Interview: Tallulah Tennant – Timeless Beauty In A Startup World

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Vanessa Mambu, founder of the fashion startup Tallulah Tennant, gives insights into her daily schedule, what she looks for in a team member & what's her advice for fellow entrepreneurs!

How about a bit of fashion and creativity? Surprisingly enough, startups are not always about technology, coding and hackathons. Today, I have the pleasure to introduce the founder of Tallulah Tennant, Vanessa Mambu to you. She is an aspiring Manchester-based female entrepreneur, pursuing her dream of the haute couture world. And she is all about the startup drive too – residing in Hello Work hub, Vanessa is open to new technologies and collaborates with Manchester’s startup community extensively.

Please, describe what Tallulah Tennant is all about.

My startup, which is very new, is a ladies’ evening wear brand, produced in England, which is unusual, as clothing brands are mostly made in the Far East. We cater towards ladies, who care about their clothes but want a very classic styling, predominantly for the events. I target ladies, who are passionate about where their clothes come from and where the story begins.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

I have a friend I used to work with, and we both discussed our ideas all the time. One day she just decided to leave work and start-up. I thought ‘Good for her, but very risky’. Until once we were on the phone and she said she was about to launch in America! By that time she’s been all around Europe and sales were going really well. And immediately I thought: we were speaking two years ago and she managed to get from there to here, and I did nothing except making somebody else richer. As soon as we finished the conversation I told myself ‘Do it now!’. Today she still is my good friend and my motivation.

In 7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

It made England one of the leaders in quality manufacturing. If you think of that Italy or France comes to mind – England isn’t known for that. We once were there but back in the 19th century, so in seven-years time I want the UK and Manchester in particular to restore its former glory.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

It’s too early to say now. I’m still working part-time, so one of the main milestones for me is leaving work. I want to do my business full-time. Another big KPI would be getting into a big department store. I know that there’s no other way for me, that’s what keeps me on track. For me, fashion is about passion, making the world more beautiful and creating a whole lifestyle.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

Normally, I start work at 8am, I deal with emails, both at work and on my phone. At 9am I have to start calling clients out for the other job. During my lunch break I update the website, email somebody back or order labels. About 5pm I come to the hub and answer to those who came back to me, also making a to-do list for the next day and try to get actual work done. A lot of my actual designs are done on my desk while I’m on the phone at work, but sewing is delegated. I’ve been doodling different fashion designs since I was eleven, and I still do things, having hundred pieces of paper scattered all over the place, even more than I can do at the moment.

Do customers welcome you and your clothes like you imagined in the beginning?

My current customers are people I know, the only one, who I didn’t know personally, was a friend of a friend. And she was the most difficult person – saying one thing and changing her mind then – so it was a good experience, because I thought clients would say ‘Yes, I want this and this’ and wasn’t prepared for such behaviour, but my customer segment is quite challenging.

What is your strategy for acquiring necessary financing?

Through shares initially. I don’t want to get a loan now. Maybe it’s a better way but I still think I’ll buy the shares out once I’m successful. The strategy is becoming successful, which is quite difficult, getting investors on board and leading to buy-out in a five-years time.

How do you make sure you don’t get lost among the competitors?

The fashion industry is very saturated, so I think it’s about the concept, which is the only thing that can stand out, because everything else has already been done. So the only differentiation is the dream that you can do something incredible.

How do you see your future team and what do you look for in team members?

The person needs to be passionate and want to succeed in life. I have only one intern who works for me but I also have freelancers, a seamstress, a cutter and a salesperson. In the beginning – and we’ve been doing this for a year and a half now – I had another seamstress, and she used to take her time and neglect my work in favour of other orders. But then I found another one, and the main difference I could see straight away was her passion for what she was doing, which was so refreshing! The same with the intern, while other applicants were giving me genric answers, she laid out a massive profile, of how she can help me and take it forward, so I took her on.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

I can’t pick just one, there were lots of them. In the future, such a moment would be getting into Paris Fashion week. I have some contacts there, but it’s still quite expensive for me, so probably my first show will be in London, where the majority of my clients are.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

There’s never going to be the ‘right time to start’, just go and do it.

Some of Vanessa’s designs:


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