Kintsugi Clothing - Emma McClelland
Emma McClelland, founder of Kintsugi Clothing, has built a business that makes fashionable clothing more accessible for disabled women. I'm always absolutely fascinated to chat the founders of businesses that solve real problems and it was a pleasure to chat to Emma about this one.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
We make fashionable women’s clothing with design features that make each item more accessible to disabled customers.
Who do you run the business with?
Until three months ago, it was just me running the business. I now work with a co-founder, David, who has really helped us scale.
What makes you different from your competitors?
We focus on making ‘inclusive’ clothing that can be worn by both disabled and non-disabled women. A lot of ‘adaptive’ clothing brands create apparel solely for disabled customers, which there is a need for, but we wanted to play with designs to see how we could make them universal.
I think, additionally, we view the functionality of an item – how easy it is to get into if you had dexterity challenges, for example – as equally important to its aesthetic qualities. It seems that some of the more traditional ‘adaptive’ companies seem to focus solely on the adaptation, so their clothes can be quite bland to look at.
What inspired you to start Kintsugi Clothing?
I watched a Ted Talk by disability fashion stylist Stephanie Thomas where she revealed that there were more clothing options available for dogs than disabled people. She demonstrated some of the considerations designers could take to make their clothing more accessible to people with a range of impairments. After that, I couldn’t shake the idea and I was at a point in my life where I wanted to take a risk, so I quit my full-time job and made the leap.
2020: What a year! How has the pandemic affected you?
A lot of the Kintsugi collection is smart casual and workwear! So, as you can imagine, people stopped purchasing things for the office. We also had a couple of delays in our supply chain which meant a whole load of summer dresses arrived with us in autumn, much too late. So we’re sitting on those until next year. Not ideal. However, we have split the company into two brands, with sister brand ‘K, Babe’ focusing on championing diversity and inclusion. That has been a positive decision, allowing us to bring in some additional revenue and keep afloat.
What do you love most about running your business?
I love packaging orders because I like showing customers how valued they are. From wrapping their item in gold or black tissue paper and adding customised stickers to writing thank you cards and adding little surprises (for Christmas it’s little candy canes), the whole thing feels really special.
And what are the biggest challenges?
Cash flow! We hold a lot of stock and it’s quite scary knowing how much is tied up in that – as I mentioned before, much of it is smart workwear and that hasn’t been selling this year for obvious reasons. Finding ways to keep the cash coming in and the lights on has been tough this year.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Stay patient! If you’re anything like me (impulsive, easily excited by ideas) then you might have a tendency to rush into things. It’s great to have the huge ambition for your business, but build up to it. Start with a minimum viable product and read about a lean approach to business (I did not do this and I still wish I had). Rushing and overspending are not your friends!
Thank you so much, Emma!
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