For another insightful session of our Founder Wednesdays series, we went live with not one, but two up-and-coming woman entrepreneurs- Nancy Zeffman and Eileen Willett, founders of Cucumber, a brand that creates simple, multifunctional designs that slip perfectly into every woman’s wardrobe, made with ultra-modern performance fabrics. That means the clothes move with you, not against you and always feel beautifully soft against the skin.
Cucumber means clothes that give confidence. The clothes breathe, cool and wick, they stretch but don’t crease, they love a cold wash and are dry in a few hours. No ironing. These clothes are made ethically, locally, and sustainably.
"We know what busy means and we wanted to create the clothes we could never find to keep going 24/7. We wanted to make luxury for everyday."
Nancy Zeffman and Eileen Willett, friends turned partners, started Cucumber with their combined love for exercise. The vision was to create clothes that have the attributes of workout clothing but could also be worn daily. Clothes that make life easier.
"We are friends who met at the school gates almost 20 years ago. Between us, our complementary characters, children, 2 dogs and continuing friendship have helped relate our vision for Cucumber."
Hence came Cucumber, a brand that makes clothing effortless, low maintenance, and timeless.
During the chat, the founders discussed local manufacturing and supporting local communities, building strong customer relationships and more.
The Pros and Cons of Local Manufacturing:
The minimum order quantity is a major deciding factor for most brands, as to manufacturing locally or overseas. That quantity is different for everyone. As for fast fashion brands, that quantity is way higher, so it makes sense for them to order from overseas to be the most profitable. As opposed to smaller brands like Cucumber, which are not fast fashion, the minimum order quantity is less. "For us, it is better to work with someone who shares the same values, where we can actually see the entire process. There are minuses of course, mostly regarding the costs, but the pluses outweigh them. It is more important for us to support our local economy and community. We know everyone we work with and have great relationships with them, and that is very fulfilling", says Nancy.
How can a Brand be Truly Sustainable?
Brands always talk about how sustainable their fabrics are, and hence how sustainable their business is.
"I truly believe that if you cannot pay fair wages to your workers, you cannot be sustainable. Being sustainable costs more, but it is an individual choice. You have to prioritize what is important to you, and more importantly what is achievable as a small company. Since the beginning of our business, it was key for us to be as ethical a brand as possible."
Sustainability is a complex issue and there is no one right way. It is deciding what is important for your brand and then trying to check all boxes along the way.
How to build Strong Customer Relationships?
"Being a small company is an advantage, we can always answer. 99% of times we get delightful messages from our customers, 1% we don't. But that's just life."
The founders talk about how they must answer to their customers. We all know what it is like to be on the other end, what it is like to be the customer. We all have been on hold or just redirected from one department to another. For Cucumber, they want to ensure that they are the company that always answers. Where someone can just pick up the phone or leave a message and they know they will get a real person who cares about their problem and not just give them something off the script. That simple bit of personal touch does wonders in maintaining a good customer relationship.
Check out the entire conversation to know more about cultivating founder relationship and scaling business without personal burnouts, and more.