Listen to your gut instincts, for example if you’re launching a new product and the landing page doesn’t ‘feel right,’ ask someone else to look it over. The gut instinct will be there for a reason and if it feels weird to you, it’ll feel weird to your customers too.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Page.
Rebecca Page is the co-founder and CEO of Rebecca Page, a hugely popular global sewing brand with a community of over 700,000. She has spent over 30 years sewing and is the creator of the leading Sewing Pattern Subscription & The Sewing Summit, and is a published author. Rebecca has been featured in The Times, on BBC Radio 4 and in numerous industry publications. An entrepreneur by heart, Rebecca has run multiple businesses. She is a huge advocate for moving away from fast fashion to beautifully fitting hand-made clothes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thank you! I started sewing when I was around eight years old. I remember so clearly my Mum trying to steer me towards simple, beginner level sews… and me setting my heart on complicated coats and ballgowns! I worked my way through her sewing encyclopedia, trying every technique on scraps of fabric and saving them all in a big folder. I had a huge desire to have my own business right from when I was little and quickly started making things to sell. Over the years I’ve always come back to sewing, and now being able to combine my love of business with my love of sewing is the dream role for me!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
It’s hard to believe, but there are more people in America who sew than play golf, but compare how the customer for each is served? Rebecca Page’s goal is for people who sew at home to enjoy a customer experience that is comparable to a golfer. The home sewing market is traditional, old-fashioned, fragmented and ‘cottagey’ by nature. We’re developing our global brand to offer our community everything they need in one place — sewing patterns, fabric, supplies, learning and a marketplace to earn income from home.
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?
Ahh, once I was making matching PJs for our two eldest kids who were quite different heights. I was so busy watching Netflix while I sewed that I didn’t notice I had sewed mismatching bottoms together… I ended up with two identical pairs of pajama bottoms, each with one long leg and one short leg. After this, I made sure to concentrate more closely on the task at hand…although I admit this isn’t always easy with three small children!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
In the early days, I was on my own and I had to be a jack-of-all-trades. I didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, which meant there was no filter or testing. During this time, my husband supported me taking a risk, in the knowledge that it was unlikely that I would be earning any income for a while and that we would need to budget carefully. Then, at the start of 2018, I joined a start-up mentor group with the London-based New Zealand Business Women’s Association and this was where I met my future co-founder, Janine Manning. She’s an accountant by trade and a highly successful angel investor. Janine has spent many hours helping create our financial models and teaching me the ins and outs of the investment world.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
When I was at school, being labeled as ‘disruptive’ was negative so in this regard, I’m pleased that a new meaning is now attached to it. I believe that disrupting an industry needs to produce better outcomes for people to be considered positive — and not just in the short term. Disruption is more than change or transformation; it’s about anticipating your customer’s future needs or creating a market that doesn’t yet exist. Negative consequences can arise in the longer term; for example, when the competition is eliminated, leading to higher costs, lower service or less choice for the consumer.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Work out the five key metrics that make the biggest impact on your business and give laser focus to them,
- Take the time when hiring to make sure the cultural fit is right — is the person going to work with speed and the way you want to grow the business,
- Listen to your gut instincts, for example, if you’re launching a new product and the landing page doesn’t ‘feel right,’ ask someone else to look it over. The gut instinct will be there for a reason and if it feels weird to you, it’ll feel weird to your customers too.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Rebecca Page are building a marketplace that will match up our network of local microentrepreneur makers with local consumers looking for tailor-made garments. Consumers looking to purchase a bespoke garment will benefit from its long-lasting quality, cohesiveness with the rest of their wardrobe, uniqueness and conscious choice, and also from supporting the local network of creative craftswomen in the community. This project also offers a solution to the problems that fast fashion creates through supply chain waste and landfill disposal of barely used garments.
Helping women to build an income from their home, that is flexible around family life, will transform the lives of the huge community of makers in a positive way, as well as knowing that their skills and creativity will benefit the consumers in their local area.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
My biggest challenge, particularly during the pandemic, is working around family life and childcare. When the school is closed, having the children at home has been difficult, especially during Zoom calls! While its different from person to person, statistics show that women have taken the disproportional burden of managing family and childcare during the pandemic. This means that I work all hours to keep everything moving along at speed.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
My hands-down fav business book is ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Reis. We made a conscious choice when we started the business to follow the Lean Startup methodology and we refer to it regularly. It’s been a bit of a bible for us when we are considering a new project or measuring progress. We’re now moving into a new phase and ‘Blitzscaling’ by Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman has really helped to expand our thinking and horizons.
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. 🙂
I would love, love, love more people to think about the sustainability of their clothing. Not just where it comes from and who sews it, but also having clothing really fit their body how they want it to. If you have quality clothes you love, that fit how you want them to, you are far more likely to wear them and look after them. This both reduces waste and has people feel better about themselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My co-founder, Janine, sent me a card very early on in the business with the quote “She thought she could so she did”. I saved it and still have it up on my wall today. It really says it all to me. Anything is possible. The key is believing you can.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram — rebeccajpage
Instagram — therpfeed
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!