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Meet the entrepreneur who made HISTORY on BBC's Dragons' Den | EP01: Charlotte Morley, thelittleloop

Charlotte Morley is the Founder & CEO of thelittleloop, the UK's first childrenswear rental subscription platform. She has made history on Dragons Den, she's won tonnes of awards and had amazing successes but my goodness has she been through some setbacks!

Watch the full episode here, subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or keep reading for the full interview with this formidable founder.

SM: You used to be a geography teacher, is that correct?

CM: Yup! I have been many things! I've worn many hats.

SM: So was this secondary school?

CM: Yes it was a brief pivot into a career that didn't quite work out which I quickly pivoted back out of!

SM: Wow, so how long was that for?

CM: 3 years.

SM: Ok long enough!

CM: Yes, long enough!! I really enjoyed it but it just wasn't right for me. I think you know when you're not bringing your A-game, I found that incredibly stressful - teachers are heroes! It's a really really tough career, and yeah I just wasn't being my best self so I moved out of it.

SM: Ok so obvious question: do you think entrepreneurship is where you're bringing your best self?

CM: Yeah I think so, I'm a bit all over the place and you need to be like that to be an entrepreneur. I think being an entrepreneur is a place where actually someone who is a little bit in everything can really thrive and shine, whereas in a conventional career you can feel a bit too hemmed in and claustrophobic and maybe be a bit too scatty and a bit too all over the place. I mean the stress of it sometimes is a bit "what am I doing??" but I know I can bring all my strengths to bear every single day which is really rewarding.

SM: Amazing, you can feel that inner satisfaction when you know that you're doing what you should be doing - but on the geography teaching thing for just a second - that sounds like the best possible training ground for going into something as wild as entrepreneurship?

CM: Yeah, yeah it's an incredibly tough job - you have to be respected, you do a good thing, you look out for people you're constantly responding to lots of different needs and inputs... it's an incredibly tough job. I think entrepreneurship is easier because most of the time it's YOU and you've really only got yourself to answer to (unless you've got investment and that's a different story) whereas in a classroom you're there in front of people every single day and they are judgmental! Teenagers are the hardest people to impress. It was good training in some ways.

SM: So you mention you wear many hats - was one of those riding a helicopter into Iraq?

Yes, I did fly into Iraq in the back of a Hercules helicopter!

CM: Straight out of university I went into intelligence and worked for 10 years for the Ministry of Defence, so that was my "real" career - teaching was a little side thing, intelligence was my main pre-career - which as also good training, taking lots of inputs, project management, essentially, and yes I did fly into Iraq in the back of a Hercules!

SM: What was that about?

CM: It was shortly after the Iraq War and we were investigating the threat getting the latest information.

SM: My goodness, were you a Bond fan growing up or something??

CM: Who's not a Bond fan? But that's not why I did it! Again, it was a job that really played to my strengths - I'm really good at working things out, I've got a lot of common sense, I'm good at taking lots of inputs and working out what to do with them. It was amazing ten years and I had the best time. I mean flying into Iraq was a tiny snippet in a 10-year career but in a way they make it all shine in your memory, and the memories I've got from that were just life-defining moments.

SM: Wow such a unique backstory. So, what led you into entrepreneurship? What gave you the idea for thelittleloop?

CM: So after teaching I went into the private sector, I'd been public sector my entire career. I'd married a guy who worked in tech and became aware of Google and all these amazing tech companies that were really changing the way we do things and started to see that - whilst the public sector is fantastic and we do need it to run our everyday lives - it wasn't dynamic and wasn't really moving the bar changing the way we do things and I got very excited about this concept of using technology to change the way we behave and ultimately improve our way of lives. So from teaching I'd gone to work for an edtech company and learnt on the job as a digital product manger, I'd then had a child and came back from maternity to NotOnTheHighStreet. I'd seen tech, I'd seen retail, and neither of those were quite right for me - the edtech was doing great things but I wasn't passionate about education technology. NOTHS was very innovative for its time but I didn't think we were doing anything particularly revolutionary any more, I'd wanted to do something in sustainability which had been my passion from before my degree - I'd been a geographer, I was an environmentalist from being tiny - so all of those bits pieced together, I can do something here, I want to build something tech and I want to build something in consumer tech that helps us to change our habits and the way we do things - and that was the genesis of it.

Homepage screenshot of Charlotte Morley's business,

SM: As much as you've always been passionate about the environment and sustainability, I can imagine that the birth of your first one shifted your view on that as well, right?

CM: Yeah, completely I think having a child shifts your view on loads things - mostly because you get the chance to step back and re-assess. It is a real privilege - as much as maternity is stressful and tiring - it's a real privilege to have the mental space (at least I found this). The space to re-evaluate things and you've got this thinking and you're thinking beyond the end of not only your lifetime but the end of their lifetime - my children are going to be here into the 2100s, so you think God. what are we leaving for them? And you're doing lots of new things, you're stating lots of new habits, you do all sorts of things with them that you've never done before in your life and it's a chance to do things new. They say that consumers only ever change their habits when something massive happens in their lives; moving house, starting uni, having a child... Because you're re-assessing so much of your life that it's actually quite an easy time to start new things, and so I started using cloth nappies I was at hom a lot, I was trying to cook from scratch, I was trying to use as few disposable things as I could because I suddenly wanted to do things better.

SM: Do you mind me asking when you came up with the idea, you were at NOTHS mum of one at this point: did you have savings before launching your own company, did you get external investment to begin with? On a practical level, how were you able to go off and set up your own tech company?

thelittleloop is built on the re-mortgage of a flat and a little bit of money from notonthehighstreet

CM: It's really key actually Steph because it's incredibly hard to set up a tech company without some injection of cash because tech is expensive to build. There are people in my space who have built children's rental clothing businesses with Shopify with minimal funds but they're not doing it in a particularly revolutionary way and the way I wanted to do it was to build the tech to ensure it worked as optimally as it could, so yes absolutely I had to put some money into it. I had some pay from NOTHS and I did have a flat that I'd bought when I was young - in my early 20s I was lucky, I am of that generation just when property was slightly cheaper

SM: You didn't squander it on avocadoes on toast!

CM: I didn't! I was saving from the age of 21. I was saving every spare bit of cash that I ever had, because my parents taught me to put money into property as soon as you possibly could, so I'd bought my first flat with my first boyfriend. We both put everything we had into it. I rented it out and I re-mortgaged it. So thelittleloop is built on the re-mortgage of a flat which I'm fortunate to have but that I also put a lot of effort into getting, and a little bit of money from NOTHS. Without that, I would have been able to do it but I'd have done it very differently and I wouldn't be where we are today - I certainly wouldn't have the innovation that we've injected into our model the way we partner with brands and the way that we build our consumer experience.

SM: So I feel like we're edging towards one of the first catastrophes... So, listeners, I mean I have had the privilege of knowing Charlotte for a while now and at a distance I've seen the highs and the lows and my goodness the lows take the wind out of my stomach; I don't know how you're still here and still standing so big kudos to you. So one of the first things I'm coming on to is did you start thelittleloop with a Co-Founder or did you start it on your own and then try to bring in a Co-Founder?

CM: No I started on my own, I knew from various inputs that you can start with a Co-Founder if you've got the right person, but it's like a marriage; you're not going to marry the wrong person for the sake of it, so I didn't feel that I needed a Co-Founder to begin with, I had some great people who collaborated with me in the early days so it was all fine, but I think about a year in I started to feel like things hadn't taken off as rapidly as the books lead you to believe, and when you're on your own you get these crises of confidence because there's no-one really to input - my husband's great but I thought he would do that anyway - you just need that sounding board and you feel like you need that third party and someone to bounce things off and someone to share the burden. The biggest disadvantage to being a solo founder is that it's 50% of the hours you've got in the week to put in the business. And I was always networking and I did meet somebody who I thought could potentially bring some of the things I didn't have, so I did try to bring on a Co-Founder, it didn't really work out, and I can't really go into a lot of detail for that person's sake and to protect their privacy, but ultimately the person tried to take advantage of the situation and it was probably the most stressful thing that I've ever gone through in my life, because it's so personal and because you take a person into your confidence and I trusted them with a business which is basically my third baby but it's got money in it - my personal savings, at this point I'd put over a year and a half of my time into the business, all of my inspiration and innovation and energy and all my savings - and then they just keep taking advantage at every step I want more I want more I want more I want more and you owe this to me. The emotional blackmail that went along with that "you need to trust me" "you need to give me more" you start to believe it because you think you're going crazy and it was all very obvious that this was not going to work out so I severed ties before I went on Dragons' Den,. It was a very difficult period

SM: I reacted so strongly to your statement there about it being one of the most difficult situations you've been through because at arm's length I'm aware of some of the bad things that you've gone through so to hear this was the worst is really interesting because I guess it's so much more emotional, it's like a marriage with all the money in the mix, so I can empathise with how emotionally stressful it was.

CM: You feel foolish too because I didn't need them. I'd convinced myself I needed them because I'd lost confidence and that was the only reason. And just to be very clear, it wasn't like I'd severed ties after they'd done a huge amount of effort into business- I think they'd done about 20 days' total of work and this wasn't their fault - they were working part-time, there wasn't much time to bring, but they hadn't put a huge amount of themselves into the business whereas I obviously had and it was evident from that that I didn't need them and so I just felt foolish that I'd actually let myself get into that position without putting stronger safeguards to protect me and to protect the business.

SM: But it sounds like an unforgettable lesson learnt you're obviously much better off for it. For anyone listening who's maybe thinking of trying to find a co-founder - I think the whole co-founder versus solo founder is an interesting topic within the startup ecosystem - so number 1 is don't get married to someone just for the sake of it, find the right person. Looking back now, hindsight is a wonderful thing, looking back now what were some of the red flags that you perhaps ignored in the early stages that other people could look out for if they're having co-founder chats?

Watch how people are with people around them

CM: It's really key to say if you can find the right co-founder it's a really positive thing to do. I've seen some amazing businesses with co-founders who clearly work very wel together and it can bring a huge amount so I'm definitely not saying don't do it. But yeah red flags wise I think:

As a founder of the business I've been prepared to put everything into it. Everyday I work all the hours, and I don't mind because it's your baby and you're desperate for it to succeed. I think it's hard to bring in someone later, that's the first thing - so it's not necessarily a red flag about the person but bringing in someone later they don't have that same dedication, they've not been there from the beginning. They can be an incredible employee, they can be an employee with share options - but to make them a co-founder? That's a hard thing. They're not going to do what you did. One of the earliest red flags here was I was doing all our own laundry, I was doing all our own order packing, and this person never wanted to do it, and what they'd say was "It's not a good use of my time, I'm only here one day a week, so you don't want me to do that. Get me doing something else." But actually someone who wanted to be a co-founder of the business should have been like "Let me do all those things, I want to know what this is like from the inside out - I want to do all the things that you've done, so I feel as much a part of this as you do." So that sense of "I'm better than you" almost was coming through, and I didn't hear it - I let myself think "oh yeah that's logical, why would they want to spend their few hours a week doing menial jobs?" But those menial jobs - I still get in the warehouse today, I still pack orders - it's so important! It's such a core part of who we are and who the business is.

Generally speaking, watch how people are with people around them. Look at how they treat their partner. Look at how they treat other people who work with them. Do the checks. This person said you get my reference from this person that person, and I just never got round to it - because as a co-founder you've always got 200X things to do and I just didn't do the checks, and I really should have.

SM: I mean I would challenge you on that one. You're potentially beating yourself up a bit too much about that - I wonder whether you if you trust someone gut instinct is right, it's like legitimately how many people are really going to do that? It's only when you've had your fingers burnt you then go through the references and all the rest of it, but because of how it worked out it's easier to say I could have done this I could have done that.

CM: You're right, hindsight is 20:20 vision - and to be honest to this day I rarely think about this person now, two years later. But at the time when it was jeopardising a potential investment, when I was so stressed, I was a horrible person to be around... And I moved house (we were moving anyway) but it got to the point where I couldn't live where we were living because that person lived near to me and I would go past their house and every time I went past their house I felt sick because I just felt so violated by how they'd been and how they'd treated me. It was not a good experience, and I think I did feel responsible for doing that to myself - and to my family because they were the ones who had to support me through it. Ultimately it all came out in the wash with less lost than could have been lost, but it was nine months of real pain.

SM: I'm so sorry to hear that Charlotte, but you're here and we got that big wound re-opened and out of the way!!

So, you mentioned Dragons' Den which I'm really excited to get stuck into. So you severed the ties with them before going on the show. What was interesting was another guest on the show went on as a team and how good it was to have their sidekick with them as it's such a nerve-wracking experience and of course I thought of you because I don't know how you do it anyway, let alone going on Dragons' Den alone with the nerves and everything else - but for you, you were better off? You rather not have them along for the ride, they needed to be out of the picture before it happens?

"I've just had an incredibly uplifting two hours because it felt like a conversation between   interested, interesting people,"

CM: Having them out of the picture was more about the cleanliness of who are these investors going to invest in. A business with co-founders is very different from a business without so getting them out of the picture wasn't about me not wanting to be on Dragons' Den with somebody - and I'm sure this person would have been great on-screen - they were very presentable, very intelligent... It did go very well and what I did really enjoy was how the conversation flowed, and how I was able to react and respond. I walked out of there thinking "I've just had an incredibly uplifting two hours because it felt like a conversation between interested, interesting people," and I think if there'd been two of us there it would have been less of a conversation and more of a performance, and it wouldn't have flowed as well. So less about that person, more just being on your own in that situation. Also, again, if you were co-founders who'd been there from the beginning, it would have flowed a lot more but there would have been a bit uncertainty from their side as they didn't know the business inside out like I did.

SM: That must be the world's biggest humble brag by the way - what did you say"oh yeah I did well on the show" - she made history on Dragons' Den guys! If you haven't seen the clip go and watch it - it's actually re-airing, which is really exciting, so you've got another chance to watch it. So, tell us, how did you make history on Dragons' Den - what did you go and achieve? She's going red!!

Charlotte Morley on BBC's Dragons Den

CM: I had this crazy moment - let me go back a couple of steps:

When you apply to Dragons' Den they say "how much money do you want to raise" and I said "you know as much as I can!" Originally I went out to raise 100k and literally a week before they were like "do you think you could reduce how much you're asking for? Because you're more likely to get investment if you ask for less." And this is where Dragons' Den is so alien and not a true reflection of the investment process, because if you're going for investment you're trying to raise an amount because you've got a budget you need to spend in order to get your business where it needs to be. So for them to say reduce your ask from 100 to 75k" and I said "ok I'll do it" because at the time I wasn't sure I really wanted the money from them, so I did it because it was like no skin off my nose, but actually I knew I needed more money and if I could get it all in one place then it would save me from going out to find more investors. So very much against the odds and against the expectations I got four offers. I didn't expect to get any - genuinely didn't - that's not a humble brag - I genuinely didn't think it would go as well as it did. So I'm here standing in front of these four people, I think at least three of them could have been fantastic investors. Why halve or split the investment? Because again really having an investor with less than £100-150k in the game they're not really going to want to dedicate a lot of time to you. It's not a lot of money for most angel investors or bigger investors, so splitting that pot between a lot of investors doesn't really make sense, so I just asked if they could both invest the full amount - double the money!

I was furiously thinking "is this against the rules?" Because the rules say you've got to raise at least what you've asked for. If you only get half the offer you've failed, so I thought I don't know I can do this - can I? And they were like ehh well no-one's ever asked this before! Yeah, suppose so! So as it happened I doubled my money on Dragons' Den which has never been done before!

SM: Congratulations, Charlotte - and not only having offers from all four Dragons plus raising more than what you'd asked for, but getting the investment from Steven Bartlett and Deborah Meaden - you couldn't wish for better people to have on your side.

CM: Yeah, they are fantastic and a good combination. With investors or board members, you want diversity. You want people who can bring a range of different things and they balance each other. I do still regret - I love Sara Davies I think she's amazing I do regret not also bringing her on! I messaged her after and said I'm so sorry! I think she's genuinely wonderful, but you can't have it all.

SM: We're coming off a high off Dragons' Den - is there another low around the corner? We've gone through highs lows highs lows... I know you've recently had some trouble with moving house, you did a pop-up recently...

CM: Someone who worked with me in the very early days said: "Just prepare yourself as a founder, it will genuinely be a rollercoaster. It sounds trite but you will have the highest highs and the lowest lows." And at the time I thought yeah, sure... Because you wouldn't start a business if you didn't think it would be on a trajectory of high, right? You just wouldn't do it. And it is the most accurate way of describing running a business. As simple as it is, and I've never experienced a rollercoaster in my life like it. You think it's all going upwards and then something happens and you're like oh god I didn't see that coming.

So Dragons' Den was this incredible high. I remember weeping on the streets of Manchester on the phone to my husband because I was so in shock of how well it had gone, and then I had the co-founder issue became an issue after Dragons Den because that's when they weren't letting go of this after seeing I'd done well on DD, so that was the low immediately after that. Personally we had some issues in that year... I managed to almost kill myself skiing. Three weeks' before Dragons' Den was due to air I'd fell and hit my head I was re-stocking the warehouse with a broken arm - I didn't even know it was broken! Then Dragons' Den itself airing was brilliant because we saw growth that we couldn't have got with the money we had to invest in marketing, but it was exhausting. Suddenly we had the expectation of these investors, because the investment didn't come through until later and actually things hadn't gone as well as it could have for various reasons - we didn't have everything quite right, we didn't have all the stock we needed, it was still a new business, we just hadn't brought in as many customers as we'd hoped for, so then there was a lot of scrutiny and stress... And just the sheer we weren't set up for customer services. We had aunties and sisters and everybody in the warehouse working all the hours god sent to just try and get all the orders out the door.

SM: And that's a tricky thing to balance as well right; the infrastructure for overnight scale when you air on national television and the majority of the population loved you and bought into the concept - balancing that with the practicalities of hiring people, finding the right talent...

You can scale very quickly if you've got the money, but we were trying to balance scaling quickly without having the upfront cash

CM: Yeah because we raised £140k. It's peanuts - in business investment terms. It's not a million, four million... A lot of businesses you hear about who are scaling overnight and they're out there on Instagram or LinkedIn and it's all glossy and they'v got massive warehouses and enormous teams and it all looks easy but they've raised millions to do that. And sure you can scale very quickly if you've got the money, but we were trying to balance scaling quickly without having the upfront cash to invest in that, so we couldn't scale our marketing budget, so although we brought in people from Dragons' Den we didn't have a huge marketing budget to spend on keeping that going. We couldn't afford to hire a big marketing team or even anyone - you know I was still picking orders which is fun and it's part of doing what you do, but also when you've been doing it for two years at this point you're like when will it ever get easier?

So all that's to say I have still loved every minute of it and there have been those lows and it has been tough at times but running in the background is that feeling that I get to do what I love.

SM: One of the advantages that you have over a lot of other entrepreneurs now is you've been running your business in more of that 2023 way and what I mean by that is now the whole VC landscape has completely shifted - there's such a focus on lean efficiency profitability - you've been doing that all along!

To me the neon sign is the symbol of a business that spends its money on $h*t it doesn't need! Which is crazy because neon signs aren't even that expensive!! But it's like in my head, did I need a neon sign? No, I needed to pay my staff!

CM: We're as close to bootstrapped as we possibly could all the way. And the fundraising climate right now is hideous, but it's easier for us to pull in our heads a little bit because we don't need millions to support a huge team so we're more resilient as a result, and just more able to switch to the demands of investors who don't want us spending all our money on a neon sign on the wall.

To me the neon sign is the symbol of a business that spends its money on $h*t it doesn't need! Which is crazy because neon signs aren't even that expensive!! But it's like in my head, did I need a neon sign? No, I needed to pay my staff!

Our warehouse is not very glamorous, we don't have lots of shiny things we have basic tea in the kitchen, but it means that we kept going and we meet everyone's needs we have a lovely warm team atmosphere we all club together and everyone's in it. We'r elean and driving forward nd that's brilliant.

SM: And you prove the research correct in terms of female founders being a "a better bet" in terms of VC investors there's a completely different style in terms of efficiencies, runways... As opposed to more of that aggressive f*ck it let's do it and splash out on neon signs! I wonder whether the female founders who have secured investment at a certain level if the numbers are just so small these founders are so good and so determined and talented and smart that they would be bucking the trend anyway?

CM: Maybe, and the other thing we've got against us I suppose - not to sound like we're complaining - what we're building is so different from what went before and we're not the only ones in the space, but we are one of the leading businesses and we are trying to scale earlier and quicker than others - and the market is still not quite there. And I think when I launched the business *I* was there and other people I was talking to was there, so I thought it would scale more quickly than it has done, and very logically like you see on Dragons Den Steven Bartlett goes "it just makes sense" and people who didn't have kids at the time they see it's logical, but when it's emotional are parents ready to lend clothes well yes they're getting there but it's coming and not already there, so we need to be able to stretch out our runway. If we'd been like tits and teeth let's raise a million and blow it all on marketing we'd have burnt out, because we need to wait for the market to come.

We're actually seeing this now - I was actually Slacking my team this morning asking where these new customers have come from, because we're not spending anything on marketing right now - have we finally got that mythical organic growth?? Maybe there's been some article we didn't know about but it's been a long time coming and we've had to keep going while we've waited for that.

SM: I remember you saying one of the hardest things to distinguish when you're building such an innovative tech business is whether there's actually market demand versus are we just too early and need to stick around?

CM: Exactly that, and a challenge is someone sees you ostensibly doing well and they go "I can do that" and you get ten challenger businesses behind you. Some are great some are not but all of them are riding on your coat tails and diluting your market a little bit. Some of them will last and some will disappear, but the time they're still there they're stopping you rom getting the full opportunity.

What's happening in the market right now is needed - it's a cleanse - it will shake out a lot of the bad businesses, the ones that aren't really going to last but stealing market share for others. It's really sad for them ad that's tough but if they're not cut out for it it's better that they go quicker for them and everyone else.

In an economic upcycle they'll last longer because there's more money, but right now it's about who can hang the hell on, and the better you are the more likely you are to do that - assuming you're managing your money well.

But there'll great businesses that are dropping out now because it's just bad timing.

SM: That holding on for dear life brings to mind the crypto term - HODL! Holding on for dear life. You're so ahead of the curve as always! So on market validation what are the early signs on a practical level that you were able to point to in the earlier days with thelittleloop to know that it is actually worth going it's just a case of the market having to catch up?

Something we've always done is talk to customers

CM: As a marketplace we have two markets; our brands and our customers. The brand validation from Day one has been strong ,our brands wanted this. In fairness they took a big leap of faith, because we were saying we're not going to buy stock from you, you'll give it to us and we'll pay you when it rents. Unbelievably some fantastic brands were like sure, we'll give that a shot, which was great market validation for me. Our biggest brand is John Lewis and since they've come on board they've asked what more they can do, and right now they're reviewing the JL onsite journey to see how they can surface us more. So that enthusiasm and engagement from the brands has kept us going, and the relationships you build with the brands and the fact that they are genuinely trying to do better and trying to be circular and not greenwashing in this particular instance is amazing. So that's helped and been good validation.

Obviously none of it works without the consumer validation. Something we've always done from the first day of being a product manager is you've got to talk to customers. Obviously there are lots of metrics which we monitor like crazy - our acquisition costs, our average order value, our curn rate, our north star is subscriber growth, and now order growth on a our resale side so we're constantly monitoring those things - but they don't mean anything without actually talking to customers to understand why. Why are people churning? Why are they churning less? Why are they converting? Why are they not converting? What took them so long? And I think we've finally got to a place where we're well set up to understand what's going on, to listen to our customers, to know what does and doesn't work, and since that point a few months back we've got an incredible customer service manager who's so passionate who's really really obsessed with the customer! And our digital manager similarly she wants to know what do they want to hear? So listening always and watching what they're actually doing is so critical.

SM: I love that I think there could be more businesses that could stay closer to the frontline so great practical takeaway for listeners to bear in mind with their companies, There's a theme here too: you being in the warehouse, listening to customers - I love that you're still rolling up your sleeves!

CM: It's still a tiny company. I was reading a review and it said their customer service team really cares unlike some other big corporates - we're not a big corporate!

SM: So you can leverage that, use that to your advantage. We've touched on the fact that you became a mum pre-thelittleloop, you're now a mum of two, I don't know how you do it to begin with - being a solo founder is bloody hard, how do you do it as a mum of 2 as well? Do you sleep??

CM: I could be a solo founder, I couldn't be a solo parent. I think single parents are superhuman. My husband and I share everything. He is fantastic. We share the jobs, we share a lot of the responsibility. A lot of the "mothering" responsibility does fall to me but he does the rest of the stuff so that I can do that, so that's critical. We have childcare and it's SO helpful. Since they've both been at school, all these things kick in and make it easier. I do worry that my eldest she say things like "are you working again?" We went on holiday we spent a week with my parents and went to the Lake District for 5 days and I had to work every day that I was with my parents and my little one went mummy you spent the whole time working and it was only a couple of hours a day but I worry their perception that I care more about work than I do about them which is not true. It does make me break though. It makes me not work at weekends. I'll work late into the venigns so that I can take the weekends to be with my family. It's really good for your metnal health as well.

What suffers is "you" time. Like going to the gym. Look at my nails! I just had my hair cut for the first time in eight months, because you don't have a lot of time for you and that's not brilliant, but something's got to give.

SM: There are only so many hours in the day.

CM: Yeah and I made that choice. Having this business is quite an indulgent thing in som ways because I'm not earning yet, I'm hoping to soon, therefore I'm relying on my husband. I am not present mentally as much as I should be. Some people spend that mental energy on what they look like and on what clothes they wear and their health &fitness - I don't have that luxury but I do plough that into the business.

SM: And I'm sure it will all be proved worthwhile in the near future. So on that, near future, you've launched a new side of the business including a resale element to thelittleloop - you've got some exiting things coming so what else is coming up for you guys?

CM: We're riding the storm of the macroeconomic climate. We're trying to weather out consumer spend reduction and lack of investment by making ourselves more resilient and agian listening to the market and what we know is people love resale, they like secondhand clothing. Rent is growing but it's not as obvious a sell to customers, but we have all this stock we need to resell anyway. So we have brand partnerships and we have tech, so what we're doing is shifting our focus to split it into resale and we're building some really exciting tech where we will be able to integrate brand into your online account, import your clothing details int our platform and seamlessly resell it. This is me pushing the limits of what's already being done. Secondhand is already out there, but no-one's tying it into the primary purchase journey yet. Secondhand shouldn't be an afterthought, "if you get around to it" - we should be told from the day that we buy something that you can resell this. Obviously in an ideal world we'd only buy a few things and wear them for ever but we've also got to reality. Ultimately - particularly with childrenswear - it's going to come to the end of its wearable life with that child but still have a wearable life with someone. So what we're working on with brands is when you buy something you should be able to see how much you can resell it for right then and there, so it could increase the conversion rate for starters, but it's setting in the mind of the buyer "oh of course I'll resell it" so that's really exciting, we're launching it in stages, improving our own resell side first. We're already seeing a really great response to our stock, our acquisition costs have come right down, there's a lot of enthusiasm for it, so that should help us to weather the climate we're all facing at the moment and go for investment in the new year.

What I'll also say is no-one can predict with certainty what will happen in the next six months to a year just because of the investment landscape. Every tech business needs investment to scale and grow and become something amazing and we definitely will do - so maybe in a year it might not be here. It might not. I can't say for definite that it will.

I will have learnt A LOT! And hopefully will have made people think differently.

I now feel confident to say I'm a CEO

SM: Well I have a lot of faith - I know the power of the founder themselves is one of the biggest asset of the business and I completely believe in you as well so if it doesn't work it out it'll be for the right reasons but I don't think that's going to happen - so watch this space!

Last question: this is called the Strategy & Tragedy podcast with the belief that sometimes the best lessons come from the biggest mistakes or the biggest "tragedies" - I know there's been a lot of horrible things that have come your way - can you pinpoint any one of those that's really taught you an unforgettable lesson?

CM: Unless you had perfect hindsight you can never know, I don't think I would have done anything differently. Is there one thing I can pinpoint that I would do differently? No, I don't think so. I've learned every single day on this job. I don't think there are many founders who aren't always learning. All of those experiences add up to be the sum total of who you and the business are ,so without those I don't think I'd be as strong a business leader - not a founder. I now feel confident to say I'm a CEO. When I started the business, I didn't. I was like, CEO? No! I don't know what I'm doing! And I didn't. And I still don't know everything, obviously! And I'm not the CEO of Unilever - there are scales of it. But I do feel confident to put that title next to my name now because of allll the things I've done over the three and a bit year.

SM: And so you should - I think you're better than most CEOs out there!

CM: I don't know about that! Mistakes are helpful that, but thank you.

SM: Charlotte, thank you so much for coming on the show I really appreciate it.

Podcast artwork for Strategy & Tragedy

Strategy & Tragedy: CEO Stories with Steph Melodia is the fresh business podcast that showcases authentic founder stories - including the ups & downs!

Watch the full episode here, subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music. Thank you for listening and for supporting the show!

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