Posted on May 27 2020
Leanne Dobbs, is a Scottish lass and former expat brat who spent 13 years in London pursuing a corporate career in finance. She worked in the City after graduating from university, starting off in accountancy before moving to a large investment bank and then a boutique advisory firm. Leanne has always been motivated (and competitive) and reached the level of Associate Partner level at her City firm. Although she had a great career and lifestyle, she found herself desperate to get out of the city to live a rural lifestyle.
So, after a few years of spending a lot of time commuting between the home counties and the City, Leanne set up her own business – The Tights Club. This is a tights subscription service for women like her who are time poor, to take one chore off their to do list.
I love the idea and ethos behind The Tights Club, how did you get into it?
Working in Finance, I spent many a morning trying to select which pair of tights would be the least painful / embarrassing, whilst trying to put off the trek to the nation’s favourite department store for as long as possible.
The issue was TIME. I had so little of it. With a long commute, long days in the office, trying to keep fit, pursuing my many hobbies AND make time for family and friends, chores like stocking up on the basics were the LAST thing I wanted to spend that most precious commodity on. And let’s face it, replenishing your stock of tights is not FUN shopping.
(We both laugh)
No it's not at all!
Exactly! So, I’d put it off until it was unavoidable. And then when I would go, they would inevitably be out of the exact pair I wanted – especially when it came to sheers.
Very frustrating! Plus, I HAVE to wear tights. One, I am very pale (think translucent / reflective). Two, offices are basically sub-zero. And three, if I didn’t wear tights and ended up trekking across the City for meetings then my shoes always ended up rubbing like a ... you know…
(We both laugh)
One day, whilst chained to my desk at a major financial institution dreaming of freedom and the time to do, well, anything at all, it came to me - why not set up a subscription service that delivers tights through the letterboxes of busy women like me, taking one very boring item off their to do list?
And The Tights Club was born!
Yes. (She smiles)
Now that I do this, and some consultancy work on the side, I am now mostly to be found working from home in a pair of comfy jeans with my dog, Nelson the springer spaniel and TTC mascot, dozing at my feet. But, in more normal times, I do still need to scrub up for the occasional client meeting and so will grab my favourite tights from my drawer, safe in the knowledge that my big toe won’t be dropping off by the end of the day.
(We both laugh)
Tell us more about your tights
Our tights are made byCharnos Hosiery, a classic British brand that has been making quality hosiery since 1936. Stocked by leading UK department stores, Charnos Hosiery is known for wearable, affordable, fashionable products providing excellent quality. The best part about our subscription service is that all our tights are made from recycled materials – offcuts which would otherwise go straight to landfill. As a result, they produce 80% less emissions and use 90% less water.
This is incredible. A lot of us are now looking at making our wardrobes more sustainable.
Exactly. So we deliver this sustainable and high quality hosiery in a way that suits the lifestyles of our members – our packages fit through letterboxes, the frequency of delivery is flexible, they can take a break or cancel at any time and we can automatically change the tights you receive between the seasons. Members can also be confident that all our packaging is recyclable, and our products are sustainable.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
There are so many challenges when you are starting out as an entrepreneur. Sure, I can handle the financials of the business, but I was completely clueless about IT, Wordpress was an absolute minefield! And I had no idea about how to go about marketing an online subscription business.
I have overcome these challenges by doing a huge amount of learning and seeking out or paying for help when I recognise, I really can’t do it myself. One of the hardest things when you are just starting is knowing what to invest your very limited resources in, and I’ve learned that investing in myself is really important. I’ve invested more than I ever thought I would consider in coaching, making sure I have the basics in place. I’ve also outsourced as much of the IT as I can. I’ve learned that trying to do it all yourself can be a real blocker to business growth as you end up spending so much time doing tasks which you could easily outsource so that you can spend time on the bigger picture, driving the business forward and growing.
I think that to be successful you have to recognise your own limitations and surround yourself with the people who have the skills or knowledge to fill in those gaps.
However there are still some challenges that will be out of your control entirely. In my case, I am unable at this point, to serve everyone in our community here in the UK with nude tights that suit every skin colour.
How do you envisage nude tights for all skin colours, within The Tights Club?
I am embarressed by this and this embarrassment is not new.
When I first set up this business I did so with my friends in mind, professional women with diverse backgrounds and skin colour. In fact, a friend's frustration that she could never get hold of tights of the right colour when she needed them really stuck with me and drove me on.
However, when it comes to the sustainable hosiery market, as far as I'm aware the solution just doesn't exist at the moment. The best I've found so far has three options, one of which is lighter than the 'natural tan' our supplier provides, so it really doesn't get us much further.
So to try and address this, the actions I intend to take in terms of my business are as follows:
I will once again ask my supplier if they are planning to extend their sustainable range to cater for more than just white women. If they aren't, I will ask them why not?
I will continue to search for an alternative product that is both sustainable and inclusive. If that is unsuccessful, if/when we are in the position to develop our own range of sustainable tights, I will make sure it is inclusive and representative of the diverse community we live in.
That is great Leanne, thank you for addressing that in an open and honest way.
It's the least I can do.
What do you know now about the industry, that you wish you knew before you started /wish you knew sooner?
It’s not specific to the industry, but I wish I’d learned sooner not to wait until everything was perfect, because it never is. There is always something that needs adapting or tweaking. But I’ve delayed launches and held off selling on plenty of occasions because something wasn’t quite right whereas I think you just have to start somewhere and adapt as you go along.
Other than knowing your own limitations, what advice would you give women starting out?
To just get started! Take the first few steps and know that it’s fine to try things and for them not to work out, as long as you learn from it. Also, to invest in coaching or learning for areas that you’re not experienced in, if you can afford it.
Let's talk about your most recent project
We are currently in the middle of a rebrand after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Thank you. When I found these new sustainable tights, I knew I had to pivot the business entirely in this direction as it aligned so much more with my personal beliefs. So, the website doesn’t fully reflect this change yet. I can’t wait to see the final design!
However, the new website is a bit delayed because of Coronavirus so instead I’ve been focusing on our Simple Sustainable Swaps series. It’s a weekly recommendation of simple changes you can make around the house to make your lifestyle a little bit more sustainable. The recommendations are released weekly on IGTV and subscribers get them straight to their inbox. I’ve even managed to get discounts on most of the recommendations so far!
I’m still getting used to showing my face on video, but I know I will get more comfortable as time passes.
Your videos are great, you are a natural and the swaps are great too!
How is the current pandemic affecting your work and how are you facing the challenges?
The key challenge is that most of our members wear tights every day to the office. But the reality is that they don’t need them in lockdown. And given the financial pressure so many people are under right now, I really didn’t want members to feel like they should continue to pay to support us when things are tight and build up a huge pile of unworn tights. So, I messaged all our members early on to remind them that they can pause whenever they like and to assure them that we can survive through this if they do. Luckily, we don’t have much at all in terms of fixed costs so we can make it through this even if most of our revenue dries up temporarily.
How do you think this pandemic will change the fashion industry as we know it?
The silver lining to all this is the potential for a green recovery. There is so much talk about only rescuing or investing recovery funds in industries which have a plan or commitment to combat climate change and that is exciting.
In terms of fashion, this crisis has shone a spotlight both on the waste caused by fast fashion but also on its treatment of garment producers who have been left high and dry. So hopefully it will result in a fairer deal for garment workers and a slower approach to fashion. For me the industry needs to be restructured in a way that continues to support the economies and people which rely on fast fashion, and that will probably mean we all need to pay a bit more for our clothes.
Most Female Founders wear multiple hats. How do you juggle it all?
I still do some consulting for my old firm so it’s a constant juggle trying to keep on top of what needs doing in the business to keep it moving forward and making sure my consultancy clients are getting the attention they need. Basically, constantly trying not to drop the ball!
The key is being organised, knowing what is due when and what your key goals are for the business by month and week. And protecting my time for the business. That’s one of the hardest things, ignoring calls and emails when I’ve dedicated time to a business task. Most things can wait an hour but if you’ve come through the corporate world you are trained to react immediately, especially when it’s to do with your clients.
You are very busy! How do stay organised?
Time blocking. I have a spreadsheet (naturally) that divides the week into hourly blocks, and I put in all my calls, key tasks and estimated time for consultancy work too.
It pretty much plans out my whole day and all the little things go in there – even admin blocks and walking my dog, Nelson! If I do this and stick to it I am guaranteed to be more effective that week. I find it also helps with being disciplined in ignoring people that want my attention if it’s written down that they don’t get it until 10am!
We are all doing a lot of reading lately, which books would you recommend?
I’ve read so many business books lately as part of the course I’m on with Lisa Johnson (who is my amazing coach!). I’d recommend Start with Why by Simon Sinek and I recently finished Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing which really helped me understand the concept and why I needed to do it. I’m about to start reading The Future We Choose about surviving the climate crisis by Yuval Noah Hariri, the author of Sapiens, which I think will be a must read.
Let's talk a little about your wardrobe, Fashion or Style, which do you live by?
Style, it’s much more sustainable! If you buy things that suit your personal style you will wear them so much more and keep them so much longer which is hugely more sustainable. Also, and connected to this, buy quality over quantity.
Do you have or would you hire a personal stylist?
I have used a personal shopper before, and I ended up with a fabulous dress! So yes! We gave away an appointment with a personal stylist as part of the crowd funder. And I think that if you work in a professional environment it could also be a great investment in your professional image which is undoubtedly important.
After being closed for a few weeks, we are now delivering the CURATED COLLECTION. What are your favourite pieces?
What is the beauty product you cannot live without?
I have annoying skin that can break out, so I swear by Effaclar by Le Roche-Posay. Their products in general are very good and affordable too. Their sun cream is excellent.
Comming back to The Tights Club, what do you have in store for us in the next few months?
We will be relaunching with our new brand late summer / early autumn, COVID permitting! I’m really excited about the next phase of scaling the business and there will be some fabulous offers for new members to get their hands on. In the meantime, stay safe.
Thank you very much for your time Leanne.
My pleasure, thank you for having me.
You can follow The Tights Club on Instagram and Facebook and be the first to know details off the relaunch. If you would like to get ideas for simple sustainable swaps you can make direct to your inbox you can sign up here.