Interview with Josefa Buckland, founder of Graceful Changes

Find out what inspired Josefa Buckland to set up Graceful Changes, an ethical baby and toddler clothes rental service.

What’s your career background?

Varied! After completing a degree in English Language and Literature at Wadham College, Oxford, my first job was at the Oxford University Student Union, as the first charities and communities officer.

I never knew what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’. I trained as a chartered accountant and worked for a large accountancy firm for a number of years. Then, in search of greater job satisfaction, I retrained as a primary school teacher. But teaching didn’t prove as fulfilling as I had hoped!

I then worked at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, in a number of roles, before leaving to set up Graceful Changes.

How did your career change after having children?

I went back to work after a year’s maternity leave with my first child. I returned part-time, and worked there for a year before leaving to set up my own business, Graceful Changes.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I have always been interested in environmental issues and social responsibility. I came across a TED talk by Vigga Svensson about the rationale for renting clothes instead of buying them.

After having my first child I realised that this was a service that I would like to use. There were very few rental options available, so I decided to start one!

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I went from idea to trading fairly quickly after a few months of research and preparation (mainly undertaken during the night!). I felt that this could work for me, even running things on a small scale and so I took the plunge.

My launch event was at the Bonnie Bairn’s fair in Edinburgh. The rest is (recent) history!

What’s your USP?

We provide a friendly and personal service to our subscribers, and stay true to our values in everything we do.

Who’s your target audience?

Parents (mostly mums) with children from newborn up to age three years.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Initially, it was just through word of mouth and social media. In addition, we are now trying to get out and talk more about the benefits of renting at events and in the media.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Providing an excellent service and building relationships with our subscribers. Our subscribers have been very loyal and supportive, which has really helped us establish the business.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I fell pregnant with my second child about five months after launching the business. Working during pregnancy and caring for a toddler was challenging. My daughter was born during ‘lockdown’ in April 2020 and so we have had to do lots of juggling!

And your proudest moment so far?

Winning support from Zero Waste Scotland. This gave me confidence that we were really onto something that could make an impact.

Why is work so important to you?

Graceful Changes is important to me because I believe in the concept and I feel I can make a genuine contribution. It also gives me the opportunity to put my family first and set a good example to my two daughters.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by people who use their skills and energy to benefit others and are not afraid to be different. At the moment, along with the rest of the world, I am inspired by Jacinda Ardern the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Her effective handling of crises with empathy has been wonderful. Taking maternity leave, and then leading a country whilst also being a mum, including taking her baby to the United Nations general assembly is breaking new ground.

I am also inspired by so many ‘ordinary’ women I know, who are smart, caring and make life better for their families and friends even in difficult circumstances. I have met some wonderful women through starting my own business.

How do you balance your work with your family?

Having total flexibility means I can work around my family’s needs. For me, this is a huge benefit of being my own boss.

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

  1. Be open to learning.
  2. Connect with likeminded people for support. 
  3. Be kind to yourself.

Find out more about Graceful Changes.