Nancy Zeffman

Women Leadership – Musings of a Co-Founder of a fashion start-up

My background is in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi; Eileen, my Co-Founder, has a background in fashion working for Nichole Fahri. We have been friends for a long time, having met at the school gate when our children were little. We felt that our complementary backgrounds, skills sets and characters were the perfect combination to start a business together.

We have just celebrated our third anniversary, having launched in September 2017. It has been a roller coaster rider of fantastic highs, some nerve wracking lows, but mostly hard work and lots of fun. We have met some amazing people along the way and it has shown us that there is a kind way to do business – it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of those around you or indeed the planet.

Sometimes, with so much to do on a daily basis, we can forget to pat ourselves on the back and realise how far we have come in those three years, We hope that Cucumber will grow from strength to strength, but either way, we have launched a label that is a recognised brand worldwide with customers all over the globe. No mean feat for a tiny start-up on a shoestring budget with no outside marketing or PR help.

I think to launch any business takes three main characteristics; determination – if you want to go from something you have to give it your all and see it through; organisation – there is always so much to do and not all of it can be done at once; which leads me onto prioritising – and this means in a personal capacity too. You have to learn to prioritise yourself sometimes so that the business can be supported by two mentally and physically fit happy co-founders. If we are flailing, then the business will suffer so it’s in everyone’s interests to stay fit and focused.

The lightbulb moment for our business happened when we realised that we were spending so much of our day in our workout gear. Getting dressed for a gym or pilates session and then not changing as the materials used are so comfortable to wear, stay crease free and are easy to care for. We wanted to replicate all the qualities of anti-crush, cooling, stay fresh and comfortable clothing, but in more stylish everyday pieces from materials that looked as good as they feel. Every piece of Cucumber feels amazing next to the skin.

After researching fabrics for almost two years, we launched with a very small capsule collection of just six nightwear pieces to test the market. We were truly overwhelmed by the response we got which gave us the confidence to expand into more everyday pieces. There was and is clearly a market for ultra- modern performance fabrics that work with your body. Modern clothing should do more than just dress a body. All our fabrics and styles provide women with wardrobe solutions for their busy lives – timeless pieces that fit into their wardrobe, require minimal care and can be worn day or night, at home, at work or globetrotting the world.

Sometimes, being a tiny start-up can have real advantages – it forces you to make everything work that bit harder. We have always had to find innovative ways to achieve our goals. Unconventionality is what we stand for, both in terms of what we are doing and how we get things done. We see ourselves as, amongst other things, educators in this space. Technical fabrics can feel fabulous, they keep the wearer cool and fresh and they can be sustainable. So many women feel that human made fibres by their very nature cannot be sustainable and cannot be luxurious We are here to bust that myth! We are not the scratchy nylons of the 70’s; we are beautiful, luxuriously soft fabrics with all the added benefits of modern technology.

From the very start, we wanted to be mindful of the world around us. We realise that producing anything leaves a carbon footprint, but we want ours to be as light as possible. We are not perfect, but with every new collection we are getting a little better – no small feat for a tiny fashion label. Once our fabric arrives in the UK (nothing like this is produced here), we design, sample, grade and manufacturer all within a 5-mile radius. We also source all our labels and trims within England and have eliminated all plastics from our supply chain. We send out all online orders using Royal Mail, so as not to add to the number of deliveries on the road.

We have more exciting developments planned for the future, but for the moment, we are happy to have come this far and bring our wonderful loyal customer base with us for the ride.

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