Getting to know you: Helena Farstad

What do you currently do?
Since 2012 I’ve been building my ethical womenswear brand.

Multemyr is a classic, high-quality label for professional women.

In doing so I have realised the importance collaboration plays in conquering the challenges of running small businesses. I co-founded a collective called The WISE Creative, whose focus is on supporting and promoting independent UK designers with low-risk routes to market.

And I’m consulting for ZymPay, the world’s first ethical money transfer business, providing project management and process documentation support.

What’s your inspiration in business?
I want to set the benchmark for best practice in the fashion industry, a standard that other labels can aspire to. I am constantly amazed and inspired by small businesses that have battled all odds to make a profit without losing sight of their ethical foundations. It’s really very difficult to maintain that promise to customers in this business.

Who do you admire?
Green MP Caroline Lucas for joining the anti-fracking protest last year, and now facing trial for her involvement. And anyone who has the guts to start a business by themselves.

What defines your way of doing business?
I make quick decisions – very often guided by gut instinct. Honesty and integrity are fundamental values for me, it’s not something you can simply layer on, you have to live that way, so I find it best to be open. With me what you see is what you get. Key for me is relationship building, paying fairly and transparency across the whole supply chain.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Avoid regular overheads to keep your new enterprise flexible and agile. Cashflow is vital and establishing a customer base will take much longer than you think.

Map out your business functions, such as marketing, financial planning etc. and identify the ones you need help with. Be honest about where your strengths lie and the time you can devote to each area, then prioritise these activities and outsource accordingly.

Remember you may provide the best products or service but people will not know about it unless you tell them! Make sure what you do is easily communicated, not just by the team but your suppliers and customers too.

Team up with likeminded people who believe in your objectives but make sure they have complementary skills. Together you’ll be a stronger, more resilient and effective business.

Listen to people who have started their own business, although technology may have moved on, it’s reassuring to remind yourself that the basic rules of business never change.