Melody Townsend, Director and Co-Founder of Active Creatures started her women’s luxury dance and yoga wear brand in 2014, with her husband Cameron. Active wear has grown into a massive industry, but Active Creatures point of difference is to offer matching ensembles for your beloved Pooch. This pivot in Active Creatures business model came about when they noticed that in the selfies customers posted on social media, there were many four legged canine best friends also posing.
It was a whimsical departure from the mainstream, but it has worked, with Active Creatures retailing globally, and planning for greater international reach. Melody’s corporate background and experience in Marketing for international luxury brands is an ideal fit. Her passion for empowering women, and vision to celebrate strong, confident, healthy women also flows through to her visual merchandising strategy. Active Creatures uses athletes, dancers and personal trainers to model their colourful, adventurous designs, which Melody says are inspired by nature.
Running a business alongside the pressures of life is a balancing act for us all. How do you manage competing priorities?
My life runs smoothly so long as I have written myself a ‘to do’ list for the day… and done my exercise. If these are covered, the karma is good!
But jokes aside, I do believe that body, mind and spirit need to be in alignment to be happy. On the days that I feel miserable, it is usually because something is out of whack. I used to try to push through and keep going but I could see the toll it was starting to take. So these days, I will tools down for a period of time to reenergise and refocus.
How do your active wear designs shape to any woman’s body?
We actually fit our sportswear on a size 12 woman, not a fit model, just a regular, healthy size 12 woman. What’s interesting is that our customer reviews constantly refer to the comfort of our clothing, irrespective of their size. I think this has a lot to do with the allowances we make at the thighs, hips and tummy. We still create sexy…just in shapes every woman can wear comfortably all day long.
Customers taking photos in their active wear with their dogs was the spark that led you to create a range for your customers’ beloved canines. How is this an important part of your social strategy to drive sales?
I meet many women who are juggling multiple priorities and working around the clock, in order to create their own business. So many women tell me how their beautiful pooch sits by their side – at any hour of the day or night – almost like a silent show of support!
It’s actually this love and friendship that we strive to capture in our marketing campaigns. Our customers have instinctively connected with this emotion and have shared our photos and theirs on social, which in turn has helped to acquire new customers to the brand.
You have customers in the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Germany, Singapore and the USA. Which markets have really embraced the idea of active wear for your pup?
Right now it’s the Aussie fur mums! We launched our latest collection nationally in April with a view to test and learn across a range of business metrics. As we continue to refine our proposition, our intention is to keep broadening our international reach. But to be honest, it’s not a race for us. We passionately believe in what we’re doing and we want to cement our position in our home market first.
How did the partnership with My Pet Warehouse come about?
Philip Bartholomew (who’s the CEO and Founder of My Pet Warehouse) came across us online and loved our hero image of a woman and her pooch in matching outfits. He contacted Cameron to hear more about what we were doing and then invited us in to meet with his team.
Cam and I still recount on the first meeting today. We’d done no market research, had no rationale to our product portfolio. We just started designing based on gut feel, and our personal love of dogs. Needless to say there have been product iterations since, but perhaps the point has been that passion has led product!
What has been your greatest challenge?
There’s been so many! But probably none as great as managing cash flow. Over the past few years we’ve been focused on launching our concept, growing our market and refining our customers’ digital experience. We’ve wanted to do everything at once! But as a self-funded, boot-strapped business, the reality of cash flow bites. Sometimes it’s been a little gnaw, other times more like a Great White chomp. And in our case, as a husband and wife team, it means we experience that pressure together 24/7! But the good news has been that with the challenges have been the lessons… and now, the insights that are driving better business decisions.
What are you most proud of?
It’s small, honest moments when customers’ comments and photos reinforce all of the positive aspects that we’ve been working hard to create. For example, when they tell us they feel sexy in our sportswear, when they love how outrageous they look walking around the park dressed in a matching outfit to their dog, and when they appreciate the surprise and delight experiences we create. Bringing a touch of joy to our customer’s day is why we love what we do.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Get started! If you’re thinking about it, or if you’re consumed by what ifs, stop the paralysing self-talk. I waited years to start because at my core, I was consumed by a fear of failing.
I have made so many mistakes over the past three years, yet I feel such a sense of abundance for having had this incredibly rich experience.
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