Meet the Students: Lauren McDonnell & Samantha Janssen founders of Navi
Please tell us about yourself and your business?
Navi was established by myself and my gal pal/business partner Samantha Janssen in 2014 out of a desire and need for comfortable and stylish triathlon clothing.
At the time the only options were actually made for men, but in smaller sizes and with splashes of obligatory pink and baby blue.
We wanted to feel edgy, cool and like ourselves when out racing, so we created a line that not only flatters and fits the female form, but has fashion forward prints that make women look and feel good.
We also wanted to create an online space for women that incorporated race tips, nutrition and answers to questions that all female triathletes want to know, but may be too scared to ask. Like “underwear under race clothing or no underwear?” and “toilet stops during racing”.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
Navi’s inspiration comes from strong female identities from all walks of life. Each of our ranges represents a female personality, be in bold and daring, classy and genteel, or modern and stylish.
We wanted to offer clothing that resonated with individual personalities as we know each women that races triathlon has her own story behind her competing, and her own identify.
What are you most excited about in your business?
We are most excited about seeing women out there racing in Navi clothing. During the testing phase we have had Navi triathlon suits featured on two podiums at two separate triathlon events, so that’s pretty exciting to see our dream come to life.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
The demands of other life events, such as raising children, managing households, miscarriages, training for triathlon events, moving house and working part time in other roles to support Navi.
The vision that we had for our business slowly lost focus and at one point was very much under threat.
Luckily we have two very determined and passionate business owners who are too stubborn to give up!
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
I think the best advice would be to do your research and have a very clear and concise business plan. Also to have clear and strong branding with a specific target customer (down to what she eats, how many children she has and what she does in her spare time!)
A huge learning curve for us was that our product development phase took well over a year and that it took almost 5 years from first “aha we have an idea” to actually launching our business. We developed our product and manufactured locally, in Melbourne.
It is invaluable to have those face to face meetings when necessary.
Why did you choose to do the Women’s Business School Ignite Program?
Navi was at a stagnant point, having lost focus due to the many ongoing life demands. We applied to do the ignite program to “reignite” our passion for our project and to help us with some accountability.
It was a fabulous decision and certainly helped push us to the next phase which was to actually develop our product and source a local manufacturer.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the program?
The ignite program helped us to really clarify our companies values, our “WHY” and who we were trying to sell to- our target market. We loved the coursework “creating a life you love” where we explored and visualised where we wanted to see the business and what our dream work days look like.
We constantly refer back to these, especially if having a challenging day. We found the course content highly relevant, even though we were in the early stages of our business and loved connecting with other female entrepreneurs that have looked outside the box when it comes to developing their own businesses. Very inspiring.
What surprised you most about the program?
That some of the content, particularly from Susan Pearce “creating a life you love” prompted an entire lifestyle makeover. We both now adopt very specific healthy morning routines! Her words are constantly with us and we keep reading and re-reading her books and the coursework that we undertook for her module.
Which module was the most helpful and why?
For Lauren, the finance module was particularly helpful but also confronting. Lauren has long struggled with finance and discussions about finance, but it is now on a weekly meeting agenda and there’s no more guesswork with regards to cashflow!
Also, you can never learn enough about digital marketing and social media!
For Sam, both the financial abundance module and creating a life you love were the most helpful. Whilst Sam is good with numbers the finance module helped to provide some structure around what to do for the business and now we have a solid framework in which we keep track of our outgoing’s and incomings.
We are both much more confident with the financial side of things now and understand the importance of knowing our money situation.
Sam has found module 5 ‘Creating a life you love’ is keeping her on track, when she’s feeling overwhelmed about life or grumpy and unhappy she thinks about all the aspects that made up the ‘her perfect day’ from the module and adopts as many of those things as she can for that day. She finds it helps to balance her out and remind her that she does have the power to change a shitty situation!
How did the program help you in your business?
As mentioned, The ignite program came to us at a time when it was sink or swim. It’s fair to say that the ignite program saved our business from becoming “just another good idea” that didn’t get off the ground!
What has been the best thing about starting your own business?
Working on something so organic, from such a passion and with my best friend. When we are working on Navi it never feels like work and it’s so nice to put in hard work for something that is truely ours.
Would you recommend the Women’s Business School to other women starting a business? Why?
Absolutely! We have recommended it to a few other women that we have come across! There are so many things that you don’t know about starting a business! The modules from the Ignite program help to break things down into smaller, more manageable steps so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by what you don’t know!
What’s happening next in your business?
Our social media strategy has kicked off- you can find us on instagram @i.am.navi and Facebook i.am.navi.tribe . We are currently in testing and pre-production for our first range and officially launch in October this year. We are in the process of designing our website www.iamnavi.com and designing our next range!! We are also starting to look for some female ambassadors for our brand. Its all happening and things are really kicking off for us!
What are your big plans for the future?
We would love to have some stalls to sell our gear at big triathlon events, such as the Noosa Triathlon that have large female participation. We would like to expand our current range to include wetsuits, sports crop tops, swimwear and in the future some running gear. We would love to have a training weekend for our ambassadors and this become a regular event that we can invite customers along to.
Follow Sam and Lauren’s journey at i.am.navi.tribe
If you are looking for support to get your business of the ground the 2018 Women’s Business School Program is open now www.thewomensbusinessschool.com/ignite