Hi, my name is Alana Clarkson and I am the founder of Idea Athletic.
Idea Athletic is crotch and bust sweat proof activewear. In brief I have developed a design and technology called invisiSweat which allows women to wear all the activewear colours with confidence and not worry about sweat showing through in the crotch, inner thigh, butt and bust areas when they get sweaty.
I’m a Mum to two girls aged 6 and 9, a wife, a friend, a daughter and I also work full time in recruitment for myself, so I’d say my hands are pretty full most of the time.
Here is a little snapshot of my story, my obstacles and tips, and how I’ve managed to do it all whilst still being present in all other areas of my life.
The concept of Idea Athletic was born after I tried to buy the solution to an issue I was having, which was the visible sweaty crotch and bust when when I wore coloured activewear and exercised! I could see clearly exactly what it was I was looking to buy and searched and searched for it and soon realised that it didn’t exist. So I started on my mission to create it.
The reason I jumped straight in head first into making this product is because I felt that if it was something that I as a woman wanted to buy, then I wouldn’t be alone and many other women would also be wanting this product. So not only did I want to create the solution for myself, I wanted to create it for other women too so we could all feel confident to wear the colours and not worry about visible sweat marks.
It felt natural to me to just start this process and go with it, but little did I know that it would take me 2.5yrs to go from zero to launch and be fraught with issues, pandemics and everything else in between.
It’s been a wild ride and I’ve learnt so many valuable lessons and skills along the way.
My Startup Obstacles
There has been many obstacles along the way and many valuable lessons learnt. The two biggest would be…
Firstly, I have no design experience. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to create but I really had to learn how to make it into a reality. It took me 25 samples to get to the finished product. It was quite the long process of trial and error and testing different designs and fabrics to see what looked and felt right. It also needed to work from a functionality perspective! That was the hard part – As I was creating a solution to an issue, it needed to deliver. It felt at times like we’d never get it there, but when we finally did it was an amazing feeling.
The other major obstacle was the pandemic. Starting a new business during this time was an interesting one. The ability to source fabrics and services had that extra element of difficulty attached to it, especially setting up a new supply chain. There was a lot to navigate and the delays at times were challenging.
My Business Tips
As a business owner you find yourself wearing many hats and learning many new skills that you never thought you would learn. Some new skills are good and some tasks are not so fun, but whatever it may be you have to just get on with it.
The best tip I would offer is to never be afraid to ask questions. Ask the same question 100 times until everything is clear in your mind. Especially if you are like me and have no manufacturing experience, there will be a lot of new terms that will be used.
Never be shy to ask what things mean, how they work and why things are done in certain ways. You need to build your knowledge and learn as much as possible. Understanding every element and process in-depth of your business is key.
The Juggle of Business and Motherhood
That is the biggest juggle of them all. What I’ve learnt along the way is what works for one won’t for another, so there are no hard and fast set of rules here for this.
In my experience, I will say honestly that the guilt was real. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments where I felt incredibly guilty that I’m spending so much of my time working on something. But then in the same breath I thought to myself that I’m showing my girls that if you have a dream you have to really go for it. But I did struggle with that at times.
Rather than be on a solo journey I chose to include my girls where possible so it gave them a greater understanding of what Mummy has been up to and why she’s doing it. So in my case I would show the girls material colours and ask them to pick their favourites, they would help me unpack boxes, they came to watch a photoshoot. I got them involved as much as possible and I explained every element to them where I could so they felt included in the process and that they were part of something with me.
But in terms of the day to day and how I made it all happen, that came through the sacrifice of most weekends, late nights, early mornings. It was not uncommon for me to put the girls to bed at night and spend late into the evening working with my production partner.
I’m fortunate enough to have a very supportive husband and family who have all helped share the family life workload. Their help enabled me to really push hard with bringing my idea to life. Trying to be a martyr and do everything was never going to help me launch my business so I needed to accept the help were possible.
Being organised was also key. A good meal prep went a long way and just taking the time to think about what the kids were up to for the week ahead and where I needed to be also really helped me to then be able to think about what time I could allocate to my business outside of all my other responsibilities. There was always going to be curve balls thrown into the mix from time to time but having a rough idea of this each week was really helpful to me and my journey.
I also surrendered to the process and knew that some weeks I would struggle and other weeks I would be kicking work and motherhood goals. I was never going to get it all right all the time and I learnt to be ok with that. But what I did have was a very clear vision of my business and the solution I was determined to create and bring to market so I knew that if I just kept on pushing with this at the forefront of my mind then I would eventually get there. And 2.5yrs later I did…