Coconut Lane
Pink office desk area with chair laptop and plants

WOMEN IN BUSINESS: MEET JESS AND CHARLIE

March 03, 2021

Best friends Charlie and Jess founded Coconut Lane in 2015 working out of their bedrooms and packaging up parcels in Charlie's spare room. Five years later, our Bestie Founders have crazy work schedules, manage a team of 6, have their very own warehouse, and can't get enough of the Coconut Lane chaos.

2020 has been a crazy year but Coconut Lane has grown in exciting, spontaneous directions including the launch of Cocogym (hello sustainable activewear) and a whole new sister brand - Cocopup. We thought International Women's Day was the perfect day quiz Jess and Charlie on the highs and lows of running a successful business! 

 

IN CONVERSATION WITH: JESS

Jess Lancaster founder of Coconut Lane and Cocopup London

Describe a typical day for you?

My day usually starts with an early morning dog walk (I have a 1 year old Cavachon, Ralph!) and sometimes a cheeky Costa. I love to get some fresh air before sitting down to start the day. We have been working from home a lot more due to Covid so my day usually consists of lots of work (often in my PJs) and lots of food and coffee to keep me going. The office is much more fun! I love going into work to see the team as it's much more motivating (and the truth is, I am much more productive at a proper desk with no distractions). My Mum and brother run our warehouse as well which is below our office so work feels like another home for me which is great fun! I tend to finish work around 5, go home, grab some dinner and then sit down to work more in the evening. My days are long but all worth it. 

What was the most significant step you made towards growing your business? 

Ooo that's a hard one! There were two huge things for me. Firstly, employing our first member of staff. It was so scary to make this commitment, knowing you are responsible for paying someone every month and taking on an additional cost - but it was beyond worth it. Hiring people enables you to free up your own time and do more of the bigger things which includes growing the business. Once you've hired someone, it definitely comes easier to hire a second and then a third... Without our team, we wouldn't be able to grow (or have as much fun!).

The second step would have to be moving to our very own office/ warehouse! When we started Coconut Lane, Charlie and I worked out from our bedrooms and packaged up orders in her spare room. We reached a tipping point where we were spending all our time packaging orders and no time running the actual business so we decided to move to a fulfilment house (best mover ever). Our daily routines were transformed and we had much more time to focus on growing the business. Two years later and we now have our own warehouse and office which is the best feeling ever and enables us to have a hands on approach with our stock which we love. When a new phone case arrives, we all rush downstairs for a sneak peak!

Jess Lancaster in Monochrome Spots Cocogym Set

What is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you learn from this?

We had a really hard couple of months in 2019 and had just taken on office rent and a new member of staff. Sales dipped and we couldn't pinpoint why. Every business has tough periods but this was definitely ours and I had constant anxiety and sleepless nights. Running a business is hard, but if you breeze through it then you don't learn and we definitely learnt the need to diversify and adapt within our industry. We also learnt to not be so affected by dips and highs. Stay grounded and understand that you will have hard months and good months and that's ok. I learnt that by accepting (ahead of time) the bad times that we might have to face, I would feel less anxious and less stressed when they arrived. 

8. What's the best work-related advice you have received? 

Hire people who can do something you can't! It's so easy to hire people in areas you are confident in. I came from a marketing background so hiring a Marketing Executive felt easy as I knew exactly what to look for. Hiring a Customer Service Assistant however, was surprisingly hard as we weren't sure what to look for! We now look at the roles within the company and look at what we CAN'T do. For example, Charlie and I aren't photographers or coders (and as much as we would love to be, it's just not our skill set) so there's no point us wasting weeks trying to perfect these skills - instead, we look to recruit people who are top of their game so we don't have to try to be.

Jess Lancaster in Cocogym Monochrome Spots set
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

I love not knowing the answer to that question - that's what makes running a business so exciting! We have visions and dreams for Coconut Lane (and Cocopup) but one thing we have learnt the last year is that where you think you might be going might not be the direction you take. We are excited to be expanding our new collection Cocogym and continuing to put our hearts and focus into being a lifestyle brand. But the word lifestyle is diversifying daily so who knows where we will be in 5 years time. There is a lot of pressure to know what direction you are taking and where you want to be, but we've learnt to love not knowing and rolling with whatever path the universe takes us down!

How important is it to you to run a business that empowers women? 

SO important. The very reason we founded Coconut Lane was to create a brand which would empower, motivate and inspire women to dream big and be whoever and whatever they want to be. Spreading this brand message is the reason Charlie and I get up everyday with so much motivation and passion for what we do.


IN CONVERSATION WITH: CHARLIE

Charlie Stagg founder of Coconut Lane and Cocopup London


What inspired you to set up your own business? 

Jess and I have always dreamed of running a business together, ever since we became best friends at 13. I would say what inspired us to do it was just the concept of being our own boss and also getting to work closely together - it doesn't feel like work when you just spend the day bouncing ideas around with your best friend. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

For me one of our biggest achievement is definitely our team. Phoebe (our Marketing Manager) has been with us for two years and we absolutely love her passion for the brand and seeing how much she has grown into such an incredible marketeer. Also it's so lovely seeing the team working together and having fun team activities - it's a great chance to step back and feel proud of what we have created. 

Another massive achievement has been the community we've created. For example, when we post about a new launch on social media - the messages and love we get from all our fans is incredible and so overwhelming sometimes. It's the best feeling to know we've got such a lovely and loyal fan base. 

Charlie Stagg in Khaki Leopard Cocogym Set

How have you made sure that your brand is diverse and inclusive? 

A massive part of Coconut Lane is the close work we do with a huge number of influencers and bloggers through our Coconut Queen Scheme. I think the scheme is a fantastic way of showing how diverse and inclusive we are as a brand - there's all different types of influencers that we are so proud to work with. We don't make decisions as to who we work with based on how someone looks, or their follower count - we treat everyone as an human not a number and we love working closely with influencers from all different walks of life! 

We've also had some super positive feedback recently from our Coconut Lane customers saying how happy they were to see a range of size models in our new Cocogym launch. We felt it was really important to showcase the items on different body types/sizes and I think we did a great job of this - it's so lovely to get positive feedback from our customers saying how happy this made them feel!

Looking back, what advice would you give to your pre Coconut Lane self?  

It sounds cheesy but my biggest advice would be GO FOR IT. Honestly, when Jess and I told people we were setting up our own business at age 23, pretty much everyone said - 'oh, give it a few more years, get some more experience'. But actually, looking back, I'd say to myself - 'don't worry about experience, you'll learn as you go and there's no time like the present!'

Charlie Stagg in Khaki Leopard Cocogym set

Can you name a woman/ quote that inspires you the most?

Libby Crow is a speaker/mentor who I love. She has a lot to say about the importance of adaptability which I definitely think is very true. A lot of the success of Coconut Lane has come from being highly adaptable as a brand. We're a small team and we work hard so we're super quick to make things happen. 

What advice would you give to aspiring female business leaders? 

My biggest piece of advice would be to work hard. There's so much talk these days of putting good thoughts out there and good things will come to you - whilst I definitely believe in the power of positivity, ultimately, nothing good just falls into your life, you need to work hard for success. 

Charlie Stagg and Jess Lancaster in Cocogym set




Also in Coconut Lane Blog

THINGS TO DO IN AUTUMN
THINGS TO DO IN AUTUMN

October 14, 2021

Read More

Ways to be kind to your mind blog
WAYS TO BE KIND TO YOUR MIND

October 10, 2021

Read More

Jess and Charlie CEO's of Coconut Lane
COCONUT LANE TURNS 6

September 29, 2021

Read More