25 AUG - 2021
Motherhood and running a business may seem impossible but this female powerhouse duo proves otherwise.
On a serendipitous day five years ago, Miky Ryken and Ella Stanton met during a double date with their husbands. Instantly attracted by their mutual dream of opening up a business in the fashion industry, it was love at first sight. Following years of late dinners and shared memories, they decided to take the plunge in 2020 and together, rey, the label was born.
Launched on 26th May 2021, rey, the label sold out two of their designs; ‘From Me, To Me’ and ‘Leap of Faith’; in only 24 hours. Now, that - is called hype. Now that is called hype. Trendy pieces at affordable prices and made of vegan leather, it’s like they read the minds of all the young girls in New Zealand. Accruing a hefty waitlist for these handbags, it’s obvious that there’s a new empire on the rise.
For those who are thinking, ‘how?’ or ‘could I do that?’ - we talk to the founders about how it all came to fruition. For the entrepreneurs in a dull lull, inspiration and motivation will ensue. You see, both Miky and Ella are young mothers - and their children are very very small. Still at the age and stage of immense neediness, it’s a time in which a mother’s life and time is completely dominated by their babies. And as women, we all know that we too, are people who have hopes and dreams outside of building a family. Some of us want to make a name for ourselves and sometimes, it may just be that a business is what they need to balance the ‘life’ side of things with ‘work.’
We only see the highly stylised campaign shots - but behind them, there are layers upon layers of blood, sweat and tears. Behind a successful company is not only an idea but 99% perspiration. We’ll be delving into the ins and outs of launching a new business (during lockdown) with a friend whilst juggling motherhood.
Let’s start with the basics - what is rey, the label?
We are ‘Armour for Contemporary Women’. Let us explain what we mean by that.
In these modern times, every time we leave the house we have to arm ourselves with various items to get us through our day. I think about everything that would go into my handbag: laptop, phone charger, notebook and pen, make-up, tampons… the list goes on and on.
We know that we are not the only women who rely on our handbags throughout the day to carry our never-ending necessities. Whatever things these might be for others, we need a reliable (and fashionable) handbag to arm ourselves with and conquer each day. So we are exactly that!
Who proposed to start the business? And how did you do it? What was the turning point for you to decide to take the plunge?
We both knew that we wanted to start something up in the fashion industry but it was Miky who suggested that we start up our own thing together. Ella currently works as Head of Operations for a start-up business and has years of experience working as a buyer for Nike. On the other hand, Miky has experience working in the PR industry, creating experiential events for global brands; so it felt like a great combination of skills to help bring our dreams to life.
After realising our skills and talents were complimentary of each other’s, we put together our best ideas and made a first of many lists. It took a lot of planning and a lot of brainstorming of how we were going to build a brand from nothing, and turn it into something that represented and felt like what we wanted it to.
There wasn’t a real ‘turning point’ as such but there was a moment when we were definitely ready to start backing ourselves and investing some serious time and money into the project.
Ella and Miky
Let’s talk about money - how did you fund the business at the beginning and what kind of budget did you work with?
We funded the business with our savings - we’ve definitely spent tens of thousands launching rey, the label. The financial cost is one thing, but there was certainly a lot of time invested into the ‘start to finish’ journey of launching it too.
How did you battle with your moments of doubt? What allowed you to put the anxiety aside and go for it?
There is so much doubt when you publicly share something that is so important and close to you. You’re essentially putting it out there for your friends, family and the wider community to judge in some way, shape or form.
Getting a little vulnerable here but in all honesty, the week leading up to our launch day, we wondered so much if people would like our bags as much as we did! We truly have poured our hearts and souls into this venture and it’s a nerve-racking feeling not knowing what the support will be like come launch day.
Our professional and life experiences have shaped us both to become very resilient women and, we are strong believers that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. It’s easier to put the anxiety to one side and go for it when you’ve put 110% into everything you do.
Miky - Rosie was only 6 months old when you started working on the business. What was your schedule like then and now? Ella, how did you divvy up your time between your day job and your passion project?
Rosie has been in a good routine from four months old. Looking back, it makes sense that after a couple of months of her being in a solid routine, that I would have felt ready to start working on something again. Rosie has always been my top priority even after launching the business. During the day when she slept, I prioritised housework - washing, meals, tidying up etc. Once she would go to sleep at 6 - 7pm and we had eaten our dinner, I would spend the rest of the night working on the business.
Both Ella and I love lists, so from the very early stages of our business venture, we would divide and conquer and I would tick things off my list mostly at night times. I remember some nights working into the early hours of the morning not because I had to, but because I am the type of person that has to finish something once I start!
Now that Rosie is a toddler, I try to have a little more structure to ensure that I am going to sleep at a normal time! Rosie is also at daycare twice a week and those are the days where I have a ‘work day’ and can pour a lot into the business.
Ella: There is no glamorous way of putting it - any extra hours I had in the morning, evening or weekends I would spend working on rey. Working until 3am in the morning was not uncommon and seen more as a necessity to ensure I was getting my “to do” lists ticked off. I think it’s amazing how much we are capable of when we are given no other option.
Any tips on time management?
Make a list before going to sleep each night of what you need to get done the following day. We find that creating lists fosters a sense of accountability and it also provides clarity around priorities. Ticking things off the list also gives us a huge sense of satisfaction, no matter how mundane the task!
Where to from here? What can we expect from rey, the label?
We’re still very much in the early stages of our business, so we are currently putting a huge amount of energy on expanding our handbag range from colours through to shapes and sizes.
One thing that is important to us is to grow at a sustainable rate so that we can always put our best efforts into the products we bring to our community.
What is the hardest part about starting and running your own business? And what are the best parts?
The hardest would be that there is no one telling you what you should do or how you should do it.
The best would have to be the flexibility of it all and knowing that it’s your vision that you’re working towards bringing to life.
What are your coping strategies when the going gets tough?
For us, it’s taking a moment to pause and take a step back to look at the bigger picture. It’s about identifying the things that we have control over and not sweating the small stuff. Our motto is ‘if you take care of the work, the work will take care of you.’
Any advice you would give to the entrepreneurs who are starting a business?
It’s scary but it’s worth it. You don’t want to look back in 20, 30, 40 years time and think what if I had just done it? How would my life be now? What have you got to lose? Money comes and goes, but the experience of being able to create something from scratch and build a community around it is priceless.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nothing changes, if nothing changes.