NOVMBR is an eco-friendly swim brand that only uses sustainable materials. All NOVMBR’s swimwear is handmade from luxury, sustainable techno-fabric constructed from plastic bottles, fishing nets and consumer waste pulled from our ocean! Founder Leanne Dunn always knew she wanted to set up her own business and after leaving school at 16, she learnt the ropes by working for her parents business. Leanne’s mission was to create high-end, fashionable swimwear at an affordable price whilst aiming to create awareness and helping to drive the message that we all can all make a difference to help the environment, not matter how big or small. With the fashion industry constantly changing and sustainable fashion becoming increasingly popular, it is just a matter of showing consumers of the amazing alternative options to fast fashion that are out there.
Name: Leanne Dunn
Where’s home? Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Profession: Founder & Director – NOVMBR Swimwear
Company Name: NOVMBR
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
I didn’t go to university; I left school at the age of 16 and went straight into work, working for my parent’s business. I learnt the daily ins and outs of running a business from an early age and realised quite soon that I wanted to work for myself and create a business of my own one day!
What is NOVMBR and when did you launch?
NOVMBR is an eco-friendly swim brand, using only sustainable materials. All our swimwear is handmade from a luxury, sustainable techno-fabric constructed from plastic bottles, fishing nets and consumer waste pulled from our ocean! We create high-end, fashionable swimwear at an affordable price whilst aiming to create awareness and help drive the message that we all can all make a difference to help the environment, not matter how big or small. The fashion industry is constantly changing and sustainable fashion is becoming increasingly popular, so it’s just a matter of showing the alternative options are just as good. I launched the brand in September 2018.
How did the idea for NOVMBR come about?
I’ve always loved swimwear and for years I dreamt of creating my own brand. The difference to a lot of the swimwear brands out there, is that I wanted to create a brand with a difference. After watching documentaries about the state of our oceans due to plastic, I had that ‘light bulb’ moment and after lots of research into recyclable fabrics I discovered the amazing swim fabric we use today! The rest is history!
How did you get the ball rolling?
Initially lots of research, followed by lots of hand drawn sketches. Contacting various industry experts for advice and services, contacting factories and manufacturers, suppliers and working out who were the most suitable for the NOVMBR brand.
Have you left full time employment to pursue NOVMBR full time?
No, not yet. I don’t plan on taking any income from NOVMBR for a good few years; any money generated will be re-invested back into growing and improving the brand. However, time is the biggest challenge, evenings & weekends are full on with working on NOVMBR, whilst squeezing in time to see family & friends – a girl’s got to have a bit of a social life to stay sane right?!
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for NOVMBR?
Finding a suitable manufacturer was the most difficult. I was adamant about sourcing a factory which was ethically run, socially responsible and pays their workers a fair living wage. Our manufacturer does just that and also donates 10 cents for every bikini made to a foundation which runs a zero waste facility and environmental development program.
How do you go about finding a manufacturer? What 3 tips can you can offer…
I spoke to industry experts for recommendations. My top tips would be: Make sure you find a factory which pays all their workers fairly and offers development programs within the business for employees. Make sure your factory openly allows you to visit them.
How have you raised investment? Or equally how are you raising investment?
Investment has solely come from my own savings! I part own another business in which I manage the financial side of-so I’m great with money management!
Have you got a mentor? Yes, my father! He’s taught me so much when it comes to running a business successfully. He taught me to take risks, work hard and to learn each area of my business inside out. Most importantly, he made me believe in myself.
Do you ever doubt yourself?
Yes! I have days where I say to myself ‘I can’t do this’ or question ‘what the hell am I doing?!’ But it’s OK to have those days every so often – I just move forward to a new day and deal with the issue at hand. It’s definitely self-doubt though, I’ve never doubted the brand as that’s something I strongly believe in – I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t! Self-motivation is so difficult, but you just have to remain focused and never give up. Nobody said it would be easy!! You just have to roll with things, even if you’ve never done something specific before; just pretend to yourself that you have!! For instance the first time I did a shoot for NOVMBR, I got a nervous but excited feeling. I’d never done a photo shoot before, but I just rolled with it and pushed any doubts to the back of my mind, as at the end of the day we’re all human! But it was a great learning curve and an amazing experience – and an incredible feeling seeing the models in my swimwear for the first time!!
How are you marketing NOVMBR?
I currently use social media, mainly Instagram & Facebook but also email marketing. These all help to drive consumers to my website. However, I’m still looking into all other avenues of marketing now – I’m always open to new opportunities and ideas! NOVMBR also has a YouTube channel; this is where you can check out the BTS of our shoots – so much fun btw! I’m planning to use this more in the future too – an ‘inside the brand’ kind of vibe!
How do you think NOVMBR differs from the competition out there?
It’s an eco-friendly, sustainable brand which remains fashionable & stylish! Eco fashion doesn’t have to be dull & boring, and I want to prove that! The first collection from NOVMBR is timeless but also provides the minimal bikini style that the UK swimwear market has been missing! Our high-cut, minimal styles are just what the market is striving for right now, they’re super flattering to bodies of all shapes and sizes – I want to empower every woman to feel confident in their bodies whilst enjoying their holiday and lounging in the sun!
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
Just to believe in myself more and try not to doubt myself as much!
What’s a typical day for you working on NOVMBR?
Each day is different! I plan social media posts, package and send out orders (I’ve made great friends with the ladies at the local Post Office!!), reply to emails regarding marketing, collaborations etc. I work on new design ideas and I’m forever researching.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I’m stronger & more confident than I thought and I’m great at just making decisions straight away. I don’t like to time waste, I’ve realised time is so important!
Any fuck ups along the way?
NOMVBR was originally supposed to launch in June 2018, however it didn’t quite happen that way! My final samples were approved early 2018 and I went ahead with my very first bulk production which was due to arrive in May. However, I then discovered the factory and supplier had made a mistake somewhere along the line which therefore caused a huge delay. I had to push the launch back to September 2018 right at the end of the summer season!! But hey, I still went ahead with the launch and I’m super excited to dive head first into NOVMBR’s first summer in 2019!
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up NOVMBR? Seeing customers in my swimwear!!
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Honestly… I’d say just go for it! Its hard work, but the harder you work to more you’ll appreciate the outcome. Things will take longer than you initially think, but it should all work out in the end if you stick at it.
What do you think is next for NOVMBR in the next year?
Creating & growing the range for S/S 2020 and introducing a new product to the brand… My lips are sealed for now!!
What’s the dream?
Becoming a driving force for environmental awareness – the fashion industry has a negative impact on the environment and I want NOVMBR to be a part of the solution not the problem. And also having lots of women all shapes and sizes slaying in NOVMBR swimwear of course!
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you be doing? I’d still be creating a business doing something!!
Just for fun…
A startups U 30 I admire are is..
Conna Walker – House of CB -To be honest anyone who has the balls to start-up a business is a boss!!
The Twenty Mile Club is…. A great place for inspiration and motivation!! I love a good start up story
Find NOVMBR at the social handles below