The largest team I have managed is 17, and I would say the key to managing a large team is to make sure you treat people the way you would want to be treated. As cliche as it sounds. You want people to enjoy coming to work and to ultimately do a good job. To get that I think it’s important to be approachable, honest, encouraging, celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, coach in the moment and keep it moving. Empower younger team members to feel confident to speak up on their ideas. Show collaboration and encourage collaboration. Finally, and most importantly, listen. Actually listen.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucy Ovington. Hailing from the UK, with a fashion career spanning over 19 years, Lucy is a master “Generalist”. After a First Class Honors degree in Fashion Knitwear, Lucy has gone on to work for global brands as a respected Leader and Creative Director. From luxury to performance apparel, fashion design to brand storytelling, spanning multiple mediums in both men’s and women’s, Lucy has honed her skills in all. Lucy established the first Concept Department at Under Armour. She managed a team of 9 across art direction, graphics, fashion design and marketing. Lucy presented twice yearly to over 200 hundred employees, athletes and CEO, Kevin Plank. She subsequently collaborated with principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland on her signature collection. At the start of 2018 Lucy declined a job offer from Under Armour to oversee their women’s business and their performance running business to give birth to her true passion as the founder of GLOWE.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Lucy! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 14 years old my art teacher told me that I couldn’t draw and that I shouldn’t take art A-Level. (I think the equivalent to the AP level in the US?).
I thought to myself, “how rude!” and “I’ll show her”.
I went on to get an A in Art A level, a First-Class Honors Degree in Fashion Knitwear (I love to tell people I have a degree in knitting!) and a successful career as a fashion design director across the US and Europe.
I have always been obsessed with textures and fabrics from the granular yarn level, so for me knitting was the obvious choice, what better way to design than to start with the yarn itself first.
This obsession with knitting bought me to the US. For some reason US fashion schools never used to teach knitwear design, so most of the sweater designers in the US are British. That is what helped me get my foot in the door in this industry, having a skill that wasn’t taught in the US.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Glowe is a very early stage brand, we are not even a year old yet. I would say the most interesting “aha” moment since starting Glowe was when our support leggings were still in the prototype stage. I would sit at my kitchen table with a regular household iron fusing the bonded support panels together. Then I would sew up belly bands, just rough tubes of fabric with my support panels fused to the inside. I started giving them out to pregnant friends, pregnant friends of friends, pregnant women I found on the street. Anyone I saw with a pregnant belly I would stop and ask to wear test for me.
The most interesting moment came when wear tester after wear tester would be disappointed to have to return the prototype. I would get texts telling me that they missed my belly band and wanted it back. That’s when I knew there was nothing like this on the market. It was a pretty awesome feeling.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When your company is in its infancy and you have so much riding on every decision it’s hard to see the funny side of your mistakes. The biggest mistake that we have experienced so far was heartbreaking. During our first production run, 650 front panels of our legging were bonded incorrectly. There are millions upon millions of iterations of bonding that is possible, and a slight change in heat, time or pressure can alter the behavior of the bonding entirely. The front panels ended up with bonding so tight it was unusable for a pregnancy legging.
The lesson we learnt was to trust our gut and push back more when we don’t feel something is right about a situation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think there are very few ‘new inventions’ today in fashion, it’s incredibly cyclical.
So I am proud that Glowe truly is bringing to market an innovation that is completely new in maternity and something that women really benefit from. The maternity apparel industry needs an overhaul and Glowe is here to do just that. Pregnant women are completely overlooked in terms of product that is technologically advanced and actually problem solves for her. I have been able to put 20 years of design and innovation knowledge into this product to create something that will revolutionize her pregnancy experience in terms of comfort, support and versatility.
We are creating a brand-new space within the maternity apparel market.
We have applied for a utility patent and I hope to add “inventor” to my resume.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We only launched the Glowe maternity legging in November, so we will continue to evolve that product line of support innovation that takes your through all 40 weeks of pregnancy and beyond. This will include activewear versions, denim, shorts, dresses etc. Any product that makes her pregnancy more comfortable, enjoyable and beautiful.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I can speak to this from a corporate standpoint because Glowe is currently only a two-employee company. The largest team I have managed is 17, and I would say the key to managing a large team is to make sure you treat people the way you would want to be treated. As cliche as it sounds. You want people to enjoy coming to work and to ultimately do a good job. To get that I think it’s important to be approachable, honest, encouraging, celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, coach in the moment and keep it moving. Empower younger team members to feel confident to speak up on their ideas. Show collaboration and encourage collaboration. Finally, and most importantly, listen. Actually listen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have had many people pass through the doors in my life, to help me get to where I am. My parents being the obvious choice for supporting me no matter what, (my dad used to be the head of HR) so he has been incredible throughout my corporate life helping me navigate different situations. I think now I have started my own business he feels a little helpless as the problems I face today he has never experienced before. So now he just does a lot of worrying for me!
I came to NY at 21 as a design intern at American Eagle Outfitters. My boss there (she knows who she is) to this day is the best boss I have ever had. She was nurturing, inspiring, knowledgeable, open, honest, fair, anally organized (I definitely have her to thank for that trait I have), super fun and I knew she believed in me. This gave a geeky 21-year-old Brit confidence that I could make it in fashion in NY. Which I did. She even helped me land a job at Michael Kors after graduating university.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?-
Glowe is an acronym for Giving LOve to Women Everywhere and that is my mission with the brand and one of the main reasons I started it.
I try to bring goodness into the world through the Glowe platform by helping women at a time when they are going through massive life changes both physically and mentally to feel supported, comforted and energized. We do this through our product and through the community we are building for pregnant and postpartum mamas. We also try to give back as much as we can, we have just run a giveaway for pregnant front line covid-19 healthcare workers. We will be gifting over 60 pairs of leggings to pregnant or newly postpartum healthcare workers next week!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
‘It will be a lot easier if you know people with money’ — Why? Because I have realized starting your own business is about connections. I have some great connections, but any willing to give me $500K to take Glowe to the next level? Not yet.
“Anything that you thought was stressful in your career before starting your own business, was not real stress”. I used to stress the small things at work, taking for granted the blessings that come with corporate life. But none of that is real stress — if you have a decent paying job and benefits you are lucky. Real stress comes when you don’t know how you are going to pay an invoice or where you can find money to pay for inventory, whether your idea is going to work or if you have lost your life savings, including your kids college funds. That’s real stress.
“Treat the mailman at your corporate job like the most important employee of the company, and learn from him or her”. — Because their job is HARD! Shipping and logistics is not easy and very time consuming.
“You will feel emotions that you have never felt so deeply before.” — The highs and lows of an entrepreneur is not too dissimilar to the hormonal changes you experience in the weeks after giving birth. Deep depression one day, to the most euphoric / ‘love everything’ feeling the next.
“Be patient, it takes time” — As my partner loves to tell me, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” I can be pretty impatient and I have had to learn to build this brand brick by brick.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is not a movement that I would personally inspire, but if I could create a magical movement, it would be to create a world that gave every single young girl the confidence, tools and support to learn and excel in science and math.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t really do life lesson quotes, it seems I’m always too busy to remember them! Or maybe I haven’t come across one I truly believe in yet? But there is one quote that has stuck with me, from my old boss Mike Jeffries who was the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch at the time. He told myself and my colleague (who is now my business partner) “Make $1 spend like $3”. I have been doing that every day since I started this business.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
There are two women that I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to have lunch with.
The first is Kirsten Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures. It was October 2017, Glowe was just a little idea in my head, I was still working at Under Armour and I didn’t know anything about VC firms. But I read this article about her in the WSJ magazine, and I thought. “That’s her! She is a trailblazer, she’s a badass, she’s a mum juggling it all, and she clearly has the best taste in brands. I’m going to get this woman to invest in my company one day”. So, I tore that article out of the magazine and pinned it on my pinboard and it will stay there until we get investment.
The second is Raegan Moya-Jones who founded Aden & Anais. When I first started working on Glowe I listened to all of the “How I built this” podcasts. Hers stood out to me, I related to her and she gave me hope. I remember her story, she would work at her corporate job all day, then come home and be with her 3 children, put them to bed and then work on Aden & Anais from 9pm-3am, every day. She didn’t have contacts or a rich husband that could support her, so she kept working. I resonated with her sheer determination to not give up. I would also love to learn from her story and strength of building a brand and having that end abruptly and how to move on from that and learn from it.