Hi, i’m Gemma. My background is in bridal wear and that’s the area that I want to go into, but I want to combine it with my personal ethics. I see having a social business or a green business as my form of activism to change the things that I really don’t like the look of in the world, because that’s the way I can see things will change.
My personal belief is that we’re making a mess of the planet and we need to be more sustainable – so making sustainable bridal wear. I don’t believe that animals should be a part of human consumption, so my dresses are vegan, and I believe in women supporting women in a global sisterhood kind of way.
I want to do all of that within the supply chain of the business. We currently work with a women’s cooperative in India that supports vulnerable women and trains them up and I want to give part of my profits to the cause that I care most about (which is why Astraea started in the first place), and that is trying to educate against child brides and give money to grass routes projects and organizations that try and do that work.
We’re probably coming up two years when I had my big epiphany of when all the things made sense and this is what I wanted to do. But then for a long time I kind of kept it secret to myself, and then the first person I ever told was a complete stranger and she was like “the fact that you’ve started talking about it, now it’s starting” and she was like “just put your idea on paper that’ll start making things happen” so I have been doing that. And, it’s got to the point now where I’m on the Hatch business incubator – that’s gone very much from keeping your idea a secret and not wanting to tell anybody to trying to make it happen, but yeah.
What are some of the struggles you’ve run into along the way?
I think I feel like I’ve been stuck in the ideas place for far too long and I think I’m scared of going for it because I know how much – not work is going to be involved, but work that I don’t actually want to do is going to be involved – that pulls me down.
I am a creative person full stop. The rest of it does not come naturally to me. I struggle with it and it bores me, and the thought of having to do all of that on my own – I think I run away from. So, last year was when I invested a lot of time and energy into making sure that this is kind of my future, where I want to go, learning about stuff around sustainability like having a green business, and like I have been learning and experiencing that. But that’s where I’m at 2 years later.
Also, realising how it’s so much more than just making something and selling it. It’s so much deeper than I thought it was, like running a business and the things that you have to think about, there’s so many more different elements to it. Starting out on your own and how the hell you would get from just being you to a fully run business. I just can’t see how that happens. Obviously a lot of people have done it, so it’s possible, but for me it’s just that barrier of how the hell I’m going to get from this to doing stuff.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
The best thing so far is to have this process of having an idea and wanting to do it and exploring it. It’s the different people that I’ve met, and especially because it’s a social/ethical business the types of people that I’ve met that have made me have hope in the world because I feel like I went from one extreme from being incredibly materialistic and money driven and aspiring to a certain glamorous lifestyle to not wanting any of that, but all of my world was still stuck in that paradigm I guess. Whereas when I started exploring my own relationship to being ethical and sustainability, then I have met people who have made me realize that there’s a lot of amazing people and a lot of good stuff happening and it gives me faith that we’re not doomed to the apocalypse.
If you could have any enterprise related superpower, what would it be?
My superpower would be that absolute knowledge of how to make it the most ethical that it could possibly be without any like, flaws in that whatsoever and to make the whole business designed to help others thrive – and that knowledge of how to make a business that ultimately will benefit the environment and benefit the people like the absolute knowledge of how to do that because I think at this stage I think it’s somewhere where I could possibly stumble. Where I think I’m doing everything right and choosing the right thing, but because I’m not an absolute expert in any of these areas, I don’t know and because that’s my core reason for doing it – I worry that I’m just going to make a product that’s just going to cause more damage without even knowing. I’m sure it won’t but it could because do people really need more wedding dresses? Is it going to warrant the CO2 from shipping it from India to England? I wish I could know….
My superpower would to be able to make a business without the use of any fossil fuels would be my super, super power!
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
I want to live in New York, so I’d like to see it doing well in the UK, I’d like to have it to the point in the UK where it would be have enough of a name to warrant me to be able to take it elsewhere into the wider bridal wear market, but if I’m honest I would just like to see it up and running – I hope that it will happen by then.