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How Helen got the people’s hearts pumping

Helen is the founder of Heartknoxx, an awesome two-part brand creating cool products whilst supporting mental health. It began in March 2018 and has now built up a massive following. In this blog, we caught up with Helen to find out how she made a huge store in such little time. A must-read for fashion startups.

It’s a pleasure to talk to you today Helen! Would you be able to tell us a little more about what you do, a bit about how this is relevant in the world today and what motivates you to run such a successful store?

The concept of Heartknoxx began in March of this year when I had an idea of forming a sassy, yet sophisticated ready-to-wear fashion label, mixing contemporary trends with intelligent design. After working in the fashion industry for over 10 years as a fashion buyer, I felt it was time to branch out on her own and use the knowledge she had gained from working for several international fashion retailers to create something of her own. The name Heartknoxx is pretty self-explanatory – It stands for the knocks we take in life and the way our heart feels when we experience both highs and lows. It was inspired by my then situation. The brand stands for rebellion, going against the status quo.

Life is tough but so are we. We don’t always use safe slogans and we stand for a cause, not the applause, aiming to appeal to people that aren’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve or chest if you will.

My priority for starting my brand was to create a sustainable income to support myself whilst also raising awareness about mental illness. 10% proceeds of the Heartstrings collections I have created, go towards the Mental health foundation, in support of those who are currently suffering from mental health disorders. I wanted to use my experiences for good and to use my brand as a platform to bring focus to such important topics.

After already being involved in the fashion industry, why did you decide to go down the T-shirt line and create a store?

Earlier this year I was made redundant for the second time in 6 months. I began playing around with ideas about where to take my career next. I knew I still had a passion for working in fashion, but I wanted to do something that would ultimately reignite my creativity, restore my confidence, inspire others and lead to more meaningful connections. I decided that working for myself was the only option, so I began researching suppliers in the UK to manufacture my ranges with and thinking about who I might target

With some experience already in the fashion industry, what is your plan for marketing, any specific strategies or tactics you’re trying?

We currently have several hashtags we use across our @mentalhealthistrending pages such as # Imfine, #Theresapersonbehindthepost #mentalhealthistrending, and #fashionwithfeelings which our customers have also been using to tag us in their purchases. It’s been a great way of creating an identity on social media and people are curious to see what they are about.

Instagram has for sure been pivotal in the success of my brand. Reaching out to celebrities to explain the idea behind the @mentalhealthistrending movement has been instrumental in getting noticed.

Its quite mind-blowing to me to think that people like David Williams are liking our posts and TV stars like Caggie Dunlop, Olivia Buckland, Zara Holland and Cici Coleman and Laura Tott, Antonella Uncensored, Radio One presenter Katie Thistleton and BBC TV presenter Ben Shires are happy to wear our products. Especially when I think about how I’m creating all of this from my childhood home bedroom right now. Initially, I spend a small amount on influencer samples that I used to gain imagery of my products, which allowed me to promote to their following and grow a small community.

I spend quite a bit of time planning my social posts to ensure my look and feel is consistent and isn’t just product focused to help create a brand identity.

I use Adobe Spark to create posts with my logo and fonts which really helps keep uniformity. I’ve also recently also started working with a brand agency called MMP. Who is also helping me with a marketing strategy to better target the correct consumers.

Helen sporting her campaign for mental health

In regards to future projects, what are you most looking forward to?

Its always been my dream to have my own successful fashion label and to see that this is now becoming a reality, is something I feel extremely proud of. It’s great to see so many people getting behind the @menatlhealthistrending campaign and tagging the page in their purchases. I haven’t seen anyone in the streets yet, wearing my brand but I get a lot of questions when I wear my own designs outside the house and it’s great to have has so many celebs happy to promote Heartknoxx.

That’s great to hear Helen! What’s the ambition with your store, where do you hope it goes?

In the next few months, I am working hard toward pitching my brand to several online and brick and mortar fashion retailers to attain my first bulk orders. My goal is to see Heartknoxx in every major fashion retailer in the U.K and internationally and to be able to hire a team that can support me. It would be awesome to have a picture of Prince Harry in one of my ‘I’m Fine’ tee too. I’ve sent both him and Megan one to the Palace so watch this space I guess.

How did you approach this project in terms of your values, what do you want to get out of it and what are you looking to achieve?

The product will always be king. I wanted to ensure that I understood my target audience first and then created a wide enough range of t-shirts to test this out. Building a social channel and testing the response of some of these designs was a great way of doing this but in the early months, this is a work in progress.

It’s important to spend time really establishing what you want your brand to represent as I’ve always believed, people don’t buy products they buy dreams.

The Mental Health trending campaign came about pretty much hand in hand with the idea of Heartknoxx. Looking at my business from a commercial angle, I appreciated that getting behind a cause might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so I chose to separate the two, bring focus to mental health with its own unique page and one directly representing Heartknoxx as the rebellious, rule breaker and I feel this works really well.

What advice would you give someone in a similar position, how do they get started in such an huge industry?

Using Teemill has been a great support. The help team have been really supportive and reply promptly if you have any queries.

You really feel like Teemill are rooting for you to succeed which is comforting when working alone. The site itself is relatively easy to use once you get going and so the only limitations you have are your own creativity really.

I’m excited for Teemill to be extending their colour-ranges which will hopefully help improve my sales further and to start placing bulk orders for my retail customer orders.

One of HeartKnoxx's many stylish designs being shown in full glory

You are very welcome Helen, we are always looking to improve the service we provide. Was there any part of it that’s been tricky and how did you overcome it?

The hardest thing about starting a brand from scratch has to be the time required and initial financial outlay. Going from the comfort of a regular pay cheque and 9-5 hours, to the uncertainty of being a sole trader and working tirelessly, requires a certain amount of patience. You have to continue to believe in what you are doing and keep going even when things seem slow. This becomes much easier as the sales start to coming in, but initially, it can be quite nerve-wracking. I was fortunate enough to have savings that I could put into a small bulk order to use for marketing purposes that allowed me to gain imagery of people wearing my products and helped get the word out but I am also working towards creating a crowdfunding page on sites like kickstarter.com, that will allow me to take my brand to the next level.

Its always pleasing to hear back from people using our site to deliver killer designs, especially when we are helping someone’s dreams come true! Keep the sleek ‘must have’ products coming to Helen and enjoy those new colour swatches!

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