You can listen to Nikki’s story by clicking below
‘Always have at the back of your mind, this is going to be a business that makes money when I sleep, ‘cos that’s the way I started. I wanted a business that did that.’
Nikki Hesford, Made in Preston Limited
Bowland College, BA Hons English Literature 2009
Nikki Hesford founded Made in Preston an exciting fashion brand for 16-28 year old girls. They manufactured a wide range of fashion, from dresses, to lingerie, to swimwear on a just in time production model, with a facility based in Preston. Nikki has a number of honours and awards to her name; Nat West Everywoman Award 2010, Lancashire Business Awards Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011, Shell Live Wire Grand Ideas 2011, and Red Rose Awards Small Business of the Year 2014. in 2011 she appeared on Dragon’s Den. Today Nikki is a freelance after keynote speaker, Consultant and a Family Life Columnist at the Lancashire Evening Post.
So what was the big idea?
As I was going for graduate roles and normal jobs looking for a job after I finished University, I was going to town and buying clothes to wear for my interviews, and that’s when I hit upon the niche that there were very few clothing for girls with bigger boobs… I thought ‘This is ridiculous, there are loads of people with big boobs and there’s no clothing out there, or there doesn’t seem to be clothing out there to fit.
What did you do next?
I thought well how big is this market? Why has nobody done it? I did a couple of brief searches, Google is a wonderful thing isn’t it, I don’t know how people ever started businesses before Google; all the answers were at my fingertips…all sorts of things were there screaming at me and telling me this is a really big market…There was one company in the whole world that seemed to be making clothing to fit. My job search wasn’t going too great so I didn’t really have an awful lot to loose. I decided to just get a prototype made and just research it a little bit and see if anything could be made of it.
Did people take you seriously?
Well when you’re not from a textile background, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is ‘Oh did you do fashion at university?’ ‘No’, and then they say, ‘Well did you do business?’ ‘No’. So I was completely new and I didn’t have a clue what a business plan was, I had no idea the difference between a sole trader and a limited company. I really was completely clueless about it. And I just kind of figured it out as I went along. And through Google, through picking up the phone, through trade magazines and just asking lots of questions.
How did you get the funding you needed to get going?
I got a business plan together with the help of The Enterprise Team at the University and various organisations and went to the bank. I needed about £10,000 to get prototypes, get a website and get a small run of stock made. Went to 3 banks in Lancaster, unfortunately it wasn’t easy to get funding from the banks. “Sorry the computer says no”…
in the end decided I’d just take out a personal loan and do it on credit cards. So I did that, got a blouse in 3 different colours, got my website together, went live with it!
You did an English Literature degree, on the surface that seems unrelated to where you were heading. What would you say to that?
Actually rather than a business degree I have to rate an English Literature degree because the skills that I used in my degree I have used so many times in my business, perhaps more so than a business degree in terms of taking information and assimilating it and presenting it in terms of PR, marketing, business partners that sort of thing.
You can see Nikki’s LinkedIn profile here.
For more inspiration and stories of success and failure, return to the Startup Stories gallery.
You can also;
- Search Inspire Me for news and articles from current students who are making things happen for themselves.
- Sign up to the newsletter here to keep up to date with enterprise at Lancaster.
- Get in touch and find out what we have to offer to support students, staff and alumni.
If you’re a Lancaster alumnus with a story to share, or if you would like to express an interest in mentoring an entrepreneurial student, let us know here.