Emily Somers is kickarse. She is the lady startup behind Bravery Co – an online scarf store for people who hate cancer, whether they have it or not.
While she travels the world, Emily designs scarves for cancer patients and cancer haters. She wants to empower those that must “turn up and kick cancer’s arse each day”.
Tell us a bit about your business Bravery Co.
Bravery Co stocks a range of soft and stylish scarves for the bald noggin. Each scarf comes with a ‘how to turban’ tute, and 10% of profits go to cancer research to end this stupid disease.
The idea for Bravery Co. came during my second stint with cancer in 2014. I was shiny bald, sick of my itchy wig, and frustrated with how lame cancer fashion is. After creating Pinterest boards of old Hollywood stars and beautiful African women, I started to develop my own scarf style. Headscarves made me feel young and chic, regardless of my current hair situation. It gave me the confidence and bravery to turn up and kick cancer’s ass each day. And now, through Bravery Co., I want to empower others going through a similar ordeal.
To complement this, The Bravery Blog talks about cancer from a young person’s perspective, with the intention of making the cancer conversation easier to have, should it rear its ugly head in your life.
We’re also talking to businesses who want to donate headscarves directly to patients at Peter Mac through sponsorship of Bravery Co. It’s our dream to give every cancer kicker a bravery scarf.
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
I was working in advertising working as an art director. I loved being creative every day and working with a bunch of crazy, great people but I didn’t love the fast pace and stress that often came with it.
What made you want to start your own business?
I wanted to work on something that had heart.
I also love the whole digital nomad movement. I wanted work that I could do from whatever side of the planet I might be on. I suppose I craved freedom.
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How did you come up with the name?
It took me ages to come up with a name. I had gone through pages upon pages of words but nothing seemed to work. It was either too cancer focussed or too fluffy. Then I was chatting with a friend and out of the blue she said the word "bravery". Ding, ding, ding - winner! It instantly resonated and felt 100 per cent right for what I was doing.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of your Bravery Co.
Bravery Co. is a partnership with my younger brother Chris. Although I take care of the running of the business and Chris is more like I silent partner, I’ll still call on him when I have something really tough (or boring) to figure out (like finance or tax).
I also have the best mum in the world who helps me with all the shipping and logistics. As I live half in London and half in Melbourne, I rely on her to be my eyes on the ground.
Did you require investment to start your business? Where did that come from?
Up until now, it's all been self-funded.
What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?
Everyone was so supportive. I think it was nice to see something great come from a really horrific time.
What’s the single best piece advice you got?
Make yourself accountable by sharing your goals with people. Marie Forleo is a big hero of mine and this advice came from her. If you tell people what you want to achieve for the day, week or month, then they’re going to check in with you ask about your progress. It creates a bit of a deadline and changes your mental to-do list into something more real. This especially helped me at the beginning of Bravery before I had customers or followers to keep me moving.
What’s the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?
Stop faffing around, hurry up and just do it.
At Mamamia we have an expression “flearning” - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started your business?
To trust your gut and never take second best. Even if it means waiting.
I was on a program called Remote Year where I lived in a different city each month, for a year. I decided I wanted to source one new scarf from each city.
Turns out finding super soft, rectangular shaped scarves with a banging design is harder than I thought! I desperately wanted to stick to my plan and ended up buying a load of scarves that were pure cotton and in hindsight, not soft enough for the bald and sensitive heads I was selling to. I later took them off my site. Now, all my friends will be receiving a pure cotton scarf for the next couple of birthdays.
What is the smartest thing you’ve done since starting your business?
Always being open to asking for people’s help or advice. I have been asking other entrepreneurs for coffee since day dot. Sometimes the conversation is full of incredibly valuable advice and other times it’s just nice to hear another person’s story.
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
I live between Melbourne and London so I rely on technology and the internet to run my business remotely. My laptop is my businesses lifeline.
I run my meetings through facetime or Skype and I’m good at writing a concise email. I also rely on my phone’s world clock to help me figure out time zones. I think Shazam is the best app of all time. And I can’t work without music so Spotify is always playing. And I have no sense of direction - so Google maps and Citymapper is vital.
However, I must admit that I like the old school pen and paper for lists and my diary. I like the satisfaction that comes with crossing something off. And I prefer to see my week spread over a page with things written in different colours, circled and underlined.
What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally (or financially)? How do you handle those ‘deep-trough-of-pain’ startup moments?
I make myself go outside for a walk. Fresh air and trees seem to calm me down and make my problems seem less daunting.
Then I make a plan on how to fix it. I find that when I break down the problem into small steps, it doesn’t feel that terrifying anymore. And if I can’t figure out the solution, then I go out and find someone that can. Asking for help is most often free and you’ll be surprised how willing to help people are if you ask nicely. I do it daily.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed? How do you manage your time?
Alongside Bravery Co, I’m also a freelance art director/designer so every week is super different. Some weeks I’m on Bravery full time and I’m able to dedicate hours to designing scarves, writing blogs, business brainstorming, social media and all the admin that has built up. Other times I have to fit Bravery around the other projects. I like that my life is so varied but it can sometimes get a bit chaotic!
What are your non-negotiables? (eg: exercise, putting your kids to bed, meditation, not going out on weeknights….)
After a life shakeup like cancer, my health and happiness are number one priority. My lifestyle is always choc-a-block full of work, friends, family and travel - but I know when to step back and let go of things that are stressing me out, or running me down. The world will still be spinning tomorrow and I’m often in a better place to nail whatever I couldn’t today.
I love starting my day early with yoga or a walk along the river - but I also know that some days my body needs more sleep. I’ll never sabotage my health - It’s about finding the balance, which can sometimes be tricky.
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What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business - how is it different to what you'd imagined?
How much self-motivation you need to stay focussed and on track. Also how much admin and project managing there is around business - for both Bravery Co. and for my freelance creative work.
And how endless my to-do list would be. I thought once I got the business up and running, the most challenging part would be over and it would be somewhat ‘cruisy’. Ha!
In reality, I’m constantly thinking about the things I should be doing to grow my business. Once I tick off one thing, there are another four things on the list. It’s exciting but sometimes it feels like things just aren’t going as fast as what I want them to. And I’m realising that this is what business is all about.
Tell us about your proudest moment?
The first order I got after I launched Bravery Co. It was only an hour or so after I announced it was up and running and it just made everything so real. It’s such a lovely bizarre feeling after all the years of it just being an idea in my head.
What does your personal life look like? Who are the important people in your life and work?
My life is half in Melbourne and half in London at the moment - so it’s pretty hectic. I love having a busy social life and my relationships are one of the things I’m most proud of in life. I have the greatest collection of friends and family. Every one of them is strong, inspiring, encouraging, and hilarious. They’ve supported me through the shittest times and I’m incredibly grateful.
I’ve also got a phenomenal boyfriend who is one of the most creative people I know. He pushes me and my ideas and also gives me all the support in the world. He is the perfect partner - I’m a lucky girl.
How much sleep do you get every night?
I’m useless if I’ve had no sleep so I usually try to get about seven hours. My health has become number one after cancer and sleep time is when your body can heal. So bring on the Zs!
In saying that, I do have a pen and paper beside my bed every night so when I can’t turn my brain off, I make lists and jot down ideas.
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Start. It seems like such a huge and overwhelming thing to start your own business but if you just buy the domain name or get an ABN or even start telling your friends what you want to do, this will create momentum.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you go to for help and advice now?
I have a group of friends who have their own businesses and I call on them regularly. Sometimes it’s to ask for advice and sometimes it’s just to get a bit of a pep talk.
I also love to attend entrepreneur events like The League of Extraordinary Women, Creative Women’s group and Bossy in London. I read Collective Magazine, Frankie, Design Files and watch Marie TV to get my inspo hit too. I think the female entrepreneur community is a really warm and sharing one. We can learn so much from each other.
Otherwise, I honestly don’t know where I would be without Mr Google. How did people start businesses before the internet?!?