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Female Leaders, Stevie Angel & Nadia Tucker, Founders Active Truth

Stevie Angel and Nadia Tucker Co-Founders of Active Truth started their active wear business in 2016 as a side hustle. As with many businesses, the idea for high quality, well designed, stylish and size inclusive exercise and maternity tights arose from their own need and struggle to find them.

Nadia is a lawyer by background and Stevie’s initial career was in communications. Since launching, Active Truth tights have become a fast favourite with Australian celebrities including Mia Freedman, Zoe Foster Blake and Sophie Cachia. The brand philosophy of embracing and celebrating every body has clearly resonated with the label garnering a loyal following of tens of thousands of women across their social media channels.

Active Truth was awarded 2017 Gold winner for AusMumpreneur Retail Business category.

It sounds like you were destined to meet. Tell us about how you met and started Active Truth, which in 2 years is already turning over more than $2M annually.

We both moved to Brisbane on the same day almost 7 years ago and were neighbours in a newly-built duplex home. We quickly became friends over walking and talking with our babies in their prams, and at playgrounds with coffee in hand.

After we had our second sons (3 weeks apart) we were both back at the gym and buying new activewear online, because that’s all we lived in and never had time to shop! We both had a number of negative shopping experiences trying to buy beautiful printed tights that would perform as promised through a workout.

Tentatively we started researching how to create an activewear brand and it was quickly apparent that finding quality tights was especially difficult for women who wore larger sizes and pregnant women. We believed that there was a gap in the market for a brand that not only serviced the activewear needs of all women, but celebrated them too, and our decision to start Active Truth was cemented.

The initial planning stages of the business took over a year and just before we launched in May 2016 we both returned to the workforce in our previous careers. For the first 9 months of Active Truth we worked nights and weekends to grow the business. We sent over 10,000 Facebook messages to each other in the process, and were picking and packing orders from Nadia’s house where the stock eventually took over her living room and spare bedrooms.

What made you both decide to leave your full time jobs and careers to work on Active Truth full time, and what’s changed in the business since then?

Testament to our belief that there was a gap in the market for size-inclusive activewear, we were making sales from launch and growing steadily for the first 9 months. While we both enjoyed our day jobs, there came a point where we weren’t able to give our careers, our families and our business the time and dedication they all deserved. We could both see the huge potential in Active Truth. We knew that by investing more time and energy on in it we could create a solid business.

Nadia left her job in March 2017. In the following quarter sales grew by 200% and it became clear we both needed to go all in. Stevie moved to working on the business full-time in July.

Since then we have continued to experience growth. We moved our distribution to a 3PL warehouse in September 2017, and moved off our kitchen benches and into an office in February 2018.

Our roles are now more clearly defined, rather than us both pitching in and getting anything and everything done. We have brought on our first staff member who is doing an amazing job managing our customer service and social media channels.

You’re looking to grow by launching in the USA, and also expanding your range to swimwear. What’s on the horizon over the next 12 months?

We trialled a swimsuit at the end of 2017 which sold out within a week of launching. We are currently working on a full swim collection which will launch in Spring.

In January 2018 we attended an activewear trade show in Los Angeles to learn more about the US market and opportunities for our business. The plus-size activewear market in the US is still relatively underdeveloped. But recent media coverage and new collections by major labels shows that it is gaining momentum, and retailers are beginning to take notice. We plan to sell directly to consumers through a US version of the Active Truth website. We’re now working on a strategy to set up US distribution.

Your maternity tights are your best sellers. What do customers say makes them special?

The feedback from our customers is that our Mama Tights provide serious support and comfort to growing bellies at a time when nothing seems to fit properly. Your body is going through so many changes during this time and women love being able to continue staying active without resorting to wearing their husbands shorts or saggy track pants like we did just a few years ago.

Because they make you look and feel good, and stay in great condition wear after wear, we often have women coming back to buy multiple pairs and integrate them into their daily maternity outfits, not just wearing them to workout.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Keeping up with demand and managing cash flow has been our greatest challenge to date. We had a period where we were continually sold out of multiple products and we were churning out as many tights as we could from our one factory. Every cent we made was invested back into ordering more stock. We were very lucky to have a manufacturer who believed in and supported us and worked extremely hard to keep on top of our orders.

Assisted by a QLD Government grant we engaged an accountant who has helped us manage our growth without needing additional investment. We have negotiated service level agreements with our suppliers and manufacturers to ensure our production is meeting demand and allowing us to service the continued growth we are experiencing. We now manufacture out of two Brisbane factories and one Indonesian factory.

What are you most proud of?

We are proud that we followed our instinct that there was a customer base for an activewear brand that didn’t have fitspo at its core. It would have been easy to see the majority of big name brands ignoring these customers and think there wasn’t a demand for activewear for every body.

What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?

Listen to people’s advice, but ultimately trust your intuition.

Qld Government Business Growth Fund

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.