The If We Can You Can Challenge is back for its tenth year, showcasing more brilliant North East start-ups. BQ caught up with Amy Fettus, founder of AIM Athleisure, to find out why she has entered her business into the competition.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Before starting my journey with AIM, I was working as a consultant manager and would go in to other people’s businesses to complete a specific project for them which could be establishing a new stream of revenue or effecting some kind of change. The work was always through referral or word of mouth and I loved every second of it! I met some incredibly inspiring people who have hugely influenced my path since, and I am grateful for the most amazing experiences.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I have always loved fitness and feeling well and following the Olympics in 2012 I could see that the way we were all living was beginning to change as there was a raised level of awareness about health and so hence a shift towards incorporating exercise in to our everyday lives. This combined with the rise of the ‘selfie’ generation meant it was no longer acceptable to wear the same old thing to the gym every day and one day my sister and I were having a conversation about how expensive it was to regularly buy activewear which looked good but still performed and I thought with my experience I must be able to do something about this . . and so I did!
What makes this business different?
I never set out to create a lifestyle brand, that is just one of the lovely outcomes. I set out to solve a need in the marketplace for clothing which was led by fashion and looked fab while fitting really well and performing in all environments whether that be out running, in a yoga studio or even just comfortable for a day at your desk before a night at the Barre. Setting out with that intention has attracted all the fantastic trade clients I now work with to provide their customised collections of our CORE garments and they have literally shaped this business. I know our product works because it has been endorsed by fitness professionals. In addition, this passion for adding value to the businesses I work with has transferred in to the partners I trust to produce our garments all of whom are based here in the UK so every aspect of AIM is British from the design to the fabric, trim and production.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
Quite simply, Caroline Theobald. She is a wonderful woman and such a supporter of women in business, the north east and championing early stage companies like mine to grow. Her belief in me and what I am trying to achieve with AIM inspired me to think I could and should enter.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
In three years’ time I want AIM athleisure and more specifically our signature AIM ‘A’ reflective logo to be instantly recognisable. I want you to be running on a treadmill behind someone and know they’ve got an AIM top on. Our CORE collection of stretch pieces will be bolstered by accessories such as bags, water bottles and yoga mats, we will have introduced ‘traditional’ fashion pieces to complement the CORE shapes and complete the athleisure look as well as expanding in to juniors, swimwear and lingerie. In more tangible terms, I would like to see our graduate intern and apprenticeship schemes established and thriving, our products being exported internationally and annual sales hitting seven figures.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
Easy. Seeing the team members who have been with me on this journey go on to soar in their careers. I work so hard at growing and developing AIM to make us all proud. I want them to feel proud of their time spent in the business and one day be able to say I was part of that, I helped make that happen! I couldn’t do any of it without the huge effort from each of them.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There have been so many. Access to finance has been a hurdle throughout and I picked a particularly difficult business model for this because innovating and creating anything from scratch requires a huge amount of time and resources. I would say take your initial estimate, triple it and you’re probably still shy! I have got in my own way too. I have to work constantly on my mind, educating myself in both practical knowledge about my sector and business as well as learning about myself and how I am limiting my personal growth and subsequently the growth of AIM with the stories I tell myself about what I can(not) achieve.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
I have an amazing mentor, Ed Meikle from DWF LLP has been with me right from the start and he is always there with a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on, he’s a rock. My friends and family; if it wasn’t for them picking me up over and over again I wouldn’t be here now. I invest in a lot of personal development through audio and physical books and I am a member of an online coaching community for female entrepreneurs which is a fantastic resource. Swimming is my exercise of choice so endless hours are spent in the spa where I read, make notes and then digest over half a mile or a mile in the pool if I have a particularly tough problem to solve!
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
There is no magic. There is no quick fix. There is no easy way. It takes consistent hard work, huge sacrifices and the only secret is to never, ever give up. Just start now and keep going.
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