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SMB to Big Business: Interview with Jody Plows, CEO of Nobody’s Child

SMB to Big Business: Interview with Jody Plows, CEO of Nobody’s Child

SMB to Big Business

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SMB to Big Business

Interview with Jody Plows, CEO of Nobody’s Child

Nobody’s Child is an eco-conscious fashion brand for women that aims to create zero-waste capsule collections at accessible prices. CEO Jody Plows sat down with Nina Zoukelman for a chat about the brand’s meteoric success, its environmentally aware strategy and what’s to come next.

Hi Jody, please tell us a bit about Nobody’s Child.

We’re a lifestyle brand, and our vision is to create expressive, feminine, fashionable products in an ethical way – one that clearly demonstrates responsibility towards both life and our planet. Nobody’s Child launched in 2015 with dresses, and since then, the brand has evolved. We now offer a complete wardrobe, with our in-house design teams considering every little detail along the way.

How many employees do you have now?

Two years ago we had 19, we now have 40, so a good level of growth.  

Was growing the company a conscious decision or something that happened over time?  

We were ambitious for growth, however, it exceeded our expectations. The pandemic brought a massive move to online, more than any of us anticipated. And it opened opportunities for purpose-driven brands – smaller brands, like Nobody's Child, where a customer wants to shop differently.

This sustainable awakening that's happening for consumers, together with the move online and partnering with more key partners than we anticipated, all contributed to our growth.  

What changes have you made to your business strategy over the past few years? And how often do you reevaluate it?

In this world now it's difficult to plan ahead. One thing that we've all learned is that we used to work with two, three, five-year plans, And now it’s impossible. We have our strategic plans, and then we always review and check that they're right for us. I believe the key at the moment is to stay agile and to be open to changing the plan. What worked three months ago may not work going forward.

What would you say is the biggest difference between running a small business and a large one?

Having worked at many big corporate businesses, the unique part of Nobody’s Child is the culture. We're growing but we're still small and we work collectively as a team. We don't use language like, "that's not my job". Everything is very holistic. If we all need to support customer service here or something else there, then everybody does that. You get that in some small businesses, and when it works, it's really special.  

The other big difference is agility. In a small business you can say, "let's do this", and everybody will make it happen. In a big business, you may have to speak to many stakeholders to make one step forward. That's the beauty of a small business.

I have to ask about the name. How did you come up with it?

When the business was founded, this was one of the names that came up, and they fell in love with it. Nobody’s Child is that feeling when you're leaving home or you're becoming an adult and you just feel like you're your own person – you're nobody's child. That's where it came from, which is really lovely actually. It's still really strong and relevant today because it was targeted at a girl who's spirited, determined, knows what she wants and she's nobody's child – she's her own person. It was a slightly younger customer in the beginning, but now our customer is 18 to 50+, and we're really proud of that.  

Let’s talk about marketing. How involved are you in marketing?

I’m really involved in everything because we're still on a growth trajectory and we're still small. I'm really involved in our marketing. I've actually spent a lot of my spare time in the last 12 to 24 months, understanding more about marketing. I find it fascinating.  

At what point did you start thinking about marketing?

I think that marketing is key. Every time we launch a product category area, the story and the narrative that we tell around why we're doing that, the sustainability message, is important for the amplification of the brand. If we’re launching something but don't tell our customers why we're doing it, and the story around it, then it very much gets lost. I think it's an end-to-end process.  

We've thought about marketing all the way through the journey. But in the last 6 to 12 months, we've started to actually spend more time on what that looks like as we go forward for growth. It's quite multi-faceted marketing. There are a lot of organic things you can be doing for your business, and there are obviously paid solutions. A good example of our success is organic gifting. We gift to editors, celebrities and influencers.  

To date, we haven't paid anybody to wear our product and we have a 95% hit rate with people wearing it. That gives such a halo effect because the best marketing is when someone tells someone that a brand is really good. Obviously in our new world that might be through reviews and reading things, but just the fact that somebody is going to a barbecue or somewhere and saying, "this is a Nobody's Child dress", has such a strong, meaningful push to your brand.

What are the main marketing channels for your brand?

One of the main marketing channels is PR and gifting, as well as having positive credible articles about the brand ethos, so customers understand what we stand for. When it comes to building a brand, you've got to have a foundation of what you're offering. I don't think customers just want another dress. They want to understand what they're buying into.  

There are also more paid marketing channels, like digital marketing. And another good marketing channel for us is our store. We opened up a store in Carnaby Street and it gave us brand exposure because it's such an iconic location. We actually use the store as a marketing tool, for events and to showcase our products. There are many different channels that you can tap into.

I learned a lot about this because I found it fascinating with these different metrics and levers that you could pull. We mainly focus on brand search, Google Shopping and paid social, prospecting new customers and retargeting. To give you an example of that journey, we may gift our product. Then it's seen on a celebrity that may drive traffic to our site. Customers will come to the site, but they won't necessarily buy the first time. Then, when they're back on social media, we retarget them with a campaign, and then we see a strong conversion through that. That is very important to our business model.  

We have a digital marketing manager who manages that with an agency on a weekly basis. And we set goals and targets, depending on what we want to do – whether we want to get a strong return on that investment through retargeting or whether we want to acquire new customers. In peak selling on dresses, when we're very high and full-price, we'll be looking to grow new customers. When we're in a markdown position after Christmas, or at the end of the season, we'll be looking to get a return on our spend by retargeting the customers we've got, because the acquisition of that customer would come down.  

Do you believe in organic social?

Yes. I think that emotional connection, branding-wise and marketing-wise, is as important as the paid side. We have a social media manager, because that’s the window of our brand. Our Instagram is our constant window and insight for what we're doing and the way that we communicate with our customers.

What is the most difficult or challenging aspect of marketing for you?

In paid marketing, sometimes it's understanding the attribution of what you're paying for and the return on your investment. The more channels that you open, the more difficult it becomes to understand how you’ve acquired your customer, whether it’s because a superstar wore your dress, or because it just so happened that they saw someone wearing that dress. For me the most challenging aspect of marketing is the constant investigation of what is what for your business. I assume that it's different for every business model and every business, depending on the goals.

What is your primary marketing goal? Does it change over time?

We feel very strongly that we're telling a message about the brand and that is a key marketing goal for us. The goal is touching new people and extending our reach. But yes, it also evolves and changes over time.

At what point did your business go digital?

Nobody's Child has always been an online brand. We only opened the Carnaby Street store 6 months ago. We're also in Selfridges and we're planning to be in a few other partner stores, but our strategy is not stores - it is online.

Could you give one bit of advice to people looking to grow their businesses?

If you're looking to grow your business, you need to focus on the customer and also ensure that you are set up for success with the team that you have, because it all comes back to that.

What do you think most people don't know when they decide to start a business?

They might not know that when running a business, you will have get involved with everything –  every single detail. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves. That’s the beauty and the magic of being in a startup, but it's not for everyone. I remember when we had a returns issue and we all went down, me included, for three days to make sure that our customers got their returns. You have to be willing to have that breadth of skills.  

What would you say was the biggest mistake Nobody's Child has made since launching?

It's okay to make mistakes – we are all going to make mistakes. It's what you do when you make the mistake that counts – how you react afterwards and what you do differently.

I think the main learning curve has been through the pandemic. That's when we've had our major growth, while navigating that. It makes you stronger and it makes you think outside the box when you're trying to navigate such issues. I remember none of us could leave our houses. We turned my lounge into a showroom, and I said to my husband, “I hope you don't mind – I've got a few samples coming to the house." He was like, "Yeah, yeah, that's fine." And within a week, you couldn’t move in my lounge because it was full of products. There's lots of different things you come up against, but you just find a way around it and you get very resourceful.

What is the smartest thing that Nobody’s Child has done so far? Or the thing you're proudest of?

Oh my goodness. I'm so proud of lots of different things that we've done. I think the M&S partnership has been such a huge milestone for our business. We launched the first brand on the M&S website, and they invested in our business in November, which gaveus the opportunity to scale. That came through from hard work, dedication and perseverance, so I’m very proud of my team.

What are your company goals? Where do you see the business three years from now?

Our vision is very clear: to create beautiful, sustainable products primarily for women. Our overarching goal is to become a leading sustainable brand. Within that, there are a few other key initiatives and goals.  

In the beginning, it was primarily a dresses brand. However, in the last 12 months, we've broadened the product categories, so one of the key goals is to take the brand from a dresses brand to a lifestyle brand. We've launched denim, knitwear, outerwear, with extended sizes, as well as mini-me kids’ collections, lounge and athleisure most recently. A lot is happening and that's a really big strategic goal.  

The next goal has been to partner with other retailers. Next, M&S, ASOS are all key partners. We have 12 partners now globally, and that continues to be a really big goal for us. What the retailers give us is a platform for our brand, since all of these massive retailers have huge amounts of traffic online globally.  

And another key strategic goal is sustainability. We are very proud that 90% of our fabrics are certified sustainable fabrics, and that is something that we amplify across all our channels. We believe that there is a customer who wants to make a more considered purchase, and wants to be more sustainable, and that is the customer that we're attracting.

What do you believe is the secret to the success of Nobody’s Child?

The fact that the team is very passionate and has a strong work ethic. Our people have shown a lot of perseverance to make things happen. It doesn't just happen the first time, but there's a will to make it happen. And it's also understanding your customers, staying relevant and listening to what they want.

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