Interview with Lucy Kebbell, founder of The Vendeur and The WIP
What’s your career background?
I have worked in the fashion industry in some form or another since I was 19. I spent the first part of my career working in fashion editorial for glossy magazines creating the amazing photo shoots you see when you flick through, as well as working on digital fashion websites, but always from a media perspective.
A few years ago, I realised that my values had changed and that I needed to do something where I could make a positive impact. So, I pivoted to concentrate more on sustainability in the industry and on writing. This led me to found The Vendeur in 2018 after struggling to find relevant content for people like myself who enjoy fashion, but wanted to be more conscious.
Almost three years on and I am now working to launch our membership platform for sustainable brand founders and entrepreneurs called The WIP.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As with creating The Vendeur, I felt that there was a gap for bringing together brands in order to collaborate. I have spent a career connecting people to work together and solve problems. So, when the pandemic hit and we went into the first lockdown in 2020, I was really concerned for all these amazing sustainable brands who were making amazing strides in the space, but at great cost to themselves.
After some asking around, I discovered that most founders didn’t know each other, and that many, like myself, had found themselves in this niche having started elsewhere. They struggled to fill an address book of like-minded people. They also had typical SME issues like ‘how can I market my brand without it seeming like I am Greenwashing’, and ‘where can I find someone to do copyrighting who understands the nuances of being an eco-aware brand’?
How did you move from idea to actual business?
It was an issue I couldn’t ignore, and at the time, no one else was providing this. We weren’t sure when things would get ‘back to normal’ and so I felt that I should just go for it. The WIP started as something simpler than it is now (and with a different name). However, having collaborated over the last few months with some amazing creatives, it is becoming bigger than I initially dreamed. We launch later this year, and I can’t wait.
What’s your USP?
We are for everybody. Sustainability has a rep for being for the privileged few. However, I really don’t see it that way. It has certainly been hijacked and marketed as something we need to spend money on and have a certain background in, but that’s simply not the case. The WIP will democratise knowledge for everyone from brand founder to entrepreneur and side hustler.
It doesn’t matter what your background, experience or cash flow, we will offer something to everyone. If you want to learn and grow, then we’re here for you. BIPOC and women specifically have so much to offer this industry and are among the biggest group of people becoming entrepreneurs.
Who’s your target audience?
Brand founders, entrepreneurs, designers and side hustlers in the sustainable fashion and lifestyle niche. We will also have content for people who are consumers and want to learn more about how businesses operate. I hope to grow and include people from sustainable hospitality, food and beverage, interiors and architecture too.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
I literally tell everyone I meet about what I do, because living consciously is also part of my life. I’m always able to tell them something interesting about their consumption. I am active across social media, specifically Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, plus we have a podcast Style With Substance which is popular.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
Currently it’s been word of mouth. The people I know understand how passionate I am, and I think that really helps when you are spreading a message.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
My own self confidence. Becoming an entrepreneur and founder pushed me to the forefront of a company, something I have never been confident in doing. However, since I launched The Vendeur and through publicising The WIP and our upcoming Kickstarter campaign, I am slowly gaining more confidence in selling my product to people and being the face of my company.
And your proudest moment so far?
There have been a few. Launching The Vendeur was a big one because I felt so exposed doing something myself. I had either been an assistant, or part of another company, but now it was just me. The ongoing launch of The WIP is another, because every day I have to push myself a bit more out of my comfort zone. Everyday that I haven’t given up is a big win.
Why is work so important to you?
I’ve always been very career minded, I couldn’t wait to leave school and start working; I didn’t have the patience to go to university. Now it’s a drive to help people who are doing the right thing. These brands are helping to lift our planet out of an almighty mess, and they aren’t getting enough support.
When I had my baby, I honestly thought I would not want to go back to work, but now I feel that it gives me something I need. Going to work helps me be a better Mum because I have ticked off that part of myself that needs to make a difference.
Who inspires you?
Other female founders smashing the glass ceiling and innovators creating incredible solutions to our environmental problems. My partner who works so hard but continues to feel creative and inspired. My son inspires me to work for a better world. I can’t leave him with what we currently have.
How do you balance your work with your family?
With great difficulty. Our childcare situation is still patchy so thank goodness my little one sleeps consistently. I have an amazing support unit in his grandparents and my partner who believe in what I’m doing and love to help. I’m also quite good at switching from mum mode to work mode when I need to.
I really try not to mix the two because I don’t want him to remember a childhood of me just staring at a screen or constantly taking work calls. However, I do need to make more of an effort when it comes to spending time with friends and family. Sometimes you can’t keep all your plates spinning.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
- You have to be willing to learn and get things wrong. The sustainable industry is still evolving, and what we knew to be true and eco-friendly last month, doesn’t always hold up this month. Sometimes we have to admit we made a mistake and move on.
- Listen to people and observe. I’m a real chatterbox so love engaging people in conversation. Through these chats I have learnt so much about people’s pain points and this has helped me craft a solution built for them. I’m also a keen voyeur in groups and communities that are not my own. Through listening and taking on board areas I and my business can do better, I hope to bring them the most value.
- Think outside of the box and don’t limit your beliefs. I am guilty of thinking small and limiting myself as to what I can achieve. Working with other amazing minds has helped me think bigger.