The highs and lows of a lockdown launch by MOTHERS MEETING MEMBER Alison Mcaleavy, ZIG & STAR Founder
‘If I could give my kids one thing, it would be freedom: freedom to choose styles that show their individuality, and freedom to move around comfortably and to have fun,’ explains Alison McAleavy, founder of Zig + Star. ‘Why can’t boys be free to wear animal prints and metallics, and why do girls have to wear shoes they can’t climb trees or run fast in?’ That’s the ethos behind her gorgeous new footwear brand, approved by podiatrists and styled with years of experience working for some of the fashion world’s hottest brands.
After working for more than 20 years in fashion, starting in footwear for some of the biggest names on the high street and culminating as head of buying for Topshop, London-based designer Alison spotted a huge gap in the market while on maternity leave with her son, Ziggy.
So it’s 14 weeks since I’ve launched Zig+Star… the idea I’d been working on for 2 years… starting in very normal times, but taking in some very surreal times too..
14 weeks sounds like the blink of an eye… but it feels like a lifetime
So what have a learnt in that time??
Every single customer makes it all worthwhile
That ping sound you get for a sale never gets old… don’t get me wrong, its not because of the money… but because it’s a little bit of encouragement that comes at just the right time when you might be doubting yourself, or questioning what your doing. Starting a business on your own can be a lonely place and every customer email, sale, recommendation feels like a lifeline.
I feel so thankful for every single follow, like, comment… All of it is a validation that you’re on the right track and to keep going even when it feels like a hard slog.
Thank-you to everyone that has supported our small biz so far, I hope you stay on this journey with us.
You have to learn to roll with the punches
So we launched mid March… the reaction blew me away… the sales were coming in, I was growing on instagram, there was great customer feedback, everything felt so positive.
And then…. It rained for 3 weeks… and iron’t just mean it rained a bit… it poured every day from morning to night. My poor old 80’s conservatory couldn’t cope, and we had at least 6 bowls out to catch the rain.
It was hard not to think back to last year… yes we were in lockdown, but we basically had long balmy days from April to September.
So with the rain came quiet weeks… yes it’s raining you think, but maybe people just don’t like what we’re doing? Maybe there’s something we need to change or do differently. All these questions go through your head, and when you work alone, as `I do, they can dominate your thoughts.
But roll on a few weeks later, the sun came back (for now) and so did the sales… You learn not to take the lows to heart… and it’s the same with the highs. There will be good weeks and bad weeks. You just need to stick to your mission and your instinct and keep pushing forward.
Instagram isn’t as bad as I thought
Before I started the brand, I wasn’t really into social media. I never posted, but would only go on for a bit of a nose. The idea of posting about myself and the brand sort of freaked me out. The thing that really shifted my mindset was doing Lucy Sheridan’s Good Gram course. I started to think about instagram as a community (it is a “social”network after all). I just had to find my tribe. And once I started thinking and interacting in that way, it didn’t feel like work… It felt like a support network, whether it be other small brands, or people that took the time to encourage you.
Yes it can be time consuming and a bit arduous sometimes, but the more consideration your put in, the more you get out of it, and it’s been an absolute godsend to a small lockdown business like mine.
But IRL is even better
Even without the lockdown we’ve had, I think a lot of small Ecom businesses like mine operate pretty much 100% virtually… We don’t have shops, most of us don’t have teams or offices… It’s just us and our laptops living through Shopify and social media (and the Mothers Meeting gang which has been a lifeline). But still, having in real life conversations with people other than delivery drivers has been rare.
The best thing I did was to start doing local London deliveries to customers… I can honestly say it’s been the best part of the job. Meeting customers, having a chat, getting direct feedback… it’s been amazing. I have learnt more from a 5 minute chit-chat on someones doorstep than I have from the many hours of market research googling I have done.
Work with people you’d want to hang out with
I launched with one stockist (thank-you at Windmill shoes in Crouch End!) but as soon as the restrictions allowed, I got out to meet new potential stockists… I wasn’t in the market for trying to flog the brand to anyone, but it wasn’t about exclusivity. It was about finding people I could partner with… People that appreciated what we were trying to do with Zig+Star and we could collaborate with. I have 5 stockists now, and every single one is totally lovely. The feedback and support I get from them is amazing at this early stage of our journey and will help us grown and develop as a brand. Thank you to Word Store London, Luna&Curious, What Mother Made and Jump shoes for all your support.
And when the time comes to hopefully expanding my little team of one, I will take that with me. Working with people who mirror your values, who you trust, and and who you like spending time with… that’s the ultimate goal
Thank-you to everyone, both professionally and personally, who have supported and helped develop the business so far… It means the world.