There are many spaces in society which exist with frameworks generally accepted, until someone stands up, points out there’s something odd about it, and change happens. A recent example would be the contrast between the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and the Fenty fashion show: from “this is what sexy is” to “look at ALL of this sexiness”.
EXERPT: The wellness industry was a space which grew fast, despite having quite a marginalized identity. Techniques developed to support mental well-being, were presented with an identity package which included £150 leggings, size 8, long hair and white. There was no singular brand or influencer responsible for this, but we didn’t question it. We just accepted “that’s what yogis look like” and by the way, they also like green juice.
Two years ago, Londoner Chloe Pierre found herself seeking some healing. Having been through a tough time personally, she began exploring different practices and avenues to rebuild her emotional strength and self-worth. She found those through holistic practices, but she also found that these spaces were, at best, pretty narrow. Here, she chats to Alexandra about the formation of thy.self , what its growth has taught her about business, and about where the world can go.
So tell me about your career background – what did you know before you started thy.self?!
Professionally I’ve worked in a lot of industries, but my background is in mainly PR and marketing and that’s got me to where I am today. I’m a digital marketer by trade but I’ve got a real focus on communication. I’m really interested in how people communicate and how they engage with each other.
When thy.self was born, I was going through a really tough time in life and I’d been in a similar place before, but I felt I could no longer lean on the things I’d done in the past to get over that and so I decided to look into holistic routes of self-care and wellness.
I started maneuvering into that space, trying out wellness techniques, wellness offerings around the world and what I noticed was there was a lack of accessibility and a lack of diversity in these spaces so I thought, do you know what, as a side project, why don’t I create a community, that can discover wellness, that can discover self-worth and we can explore it together.
We started by doing a few events, working with a few influencers, I started building up a community, and by no means was it meant to be a business but it very quickly turned into that!
“by no means was it meant to be a business but it very quickly turned into that!”
Well that’s a nice way to go! So as I’m understanding it, it started in this wellness space where you were exploring personal healing and well-being techniques, and then through those conversations you started to realise “oh, there are a lot of conversations going on in companies that I can consult in and impact positively”?
Yes, that was definitely it. There was also a sustainable aspect. Sustainability is a buzzword but there are so many ways we can apply it. It’s usually thought about in fashion or environmental but for me it can be more than that, it can be in lifestyle, in our awareness, in the way we treat people.
Brands didn’t know how to connect with audiences of diverse backgrounds because they didn’t see them as fruitful or beneficial in terms of sales and that’s what I wanted to change through my own awareness and knowledge… getting brands to actually see value in getting a more diverse set of customers into their spaces, their wellness spaces, their safe spaces. They didn’t really know how to go about that.
“Brands didn’t know how to connect with audiences of diverse backgrounds because they didn’t see them as fruitful or beneficial in terms of sales and that’s what I wanted to change.”
So was there a moment where you were be able to suddenly commit to it as more of a business, having had it be a community for a while?
We did an event in New York and that changed the game a bit and made a lot more brands recognise us… and it started a movement in making wellness, more than just a yoga movement, an upper class white movement and thy.self was very much a part of that. When you start getting paid more for things and the jobs start coming in, I think that’s when you really notice that it’s moving from a side hustle to an actual business.
OK, practical questions from me! Did you coordinate the New York event from London? How did you manage that?
Yeah, I did it all myself! I worked with a brand out there and it was incredible but I literally coordinated it from London. My network was building and I just made it happen but it was such a big chance. I still think about it now and I remember the moment when I said yes and I booked my flight, and on the day of the event I was so nervous but it all worked out. We had so many different publications there from Refinery29 to Harpers Bazaar… it was crazy! It just shows you the power of the internet and the power of a message. For the people that are really into thy.self, it comes so easy.
And some people don’t get it! From a really early stage in the business I realised that if someone doesn’t really get who we are, what we do, it means they are not the right audience. The youngest member of thy.self is a 6 year old and the oldest is probably a 73 year old, and they get it, so if you don’t it’s probably not for you.
Yeah, and to be honest, if everyone got it then you’d be doing something wrong. Have you explored funding for the business or, how did you get it off the ground?
I started it all off with my own money. We still haven’t received the first funding payment, but I did get accepted on an accelerator program with Astrid and Miyu, so we now get a bit of funding but for the past two years I’ve funded it myself. I put money into it from my own career and not received that back so its definitely an investment but I believe in it and it’s great that other people believe in it cos it makes things a lot easier.
It’s such a lot of work starting your own company and accepting that you probably will have to invest time and money initially, but there are moments that feel so special! What have been some of the key wins for you and moments of encouragement?
I think, for me it’s probably getting the awareness and cosigning by certain brands that I really do love. For them to see thy.self as an entity, so brands like Nike, Urban Decay… working with the Hoxton Group, Astrid and Miyu for accepting us on the accelerator program. Moments like that have helped me justify the work I do. But, most importantly, it’s seeing the reactions from the community. We’ve had shout outs from the likes of Zoella, and the DMs that we get from people saying “your channel has given me hope…” that’s invaluable.
There’s a difference, isn’t there, between an emoji comment and a message where you really hear someone and know you’ve had an impact on how they feel or see something.
Yeah, or even with the BLM movement, I didn’t necessarily expect thy.self to be a part of that but because we have that community, we had a lot of people saying, you know, thank you for giving me a language to speak about this and saying our feelings. Diversity is everyone.
It is! Before you started the business, you obviously had a good foundation in marketing. What else do you think has helped you get to where you have that you would pass on?
Marketing is amazing, it matches my skillset but I would say, figure out what your skillset is. For example, anyone can use social media but I don’t think everyone knows how to use social media well. So I would figure out what parts of your business need help. And also, make sure that your business has legs, and when I say legs I mean it needs to have a heart, it needs to have longevity, it needs to be able to reach people… that’s what’s going to keep you going.
“Figure out what your skillset is. For example, anyone can use social media but I don’t think everyone knows how to use social media well.”
I’m also learning one of the biggest skillsets you should have in a team is probably legal. You need access to that and that’s something I don’t hear a lot from founders and I learnt the hard way. In the early days I should’ve had an IP or a legal team and that’s something I learned and want to share with others.
Amen. Chloe, who inspires you?
I’m inspired by a lot of people, a lot of my friends… I have an accountability partner, her name’s Charlotte Williams and she runs Seven Six Agency. She’s a good friend of mine, we literally voice note every day and she inspires me because she’s running a small business, very much in the diversity segment. I’m inspired by the influencers I collaborate with, by the brands I work with. But I guess in terms of wellness specifically, I’d say Naj [Austin] who runs Ethel’s club, she’s inspirational to me. Trinity who runs Gold, she’s also based in the US. In the UK, Nicole from Black Girl Fest is inspirational for sure.
And final question from me – can you tell us one thing which has improved your life recently?
This year has been about confidence. It’s been about realising my achievements, my accomplishments, and also where I am and being ok with that. I’d link that all to confidence. It’s a confidence in me, a confidence in my work, in what I’m building, and it’s not the confidence we scream and shout about, which I’m all here for, you know Fuck Being Humble I’m all about that platform but for me it’s like silently being ok with who I am. Not making work the be all and end all, it’s knowing who I am and being ok with that. That’s a next level confidence.