Natal Active is an activewear brand for pregnant and breastfeeding women. We aim to bring colourful, stylish and, importantly, functional sportswear to women that want to stay active and comfortable during the pregnancy and postnatal period. All of our products are suitable for both intense sport and everyday activities, and have been designed to be flattering during and after pregnancy for maximum wear.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I am a long-time marathon runner and ran and worked out regularly through my three pregnancies. In each I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of decent maternity activewear. There was almost none at the time and I found myself wearing bigger and bigger clothes that looked awful and felt uncomfortable. And as for a decent breastfeeding sports bra, well there was nothing that I found.
I knew how much wearing nice gym kit gave me a boost before I was pregnant and it frustrated me that as soon as you had a baby you were (certainly then) ignored by all the sportswear brands. I felt there had to be a better way and set to work initially on an idea for maternity leggings that had built in running support and the idea evolved from there. As I started to work on different designs and the collection came together I knew it was exactly what I had wished I had had.
It was important to me that the products could all be used beyond pregnancy, from a sustainability and value for money perspective. Understandably women want to get more from their maternity wear and given I was developing quality products that would last, I wanted to also be able to wear them myself despite no longer having a bump. Everything in the collection is as a result of my testing and tweaking designs and fabrics and despite my youngest now being 5, I wear my own products over and above any other brand – quite genuinely.
What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Take advice only from those qualified to give it. If I had paid attention to people that made me feel a bit like I was a bored housewife looking to pass the time while the kids were at school with an idea that no one will really be interested in, well I probably would have a tidier house! I knew in myself that it was something that was missing in the UK market and could see how companies in other countries were succeeding in the same space.
My background is marketing and maternal fitness is something I am passionate about so I knew I had to try and stop wondering ‘what if’.
I got support – from Worcestershire Enterprise who helped me build a business plan and advised me on all the things I needed to know about cash flow management, insurance, wholesaling and many other things I hadn’t even thought about. I’d advise anyone to do this.
I applied and got a start up grant and when I more than tripled my sales forecast for month one, and almost doubled that in month three, I had the confidence and support to apply for a small business loan and start to really focus on growth, expanding the product range and developing the brand. Don’t be afraid to aim big – at the moment I am still running the business from a spare room and doing everything myself. But I hope it doesn’t look like that when you hit the website for the first time.
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What can we hope to see from Natal Active in the future?
Hopefully greater profile and further growth. Word of mouth is huge in this market and I am already seeing the impact of people talking to each other and sales coming from beyond the work I have done on social media. I now have a patent pending on my support leggings design and would like to develop this product further too.
It’s still very early days – I only launched 4 months ago – but I am feeling optimistic and confident for the future.
Interview with Claire Gleave, Founder at Natal Active