Howdy all - welcome to the first in a series of blog posts where I shall be chatting to SuperWomen running small businesses to find out what makes them tick, what drives them bananas, what they wish knew and wish they didn't...
Small businesses thrive on the support and kinship we can share for one another which is why it's good to wear our hearts on our sleeve and blow away some of the smoke & mirrors which can often blur the day-to-day realities of the thrills and lulls of businesswoman life.
To start us off on this little Q&A adventure, drumroll please for.... Ester Ford, owner of Dinki Human.
1. Who are you and where do you come from?!
I’m Ester! I’m a designer and owner of Dinki Human. I’m originally from Devon, I moved to London to study and work and now I’m based in Dorset living family life by the sea.
2. How did your brand arrive into the world and where did the name come from?
I was pregnant with my daughter and excited to buy her a little gender-neutral wardrobe. It was important to us that we avoided gender stereotypes in dressing our dinki human, and I was so frustrated with the lack of options available. I loved all the cool Scandi and Aussie brands but they weren’t easy to get hold of at the time. I had worked in fashion for many years and the highlight had been managing a small kidswear department, there’s so much fun to be had with kidswear!
3. What are the biggest challenges you face as a small business?
Ensuring Dinki Human is organic, non-toxic, and ethically made can be expensive and restrictive. Sourcing the right fabrics and suppliers has taken extensive work and there are plenty of issues I come up against, I’d love to be able to use more fabrics but refuse to introduce micro-plastic shedding polyesters etc. in to the range. It’s also hard to be seen, I’m a one-woman-team (with an incredibly supportive husband I will add!) working part-time alongside raising my nearly 3 year old dinki human. It’s a juggle! I’d love a marketing team one day!
4. What have been your biggest HURRAH moments so far?
I like to celebrate small wins and I like a gin and tonic so I have a HURRAH whenever I see my prints come to life on a fabric, or when someone shares a picture of their Dinki wearing one of my designs, and obviously sales make me jump for joy as well! These things all mean so much to small business owners like me! Essentially I love what I do, I feel very, very lucky to be able to do it, it’s so so hard but so worth celebrating.
5. If you could give 3 pieces of advice to yourself when you started out, what would it be?
Firstly, don’t play it so safe! Dive in a bit more, take chances. I’m cautious and anxious and my fear of spending all my savings on something that might not work out meant I spent time treading water, doubting myself and therefore delaying progress.
Secondly, the side hustle is not for you! Some people manage this very well, I couldn’t balance my pre-mumma job, my dreams of having my own brand and being the mum I wanted to be. It was too much! I don’t give up easily so luckily I was made redundant so I didn’t have to quit.
Thirdly, take advantage of your dinki being small and immobile! When I was mum to a baby I thought working from home building a brand was hard, now I’m mum to a toddler I can see that was far easier! Nowadays I can’t get my laptop out without my mini assistant ‘helping’ to write emails, or answer phone calls without the overjoyed toddler shouting “DADDDYYYYY!” and trying to take the phone. She once told my trims supplier she had just done a massive poo!
6. What are your long-term hopes and aims?
I will continue to design with integrity to build an environmentally responsible and ethically conscious brand. I’d LOVE to be able to work within an entirely circular model so every product Dinki Human ever produces will have a pre-designed ‘end of use’ plan rather than an ‘end of life’ with it discarded into landfill (where 99% of all textiles end up). I want everyone to pass on their Dinki products so they can be worn again or made in to something new. I’d love to grow the brand slowly and sustainably so it remains true to it’s ethos and future-proof.
7. If you could choose just one store for your clothes to be stocked in, who would it be and why?
Alex and Alexa! No explanation needed really, a fantastic collection of brands, something for everyone - Dinki Human would fit in perfectly!
8. What’s the most common misconception when it comes to having your own business?
Small businesses are seen as expensive - we’re not! We can’t compete with the highstreet giants and we don’t want to. It’s assumed the £20 I take for a pair of leggings goes in my pocket, it doesn’t, it’s shared out among all the people who contributed to the manufacture of that product. Machinists, cutters, dyers, printers, weavers and farmers in our supply chain are paid fairly and treated with respect. The Dinki Human supply chain is transparent and ethical. A pair of leggings on the highstreet may be £5.99 but the true cost of that garment is far higher (in terms of human rights and environmental impact).
9. You’re granted 1 wish for your brand – what would it be?
Tough one! I’d love to be ‘discovered’! I’d love to be recognised as a cool, ethical kidswear brand. Maybe an authentic celebrity endorsement... would wishing for Beyonce be asking too much?! Blue, Rumi and Sir would rock Dinki Human! Although, the massive influx of customers may be waiting for their orders for some time - Dinki Human doesn’t do ‘fast-fashion’ after all!