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| Ina Yulo Stuve

Women Who Launch – Natalie Glaze of Stay Wild and By Glaze

The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) brought world leaders together to develop solutions to achieve sustainability goals. Sustainability, now more than ever, is something most of us try to consider when making life choices, with regular citizens seeing the effects of fast fashion, food waste, and climate change. “It wasn’t even an option for me, more of a ‘must have’ and something I think any new business needs to think about—to make sure you are creating something that treads lightly on the planet,” says Natalie Glaze, founder of timeless minimal jewellery brand By Glaze and co-founder of Stay Wild, a sustainable essentials and swimwear business. Stay Wild was her first venture, which she started with co-founder Zanna Van Dijk three years ago. They make their swimwear pieces at a small zero waste factory in London and focus on creating styles that are classic and flatter all body types. “Both Zanna and I have a love for the ocean and grew up near it; I think that love and shared passion brought us together. We wanted to create a brand that gave back, used beautiful recycled materials, had sustainability front of mind at every step, and created timeless shapes and designs that made women feel strong and empowered when wearing them,” she explains. By Glaze, her newest venture, was an idea that came about during the lockdown. The pieces are made from recycled sterling silver and responsibly-sourced 18k gold plating, ensuring sustainability and ethical practices are at the core of the company’s ethos. “We have created beautiful pieces that not only empower women and support local communities but also have the planet front of mind. By Glaze designs are inspired by nature herself. Specifically, we have looked to the ocean and all it touches, with our collections having been designed around the waves and the sand they touch upon. As nature is such a huge part of our business, we also plant a tree with every order because every positive purchase has a positive impact.”

Glaze is excited about the recent shift in consumer behaviour towards more mindful shopping and investing in brands that are doing good things for the planet. “From the big to the small, from materials, to manufacturing, packaging, creating high-quality things that last, or having less waste, we focus on sustainability at every level as that’s something I, Zanna and both brands believe in,” she says. I speak with Glaze about launching brands that resonate with customers and the importance of delegating tasks when trying to scale.

How did you first conceptualise what would eventually become Stay Wild and By Glaze?

When we designed our pieces for Stay Wild, we wanted them to flatter all bodies, have a purpose, and most importantly, we knew each element had to consider people and the planet. But the idea for the business didn’t come about in the conventional way. We were having brunch and discussing sustainability and I mentioned an idea I had had for a sustainable swimwear business and asked if it was something Zanna would be interested in. We started brainstorming and decided it was something we wanted to explore together. We created an Instagram page to start putting feelers out and get people’s reaction and thoughts. I think we thought we would just test the water before we committed, but before we knew it, the business took on a life of its own. Everything kind of snowballed and here we are three years later with an incredible swimwear brand that’s been making waves in the fashion industry.

I came up with the idea for By Glaze in lockdown. I have always loved jewellery and not a day goes by without me wearing loads; I love how empowered it makes me feel. I hadn’t been able to find beautiful timeless sustainable jewellery, hence why By Glaze was born. My mum is an artist and the charity she teaches at closed due to COVID. She was so heartbroken. I went to her with an idea to go into business together. She helps me design and draw the jewellery and also makes our beautiful ceramic jewellery bowls and centrepiece bowls which she handmakes at her home studio. I launched it 9 months ago now and the response has been incredible. I think there was a gap in the market for really timeless minimal jewellery that put the planet front of mind.

What first sparked your interest in the world of design?

I grew up in a house of designers and artists—both my parents are creatives and were constantly drawing or making something—and it’s actually come full circle now because I work alongside my mum with my company By Glaze. She designs the jewellery with me and creates the ceramic bowls we sell, at her home studio. I love getting to work with my mum. From such a young age I have been creative and always knew I would love to own my own business, although it took me quite a few ideas before I got to the successful ones. Honestly, the amount of business ideas I have had—some awful—I still have my old sketches for clothing brands ideas and activewear companies I wanted to launch. It took me many years, lots of failing, lessons learnt, but I finally got there with Stay Wild and By Glaze, both of which I am so proud of.

At Stay Wild Swim, you have a co-founder in Zanna Van Dijk. How did the two of you first decide to build a business together and do you have any tips for forming successful working relationships?

I have known Zanna for around 6 or 7 years now. We met through the online fitness world and just clicked. I always admired her work ethic and motivation and as the years went by, we both became more aware and interested in sustainability and the future of our planet. Our mutual love for the ocean is definitely what drew us together, just having that common passion. We met up for brunch and a catch-up and I pitched the idea of a sustainable swimwear business to her as I knew that it was something that she had been thinking about and with our shared passion for the ocean it made sense. We decided then and there to start exploring the idea, created an Instagram page and started leaking behind the scenes shots and put the idea out there to see if anyone would be interested. There was never a definitive moment when we said “Yes, let’s launch this business”. It was more of a, “This is a cool idea let’s explore it” and it kind of snowballed from there and here we are three years later and it’s the best decision we ever made. I would say one thing that makes a successful working relationship for us is that our skillsets complements each other very well. We both have strengths in different areas which is really useful—I think finding people who complement you, who have different skills and bring out the best in you is key. Also, openness and honesty is something that helps—running a business can be very tough and you need to be able to support each other and have open conversations.

Deciding on whether an endeavour is more of a hobby than a business is a difficult thing for more entrepreneurs. How did you decide on turning what started off as passion projects into revenue-generating businesses?

I would say creating something you are passionate about and really believe in is the most important thing—having a bigger purpose and vision than just creating money. I don’t personally think you should set up a business purely to make money, as it’s the passion and soul of a business that makes it succeed. With both businesses, I went in saying I want to create something with meaning, that had a purpose and a story to tell and that was the key thing. With Stay Wild, I remember a conversation with Zanna where we said, even if we don’t make a penny, we want to be proud of everything we do. And I really think that I have achieved this. I think the storytelling of both brands really struck a chord with our audiences; we have created a really invested audience and both businesses very quickly turned into revenue creating businesses. So I think creating beautiful products that people actually want with a story behind them, showcasing the journey, and taking people along for the ride is what enabled such great success with both.

Do you think your experience with digital and social helped you in creating brands that “stuck” with consumers?

Yes, 100%. I think having an understanding of the digital world and growing my own audience on social media for years prior helped a huge amount. I had spent years speaking to and curating a following of people who I could speak to about my brands and ask them questions. From the outset of Stay Wild, both myself and Zanna started asking our audience questions like “What makes you buy from a brand? What makes you follow a brand on social media? What are your thoughts on sustainable products?” It allowed us to gain feedback and an understanding of what people wanted. This is something we have continued to do throughout Stay Wild’s and now By Glaze’s journey—talk to and involve our customers at every stage. Get their opinions, ask what colours and shapes they want to see. I think this is one of the most important things we did and continue to do.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before you decided to launch your companies?

I always say this to people but the one thing I wish I knew was that your brand or product doesn’t need to be perfect before launching. I think we can get caught up in trying to make every tiny thing perfect and that holds us back from actually launching. TI got the most value after we launched the companies—being able to get feedback, speak to customers directly, get the products out there, understand what works, what doesn’t. Nothing is ever perfect; you will make mistakes, but learning and growing on the job is where the value is for me.

What’s the one task you always do yourself and another that you suggest to outsource?

I think I have learnt to delegate a lot more. When we launched Stay Wild, I literally did everything myself, and now looking back, it was not productive. We didn’t have much of a choice at the beginning when we first launched and it was literally a team of me and Zanna and I learnt a lot. But balancing that many things and roles and trying to do everything was not the best use of my time and I was on the edge of burnout constantly, which isn’t healthy. I very quickly learnt that fulfilling and packing orders and doing finances are things that I find stressful. Yes, I need to understand them, but the day-to-day running of them I outsource with both businesses as that allows me to focus on where my skills lie. The moment I began understanding it’s ok not to do everything, that’s when I was able to find more balance and have more creative ideas.

Is there a particular business skill you’re currently trying to master?

I am spending a lot of time researching the future of digital such as NFTs and that world; it’s something that I had very little understanding of but I have made it my current goal right now. I think it’s a really exciting space and an area for upcoming fashion designers and lots of avenues to go down.

Tell me your favourite: a) vintage clothes shop b) restaurant c) workout studio

a) I LOVE vintage and also second-hand clothes. My favourite online vintage store is The Level Store—all the pieces they curate are so chic and timeless.

b) Restaurant: So hard to choose one but probably Sorella in Clapham, Bancone in Soho or Ottolenghi. Sorry, impossible to choose!)

c) Workout studio: I have been doing Lottie Murphy Pilates Virtual Studio religiously for the past year and it has kept me sane, my muscles elongated, and my core strong. Lottie is the queen of Pilates.

Natalie Glaze

Stay Wild

By Glaze

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