Movers and Shakers | Kayleigh Benoit | Founder BIND London

Kayleigh Benoit is the founder of award-winning BIND London, a high fashion fitness and athleisure brand comprising of inclusive headwear that is the first of its kind to cater to all hair types and textures. She launched her business 12 months ago.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I started my natural hair journey back in 2018. As an avid gym-goer I noticed I was being a bit more … let’s just say ‘dainty’ with my training, because I didn’t want to sweat out my natural hair, something I hadn’t considered when I started my hair journey.

I was used to wearing weaves so was never too fussed about my own hair underneath, I’d just straighten my ‘leave out’, even though the pain of hearing my hair singe under straighteners when my hair was sweaty was never a good sign!

I read the book ‘Slay in your Lane: The Black Girl Bible’ and I was struck by a chapter the authors wrote about business, and how Black female entrepreneurs can create businesses catering to a black female audience from their perspective.

I realised I had a problem that needed solving, so the problem preceded the product. I had started wearing headwraps to a yoga class, so I had thought about workout based headwraps first. I then thought, what else can I provide other than headwraps? The headwrap, headband, hijab and headscarf were thought of within 24 hours. The durag was the final piece I designed about 6 months later.

What were the first few steps you took to get the business up and running?

The very first event I went to was literally to fangirl Yomi and Elizabeth, the authors of ‘Slay in your Lane’. I saw on their Instagram page they would be panellists at an event at the British Library so I booked a ticket. The event was hosted by Rasheed Ogunlaru and he shared there was a Business and IP Centre in the library, as well as lots of events to grow a business. I had absolutely no idea! I made a commitment that day in October 2018 that I would attend as many business events as possible to upskill in the areas of business and fashion.

I attended A LOT of events, from British Library, and Eventbrite searching. My 2nd event was Jessica Huie’s ‘Passion for Profit’ and my 3rd event was a ‘Precious Nights’ event! So very grateful!

I attended an event in February 2019 which led me to find my mentors Bianca Miller Cole and Byron Cole who mentored me to launch BIND London. One of my most prominent moments was launching a crowdfund 6 weeks into the pandemic in May 2020, where I was able to successfully gain £10,000, and was where the Bind London(BL) community formed. The crowdfund was pivotal in putting BIND London on the map.

How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?

As an ex-teacher, I am a planner! Have a long term vision, you need to know where you want your brand or business to go. I prefer to say a long term ‘vision’ rather than ‘plan’, as plans would need adapting over time according to the economy, what your market responds to etc. Who could have ever prepared themselves for the pandemic!

I then have a 2022 goal list, which is chunked into quarters. I take each quarter and have a 90-day plan on where I want BIND London to be, and the action steps to get there. Each month I have pledges, which are split into weekly tasks, and daily musts. It is an entire operation on an Excel spreadsheet!! To be in your purpose, you need to act with purpose on purpose.

As technical as it sounds, success is in part a numbers game. The aim of the game is sales because that is how the brand grows to the level I need it to be. It shows proof of concept, it validates the need I am trying to serve. It is my goal to secure investment by the end of the year, so I have to create a strong blueprint and evidence that this is a brand people want, need, and desire.

What keeps me motivated is the level of servitude. I love to help and serve, it gives me immense pleasure to read DMs and listen to voice notes from people saying how much they love the pieces. I am also hugely motivated by people who have followed the journey and root for it as much as I do. The community is everything to me, they deserve the best.

Are there any sacrifices you’ve had to make as an entrepreneur?

Where to begin? Haha! I prefer the term ‘invest’ over ‘sacrifice’ because if I give up something it means I am pouring into something else. Instead of sacrificing time and money, I’ve invested time and money. I learned to be leaner with finances so that I could invest into BIND London, but now I bootstrap as much as possible and follow the principles of ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries (great book, which I discovered from a British Library event!)

I left my 10-year career in education to pursue entrepreneurship. This was a very challenging decision because my salary was way above average. I knew that I could only progress so far with my business aspirations whilst working there, due in part to the responsibilities I had; being in the leadership team, and also how my environment viewed side hustles/aspirations outside of the workplace, fuelled further by work colleagues ‘nosying’ your social media activity.

For my business to thrive, I need to thrive so I decided to leave and created a six-month strategy to transition. Reading the book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ was a great help, I slowly transitioned my responsibilities in education and working for money, to building up businesses where the money works for me. It takes time and I am still in transition, but it’s a decision I never regret.  

What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?

There are a few, but there are three moments that are absolute highlights. The first was getting the £10,000 from the crowdfund. My family were utterly against the idea of me crowdfunding and did not support the idea at all. Once they saw how much I was grinding (it was definitely a grind), the press attention it received, and the pot grow bigger, my mum and gran decided 3 days before the crowdfund ended that they wanted to be the ones to put in the pledge to get me to £10K. I was on £9600 and they put together £400 and got me there. The following morning I had an interview with BBC Radio London about my experience. My mum and gran listened in, and my mum said she felt so proud and wanted to cry.

A second highlight was seeing AJ Odudu wearing BIND London on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, purely because when I put together Pinterest boards when creating the idea AJ was on my Pinterest board, I really admire her. She was incredibly lovely and sent me the most wonderful DM to say how much she loves the brand. I had a negative experience with an influencer shortly before, so seeing someone like AJ happily wear the brand, support the brand and love the brand was a moment.

Obviously, the third and biggest highlight was winning the Precious Award for ‘Startup of the Year’ which literally happened a week after AJ Odudu wore BIND London on Strictly. Best evening ever. I was absolutely petrified because I was there on my own with no guests but of course, the PRECIOUS community were there for me. When I sat down after winning the award I WhatsApp’d my mum and gran at the table and they were so proud. It was definitely a moment, I was on a cloud for the rest of the year!

What has been your scariest moment?

This is going to sound really silly, but going up to people and speaking to them! I can happily go on a stage, a podcast, deliver a masterclass or keynote, but at an event where I want to speak to someone, I get scared!
The first time this happened was at my first Precious Nights event. I wanted to speak to Bami, founder of Twerk After Work who was one of the panellists at the event. Once the event ended and the mingling/networking happens, I stood in the corner super shy.

(PRECIOUS Founder) Foluke introduced herself and I shared that I was scared to speak to Bami. She helped introduce me to Bami and I am incredibly grateful. I remember having the same feeling with Kike Oniwinde from BYP Network, who was a panellist the following month.

Now when I go to events I know in advance who I want to speak to and what I’d like to ask them, so that extra bit of preparation helps. I still get scared, but I know this is how I get to maximise my time at the event.

I don’t go to as many as I used to now that BIND London has launched but I ask myself, if I have paid £30 for an event ticket, I need at least £30 of value from a gem/nugget of advice from the person I want to speak to there, so I can say I have invested my time wisely.

How do you work on making your business grow?

Before I work on my business I work on myself. This means personal development every single morning without fail. In order for me to be the best founder possible and make the best decisions for my brand, I personally feel I need to be not only healthy in body but healthy in mindset. I see a lot on social media that some founders will get anxiety from comparing their business growth to another business, but that comparative culture comes from the individual, not the business. The business doesn’t have emotions, but we do so I take good care to work on myself.

In addition, I use my Excel sheet of business goals and work on those consistently to make the business grow. I take advice from mentors and advisors who help with their expert knowledge.

I have an amazing accountability partner who, although our businesses are in completely different industries, we have been accountable to each other’s businesses since our pre-launch days. We will share things all the time to get a different perspective, which I find incredibly useful to gain the perspective of someone who isn’t in the fashion industry. I combine the goals and advice/mentorship with feedback from the BL community as it is essentially the customers who are purchasing the products so I take on their feedback also.

What is the best thing about being your own boss?

Being in control. Being in control of my path and destiny, taking the reins and being the captain of my ship (I think Les Brown said that!)

I want to create a life by design, wake up every day and know that I built something incredible and I have the power to choose how I live. The ability to be able to do that through acts of servitude (serving the community with a brand they need) makes life incredibly fulfilling. I’m also a bit of an introverted homebody and enjoy working independently, so that is also a bonus!

What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?

Responsibility. To work for yourself requires an exceptional amount of responsibility, because you’re in control of your day. As Brian Tracy says, you can either be a person of responsibility or a person of blame, we can’t be both. So working for myself means having a ‘no matter what’ attitude and getting the work done that is in line with my goals.

If there are timeframes on the goals then I have to work harder, and that might mean working on days/times when I’m not feeling up to it, or feeling a bit rough. I tackle this with daily personal development and a super clear working structure. I don’t believe in working myself to burnout or 24/7 hustle culture, because a person can spend all day doing very little. I schedule times and non-negotiables in the diary, and work well with power hours, which is a focused hour on a task with zero distractions. I say this is a ‘challenge’, like I don’t enjoy doing these things haha!

I also learned (and still learning) to become a lot more responsible financially and not think of ‘earned income’ but rather sales, assets, income streams. I tackle these things by having an excellent accountant who is a great advisor, and well worth the investment (which I’m sure she would agree with!)

Certain costs in my teaching career like a fancy car, lavish holidays, designer items, were no longer of importance when I started working on my business, as my priorities changed. It’s super important to be laser-focused on the goal and mission because externally it might come across as a lifestyle downgrade, but I have adjusted to unlearning old habits in order to rebuild new ones, that will eventually pay me handsomely in the future, financially as well as quality of life.

Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?

Numerous people for varying reasons.

Jim Rohn – he is one of the greatest philosophers of all time. I live and breathe his philosophies for my personal development. Although he passed away I consider him a ‘silent mentor’ as he is always in my ear. Through his teachings I learn not only about how to be a great business owner, but to always be a contributor to society, and also design a dream life.

Bianca Andrew – She is my amazing accountability partner who grafted and built her business to six figures in 18 months. We met before both our brands launched and our work ethic was a great fit, we vibed immediately. I admire her relentlessness and she is willing to take lots of risks now to create the dream business and have the lifestyle for her family

Rosie & McKenzie Baltimore – I met them virtually over Instagram this time last year, and they are now like family. We’re all in the same network marketing company, what I admire is how they show up for themselves on a daily basis and their consistency. They act with a level of class and finesse I find very inspiring, what I learn from them is 1) how we show up for ourselves daily is incredibly important, and 2) our mindsets and actions need to be top tier before the big wins, not when we receive the big wins

Bianca Miller Cole – for her presence on BBCs ‘The Apprentice’ which lead to her becoming my mentor for BIND London in its start-up phase

A lot of my inspiration is people ‘close to home’, sometimes the inspiration doesn’t always need to be from someone who has ‘made it’ fully, but are on their journey.

What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?

Oh wow what a question! So much advice has been pivotal to the journey so far, and I’m just getting warmed up. Probably from Jim Rohn, ‘Don’t learn to get THROUGH the day, learn to get FROM the day’, meaning there is always something to learn from the day.

A lot of people have a lifestyle where they can’t wait for the end of the day, the end of the working week. We can go through the day missing some key things, and as much as it is incredible to set goals and work towards a future achievement, being in the present is also key. I open and close my day with that mentality so that I can bring my best self to my business.

Before I go to sleep, I’ll reflect on every moment of the day, I’ll write in my journal what I enjoyed most from the day, and also something I learned. Success in business isn’t linear, there are wins and losses, but the losses can be great learnings when reflected on. There have been some great wins for BIND London already in its first year in business, but also some key learnings which were necessary for me to encounter so I’m aware the next time.   

What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?

Great question, it can depend on what stage a business owner is at with their business. I would say:

The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries, for new business owners to treat their first couple of years in business like an experiment

The British Library, for business events, resources, desktop research in The Reading Room, a study space … they provide so much which I am truly grateful for

YouTube/Google/social media, there is always a tutorial about something in business that you can learn from. I had no idea how to prepare for a buyer meeting once, so Googled how. When I had to learn about wholesale profits, I went on YouTube. There are also great TikToks and Pinterest mini videos for new entrepreneurs. In the digital age, we are never too short on information.

What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?

A lot of my passions are fused into my business. I like to relax with a holiday but won’t be on one for a while! I sound like a bit of a loner but I enjoy time in solitude. I do a lot of talking/sharing on social media, so enjoy being off-grid in my own headspace. I enjoy reading, and have a good library of books.

I like taking my dog Calvin to new places, he gets excited by everything so on the weekend I’ll take him for a drive somewhere new. We visited Chiswick Park the other day and loved it. We’ll even do a trip to McDonalds for him to have an ice cream, haha. I enjoy eating out, but am probably making up for lost time after lockdown! Pinterest scrolling always makes me happy too 🙂

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