Girl Power and all that jazz…
With it being International Day of the Girl on October 11, I thought it would be great to do a quick-fire interview with two female founders (twin sisters Natalie Bardega and Danielle Newnham). They have focused their unique business – Tease and Totes – around the empowerment of girls which they do via their catchy slogan tops. Their weekly interviews with inspiring women and, their partnership with the Worldreader (100% proceeds from their mother-daughter Girl Power t-shirts go to the non-profit).
Can tell you more about Tease and Totes and why you focused your business on empowering girls?
Newnham: Well, I actually worked in the tech industry for ten years, and found that despite there being a number of brilliant women founders. We were almost invisible – the press didn’t cover us, investors shied away from us. So as far as young girls were concerned, we didn’t exist which meant there weren’t many visible role models. I understand how this would have a negative effect on getting more girls into STEM and so I decided to do two things. One was to write a book about female founders and innovators in tech which will be published in 2016. The other was to set up Tease and Totes.
My sister, who has a background in fashion, and I had been talking about the ways in which we could make female role models in business sport, tech etc more visible. Really, that’s when we settled on fashion because we believe it has the ability to distribute a message such as ours (the empowerment of girls and women) far and wide.
As you can see from our range, all of our slogans are designed to make the women who wear them stand out (Fearless, Unapologetic, Girl Power, Here’s to the Crazy Ones, Misfit Rebel Trouble Maker). They are also designed to empower the women who wear them. That’s really important to us because if women don’t believe in themselves, they are unlikely to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook famously suggests.
When we looked around at the market, we found very little for girls who wanted to be more than just a “princess”. And absolutely nothing for women who were or wanted to become entrepreneurs so we started Tease and Totes to fill that gap.
Tell us More
Danielle, how do you find combining motherhood with running a business and writing a book?
Newnham: It’s definitely hard but all the things worth doing in life are aren’t they? I was actually fortunate because once I had my son, I knew straight away that I wanted to manage my own work time which meant running my own business and so that’s what I did. I actually also wrote my first book about mobile entrepreneurs whilst on maternity leave. I truly believe that having my spare time and energy focused on the book undoubtedly saved me from a serious bout of postnatal depression.
It was still hard though. I had initially signed a book deal but soon learned that publishers had a particular way of doing things and, I didn’t want to do it that way. I didn’t want to wait almost a year after completing the book for it to hit the shops. I knew that meant the industry would have moved on and so much of it wouldn’t be as relevant. There were many other reasons too, but I am glad I ended up taking control. For sure, I will definitely be self-publishing the book about female founders and innovators in tech too.
Going back to Tease and Totes, what type of customer do you have?
Bardega: Thanks to platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, we deal directly with our customers on a daily basis which is great. We’re proud to say we have a diverse range of customer from women in sport to entrepreneurs and girls who are rightly aiming highly.
Plus, we also have a few celeb fans such as the Madeleine Shaw, Ladies of London, Thandie Newton, and some others we are not allowed to talk about!
Finally, how do you plan to grow your business and empower more girls?
Bardega: Next – we plan to expand our range of empowering slogan tops to include the use of technology. We want to tell the stories of many fantastic pioneering women in history. Also, we will continue to work with Worldreader to help them with their mission of getting more girls in Sub—Saharan Africa and India out of poverty via the power of education. Furthermore, due to the popularity of our weekly interviews with inspiring women, we are hoping to host a TED style event with a line-up of all female speakers.
Thanks to Danielle and Natalie, do follow them at @teaseandtotes