As Women’s History Month, March marks women’s contributions to events in history and contemporary society. And while we rightly hear a lot about women’s progress in commerce today, we must remember that women contribute in myriad ways in life, not just business, taking new paths across different fields to make history.
For Lite-Style this month I’ve been lucky enough to interview four women who have succeeded in ways beyond business and who we greatly admire at Legology HQ. These women have scaled mountains (natural and manmade) and dived depths in extreme activities which have taken great determination and courage. So I hope you enjoy meeting adventurers and pioneers Elise Wortley, Andrea Mason, Svanika Balasubramanian and Ellen Cuylaerts here and on our social channels this month. First up are Svanika and Ellen.
When our first product, Air-Lite, launched, it had already been in development for a good four years, and the whole Legology concept had been circling in my head for a decade or two prior to that. The journey to bring the brand to market was, and still is, full of twists and turns. And ignorance is/was bliss – you often hear people who have pursued a passion say that, and the not knowing is significant because if you did know what was ahead you wouldn’t do it. And then you wouldn’t be able to help people who follow in your footsteps. Intuition and spontaneity play a big role in forging ahead too. And they’re as important as ever in our data-driven world. Focus groups and algorithms are helpful of course, but again, you often hear people who have pushed to achieve something meaningful that they acted on their gut: they instinctively knew it was the right thing to do and went ahead and did it.
When I talked to adventurer Elise, she explained that some years ago she happened to read Alexandra David-Neel’s book My Journey To Lhasa. She was so inspired by Alexandra’s tale about being the first European women to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet in 1924, after a 14 year journey, that she started to read about other female explorers, many of whom have been shamefully forgotten in history. Then she decided to follow in their footsteps, experiencing their journeys in the same way with the same equipment, clothes and so on. I know, remarkable.
"The women who inspire me most in life are resilient, holding out against all odds to achieve or hold onto something that really matters to them. And ideally doing it with a sense of humour (vital on any journey, especially when things seem a bit bleak)."
Often the driving force to achieve is a passion (which was certainly the trigger for me to develop Legology) and, whether it’s walking across the British Isles, diving in the South Atlantic or launching a dedicated leg care brand and opening a whole new sector in the beauty business, it can take many years to bring that passion to fruition.
My own journey, to bring the best solutions to women looking for answers to their leg issues – be they heaviness caused by fluid retention or vascular issues, aches, pains and even the discomfort and confidence-robbing problem of cellulite, was a labour of love that became a business. Having spent my career writing about the beauty business and fascinated by the women I’d seen make a success of their ventures, I suddenly found myself on the other side of the fence with an extraordinary product and my own beauty business.
"Looking back, I don’t think I thought about it as a business as such. I didn’t even see what people describe now as ‘white space’, an unfulfilled area of the market. I was driven to make the answer I knew was there and change the record on cellulite. I knew there was a need, so I made it."
It didn’t occur to me that it could be commercial suicide to fill only 500 jars with my pioneering leg-lightning cream Air-Lite. I found a contract manufacturer who would do it, dropped them all off at Liberty London in a van and then made some more when they asked for them. And here we are now.
I’m making it sound easy. It was not. It was one of the hardest things I have done. It took years and every ounce of my resolve, and the most challenging times were maintaining the momentum and feeling isolated in the process. Going it alone, doing it your own way and not giving up is not easy to do. And the women who have gone before us, forging new paths, standards and concepts in business, medicine, environmentalism, fund-raising, exploration, war, peace – in anything – give comfort and reassurance to those of us that follow. They knew what you find out; their courage reassures and pushes you on. And March is as good a month as any to celebrate them.