The birth of an opportunity
Active Truth started with a new friendship. In 2011, Stevie Angel and Nadia Tucker moved to Brisbane on the same day and became neighbours. Both were mothers with babies in a new city, and frequent strolls to the playground quickly created a strong bond.
After they each had a second baby (a few short weeks apart), the pair decided to get back into shape at the gym. Only there was a problem.
“The idea of taking our kids to a shopping centre and trying on Lycra in a changing room was not at all appealing,” Stevie says.
Their solution was to shop online, which raised another problem. Every time they ordered a new piece of activewear, they’d receive a product that didn’t perform in real life despite looking fantastic on the model in promotional shots. Tights would arrive and not fit properly; if they fit they’d often sag during workouts.
“And then talking to friends and family it became clear that we weren't the only ones experiencing that,” Stevie says. “In particular, women who wore larger sizes were really underserved by the activewear market.”
So in 2016 the pair launched Active Truth – turning a niche idea into a business to inspire women to get into shape and feel great doing it.
“It was really important that we were creating a brand that not only catered to more diverse women, but also represented them all in the same way.”Stevie Angel, founder - Active Truth
With a little help from my friends
The business duo started up in a challenging setting. Both were working full-time during the day, and neither had any experience in fashion. “Stevie previously worked in communication and I was lawyer,” Nadia says. “I didn't know a twin needle from a flat lock.”
Their long journey began with a Google search: ‘how do you start an activewear brand?’
“I know it sounds silly,” Nadia says. “We worked out that we needed to use a pattern maker, that we had to speak to manufacturers, that we had to source materials. That took us a good 12 months because we were starting from scratch.”
Balancing their families and careers, the pair spent what little free time they had running the business out of Stevie’s kitchen. They started off with $20,000, producing around 100 pairs of tights, which they stored in Nadia’s living room.
They had a lot to learn. “We really understood from early on that for businesses to succeed, you really need to know your numbers,” Nadia says. This realisation eventually took them to a finance and management course at the Australian Institute of Management, which gave them the tools to ask the right questions and find the right answers.
They also soaked up as much outside knowledge and experience as they could. “We both read very widely and listen to a lot of podcasts,” Nadia says. “We're always about self-learning and are really motivated to learn from the experiences of others and adapt that into our business models.”
Stevie says that while the experience has had “ups and downs,” it’s ultimately made their friendship stronger. “We’re even better friends now than when we started, having gone through so much,” she says. “We spend all our time at work together, [and] we’re best mates. Our kids are best mates."
“Fortunately for us, we are a great team. We both have different strengths [and] have naturally moved into different areas of the business. If we see the other person is getting run down, the other will jump in.”Stevie Angel, founder - Active Truth
Getting the right help helps
As well as taking a DIY approach to learning, Stevie and Nadia know where to turn to for an extra hand.
“We have this philosophy to find experts in these specific areas to help us,” Stevie says.
And more than expertise, they also know the importance of having a strong relationship with those contractors outside of their direct team.
“We outsource our production. We outsource our logistics. We outsource our financial services. But in saying that, we are really focused and put a lot of importance on having really strong relationships with those teams.”Stevie Angel, founder - Active Truth
“We really do consider them part of our bigger team,” Stevie says.
Turning heads in a competitive industry
Lack of experience and resources weren’t their only barriers to entry. Australians spend approximately $1.5 billion a year on activewear. And although this presents opportunity, getting exposure in a busy marketplace is tricky.
All of their initial investment was tied up in manufacturing their products, so the pair had to use smart marketing to get noticed – including all organic social media – and they did it by celebrating real women. Their website doesn’t sell products using photoshopped models. They use models of all shapes and sizes.
“The way that we market to our customer is different to what all other activewear brands are doing,” Nadia says. “That was really important to differentiate ourselves,” Stevie adds.
Women around Australia responded to Active Truth’s message in droves.
Today, the pair employs four people and produces everything from maternity tights to tops and crops. Their product has reached over 20,000 women.
They leveraged an early period of growth by strengthening their relationships with suppliers and investing earnings “straight back into stock,” says Stevie.
They say that winning the 2018 Queensland Telstra Business Award for Emerging and Energised was a “pinch me” moment for the business, Stevie says. “It helped us formulate strategies moving into the future.”
The best is yet to come for Active Truth.
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