How I started a sustainable activewear and body movement company that celebrates women of all shapes and sizes

Mama Movement feature image
Faye founder of Mama Movement
Faye Tan
Founded: February 2020
No of employees: 1
Location: Australia

Faye is the owner of Mama Movement, a Melbourne based sustainable activewear brand. She aims to put the fun back into exercise and movement by offering a collection of colorful, printed activewear for women of all body shapes. But it’s more than just a clothing brand – it’s a body positivity movement that aims to inspire moms and other ladies to be themselves and embrace their size.

Thankfully, the pandemic hasn’t put a stop to the brand’s business growth. Faye is currently in the middle of expanding the clothing range and has plans to move the business from her garage into a small warehouse. Mama Movement generates $15k per month in revenue. And in the first month alone, she made over 180 orders and almost sold out of the Everyday Pocket Leggings, which is her bestselling style. We talk to Faye to find out what’s next on the horizon.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

My name is Faye, and I am the founder of Mama Movement, a sustainable activewear label based in Melbourne, Australia, that is on a mission to start a body positivity movement. Exercise and movement are meant to be fun, so why is activewear always a boring plain black? 

We’re shaking that up at Mama Movement and creating top-quality sustainable activewear in colorful designer prints to celebrate all the beautiful range of shapes and sizes that a STRONG and HEALTHY body comes in. We also do matching kidswear because our ability to shape a better body-positive generation starts from when children are very young. Because of our matching kidswear options, our target audience includes, but is not limited, to mums. 

Another key aspect of our brand is that it is a sustainable label. We work hard to source and use sustainable resources, from recycled plastics in our activewear fabrics to organic cotton in our kidswear, and compostable and biodegradable materials in our packaging.

How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Mama Movement?

I was unknowingly already a feminist from a young age. At the age of 10, when the internet first started becoming a thing, I created a website called Galz Rule (DON’T LAUGH!). My website was about connecting girls from all over the world to discuss and celebrate our awesomeness! 

However, I ended up choosing some very safe options in university. I somehow found myself stuck in a rut in a corporate job where I dreaded Monday every week and was always counting down to Friday. At one point, I even pitched to create a new position within the organization that was about celebrating female empowerment. I was told it wasn’t a priority as they didn’t believe it would be “profitable.” So I decided I would stop asking someone else for permission to do what I loved, and DO IT MYSELF! So Mama Movement was born, and so was the idea to start a body positivity movement through fun and colorful activewear and matching kidswear. The word “movement” has a dual meaning – the body positivity movement, and of course, the fact that activewear is what enables movement!

Our logo is an “M,” which is made up of a bigger and smaller loop, i.e., mother and child. It represents the fact that our little ones are, in many cases, miniature versions of us as moms, and the role and influence we have in shaping their relationships with their bodies through the relationship that they see their mums having with their bodies!

I guess in a way, if I were  to summarize it, I’m still that 10-year-old girl who just wants to help connect women in celebrating their awesomeness.

Describe the process of launching Mama Movement?

It’s been a rapid-fire launch. I started working on the business idea in January and was in the market by July – despite the global pandemic. I believe in the principle of starting with a minimal, viable offer – testing, learning, and improving, before taking to scale. And I believe very much in ensuring all business decisions must tie back to the customer voice, their pain points, their joys, and what they care about. 

So I started with doing lots of online market research on activewear in Facebook forums and then using this research to design my first collection. I offer one style of leggings and one type of sports bra in two different prints. They’ve landed really well (especially the leggings, which sold out within weeks of launch!), and I am now starting to expand my collection.

I also started building an audience on Instagram in April, a few months before I had a product ready to ship. I began by showing behind-the-scenes snippets to generate excitement, and ended up selling more than half of my stock in pre-orders before it even arrived at my door! 

One of the best decisions I made was to use real moms as models for the label. I launched a campaign on my Instagram called the ‘Real Moms of Melbourne’ search, which was about finding three real women based in Melbourne to model my clothing line. It ended up gaining quite a lot of traction and has received some fabulous feedback from my customers about seeing the clothing on women that “look like them”!

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

One of the big things that attracts people to Mama Movement is our purpose, and the fact we do things differently. Our website features a diverse range of women in all shapes, sizes, and colors, having fun. No boring black activewear! We live by our mission of body positivity, and it is at the heart of everything we do, and a big reason people are attracted to the label. Plus, I’m getting such fabulous feedback about all the colors.

But to retain customers, the other equally important aspect is to never compromise on quality. We invest only in activewear we are happy to wear ourselves (and we have high standards!). And that’s what will keep people coming back for more.

With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?

In the first month of launching, we had:

  • Over 180 orders, including selling out of almost all of our bestseller, the Everyday Pocket Leggings!
  • 100% 5-star reviews
  • Nearly 500 people on our mailing list
  • Over 2000 following on Instagram
  • LOTS of customers tagging us on their Insta Stories rocking their new MM purchases!

Considering that we have launched during a global pandemic, and that activewear is regarded as a saturated market, I am really proud and very excited to see what we can do next!

With regards to managing change through crisis, such as Covid19, what has been your experience as a business owner?

I think, first of all, I need to acknowledge how lucky we are. As an online business, we were left relatively unscathed, and I’m so grateful that we could continue to operate safely out of the comfort of our home.

Having said that, it did mean that my two-year-old toddler, who would typically go to daycare, has only been to daycare for around three weeks in total since the end of March (we made decisions to pull her out early due to our personal circumstances). 

This honestly means a lot of prioritizing and juggling - juggling between pushing really hard to launch and grow the business, but also juggling the fact that I have a child at home, who wants my time and attention and with whom I genuinely realize that time is the most precious and fleeting asset we have.

I’m definitely a glass half full kinda gal, though, so I always think to myself that one day, I want to look back on this time and feel so grateful for the extra time we got to spend together as a family. So I go into each day of juggling with that mindset. Yes, it means I work until midnight most nights, but is it really work when it’s this much fun?

I think in summary, I live by the phrase, “We can’t control what happens around us. We can only control how we respond to it.” And so I choose to take this time to cherish what’s important to me, stay grateful for what we have, and to appreciate the little things. And that gets me through it. Though I am missing my friends and family!

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

We have just launched preorders for drop two of our activewear. I’m so excited about this because it stressed me out to see such great traffic coming to my site each day when half my products were out of stock. I’m so grateful and can’t wait to get more stock in. I’m also planning the spring/summer release now, and it’s getting me really excited. I’m pushing the boundaries yet again of what activewear looks like, both in terms of the prints and the designs. 

My goal for 2021 is to graduate out of my garage into a warehouse! I may be a small business now, but I am a small business with a big dream to start a body positivity movement!

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

Small business life needs to start from a place of love. I’ve learned not to lose sight of what motivated me to start this business, to write it down and put it somewhere visible in my workspace to remind myself to base all my decisions around it. 

Running your own business is not easy – you are the designer, the procurement team, the sales and marketing team, the graphic designer, the web developer, the social media expert, the PR manager, the logistics and shipping department, the accountant, and so many more.

Starting from a place of love is so important because the truth is that small business life is exhausting. When people ask me how many hours I work, I shrug and laugh off the question. Because honestly? From the moment I open my eyes in the morning,  I’m already planning my workday, and until I close my eyes that night, it’s also the last thing on my mind. I’m only half-joking when I say I even dream about it. And from all the other small business owners I’ve spoken to, I’ve realized I’m not alone. It is hard work, it does consume you, and unless you’re doing it from a place of love, it will become all too much very very quickly.

What are your top 3 tips on how to setup an Ecom store for success?

1) Start building your audience even before you launch.

2) Fail small, fail fast. While you are small, this is the opportunity to try lots of different things. Make small mistakes and learn from them. Don’t get too hung up on “failures” as they are learning opportunities.

3) Find someone who is the exact opposite of you and speak to them about your business often. As a small business owner, you are often a one-man-band and the best ideas and decisions will come from a balanced perspective. I’m lucky I have my hubby who is the rational, factual, and deliberate guy, whereas I am the fiery, passionate and always-in-a-hurry kinda gal. He’s stopped me from making some poor decisions.

What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run Mama Movement?

TypeTool Name
Project ManagementTrello
Email MarketingOmnisend
ReviewsJudge Me
AnalyticsGoogle Analytics
PaymentsShopify payments, Paypal, Afterpay
Social Media ToolsPlanoly
DesignCanva, Photoshop

See what tools and platforms other founders are using.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

Lady StartUp was a great Australian podcast I listened to about the stories of lots of different kinds of women startups and their journey and learnings along the way.

Also, join as many Facebook entrepreneur groups as you can.! I found it so useful to just read about the types of questions business owners have and the responses other business owners provided. Also such a great resource in the early days for a business is to also put some market research out there.

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

I don’t have just one – the most influential people to my brand are actually all my customers and followers. As cliched as it sounds, it’s true. I have often put a question on my social profiles, which I thought I already knew the answer to, and then had such insightful responses that have then totally changed the decision I would have made without that feedback. Feedback is a gift, and I really do use it to inform where my brand heads to next.

Any other advice you’d like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t do it if all you’re seeking is to make some money. Do it because you love what you are doing. I believe they say it takes on average 2-3 years to turn a profit. And that this is not just “normal”, it is good. One of the worst things that can happen to a small business is to grow too quickly too fast.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

Not yet but am looking at possibly contracting out some SEO and advertising soon as I’m ready to grow.

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