Interview with Danielle Wathes, founder of Discovery Journal and Percy Stride Footwear

Find out how Danielle Wathes started her own footwear brand Percy Stride Footwear five years ago, soon after leaving university. After a long struggle with anxiety and OCD, she also began designing and making anxiety journals and tools for Discovery Journal in 2020.

Danielle is a one-woman-bands and works from home running her two businesses while (in a usual year) keeping a part-time job in a military museum.

What’s your career background?

Having studied for three years at Leicester’s De Montfort University I graduated as a BA Honors Footwear Designer in 2014, it wasn’t long after that I started my own brand Percy Stride.

I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and having my own brand was always going to be the end game but it took a year or so of odd jobs and internships to realize that the perfect time was already upon me. It’s not necessary advised right out of education but I didn’t want to waste any time.

I knew I was capable and prepared to learn and work to get myself where I needed to be. There wasn’t a single aspect of being a footwear designer that I liked more so why not do a bit of everything! So, it’s been nearly five years now and I love what I’m doing, watching my business organically grow by the day.

You have a business, why did you start another?

I began working on Percy Stride in 2015 and footwear is always a slow process. The designing of new shoes alone can take up to a year. I’d been working on a separate business idea Discovery Journal for a while but I hadn’t had the time to put it into fruition until lockdown hit.

When life began to slow down, so did my plans for Percy Stride. I used my time creating new ranges of shoes and allowing the professionals at the factory to make those dreams a reality while I worked on Discovery Journal.

This past year has enabled me to trial and error my time, get suppliers in place and set a schedule for myself which will allow me to go forward into 2021 with both businesses and hopefully less sleepless nights!

What is Discovery Journal?

I’ve lived with severe anxiety and OCD since I was 16 (or at least that’s my recollection) it debilitated me and kept me from many things I would have liked to experience.

I started Discovery Journal to implement some of the tools I have used to aid my recovery in hopes that others who suffer from mental health issues will benefit from them. Discovery Journal is a passion project for my personal story.  

Who’s your target audience?

That’s where it starts to get complicated. I chose to create two businesses with two completely different markets. Percy Stride tends to have a target audience of gentleman between 35-60 years whereas Discovery Journal attracts mostly young ladies.

I have spent many years learning about my male customers, enlisting help and taking guidance and advice to help me produce products and services they can relate to, whereas my audience for Discovery Journal comes more easily for me. It definitely a challenge wearing two different hats and switching them up several times a day.

Why is work so important to you?

It keeps me going. It’s not so much work as it is a purpose. I’m an absolute terror if I don’t have anything to do. Its vital to me to create. I get easily inspired by what’s around me so it’s never something I can just turn off. Every time I complete something, I feel like it’s a day well spent; I always crave the satisfaction of knowing I’m one step closer to my vision.

What is your USP?

It doesn’t matter which business hat I’m wearing I always put customer service above them all. I try and make my business personal. I want my customers to feel as though they have my attention, can ask me questions.

I am after all a real person and its crucial that that comes across and is known. I studied footwear so I could answer the questions my customers have and I lived through anxiety so I can relate to their struggle.

I use my personal experiences to shape my businesses and will continue to do so.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

It’s not easy. But it’s completely worth it. There was no other path that I was going to take. Having entrepreneurial spirit is something you can sense within you and not something you can force.

I’d say trust your instincts and have confidence in your own abilities. I suffer from moments where I lack clarity and confidence and is something, I’m working to overcome to strengthen myself and my businesses

Be prepared to live on a roller-coaster. No day is the same, its not smooth sailing and there are always days, hours or minutes that feel horrible but they do pass and will be replaced with days where you say “what was I worried about?”

Find out more about Percy Stride Footwear and Discovery Journal.