Some brands are built to effortlessly attract communities. Lucy & Yak is one of them.

Here, we uncover the secret sauce to cultivating an irresistible brand experience.

In this episode, Lucy Greenwood (Co-Founder and Creative Director @ Lucy & Yak) shares her journey building the iconic community-led brand.

Lucy & Yak first ignited their flame with a creation story rooted in passion and purpose. Known for sustainable and inclusive fashion, particularly their playful dungarees, they’ve had stratospheric success over the last 7 years. Most of this success can be attributed to engaging a passionate community of customers, the rise of dopamine dressing, and an unwavering commitment to solid brand values. 

In conversation with Paul, Lucy gives exclusive insight into the brand’s community of 843k+ members across Instagram and Facebook – 76k+ of these coming from private Facebook communities, built by and for dedicated brand fans. 

In the month since recording, this community has only grown. Today, the brand has over 855k followers on these platforms alone.

Lucy & Yak’s community is powerfully fan-created. Brand Advocacy at its finest!

This conversation dives into…

Authentic Community Building: Lucy & Yak's remarkable story is testament to the power of holistic community building. From humble beginnings on Depop to explosive growth, their community-first approach has fostered genuine Advocacy and unwavering loyalty among their customers.

Embracing Brand Values: At the heart of Lucy & Yak's ethos lies a commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and authenticity. Explore how Lucy's personal values shape the brand's identity, and how she strategically prioritizes the causes they get behind.

Innovative Marketing Strategies: Delve into Lucy & Yak's innovative marketing strategies, from incentivizing user-generated content to treating their customers as influencers since day one. Discover how a focus on word-of-mouth marketing and strategic gifting has amplified Brand Advocacy and fueled next-level growth.

Navigating Growth Challenges: Though the journey has been steady, it hasn’t been without moments of doubt. Lucy shares insights into the challenges and triumphs of scaling a brand – from overcoming imposter syndrome and balancing creative flow with the day-to-day of brand building, to embracing uncertainty and responsibility as the team expands. Gain valuable lessons on navigating the complexities of growth while staying true to core brand values.

Tune in to learn from one of the UK’s trailblazing fashion founders.

Elevate the brand you build.

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Building Brand Advocacy 057: 


How Lucy & Yak Built an Army of Superfans: Lucy Greenwood's Story

Paul - Hello and welcome back to Building Brand Advocacy with your host Paul Archer. And as part of our special Founder Series, I'm incredibly excited to introduce our next guest. This is something quite special actually. We're looking to talk to founders who've built iconic community led brands. And in the UK, there aren't very many that come close to the recent phenomenon that is Lucy & Yak. And today I'm really stoked to have Lucy Greenwood on the podcast. Lucy, welcome. 

Lucy - Thank you for having me.

Paul - Now, do you want to give us a little bit of an overview for those who don't know what Lucy and Yak is? 

Lucy - Yeah, so I founded Lucy and Yak back in 2017. And my name's Lucy, so that's where the Lucy bit came from. And Yak was actually a camper van that I was living in at the time when I started the brand. So that's where the name came from. And I actually started out selling vintage clothing, which then transitioned me into starting my own brand. And we are well known for our iconic dungarees. That was our first ever product. So that's our hero product. It's still one of our best sellers, but we've always, from day one, we've always been a sustainable brand, an ethical brand. We're also super inclusive. You know, our sizing goes from a size UK four to 32 women's dress size, which is, not many brands can say that. So that's always been really important to us. And yeah, we've just got this incredible community of customers that have just helped us grow this brand at just lightning speed, it's felt like from my end. And yeah, I couldn't really have ever dreamed it would become this big when I started it. I just, you know, I was just trying to figure out a way of making a little bit of money to keep the traveling lifestyle going that I had. And it just ended up blowing up so quickly. I was like, whoa, I can't travel anymore as much. I've got to run a business.

Paul - Amazing, and a great business it is. And it's like it's an iconic product as well. It's so distinctive and it's just something which I see everywhere. My wife wears them, everyone I know, like, wears them, they're brilliant. You sort of mentioned that passionate community. Like was that a strategy from the beginning? Or did it develop organically? 

Lucy - It developed really organically. And you know, the community side of things, the customers is the one area that I hadn't really considered, you know, we'd started out selling vintage. So I started the brand with a core founder and we started out selling vintage clothing. And then after a couple of years of doing that, we ended up realizing we've got a bit of an eye for it. And we noticed that every time we got a pair of dungarees, they would sell out and it was really hard to find vintage dungarees. So we were like, there's a bit of a gap in the market here. There's not actually many dungaree brands. And so… When we went on our next trip, which was to India, we decided to give it a go. So it was kind of like, we didn't really have a business plan. We didn't have, we didn't know who the customer was gonna be. We'd got this following on Depop, which was a great start because we'd built that up through selling vintage clothing. So when we actually launched Lucy & Yak, we had about 18,000 followers on Depop. So the first Dungarees that we launched, we launched on Depop and they sold out straight away. So, I suppose the customer on there was very young, very Gen Z. And then as well, I suppose, yeah, maybe not Gen Z though, probably seven years ago now. But we; and then what happened from that was then we started to move it onto our own website. And that's when the community really started to come through and we started noticing that there was a Facebook group that had been created that was for like Lucy & Yak fans. And we were just like, why are people obsessed with this brand? Like we… We didn't even know, we couldn't even. I remember sitting about a year and a half in and sort of trying to figure out what is it, what is it that people are loving about this? Because we need to make sure we bottle that and keep doing it. And yeah, the community was a big driving force behind that we didn't really ever expect or really consider. But then once it started happening, that actually became one of the most enjoyable parts of it. The feedback that we get from our community, the… how engaged they are, how much they feel like they've found this brand that's for them. And I think I'd never really considered that because I've never really found a brand that I feel was like me entirely. I've never had like, solid loyalty to one brand, but yeah, our customers seem to have. And I think that was just something I'd never considered, but it's actually the part of the business now that I love the most. 

Paul - And just to put that into perspective, you probably don't check these, but, you've got over 638k followers on Instagram. We've got 129k on Facebook and two different Facebook groups with over 76.3k members. I mean, these are huge numbers for, when did the brand start? 

Lucy - We turned seven in July this year, so six and a half years ago. 

Paul - That's incredible growth. And so you say about that kind of connection of community and that's building there like, did COVID play into that? Was there something that people kind of, were looking to find something? I'd love to know, what do you think was the catalyst for this community exploding to become the size that it is today? 

Lucy - Well, to be honest, I always think that the starting point was… So I, for some reason was always confident to just sort of go online, do videos talk about what was going on in the background and – because, in the first year or two, we actually spent more time on the ground in India with our suppliers than we did in the UK building our business here. And I think from that, it meant, and I was always sharing what was going on in the manufacturing process and everything about the workers. And I think from that, people started to really feel like they knew me and my co-founder as well. And so I think that was a big part of it. I think… I actually am from a sales background and people buy from people, I know they do. When you're online, that's actually quite tricky – unless you are confident enough to record videos and things like that. So I think that played a really big part of it. People feeling that connection to us personally. People love that we're from the North. They love that it's a clothing brand that started in the North, technically. So I think that was a big part of it, the sort of down-to-earthness of the brand. And yeah, I think… I think also the values, I think when we started, I feel like there was a bit of a shift starting to happen, whether it had already started or it was beginning to happen, where people were choosing clothing brands based on their values as opposed to being able to represent how much money they had. Because I think in the past it was like, oh, you're wearing this, it says that you can afford this brand. And I think that exclusivity kind of started to shift and people were starting to want brands that represented their values and that's the brands they were proud to wear. Cause I remember being like, we're not even an expensive brand, why are people willing to wear us? Like this label on them that they've never heard of. And then I started to realize it was down to that, the values and I'm seeing that so much more now. Like I think every business that starts up now has to have some strong core values that their customers can get behind. Otherwise there's nothing that really sets them apart from the competition. So I think that was a big part of it for sure. 

Paul - And so how much are the values simply you in your values? You know, you're saying you're the face of it and that's, and still are today, right? So we follow you on Instagram, you're still there, like recording videos in the cold from your camper van, right? Like it doesn't get any more real than that. So not only is your name on the product, but like you are baked into it. Like are the company values just Lucy's values and that's actually why it works?

Lucy - I mean, yeah, I suppose they are. I think it's, we've had this conversation interestingly over the years because – so one of the things I've always been like as a person is that I just feel like people should just be allowed to be whoever they wanna be. As long as they're not hurting anybody, why does anyone care to stick their nose in other people's business? Just let people be who they wanna be and be happy with that. And so I think… That comes through really strong in the brand, in the inclusivity side of the brand. And our community is like one of the kindest communities with each other. When you see them having conversations in the Facebook group and stuff, they're so supportive of each other. And actually when I was at university, I studied fashion and then I ran as far away from the fashion industry as possible because it just sounded awful. It just sounded cutthroat. The term bitchy was thrown around so much and I was just like, that's just not me. I can't be in that world. And then… funnily enough, sort of 10 years later, I ended up starting my own brand and everyone says it's kind of like the opposite of what most fashion brands are in that it's about kindness and you see it in the office, you know, we've got a team that's mostly predominantly women, everyone gets along so well, everyone's so supportive of each other. So I think that definitely does come from me. I think there's certainly… in terms of how I like to run my business, I'm quite loose with it. I do like traveling. I like being away. I don't like being sort of micromanaging anybody. And so we do kind of like, trust people and leave them to, to make decisions and run with things that they feel is right. It has got us in a little bit of hot water sometimes that where we've had, you know, everyone cares about different things. And so we've had things that we've spoke about outwardly online and then I've gone, no, I'm going to be in it. I can't, I can't like, I can't hold that thing. Cause I don't know a lot about it. So I've kind of had to make sure that actually, I feel like I have to make sure that everything that does go out is something that I can fully back because I'm the one that ends up, you know, on podcasts and things like that, having to talk about it. And if I'm like, I actually don't care about that thing, like; you're saying things that you don't care about that the brand does or things you just don't feel armed to talk about? Cause I think that's what it is. It's not, it's not, they're not caring about, I think there's just a lot of things happening in the world and people do want brands to speak up about them. And I think, you can't speak up about everything.  And I think that can be quite challenging, to know when you should and when you shouldn't. And I think it took us a while to sort of figure out actually, these are the things that we can really speak about. And these are the things that I would have to go away and do tons of research to really know what I was talking about. And when you've got a platform that's got followers the size we have, you've got, you know, you've got an obligation to not be just spouting off stuff that you don't really know nothing about. And I… That was one of the conversations I actually had with the team. I love animals, but we've never given to an animal charity, for example. I've never really brought that into the business because it hasn't ever felt right for the business. But personally, that's where I would put my money. Do you know what I mean? So it's kind of like, it's a funny one really that I think what I love about the brand is one of the big things that we tend to tackle and it kind of all sits under that umbrella is just acceptance. It's just like accepting people for who they are. And that comes in all different, like shapes and sizes, but it's always about including people and making everyone feel welcome and often there's probably a little bit of a feminist spin on it because we're a very female heavy business, so we do care about a lot of sort of like feminist issues. So we do feel like we can speak out about those things and they do make for really great campaigns actually. We just have, we just love to open up conversation to our community to talk about stuff that are like pressing issues in the world that we feel like actually we can really get behind. 

Paul - How do you kind of stay fresh with that inclusiveness? A lot of brands know, every brand is probably talking about being inclusive these days. It's now no longer a differentiator. Us working in the industry on the other side, we've probably been part of those conversations when it's very contrived. You can hear people are trying actively to be like, oh yeah, here's how we can be more inclusive rather than… be inclusive. Inclusive is something you should be, rather than something you try and tell people you are. Yeah, and so, we; a lot of brands are trying to do that. It has seemed that it's been kind of there since day one with you. Like, do you find you have to evolve as a brand? That was, I mean… there's inclusiveness, there's sustainability as well, like the pre kind of ‘greenwashing’ being a term that was something which has clearly been quite, quite cool for you. Is it hard to stay relevant now everyone is claiming to be these things? 

Lucy - For sure it is. I think we've had those conversations, you know, sustainability doesn't set you apart anymore. Everybody is making stuff from at least organic cotton and recycled materials. So I feel like that's just going to be a business given, especially in the fashion industry, that like if you're not sustainable, you're just not going to survive. So it just has to be the core of your business anyway.  So I certainly think that is something that is not enough anymore. I think circularity is an interesting place to go because, I think, we launched a Buyback scheme which is like you can bring back any of your old Lucy & Yak products into any of our stores and you get a voucher off your next pair and then we sell on those products in the store second-hand or we recycle them if they're not in a resale-able condition. So we've started that in stores, and we're gonna roll that out to… for customers to be able to send stuff back online as well eventually, like, because it's not accessible to everybody at the minute. We wanted to trial it for a year in stores and make sure that it, you know, it was feasible. It wasn't gonna cost us too much money and like get an idea of what quality the products come back in. And I think circularity is probably more important than sustainability now in terms of where businesses should be going. But again, there's a lot of businesses that are, you know, they've got recycle bins in their stores and things like that, but who knows what's happening to that product. And I think that's something that's still an issue. So I think we want to aim at tackling that and be really transparent. Like we know exactly where that's going. At the minute, we've not had that much back that needs recycling. So we're just recycling it in the local communities with like, seamstresses and things like that are just coming and collecting it from the stores. But as we get bigger and we open it up online, then we're going to look for a really great recycle partner that's doing something interesting with that so that we can be sure that it's going to the right place. Because there's obviously all the problems with it getting sent abroad to other countries and things like that. But with inclusivity, I think inclusivity is an interesting one because we started out with, if you take sizing specifically on inclusivity, we started out with just one size dungaree and then we sort of expanded out from there. And I think by year two, we were doing up to a dress size UK 22 and getting so much stick for not going beyond that. And every brand that I was looking at wasn't even going up to a size, like we was going up to a size 18 maximum. But what was happening was, and this has happened to us a lot, is I think because we are a brand that tries to do as much as possible in the best way possible, people want us to fight that corner. They like want us to fight their corner on anything that they care about. And so we started getting a lot of stick for not going beyond a 22. And… And basically we wanted to make sure, because when you go beyond a size 22, the grading rules on a garment completely changes and we didn't have any technical people internally for grading garments. We were just doing it through the factories, but the factories didn't have any experience beyond that size because not many brands were doing it. So we had to hire a full team of people that were used to that, that had the experience in plus size, because one of the things is, if you expand out into plus size, but then you do it half-assed, you're also just doing it in a tokenistic way. So there's a lot of backlash that can come from that as well because it's like, it doesn't fit very well. You've just done it as an afterthought. So we didn't want to do that. We wanted to do it properly. So we got that team in, which then it took us, you know, about 18 months to go through all of our products, regrade them, get them sampled. So then it was maybe like year four, maybe even year five by the time we actually launched it. And people were saying, you should have done it sooner. And it's like, it takes time to do it properly. And so we just always stand firm in our like, we just wanna make sure we do it properly. We're not doing anything just for marketing reasons. We listen to our community and if there's enough people requesting something, then we'll trial it and see if it works and we'll put money behind it and make sure we do it properly because if you do it half-assed and it might just not work and that might be why and then you can kind of blame that.  And I actually think it was one of the best things we've done because there is brands out there that call themselves size inclusive, but don't go anywhere near the sizes that we do. And I do think that people recognise that of us now. And I think that is great. I think people do see us as leaders in that area. 

Paul - And do you think that is because you have more plus size customers than the average brand and you've got to play to your customer base? Or is this the case that there is a small number of plus size customers who aren't being catered for and feel that you are the kind of brand that should cater for them? I'm trying to understand the sort of quantities of the pool there.

Lucy - I think it depends where you're classing plus sizes starting. We… our sort of, best-selling sizes are still size 8, 10, 12, 14, 16. And then it just starts to on the sort of smaller sizes and bigger sizes, it starts to really shrink down how many customers there are. But I think what is great about our brand is that there is brands out there that do plus size and nd you tend to find that a lot of the brands that do plus size or have been doing it for a while are your fast fashion brands, which then you see when we're talking about sustainability and things that a lot of plus size customers will say, well, it's not fair because I can't buy sustainably because sustainable brands don't do my size. And so I think there's that factor that's drawing people to us. And also the, I think what's happened a lot in the plus size world is it's been an afterthought. And so not the whole range has not been available in those sizes, whereas we went in with the whole range. Rather than assuming that they'll not buy this and they'll not buy that, we've just gone in with the whole range and then thought we'll pull it back if there's some products that are not selling. But actually most of it does sell. So I think that we get so many emails from people who say that when it comes to the high street and a lot of the big brands, they've just never been able to shop there. And so they've always been really limited with choice. And so it's meant that they want their own personal style as well. They wanna feel like themselves. They wanna, clothing's such an important part of most of our lives and it's how we express what we're into, what communities we're a part of, or what we care about. And a lot of plus-size people aren't able to do that because the brands that they want to support don't cater to them. So I think we are definitely, like that customer base is definitely growing and especially we're focusing on US growth now and obviously the average size in the US is a lot larger than I think it is in Europe. I think that's going to serve us really well as we grow in the USA as well. Like having that diversity of sizes should really help us grow there as well. 

Paul - Yeah. So, so talking of now looking to expand into a new market, kind of always like going to, to America as a brand is almost like starting afresh again in the many, many cases, because you don't have that core love of customers who drive word of mouth and Advocacy, and it's something which, which like I'm going through with my company is that we have a brand in the UK and people start to know us and they tell each other about it and it works really nicely through the Advocacy but in the US, you're going in cold, everything's a bit harder. Looking back over the past six, seven years, what has been the most impactful lever that you've pulled to drive building meaningful relationships that lead to that Advocacy in the UK and do you think you're going to be able to repeat that in the US?

Lucy - So I think in the UK, certainly the word-of-mouth was a big one for us. And I think because we have such a loud product that it's like marketing in itself. People are walking around wearing this, something that's really bright, bold, colorful. We get so many customers saying, someone stopped me in the street, asking me where that was from. I got stopped six times today, asking me where that was from kind of thing. So I think, funnily enough, during Covid, we… We were growing during COVID, but we were thinking like, there's no one walking around in our stuff. So like we're gonna actually the marketing element that was happening really organically is not happening anymore because everyone's trapped inside. But I think that was a big part of it. But also, I think we did a really good job in the early days in the UK of sort of really involving our community and getting them to share content and things like that in exchange. We've always had like a gift voucher for every photo that we share on our own social media, we don't just re-share it, we actually give them a voucher for it so they can buy something off the website. So we've kind of always paid, we've treated our customers like influencers in a lot of ways actually.  And so when it comes to the US, the USA is a very expensive market to try and go into and we want to do it as cost-effectively as possible and we've always managed to do things in that way up until now – sort of, keeping things as, I'm a tight Yorkshire-woman, so I don't like to spend too much money on advertising. But I do think one of the things that people keep telling me in the USA is stop talking about the USA, pick a state, talk about that state, focus on that state and aim for that as though that's a country. And I suppose that makes sense. And our biggest state in the USA is California. So that's the one we've decided to go after. We've got organic growth there. About 15, 20% of our customers are from the USA. That's spread out, but a large percentage of them are actually in California. So I think what our plan is, is when we launch is to run some ads to try and get more content creators involved in that ambassador program in California specifically, and then potentially do like a pop-up shop locally, because I think the other thing in the USA is...that physical presence is more trusted if you've got some physical presence when you're a brand that's from another country. So, because actually in the UK, one of the things that worked really well for us – we did do a little bit of wholesaling at the start and just a small boutiques, just like really hand selected small boutiques. It wasn't big quantities, it wasn't really a sales channel, it was more a marketing thing. So we were considering that as well in the States, that sort of speaking to a few boutiques that we feel like, really aligned with the brand and getting a presence there with that as well. So, but I think, I actually think influencers, the sort of micro influencers, an army of them is going to be the main tactic because I actually, um, chatted to the guys at Passenger and they were, they were like, that, that's really served them well. So that, that's what sparked my interest in this. And I think we've needed to give our influencer strategy a bit of an overhaul for a while. We've kind of just been plodding along doing bits and pieces here and there, but it's not, I would say it's not been as effective as it could be. 

Paul - You're pretty lucky because people are doing it anyway. And like you said, the product itself is distinctive enough and it's big. People are wearing full length dungarees in bright colors. And your logo is right on the front there, right? And it's super distinctive. So I think you've got like, an easy win there. You mentioned there that you gift people free product for when you put them on your website. Have you always done this? This isn't normal, by the way. I love it. I think it's the way that everyone should do it and they should just be as generous as possible with their product and use that to seed conversations and get other people to tell their story for them. But not very many people do it. Have you done that since the beginning? 

Lucy - We've done that since pretty much day one. Because, when we were in India creating the first products...We were, we basically made 30 dungarees, shipped them to my mum, photographed them, Chris photographed them on me in India, and then we put them on the website, all on Depop to begin with. And then when we started, when we decided to set up our own website, which we did from like an internet cafe in Rishikesh, India, took us like three hours to set up a Shopify. I was like, this is great. And then we realized we probably needed social media. And at the time, right, I think I'd been traveling, I'd been traveling on and off for about four years and I just didn't even have personal social media. I'd never had an Instagram account. And so this German girl that I met when I was traveling called Tonya, she was like, you need an Instagram. People need to see you on Instagram.  So we set up this Instagram and me and her were just like going around creating content. And then a couple of customers tagged us in some really nice photos and I was like, hang on a minute, how do we get more of that? Because that's free content and we don't have to shoot it. So then we started saying, yeah, 25 pound voucher for any content that we reshare. And that was just, it just snowballed from there really. And I think it's that, yeah, it's always, we've always used our customers as our influencers, I suppose, as our micro-influencers. So, and it worked really well because it just, it was for content reasons. It wasn't really, I wasn't never really thinking about how many people are seeing these photos and the new customers that are gonna come in. I just want some content to post on my Instagram! 

Paul - That's amazing. I mean, it is, I mean, I think that's the correct use of the word influencers. It's now like a title with a capital I like, oh, this person is an influencer, but actually it's something that one does. If someone influences other people to make, to make a behavior change, whether it's buying a thing or whatever, they have been influential. And if there's only one person they do it for, they've still been an influencer of sorts. And, and I think that what you were baking in there is huge. They're… still to this day, if I post a picture of me wearing Lucy & Yak in it, it actually will give me 25 quid? 

Lucy - Yeah. Instead of it just being, we'll just reshare your photo. I think that's like, some people will do it for that, but there's some that won't. It gives them more incentive to, doesn't it? To take a really good photo. Yeah. And Rikishesh, which is, there is two great things. 

Paul - This is the Beatles album. 

Lucy - Yeah. The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh was where we used to do the photo shoots. We used to. We used to have to break in because it didn't open until 9 o'clock because it's all overrun now. It's just like the jungle's taken over it because it's not a working ashram anymore. But there's monkeys just living in there and plants have just taken over. It's amazing. It looks like something from Tomb Raider or something. And it didn't open until 9 and we needed that beautiful morning light. So we used to just climb over the fence, break in, take the photos and as we were leaving, we'd walk back out the gate and then pay the guy. He'd be like, what are you doing? 

Paul - Amazing. 

Lucy - Yeah, that was brilliant. There's actually a photo of me in the dungarees and there's like the Beatles, someone's drawn on the wall, the Beatles, you know, the one from the Abbey Road album cover. That's actually in a photo, like just like in a… some artwork on the wall next to me on one of the original photos that we took.

Paul - Amazing. So that, I mean, that's like a kind of a pivotal moment when you started it and you had that really organic growth that came from just a great product, which I think is the best reason for anything to grow. What have been those sort of pivotal moments for you that it's just become really real that you're, you've, we're running business, like a grown up business. Like what, you know, something that just happened – because something's happened, you're like wow. I mean, some years I'm still not sure. I'm not old enough for this, not grown up enough to have to deal with this kind of thing. Where have those moments sort of hit you? 

Lucy - Do you know, there's been so many of them, but it's really funny, isn't it? I don't feel like I've changed at all as a person. I feel like exactly the same person. I feel like nothing's changed. I still live in my van, still like living in my van. But I think when I actually think back to like my mindset and how much more resilient I am at handling things, it's just ridiculous, exponential growth there. But I think, do you know what it has been? The most challenging thing for me has been social media, because obviously I put my face on it and it's very personal. I then… I was just taking everything so personally. Like if we got any negativity, any bad feedback, any criticism, it was just like, I would take that so badly. And there was instances where, you know, it was just smaller things. I just used to get like upset at like, you know, the product not being right, the things just going wrong on a small scale. But then we've had like mega social media backlash about stuff and that's the moments where I'm like, what am I doing? I'm not a celebrity. I don't want to be in this world. I don't want to be famous. I don't want people. I had this one time where the backlash was so bad, I went into a really bad mental state for a few weeks and stayed in the house, wouldn't go out, and I was in this thing of, because when I'm in Brighton, people recognise me from my videos, and so I was like, I don't go out the house, people are gonna wanna beat me up. Because you think that online is, you forget that it's not real, you forget that no one would ever shout at you in the street for it, but they will online. And I just, honestly, I remember going to a restaurant and I went to the toilet and we were, me and Chris were both, it was like a unisex bathroom. So we both went to the toilet before we left this restaurant and I came out the toilet and Chris was talking to someone at the sink, a woman, and I just heard her go, do you work at Lucy & Yak? And we were both like, no. No. She was asking for a job, but I thought she was gonna have a go at this for that. And it was just, honestly, it was so consuming and you just, and it was like a real insight into what it must be like to be in the public eye that much, that especially when you are your brand, when you're a celebrity or something, that must be hell. But I feel like they're the moments where I've gone, what am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing, I can't, I can't do this, I can't. But then over time I've really learned that it's okay to ignore some stuff on social media. It's okay to say no. I used to just bend and bend and bend to apologizing for everything, you know, like we shouldn't have done that. It's like, customer's always right, customer's always right. The problem with social media is it's not always your customers, it's just random people on the internet. And so I've learnt that over time, our customers always give us the benefit of the doubt. They feel like they know us personally, so they always give us the benefit of the doubt. The people that are not being very nice, probably not our customers. So I've learnt that it's okay to just ignore that. I've got so much better at it. So I don't take any of that stuff personally anymore. But yeah, there's been so many moments where, even when we moved to...So we were in India when we set up the business and we had a van in the UK, came back, moved in with my parents for a little bit in Yorkshire and that's where we set up the distribution centre and so we were based out of Yorkshire for a while, me and Chris, and then we realized that we were still the only ones doing the product and marketing side of things and we realized that we're going to start needing to build a team soon. Where do we want to do that? Where do we want to live and where do we want to base ourselves and London was obviously the first thought, but then I didn't like the idea of living in London, and then we went to Brighton for a weekend and just absolutely fell in love with Brighton. But anyway, I moved down to Brighton, and it's when you start hiring people that are like experts at what they do, when you're just like, how am I, I can't interview you! I don't know what questions to ask you. I don't even know anything about this thing.

And there's still things in the business that I know barely anything about. You know, you get your experts in to look after that and just to hope, you know, they're doing a good job. 

But I think, yeah, those moments, and I've had real, I've always had a real problem with, I used to hate my Northern accent. I used to think that people assume you're stupid, you know, working class. It's not, I used to feel like I couldn't fit into this world in a way. 

I remember, especially when I was in meetings, you know, we've had a couple of investment conversations and we've been, you know, things like that, but I would be in those meetings and I'm like, this is just not, I just feel so out of my comfort zone here. And like, I don't know, I just always felt really like I wasn't good enough to be in those spaces. And I used to, and we used to also get people to advise us on stuff, or even people fairly junior who've just had, you know, privately school educated and are really confident about what they're saying and how they're speaking. And I'm just like, how are you this smart? Like 21 and up. 

And I just don't feel like I've even got there. And that just used to make me feel so insecure. I'm like, how am I managing these people? And I used to, what that thing used to lead to was me and Chris arguing a lot. Cause he used to go, why do you think that person knows better about your business than you know? Stop doing that. 

And I think, I have stopped doing that a lot now, but I still do it a bit. I think it's, that, like there is a mega imposter syndrome where you've come from a working class background and then all of it. And I never had a manager's job. I'd literally never been a manager. I just had like odd jobs here, dotting about. And then all of a sudden I'm like owner and director of this company and I've got quite a few employees and people are looking to me for answers. And I'm like, I don't know what I'm doing. 

Paul - And I think, I think, I think a lot of founders go through that though. Like now.

You're now running a pretty successful business. I mean, how many people work there now? 

Lucy - So because we've opened quite a few retail stores this last 12 months, we've got about 220 employees now because we run all of our own distribution as well. So we've got our own warehouse rather than outsourcing it. So we basically do everything in house. 

Paul - Wow. It's pretty, pretty huge. Um, for, for the, I bet. Do you still struggle with the imposter syndrome?

Sometimes, but I think what I used to do was almost feel like I had to have answers for everything. Like people were looking to you, you need to give an answer, but actually I've got a lot better, especially as I've got a really solid team around me now of like heads and a couple of directors. So there's other people I can lean on and not have to answer that question. So I think that certainly helped. 

And I've kind of, it's took me, it's took me this long, probably only about 12 months ago that I realized exactly what my role was in the business because me and Chris, my co-founder, we used to kind of do a little bit of everything together and then we realized, actually, no, you're really good at that. I'm really good at this. 

Like I just, I know I don't like having, you know, the difficult conversations with people. I don't particularly like managing people. And I'm getting to this point now where I'm really about to move into that founder role of not having to manage anybody and just being the, you know, the creative, the creative force behind the brand, which I've been dreaming of for years. 

And that bit I feel really confident in, you know, and that's the bit that I love doing. So I'm not, now I'm, now I'm in the role that I should be in and not having to deal with some of the stuff that I wasn't very good at and didn't particularly enjoy. That’s made it a lot easier. 

Paul - Yeah. What is that? What is that role? How do you describe it? 

Lucy - So I suppose it's like the Creative Directo, or the creative vision of the brand. So I sort of decide visually what everything's going to look like. I decide what the tone of voice is for the brand. I decide what campaigns we do or what big ideas we're going to do next. And I think that's the bit that actually the brand, even though you wouldn't think so, I think from the outside, it feels like a very, very creative brand that's always doing stuff.

I've not been 100% happy with it. And I feel like, because I've not been able to put 100% of my efforts into it. And what ends up happening is, there's nothing kills creativity more than having to deal with like a HR issue. And they can go on for weeks and months and you're just like, this is, I can't. And I would find them so stressful that the creativity and that side of the business would really suffer. 

So that was when we started to realize Chris was like, I need to take this off you. You need to just focus on that and not worry about this stuff. And that really, really helped. 

Paul - And tell us about Chris. I mean, how did you meet and how do you sort of, as your Co-Founder, right? Like, how's the dynamic and how do you decide how that works? 

Lucy - So me and Chris, we were actually a couple when we first started the business, but we're not together anymore. We broke up a couple of years ago and it was probably the best, we both agree it was the best thing that ever happened. That separation from work.

That sort of like being at work all day, going home, talking about work, arguing about work constantly.

Paul - Yeah. That's gotta be quite intense. 

Lucy - It was so intense. And you know what, that the last year or two, I think for both of us has just been amazing to not have to go home and do, I felt like full switch off, which has been great. Yeah. We met, we met in Newcastle actually up in, up in the Northeast and we were, we were working together and then we ended up dating and then I convinced him to quit his job and go off traveling. 

So we did that for a few years. So I'm the impulsive one. I'm the impulsive jumps in, doesn't think about the consequences, which serves us really well in a lot of ways. And then he cleans up the mess behind me. That's basically how it's always worked. Periodically pumping the brakes. 

Paul - This is what a great partner brings to the party. 

Lucy - We always used to say, it's like, cause there's a lot of the business stuff that I just could not have done. I almost see it as like I'm the brand, he's the business. But there's a lot of business stuff that he couldn't, that I couldn't have done, but then he'll go, but Lucy, we wouldn't even have a business if you'd not just gone and just thrown, just chucked something out there. It's like, I'm such a perfectionist that would have never been good enough for me. 

So, and I'm just like, throw it out there, see what happens. I remember the first time I boosted a post on Facebook. I didn't know what I was doing. Put £50 behind that, see if we can get any sales. And a couple of sales came in, I was like, this is great. 

Like, I was just trying stuff, I didn't really know what I was doing, but you've just got to go for stuff. And it is hard as it gets bigger. I definitely feel more fear of being like that because it's always, it's bigger money. It's a bigger amount of money you're spending usually. There's a lot more people involved that you've got to make sure you don't mess it up for. And there's a lot more people around you that are... 

That's one of the things that's hard actually is as a founder, as the business grows and you've got a bigger team and you've got more people around you, you've got a lot more support but you've also got a lot more people telling you, ooh, but what if this and ooh, but what if that, ooh, be careful of that, ooh, what if this? And it's like, I don't need that. My head does that enough. I need you to just shut up and let me do it. 

Paul - How do you control that? How do you make sure that you're able to shut out other perspectives to make sure that you're able to focus on your own, but also be aware of them as well?

Lucy - I mean, it's challenging. I think I've probably been prone to previously listening too much and kind of going with, and you just get pulled all over then. But to be honest, I think the biggest thing I've done for that is, I've not, for years, we'd never really like defined what the brand was. Everyone kind of knows, everyone in the business is like, this is what the brand's about, we all kind of know.

But then I actually just realized even just as recently as a couple of months ago that we need, I need to really define what this is to everybody internally so there's no confusion as to what I want for the brand. And to be honest, I've got such a solid team now that they really, really back me on most things. I think it's, I do panic about spending money where we know that it's a bit tight, but I don't know actually how I really manage that now. 

I think I've just got better at sort of going, I'm gonna do it anyway. I need to do it, I need to try it, I'm just gonna do it. You just gotta shut it out. But it is hard because you, I think that, you know when people say that, because I always think that the only reason I've got a business is because I went out of the country, away from friends, away from family, away from anybody that was gonna neg me out about doing this and just did it and didn't tell anybody, just went and did it.

Didn't run it past any family member or any friends and just came back from India six months later with this business that was doing pretty well. Then nobody said anything. And I think that I know that is the right thing to do. When I know something's right, when I'm a bit unsure I can still be swayed to not do it. But Chris is quite good at also pushing me and just saying like, just do it if you think it's right, just do it. Your gut is usually right. So that helps as well.

Paul - That learning to trust your intuition, I think, has been one of the biggest journeys for me personally, as a founder is like, realizing that actually the role of you as a founder, you wouldn't have started it had you not followed your gut. And just that this kind of feels right and sort of you just follow out and you sniff it out. And I struggle to articulate the why in many cases, other than it just feels right. And actually, in most scenarios, when you know it is almost always the right call but you may not be able to explain it to other people to logically describe why it's the right call. And that's that, that being able to sort of turn that off in your mind just to be like, yeah, sorry, it's just a, I think we should just do this. And I can't really tell you why. And you guys may disagree with it. And every time I've made those calls, it's been transformational sort of things. 

And I don't know how to kind of encourage people to say that because it feels, it's a really weird counterintuitive thing to say.

Lucy - Yeah, and you know, I've been thinking about this so much recently because you do, you need, it makes logical sense if you think about it, I suppose, that you created this thing, it didn't exist, nothing exists exactly like it. So it is whatever you want it to be. So you invented this thing. So it's kind of, it makes sense that you would know exactly what's right for it or you'd have an intuition of what feels right and what direction you should go in. 

Because I think you almost, I know that I didn't realize this, but I've started to realize this recently, that customers are, they're feeling something from you, even if they're not seeing or hearing it. They're just feeling something coming from that business that resonates with them. And so I feel like most of the stuff that you're gonna decide to do, as long as it's authentic, will, will land really well with them because they're your community. They've come because they like what you're doing. 

And so I think it just it does make total sense now. But it's hard for the people to understand, I suppose, because it is like you say, it's like I want to spend a hundred grand on this thing. And it's like, well, how do we know it's going to work? Where's the data? Where's the thing to back it up? And you're like, I just need to try it. 

Paul - I think it'll be cool. That'd be cool, right? And then it's, there's like a finance person and a performance person going like, what? No, there's no data. I can't make a decision without any data. What are you making it on? You're like, just something in my tummy. It feels like this is a good idea, but you know, great businesses. If that almost all great businesses have probably been built on those sort of intuitive feelings, um, we can't, we can't really bottle this and teach this in Harvard Business School. Can we? 

Lucy - No. And I think I remember, um, one of the, one of the brilliant ones for us was actually the Buyback scheme that we launched. Everyone was terrified because it's like, well we're going to get so much stock back, we're going to have to give out so many vouchers and what if it all comes back in like really sh- condition and I'm like, whoa we made it in good condition, we made it good quality, it shouldn't come back. We're confident that we made that product well, why would it be coming back in, why would we get most of it back in really bad quality? Most of it's going to come back in good quality because it's still, it's lasting.

So, and I think that's what's great about actually, now we've got the Buyback scheme. I'm like, it gives us even more incentives to keep our quality really good because we always want to get good product back. But that was a big scary one. And yeah, and that was a big scary one. And now we're going through it a little bit again because we're like, ooh, but online, people are going to be more willing to bring, send stuff back that's totally destroyed than they are when they're dealing with a person. And I'm like, yeah, no, but still the quality's good. We're good.

Paul - Yeah, like, if you take a Stanley knife to it, you probably gonna be all right. But I'm intrigued and like, how much is this a thing? So I know with, you know, like, Gen Z and Gen Z, that's Depop, which obviously where this all came from the first place, this idea of buying an outfit, wearing it once, selling it again, and almost that rental attitude that you've got. So if I buy something for $100, and then I wear it once and then I sell it for $80. Actually, that was only $20 to look on point that night out. And that's that mindset, which I think has a, as a kind of a millennial I do struggle with. But what you're talking about, is it falling into that mindset? 

Are we talking about people who are looking for sustainability? Like why are people doing it first of all? And also how many people are doing this? Is this a large percentage of people? Should other brands expect their customers to be doing the same? Or is it just, is one of these kind of things that only Lucy & Yak can do?

Lucy - No, I think a lot of brands can do it. I think price point, you know, we're probably like the bottom end of the price point that it would be easy to not lose money on. I suppose like your H&M's and Zara's and things like that might struggle because they're quite cheap already. So like to buy it back and then sell it on, it's not going to be that easy. But I think one thing that... So when we launched it, some of the feedback from some customers was, well, why would I bring it back to you to get a £20 voucher when I can sell it on for £40?

And I'm like, don't. You know, sell it on for £40 if you can sell it on for £40. This is for people that really can't be asked to do that. There's a lot of people that can't be asked to do that. Don't have time. I used to love doing that, but now I've got a business to run. I've just got clothes that I'm just collecting because I don't know what to do with them.

Paul - Yeah, I always get deliveries that don't fit. And I donate them to charity because I'm so lazy that I can't take them back to the post office to return them. So yeah, I completely emphasize on those people.

Lucy - So that's what we wanted that to be about. It's like another alternative. So we've got a Facebook group where they buy, sell, trade with each other. That works great. And that's just our community just selling to each other, trading with each other. We've got people that sell on the second hand platforms anyway, and then this was really, you've got a pair of dungarees in your wardrobe, or you've got seven. Some people have got so many of our dungarees that we're basically saying, stop collecting them, part exchange them in. 

If you've got one that you're not wearing, bring it in, exchange it, get a discount off your next one, and then we can sell that one on to somebody else who maybe can't afford a full price one. 

And I think that was also a really big part of the Buyback scheme for us was as we grow as a business and as after COVID and the cost of everything going up, the materials going up, we had that, plus we had the demand for sustainable fabrics went through the roof because all of the big high street brands were starting to buy organic and there's not enough organic cotton farms to just overnight supply that demand. So cotton prices are just rising and rising and rising. 

It was just wild and we were having to put our prices up so much. So our prices have gone up a fair bit the last couple of years. And we were like, I've always loved that we're like affordable, sustainable, because again, from my working class background, I think that sustainability can be quite a privileged thing or it has been in the past.

Doesn't need to be, but what I wanted to do was offer, like I've always loved the idea of like, if we've got secondhand products, we've got something that's, the entry price is cheaper, but you still get to come into a Lucy & Yak store and have that exact same experience as someone who's buying a full price item, a brand new full price item. Whereas if you're buying it from eBay or Depop, you're just, you're buying it from someone else, you're not getting that brand experience. 

So that was a big part of it for me as well. And I… I've just always loved the idea. 

I remember when I started the brand, I was like, I just really can't wait till 20 years down the line when I start seeing these in vintage shops. Because that was always my favorite place to shop and that's where a lot of our inspiration comes from for the shapes. So it happened way quicker than I was expecting. I'm like seven years old, we got vintage Yaks. 

Paul - Amazing. And it is quite a look actually. I wonder whether we'll look back at this sort of early 20s period and just be like, oh yeah.

Lucy & Yak dungarees was just the one there and in 20 years time our kids will be searching through our old clothes to be like, oh yeah, I want to wear that because they're coming back again in the same way that all the kids today are wearing Nirvana hoodies and I remember having Nirvana hoodies like and everything when I was a teenager like, yeah, screw you to the world and now it's come back so maybe this is the future. 

Lucy - Yeah. The trend dopamine dressing started getting thrown around like two years ago or something. I was like, I think we created that trend. So the bright bold colorful stuff will probably make a comeback and there'll be some of our stuff in it. 

Paul - There you go. That that's it. That's a great way to be remembered. So talking to the future anyway, I mean, what's coming up? What's in store for Lucy & Yak and, also, where do you see the community and how do you see that evolving particularly with as you're expanding the US?

Lucy - Yeah, so some of the big things that we're sort of focusing on the next couple of years, US is one of them, the US, specifically California, potentially Oregon as well. That's another big state for us. So there's going to be a big focus there. And then expanding the Buyback scheme is a big one on my agenda as well. We’re rolling that out online. 

Also thinking, what do we do with the product that comes back? So like having Lucy & Yak secondhand shops or… I like the idea of having a big RV that's driving around with all the secondhand stuff in it and it's just calling it lots of different, can even call it like a little town for a day. So it's like everyone gets access to it. So that's a big thing that I need to ask. That's the next one on my list of, can I have £200k to buy an RV and get it out? 

Paul - Yak mark two. 

Lucy - Finance is going to go, no way. 

Paul - I think it's a great idea. I do.

Lucy -  I think it'd be amazing because we started opening stores.So, stores are another one. We do want to grow our network of retail stores. 

We've never overexposed ourselves with that. We've always gone for quite small stores that can't fit everything in it, but we just want to make sure that we can have just these little hubs dotted around the country. So, we do want to open a couple in Scotland, a couple more up in the north, and potentially one in London, because we haven't got one in London at the minute. 

And so, that's another big part of it. And I think that really feeds into our community as well, because our community… They're amazing online and they're really engaged online, but when you bring them all together, it's like, it's mayhem and it's so much fun because they all like know each other from online as well. Like they're all having these meetups in the shops and it's so great. 

Paul - How do you do that? You just say, look, we're going to have a meetup, meet us at the shop at 5pm and then they just turn up or do you make it more of a formal thing? 

Lucy - So what we tend to do is when we have a store launch, when we launch a new store, the opening day, that we give access to our Facebook community first, so they can get like first entry for the first few hours. So they all like, they all know each other. They've been chatting loads, commenting on each other's photos. That's really nice. So we'll invite them to events and things like that, exclusively, or we'll invite them down to, if we do like, we do like big imperfect sample sales, we'll invite them to the first day of that before everybody else. So that they all like know each other. It's really nice.

I want to do more of that. I want to do more in-person meetups. I even thought about speaking to, because we have a really good relationship with a lot of local businesses wherever we've got a shop, but also where we haven't got a shop, we've got like independent business owners wear like the uniform for them. They love it. They love our product. It's like the uniform for people that don't need to wear a uniform. I've always thought, we've got like cafes, little creative businesses and I've always liked the idea of maybe working with one of them in like every city and just saying can we use your cafe as like a meetup hub and you host it and you know our customers can just come along and all meet and chat and stuff. 

We've done like friendship speed dating and stuff in our shops, which is really cute as well. So we do a lot of stuff like that with community in the UK and I want to really expand that out into the USA as well. It's like I think we're going to have to do a lot of physical stuff. 

I think, you know, Gymshark's always been that brand that… you've looked up to because they started just a couple of years before us and they were on Shopify and a lot of their business model was very similar to ours, just really different products and customers, but they just nailed the events and sort of bringing their community together. So we're thinking with the USA how we can do that without having our own stores there and what we can do to really just bring people together.

We just did an amazing event in London actually for one of our campaigns and that, it's just when you get them all in a room, we've just got the wildest customer-base. It's so much fun. I love being at those things because I'm like, these people are amazing. So more of that in the USA, I reckon, I can spend time in California. I'm just like, I'm going to move to California for a year. 

Paul - When you say that in January in the UK, that does sound like a pretty good, good plan. I love it. I'm super excited about this. Lucy Greenwood, Lucy & Yak, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time. I can't wait to see the company explode stateside as they start to see some of the incredible, charming products that you make. And then also this incredible community that is so intuitive to you guys since day one. It's amazing to see and it's something that a lot of brands can learn a lot from. So I hope that everyone's taken a lot from this. I know I've certainly learned a lot. So thank you very much. 

Lucy - Thank you, Paul. It's been great!