what can be a daunting, confusing process a lot easier. I was in my first year at university, so I didn’t start in the same way I’d start a business now. I released a digital product at first, then went into physical products after we spotted a gap in the market for accessible, cute gym accessories that made your gym experience that much better, whilst allowing you to create an affordable portable gym.
TALA’s inception was a lot more intentional, and profited from the learnings of SHREDDY’s original business – the conceptualisation was all around the fact that I stopped buying fast fashion and tried to look for more sustainable alternatives, but they were all around £100 for a pair of leggings, which made them completely inaccessible. We set out looking into the manufacturing of sustainable high-performance clothing, and in the year before launch worked out that if we took the recycled content from 100% to 92%, we could just about sell the leggings at a competitive £40, which allows a huge proportion of people to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Both businesses have been such a journey to get to where they are now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How would you define your current role at TALA and Shreddy?
I am currently acting CEO of both businesses, which certainly comes with some challenges! Obviously, it’s not so traditional to be CEO of two companies, but at this stage, with them being such purpose-driven businesses, the vision is best carried out that way! It’s meant that we’ve had to beef up the leadership team in order to streamline the approvals and areas I’m needed for, but it definitely keeps us true to ourselves, and works at our current stage. I’m involved in areas from strategy to final product approval. At TALA, I still attend all fitting sessions and sometimes even design initial collection presentations. I think it’s important to be able to keep the brands in line with their visions, whilst also not creating a bottleneck myself through not being able to be everywhere at once. My role has changed immeasurably, even just within the past year, and I’m sure it will continue to as we scale, but that’s the exciting part!
Have you found any challenges connected to your young age and gender in the business world? Do they affect your companies in any way?
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t – I’m a 23-year-old woman running teams of people almost exclusively older than me. The important thing for me has been hiring people whose vision aligns with the brand and hiring a powerhouse of young women from all different backgrounds has been absolutely vital for that. I’ve been in boardrooms and continually not addressed, despite the questions being only answerable by me, but I’m sure I’ve also benefitted hugely from being a privileged, Oxford-educated white woman. The importance for me is in highlighting these prejudices, and even going as far as to address my own unconscious biases I don’t even know I’ve had, and then talk about them online.
How do you try to overcome this prejudice and stereotyping? What’s your advice to other young female entrepreneurs who might be struggling with this?
I talk about it a lot! And I think it’s something we should all do. I’ve certainly seen a correlation between women being more successful and less likeable, and that particularly frustrates me. My advice would be to read up on literature on the subject and learn your own ways of doing things. For example, if I have an idea, then a man repeats it and passes it off as their own, I’ll say so, perhaps even make a joke about it. Learning your own coping mechanisms without making yourself feel uncomfortable is vital to navigating a world that doesn’t hold doors wide open for women.
I’ve been in boardrooms and continually not addressed, despite the questions being only answerable by me, but I’m sure I’ve also benefitted hugely from being a privileged, Oxford-educated white woman.
Sustainability is at the forefront of everything you do, especially through TALA. Tell us a bit about why being environmentally conscious is so important to you.
Being environmentally conscious should be important to everyone because we all live in the same world. Ignorance towards our own environment does nothing to change its reality. My priority is to make sustainability accessible, and in turn to combat the huge impact of the fashion industry on our planet. The industry needs to change, and we will help to make that change by offering competitive substitutes that are such good product, you’d buy them whether they were sustainable or not, or whether you care or not.
The activewear market is currently undergoing an eco-friendly revolution, with TALA being one of the most prominent companies driving this revolution. Why should more activewear companies follow suit and reconsider their processes and the fabrics and materials they use for their garments?
What a lovely accolade, thank you! Producing sustainably is vastly more expensive than not doing so, especially when not just looking at fabrics and materials and extending the values to dying processes and beyond, so it’s unlikely that the change will come all at once, especially beyond just greenwashing. That being said, the change is coming. We are disrupting and in order to keep up with the market, bigger companies are going to need to do the same. From a business side – as that has to be the priority for almost all businesses, especially big, profit-driven organisations – it’s a competitive advantage, and if it keeps going the way it is, lots will be left behind if they don’t innovate in the same way. It’s tough, but it’s a win-win!
What were the challenges connected to offering activewear that is both sustainable and comes at an affordable price? Why was this important to you?
The challenges are endless: the production process – from fabrics to extra stages collecting offcuts, even to accreditations – is hugely expensive. It doesn’t allow for the huge margins that the majority of fashion companies will be operating on. That being said, offering sustainable products at a competitive price point was our entire purpose. There are many sustainable companies out there, but you cannot tell people to be sustainable and then offer them a product 10x the price of the competition and expect them to change. Our idea was to provide a product that was almost indistinguishable from our unsustainable equivalents, to almost morph into a ‘normal’ brand, market as such, but throw in education, recycled materials, charitable events, and much more. I guess you could see it as accepting that the way to change the game is to play the game. The fashion industry is the way it is because people buy into it – we need to make those exact people buy into change by presenting as what they know, then hopefully give them an education on why what they’re doing is so great, as well!
Would you say that in 2020 sustainability is critical for business success?
I would say it is, but I likely live in an echo chamber. In future, it absolutely will be, and I think every company starting its journey as a business now must have a sustainability element – forget marketing, in order to survive! Sustainability is critical for our success, as well as our lives and our children’s lives, so technically, yes – sustainability is critical for business success.
Ignorance towards our own environment does nothing to change its reality.
You’ve just announced that you’ve written a book! Please do tell us a bit about this project.
Yes – it’s all very exciting! Our new generation is simultaneously known as the snowflake and burnout generation – not wanting to earn our stripes in corporations for 40 years before we live the life we desire, and then monetising every single hobby and free hour into a side hustle. Expectations of what success means are not changing with the times, and it’s leaving us feeling lost. I wanted to start a conversation with readers outwardly and within themselves that tackles these contradictions, which provides a productivity blueprint from the next generation.
Aside from the book, what are you currently working on?
Aside from the book and the companies? Mainly attempting to get some sleep! We’re currently in a scaling stage with both TALA and SHREDDY, so everything’s both very exciting and stressful. We’re hiring a good few people per month for entirely new roles and aiming to build the infrastructure we need to get to those big £XXXm revenue years without growing too fast. Each day is more exciting than the last, and each day requires more work than the last!
At such a young age, you’ve already achieved so much! What’s next for Grace Beverley?
Thank you! My aim following the publication of my book will be to continue that conversation, but also to give 95% of my time to the businesses. They’re in such crucial stages and any minute I spend away from them I feel like I’m missing out on their first steps and moments I’ve been waiting years for and even sometimes never thought would happen. I’m teaching myself (slowly) to say ‘no’ to more and take on less in order to give the attention where needed. I don’t want to look back and realise I was rushing through and ticking things off rather than looking around to enjoy the view at times. I’ve never celebrated our or my successes enough, and I’m going to start making a conscious effort to do so.