CEO of sustainable activewear brand, TALA, and number one Female Fitness Transformation App, SHREDDY, Grace Beverley is certainly a woman who knows the importance of time management, which – amongst other words of wisdom – she recently shared in her bestselling book, Working Hard, Hardly Working, How to Achieve More, Stress Less and Feel Fulfilled. We caught up with Grace in the middle of one of her busier days where she felt “slightly like a headless chicken” to chat about this, as well as finding out where her interest in sustainability all started.
Firstly, this interview comes shortly after your big investment news; can you tell us a bit more about this and what it’s going to mean for TALA?
We very excitedly raised $5.7 million in a seed funding round with Active Partners and Venrex and it’s really exciting. It’s my first-ever funding round but essentially, the idea behind it is that it will allow us to bring sustainable activewear into the mainstream, to expand our inventory and facilitate international growth. Overall, TALA's mission is to show people that you can have sustainably made activewear that doesn't let you down from all of the things you would want from your activewear, so performance, flattering fit, style, quality, colours, and everything in-between. We also wanted to show that it doesn't need to cost double the price of non-sustainable equipment and that’s really what we’re here to disrupt the industry with.
Can you take us back to when your interest in sustainability started?
I had moved away from fast fashion in my daily life after a long time of contemplation and understanding that there were certain things that I didn't want to support so there was this cognitive dissonance between knowing what was right and what I was actually doing. Around six months later, I realised that as someone who's very much within the fitness industry, activewear was the area of this movement that I had just been compactly neglecting; I never thought of sustainability when it came to my activewear. I was buying loads of leggings and it’s obviously a booming industry, so it became something where I was looking at the sustainable options and you can’t really have rental or pre-owned items within activewear – well you can, but it’s going to be someone’s old sweaty activewear, so I don't believe it’s a true sustainable alternative. It just became really clear that it was really underserved within activewear and when I looked at examples of where people had developed amazing sustainable activewear they were about 2.5 times the price. To me, it was insane that we were asking people to do better and shop better and make more moral decisions for the planet yet only offering them an option that was 2.5 times the price. You can’t disrupt the industry in terms of moving people away from that type of shopping unless you give them the right alternatives, so that’s where the idea came about.
What’s the biggest challenge you face when trying to keep that balance between affordability and sustainability?
For women's sustainable fashion it’s a constant evaluation of the decisions we make at every single stage, whether it’s the materials we’re using, the dying process, the packaging, the way we make the patterns to minimise waste – there’s a lot of thought that goes behind everything. It’s not just about the material as a whole, but of course, if the material was more expensive there’s more that goes into collecting and recycling and up-cycling things to be able to make that yarn. For us, it’s really about understanding exactly what price point our customer is comfortable with and also knowing that this is the whole point of disruption. It’s always going to be hard to change a big industry and change the way people are doing things. There are so many products that will get welled down the line in terms of producing as we just cannot make it at a price point which we would be comfortable offering our customer. I’ll be honest, it’s a constant problem-solving exercise but that’s what makes it so exciting. To have even gotten to this point and to have launched our original leggings at £42 which competed with everyone within the non-sustainable market on quality, fit and everything else, was so exciting. It’s a constant battle of what to do, but it’s well worth it.
Do you think it came as a significant hindrance to you in your career path that growing up you may not have seen much young female representation in the CEO world?
I definitely think within entrepreneurship, there’s a huge glorification of all of these men who you see on the front of every entrepreneurial magazine, who started companies. When I looked into it there are huge barriers when it comes to women in terms of both starting companies but also raising funding which obviously really affects how well your business can do. I didn't really see entrepreneurship as a path for myself and that was as someone who had a working mum who was completely unapologetic about the fact that she worked all the time. The key issue within entrepreneurship is that female funding went down from 2.8% – which was the previous high of venture capital, (VC) funding going to women-led businesses – down to 2.3% over the pandemic. You look at these figures and it’s like, how are we still at this point? How do we expect there to be any equity in terms of where women's businesses get to, when 2.3% of women-led businesses are getting that VC funding each year?
Holding the CEO position of two companies, do you ever find it challenging to promote the idea of not burning out when you yourself have to juggle so much?
I think it’s all relative; every single person has a huge amount of things on their plate. For me, it’s about time management and really knowing when I’m most productive and how to delegate and all of these things. As boring as it sounds, this has been a big passion of mine. I could never say that I don’t fall into the traps of burning out, working too hard and then rebounding from it and finding it really hard to push through. I’m also really conscious though, of the fact that I need to know myself really well in those ways and operate within certain techniques to avoid that burnout but at the same time make myself as productive as possible. It’s a constant struggle for everyone but I think that’s the reality. That’s why I like to show on social media what that looks like in terms of my day-to-day schedule, because it also shows how much variety there is. On some days you’ll see a lot of the ‘CEO up at 4am reading books’ and there will also be days where I finish at 5 and sit on the sofa and chat with my friends. I think that’s what’s really important to show.
Finally, what’s your top tip for efficiency?
Time blocking! A combination of matching similar tasks together, and then blocking them into times in the day. If you have an hour gap between meetings, you should know at the beginning of the day exactly what you are doing in that block. I will live for time blocking until the end of my days I’m obsessed with it, and it works really well for me.