BBoheme Instagram: @boboheme
Producing with Purpose Instagram: @producingwithpurpose
Nōskin Instagram: @noskin.co
On this episode of Producing with Purpose, Presented by Noskin - I catch up with Alicia Lai, the founder of the UK based vegan footwear brand, B Boheme.
Currently facing a more unusual scenario, B Boheme are on a hiatus from operating whilst they prepare to re-brand and re-launch in 2022. Alicia takes us on through the interesting journey of the brand to date, and what the future has in store.
Changing the name and re-setting the path
Launching in 2005 as Bourgeois Boheme, the company were part of a new movement of brands introducing the vegan market to quality footwear. As the market has evolved and perceptions of vegan fashion has changed over time, a decision has been made to make the brand more accessible and more contemporary, resulting in a re-launch as B Boheme.
Considering that maybe the brand positioned itself too much as a vegan company, Alicia felt that a move to becoming a brand for the conscious consumer was a more relevant approach.
As a self-funded and sole owned company, Alicia speaks to the challenges that come with not having co-founders. However, we discuss the importance of making sure that if you do start a business with a team of people, each person brings a different skill-set to the company, rather than 'giving one job to two people.'
A brand on hold
In 2019, a decision was made to seek funding an expand the brand. Although B Boheme were a brand of choice and operating well, with the unexpected arrival of a global pandemic, Alicia felt that the best way to focus on expanding the brand to align with her new vision was to put a hold on operations and re-launch with the presence in the market she wanted to have.
Now going through a stage of capital raising, B Boheme are back on track for their re-launch, and are actively seeking investment.
As we often share on the show, the brand are open to discussing investment opportunities. You can visit https://bboheme.com/pages/contact-us to make contact regarding any investment discussions.As a previously entirely self-funded brand, this is the first venture into Capital raising for Alicia and the team, which is an exciting change of pace and Alicia gives some great advice regarding seeking funding and monitoring and forecasting cashflow to decide when the time is right to do this.
A return to 'normal'
B Boheme aim to return to full operation by 2022 once funding has been secured. With many of the processes and production streams already in place, B Boheme are planning to come back in full force and have a clear vision of how to progress, with an aspiration to push the business to the potential it has.
Acknowledging that sustainability and veganism in fashion is on the rise and conscious purchasing is becoming more key for consumers; as we do at Nōskin, Alicia believes that this is the time to be providing great products for these consumers, who also want to support the independent brands in the marketplace.
Creating a community
At the time of recording, Nōskin was just a few weeks away from launching. As is the case before any business opens the doors (be they physical, or digital), the primary obstacle is how to build that initial interest in the brand, and the first foundations of your customer base.
Whilst there is no silver bullet, Alicia gives her view on the importance of building the community around the brand, creating advocates and loyal fans who will start pushing your brand further afield than a starting marketing budget can achieve.
Alicia speaks of the important role that the community around brands like B Boheme plays, but also the role of the brand in ensuring that they are transparent, honest, and creating a product that genuinely serves the market well.
"There are so many routes that can be taken versus just 'the hard sell'"
Catching Alicia a little of guard, I speak to her about the various styles that have been produced for B Boheme throughout their time as a brand.
"Being a sustainable brand, it's not about producing a million different styles. It's thinking about what [your customers] need in a day, and making that a more interesting offer for them.
Alicia goes on to discuss the balance in fashion between selling out of a style rather than having thousands of overstock left in a warehouse, especially when thinking about circularity within fashion and avoiding product going to landfill.
Surviving the first 12 months
We wrap up the episode with some great insight from Alicia on how to survive the first 12 months. The ways in which to get the name out, how it's ok to be somewhat shameless in promoting your brand, and how to be patient and set realistic goals when it comes to getting the ball rolling. All valuable advice, which I've been keeping in mind since we launched Nōskin just a few weeks ago.
"Go out there and shout about your brand, because if you're not doing it, who else is going to?"