Guest Founder Interview | Emily Childs @ Attacus Cycling
My name’s Emily and I’m the co-founder and managing director of cycling apparel brand Attacus. We design high quality cycling clothing with a unique, modern aesthetic.
(Check out Attacus Cycling www.attacus.cc)
Why did you become interested in the world of cycling?
I’ve always been a sporty person. I played a lot of hockey in school, but I got a job on a daily newspaper after uni which meant my evenings and weekends had to be spent at work rather than training and playing matches. So I decided to give cycling a go and just fell in love with it.
The thing I loved most about it was how functional it was - I could commute to work and (at that time) avoid the busy London tubes while getting some exercise. I’ve never really been off a bike since then!
What inspired you to do what you do?
Myself and my partner Jimmi started the business just over five years ago.
Being cyclists ourselves, the brand really came about from us wanting comfortable, high quality, technical kit that also looked great, and feeling like there wasn’t anything around that reflected our style off the bike - so we decided to make it ourselves.
In the time since, Attacus has grown from a passion project to a full-time career for the both of us which has been really rewarding.
We take a lot of our design inspiration from alternative subcultures, from biker gangs and skater culture to old school mods and rockers.
Our ethos is 'No Rules, Just Ride'.
We’ve also put years of work into research, testing and development, with the help of our fantastic manufacturing team based in Italy, to make sure all of the collections we produce have comfort at their core.
What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?
That’s a difficult one.
I think we’re both perfectionists when it comes to our brand and our products, so in some ways we’re never 100% satisfied.
What we do do is work damn hard to make each new product as good as it possibly can be. I think maybe that ‘Eureka moment’ comes through getting feedback and positive reviews from our customers saying they love a product.
That’s when you know you’ve cracked it.
What current & future trends does your product meet?
Cycling has seen a massive boom in the past decade, bringing about lots of new interesting subcultures within it.
I think early on we recognised the desire for a greater variety within cycling fashion and designs that reflected people’s styles off the bike, and have managed to carve ourselves a nice niche in what has become in the last few years a very competitive market.
At the end of the day we’re a lifestyle brand, so a lot of what we sell is a message and an ethos.
Our customers connect with us and our ethos as well as the physical products we make.
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I worked in journalism, first as a reporter then a sub-editor on a newspaper before moving into digital journalism, where I managed the production of news content on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
I’m not sure it was so much of a leap in entrepreneurship as a gradual rogression.
For the first year or so Jimmi and I ran Attacus as a hobby alongside our day jobs. The brand grew organically in popularity fairly quickly thanks to social media and required more attention, so we were able to start thinking about working for ourselves.
I still use so many of the skills I learnt from working in media as part of my work at Attacus though - from copying writing to creating marketing campaigns and engaging content for our social channels.
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Probably the amount of thinking on your feet and new skills you have to acquire.
When you first start your own business, you haven’t got colleagues around to help so you have to put on a lot of different hats and do things you’ve never done before.
It’s challenging, but you have to be prepared to take calculated risks and learn from the mistakes when you make them - because trust me, you will.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Not proofing some of our first design files properly, which resulted in a batch of jerseys turning up looking totally different to how they were meant to.
We realised they actually looked way better than the ones we intended to make, so we scrapped the original line and went with the others instead!
The design was so popular we kept it for two years. It also became the inspiration for another collection which is now one of our best-sellers and a real staple of our brand.
What keeps you motivated?
Ultimately, we get to go to work every day and indulge in our hobby.
There’s an awful lot of hard work involved, but still we’re pretty lucky. We get to do a lot of fun projects and collaborations with some really interesting and cool people who we’d probably never meet otherwise.
We always say we’re making stuff for people like us, so we have to enjoy and have fun with the things we produce.
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?
A lot of cycling!
We live in the north east of England, very close to the North Pennines, so we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great riding. We do a lot of road and gravel riding, and love going on bike packing trips. We’ll load our bikes with bags full of camping equipment, food and coffee, then cycle into the middle of nowhere and camp out.
It’s either that or watching Netflix.
I’m either very ‘on’, or a complete blob on the sofa.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success?
Being adaptable, level headed, and not being afraid to take some risks.
What would you say is your biggest strength?
I think a huge strength for both of us is our abilities to adapt.
It’s something that’s been tested a lot over the past few months as we navigate through the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our factory in Italy had to close for 6 weeks at our busiest time in our production schedule, which has meant we’ve had to completely change and adapt plans that have been a year in the making.
But that’s how it goes, at the end of the day their safety is more important.
We’ve just had to adapt and make it work. It’s not an easy thing to do, but one of the biggest parts of business is thinking on your feet and responding quickly to situations you can’t anticipate.
What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?
I get stressed out quite easily...
Usually changing environments or tasks, or going for a little pootle on the bike is a good way to clear the mind and help me be able to focus and be more calm again.
If you could sit down with yourself for a pint/glass of wine/coffee this time last year…..what would be the most important tip you would give yourself knowing what you know now?
Be prepared to spend a lot more of your time in your house… and maybe start making face masks instead?
Seriously though, 2020 has been like a bolt from the blue for everyone.
In some ways I wish we as a business had been more prepared, but really we got off fairly lightly all things considered and we can’t take that for granted either.
What 3 tips can you give any budding entrepreneurs on building a loyal & engaged social media following?
1) Know who you’re talking to and have something interesting to say to them :
You can’t engage with your audience if you don’t know who they are.
If you’re setting up a brand, who are your customers? What are they like? What do they like?
For example, the obvious answer in our case would be cycling, but look beyond the obvious.
There are universal things we’re all in to: food, humour, lie ins, music, free stuff… find creative ways to engage with people on a basic human level rather than just hard selling your product in every post.
2) You don’t have to spend loads of money to create good content :
The most engaging photos and videos aren’t always the ones that are shot on the best quality camera.
Just look at memes - they’re not exactly pretty to look at, but meme accounts make up some of the most followed accounts on Instagram.
Ok, you might not have the comedy skills to make your own memes, but people like to feel like there’s a person on the other end of their phones, rather than a soulless brand.
If you’re writing something, write with personality.
If you’re taking a picture or video, tell a story, ask a question, evoke an emotion or try and open a dialogue with your followers.
3) Look at other accounts you aspire to be like and figure out what they do well :
The best social media accounts don’t post loads of different types of content, they usually do a few things really well.
Figure out what works for them, why it works, and how you can adapt it to suit you.
Don’t be afraid to test new formats and analyse how they go down with your audience.
If something’s not working, don’t waste your time flogging a dead horse for the sake of ‘having content’, move on and find something better to put out.
What do you look for when choosing your snacks for your next big ride?
Something tasty. It can be the most nutritious thing in the world, but if it doesn’t taste good I’m not going back for seconds.
Also something with plenty of carbs that’s easy to carry in a jersey pocket and chew while riding.
What is your favourite snack for cycling?
Cliff bars are definitely my favourite. The chocolate chip or crunchy peanut butter are my usual go-to.
The best thing about them for cycling is that they’re not sticky and they don’t melt - which is key when they have to spend a good few hours in a sweaty pocket on my back.
I’ll often unwrap them at home, chop them into bite-sized pieces and put them straight into my jersey pocket which makes them really handy to grab while you’re riding and means you don’t have to faff about with wrappers.
Here are Snackfully's Top 10 Best Snacks for Cycling:
1. Clif Chocolate Chip Energy Bar
2. Tribe Peanut Butter Infinity Energy Bar
3. Trek Cocoa Coconut Protein Flapjack
4. Stoats Orange & Dark Chocolate Porridge Bar
5. RXBAR Blueberry Protein Bar
6. Kind Caramel, Almond & Sea Salt Bar
7. Lara Bar Banana Choc Chip
8. Deliciously Ella Raspberry & Cashew Nut Butter Energy Balls
9. The Protein Ball co Lemon Pistachio Vegan Energy Balls
10. Squirrel Sisters Raspberry Ripple Raw Energy Bar