Running OnestaBack to News
“Because I’m crazy!” was Gaby’s first answer on why she founded Onesta. Time we found out what it takes to run a multi-award-winning company…
In all seriousness, the drive to start Onesta came from the slow uptake of the industry when it came to ethical production. Gaby was concerned for the rate that our society is consuming the planet’s resources: “the amount of resources that we are using just for fashion is ridiculous!”.
Gaby found that there weren’t many other brands out there who weren’t overly committed to operating sustainably. Some made big claims, but many were just green-washing! She decided to take an action. (To hear more from Gaby about founding Onesta, please read her blog post).
Documentaries, magazines and news articles can seem overwhelming, but no one can be perfect in their sustainability journey, including Gaby, but learning more about the issues is a good starting point.
Let’s be clear, running this business is not all beautiful clothes and award shows. There is a lot that happens behind the scenes as well as the added work that goes into making sure everything we do is as ethical and sustainable as possible. Gaby is unwilling to compromise on Onesta’s values, but to stand by the principles takes a lot of hard work, more time and a lot more money. In an industry where others can advertise falsely making bold sustainability claims without following through with the lifestyle, it can be disheartening... but we are not going to let that slow us down.
Often something discussed in our team meetings is the fact we have all become accustomed to the culture of buying lots at a cheap price, a contrast to investing our money in garments that would last us years (see our blog on the history of the fashion industry).
One difficulty Gaby has had to come to terms with is the reality of the high costs that comes with being a thoughtful brand: “I wanted to make it as affordable as possible but at the same time it just does cost more to make everything in the UK. Cutting the costs would mean a loss somewhere further back in the supply chain. By pricing as we do, we ensure that no worker in our supply chain is underpaid for their skills and hard work. We put our values ahead of our profits.
It takes a strong leader with a clear vision to drive success. When asked if she had always wanted to run her own business, Gaby exclaimed not really! She went on to explain that it came about more because there was a desire and need to do something. Knowing Gaby now, I can’t imagine her doing anything else. She exudes a take-charge attitude and is passionate and ready to get involved with every part of the company. She mucks in with every task, and isn’t interested in hierarchy. In fact, Gaby is often the one making everyone cups of tea, folding samples or steaming clothes.
One thing Gaby admitted to was finding running a business quite overwhelming and that if she could choose one thing to improve it would be her work/life balance. We are no expected to work late nights or weekends, but because of her schedule Gaby can often be seen doing just that. With most staff members scattered around the UK and on different hours, we have to work harder to foster a sense of teamwork without ever really seeing each other face to face. Gaby has brought us all together by creating a workplace that appreciates our passions and ideas.
Being a virtual business, securing brand recognition and engagement in the digital world is a mission. Social media is always changing and the turnover of people’s feeds is so fast that it’s hard to stay relevant and get picked up by the algorithm while also staying true to the facts. With being small there is a pressure to keep up with the big brands and try to present ourselves in the same way even though we are still new. Gaby does think it is worth it though, having built a great network and being able to collaborate with other businesses for wholesale and events like Sustainable Fashion Week; moving Onesta off the screen into the real world.
One of her proudest achievements is the collections. “They’re so beautiful!” Gaby exclaimed. We’ve had people come back to buy loungewear sets in another colour after trying them out and falling in love, such positive feedback is amazing. The detail and quality of pieces at Onesta are recognised through the awards that we have won, such as the Maire Claire Sustainability Award and the Wales Start-up Award, which is an amazing achievement.
Gaby also shared that she enjoyed the autonomy of running a business and being able to make decisions. Being in a larger company felt like being a “cog in a wheel” whereas running a business she gets to make strategic decisions and tailor them towards things that matter to her and us as a team. Being able to build a core team has meant a lot and she cares about everyone’s opinions and gets to take them onboard.
It is interesting to get to know the motivation behind a brand and to get to know a little about the founder. As a small start-up, it is important to us to let our customers and followers get to know us a bit and make a connection with us. We want to be a platform that you can trust and interact with for all things sustainable and ethical!