You are never a prisoner of your situation, and the power to change your circumstances is always yours. The key is to focus on what you could gain by changing your situation rather than on what you stand to lose.
Ruth founded Love It Love It Love It, an online boutique selling bright, colorful and unfussy children’s clothing with the motto, “no pastels, no ironing.” Ruth passionately believes that kids should be allowed to be kids and have the freedom to discover and express their own personalities, rather than have personality expectations imposed on them by society because of their gender. So all of the clothes available work for kids by being comfortable and stimulating, allowing kids to get on with the important job of playing and exploring their world. The clothes work for parents by being durable, easy to care for, and an interesting, good value alternative to those available on the high street.
Equally as important, many of the clothes also work for the planet by being manufactured from organic or sustainable fabrics and employing fair trading and manufacturing practices. Since opening, the store has been met with a great response. Parents in particular are hungry for clothes that don’t pigeon-hole their kids into pink princesses and little monsters, as well as clothes that don’t truss kids up like miniature adults so they can’t do what kids do and get dirty.
A self-confessed jack of all trades with the attention span of a gnat, Ruth likes margaritas and has no fillings.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, it seems that everything I do with the business generates a whole new crop of opportunities. It’s an exciting and scarily busy time. This season, the age range of kids we offer clothes for increases from 0-5 to 0-10; there will be a rebranding and new marketing plans. The business has taken an unexpected turn in that I’ve recently started acting as the U.K. agent for one of the brands sold in the store, DUNS Sweden. Other brands are joining the stable too, including several that will be new to the U.K. market. Inevitably, it will soon be necessary to expand the business with new staff and premises.
Where did the idea for Love It Love It Love It come from?
In 2007, I was working full time, traveling all over the U.K. as a management consultant, raising a three-year-old daughter, and renovating a run-down house into which we’d just moved. It was a lot to juggle and I felt like a failure. Eventually I had a nervous breakdown. I was devastated and deeply ashamed, fearing no one would ever employ me again. Soon afterwards, I became pregnant with my second daughter and realized there was no way my old life could work again and if I wanted to work, it would have to be on my own terms.
The most important advice I received during that dark time was to “look for the joy.” Focusing on the small but beautiful things in life that give me pleasure made me realize how much I love color. Dyeing my new baby’s boring, white sleep suits bright colors led me to think about designing my own collection. While searching online for similar items, I uncovered so many beautiful clothes that I decided to set up the store in order to get a feel for the market and the technical aspects of clothing design and construction.
What does your typical day look like?
I roll out of bed as late as possible, take the girls to school, then return back home for a couple gallons of tea and to catch up on news via social media. Then I dive in to dealing with emails, range planning, and talking to customers and suppliers. I also handle financial management, marketing plans, website management, fulfillment, research, and everything else that needs to be done to sustain and grow the business. It never stops! Due to the kids’ schedules, there’s less time to focus on work exclusively, but there’s always a constant, low level of work being done, even when I’m asleep and dreaming about Love It Love It Love It.
How do you bring ideas to life?
There’s an iterative process of coming up with endless ideas, recognizing a couple of them that have genuine potential, mulling those over, and then refining and improving them until they take on a lives of their own. I recognize that my strength is in coming up with ideas, as opposed to implementing them, so in order to ensure they do come to life, it’s up to me to convey them accurately and passionately to others whose strengths involve completing projects.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
We seem to be seeing a new awareness of injustice at many levels of society–economically, politically and in the way we treat one another. In particular, many young women and new mothers are increasingly aware of the sexism that’s deeply inherent in our society, and they are unwilling to tolerate it. This forms part of the wider rebirth of everyday activism that we’ve seen, such as the Occupy movements and last year’s Arab Spring.
Social media is amazing for connecting like-minded people and counter-intuitively promoting the power and value of the individual. It provides us with a very effective voice with which we can challenge the status quo. A hugely important and lasting societal change is being implemented via social media. There is a long way to go, but the green shoots are there and they’re extremely encouraging.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
All of my previous jobs have involved times of delight and times when I’ve hated every second. What the crappy times have taught me is that there is always an alternative. It may not be great, but it’s always worthwhile to have an eye on the pros and cons of your current situation and the alternative situations to which you could leap. You are never a prisoner of your situation, and the power to change your circumstances is always yours. The key is to focus on what you could gain by changing your situation rather than on what you stand to lose. A terrible job can be a blessing if it provides an itch that you have to scratch.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’m an entrepreneur by necessity rather than by ambition, but now that I’ve become one, I wish I’d done so years ago. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to always do what I instinctively want to do, as opposed to the accepted or proper thing to do. When things go wrong, it’s always because I haven’t trusted my gut.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take a nap.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Something that aggregates information, filters out the crud and combines the service with some form of social good would be ace.
Tell us a secret.
I’m exceptionally lazy.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Being in possession of a pair of ovaries, I am, of course, obsessed with the waterfall of prettiness that is Pinterest.
- Xero provides online accounting software that takes automatic feeds from your bank, can generate invoices, reconciliations and tax returns, and keeps track of stock. It’s a lifesaver.
- Instapaper is great for saving interesting articles in a pared down, clear format to read on my phone when I get a chance.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The powerful story and magical imagery are both beautiful and mind expanding.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Oof, it would be easier to name 300 than just three. There are so many fascinating, inspiring and downright hysterical people on Twitter that I’d happily recommend to all. Three people who use Twitter really well in different and interesting ways are:
- @amcunningham is a GP and medical educator who is passionate about sharing information, understanding patients and expanding her own and others’ medics knowledge.
- @culturevultures is a Leeds-based culture blog led by Emma Bearman, who has a finger in every pie and excels in making connections between people who can do great things together.
- @twoptwips provides daft tips to help you with every area of life. It’s hugely entertaining with very British humor.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
It could have been anything. I find virtually everything funny and laugh out loud many times a day.
Who is your hero?
People who show a focused devotion to an admirable cause, through dark times and doubt. These people are always inspiring, as are those who have the presence of mind to act extraordinarily during a true crisis.
What’s the future for Love It Love It Love It?
After two successful years in business, it’s time to start implementing some of the more ambitious ideas I’ve had for the business since the beginning. Love It Love It Love It’s current incarnation has always been merely a first step on the way to a much broader brand that will stock a wider product range, including homewares, gifts and a Love It Love It Love It brand range of products featuring collaborations with artists and designs that encapsulate the colorful and joyful ethos of the company.
Who would you like to see interviewed in IdeaMensch?
Some of the people overflowing with creative ideas I’d love to know more about are: Bowie Style (design queen and blogger extraordinaire whose blog Print and Pattern is an unrivalled treasure trove of color and inspiration), Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy (a stand-up comedian with Cerebral Palsy, who is unable to speak and delivers his gigs via an iPad), Ariel Meadows Stalling (the cool chick behind the alternative lifestyle sites that form the Offbeat Empire), Bohomoth (the gossip queen and knowing celebrity journalist who recently set up Bohomoth.com), the community behind Mostly Film (an intelligent and witty film blog that grew phoenix-like from the ashes of the abruptly closed Guardian newspaper film talk boards), and Si Dawson (who designed the very useful TwitCleaner tool and is perhaps the most zen person on Twitter).
Love It Love It Love It on Twitter: @loveitloveit
Love It Love It Love It on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/loveitloveitloveit
Love It Love It Love It on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/loveitloveit/
Love It Love It Love It ‘s website: http://www.loveitloveitloveit.co.uk