In partnership with BNZ
Welcome to our new series, Don’t Just Survive, Thrive – where we talk to New Zealand women absolutely nailing it in business. We’ll be talking to wonderful wāhine about their experiences – good and bad – in starting businesses, and with the support of BNZ, the tools that make business banking easy. This week we’re talking to Miria Flavell, the founder of the size-inclusive clothing range Hine Collection and why her own health and fitness journey led to her starting this best-selling company.
A lot of attention goes to the businesses that start out of inspiration but there are a heck of a lot of that start from a place of frustration. When Miria Flavell embarked on a health and fitness journey back in 2017, she was immediately disheartened to find how few clothes there were in her size. As a size 14 – which is the average clothing size in New Zealand – her options were limited and it put an immediate barrier into getting her feeling comfortable and confident when it came to going to the gym. On top of that, Miria was also frustrated by the lack of representation being demonstrated by brands – the general look of clothing brands was always one typical body shape, meaning that a lot of women were being cut out of the conversation. “There were no activewear brands that catered to bigger women and I thought, ‘If I’m struggling with the fact that I feel this way, what about all the other women who were size 14 and above who did want to be healthy and did want to be fit and couldn’t find anything to support them in their journey.”
“ ‘If I’m struggling with the fact that I feel this way, what about all the other women who were size 14 and above who did want to be healthy and did want to be fit and couldn’t find anything to support them in their journey.”
So, she decided to do it herself and created Hine Collection, an activewear brand that runs from sizes XXS through to 6XL. The key point of Hine is that everybody – and every body – should feel represented by the brand. “When you look and feel good, it makes a huge difference when you’re at the gym. That’s why we’re all about trying to make women feel confident, because when they feel confident in themselves, that’s when they’ll put that effort into putting their health and fitness first.”
Back in 2017 when Miria launched the brand, the clothing space was a very different place to how it is now and size inclusivity wasn’t an aim for many brands. “Finding a manufacturer that made clothing above a size 14 was the biggest struggle for me, in the beginning. I had to go through so many manufacturers and the one we have now, I had to really push. When we launched, we only went up to 3XL and I had to push and push to get the bigger sizes. I won’t say it’s easy, because it’s really, really hard to cater for all women, but that’s always been the main goal, to make sure we cater to everyone.”
Three years later, Hine is such a success story that their winter collection sold close to 10,000 online orders in 48 hours (triple their expected amount) and they are routinely dealing with all-day queues around the block when they do pop-up stores. The success of Hine has also lead Miria to start a gym in Hamilton, called The Movement NZ, that extends her kaupapa of creating a safe space for people to feel confident enough to exercise. But Miria is very open about the fact that the business was a slow burn and that not only starting a business with limited experience was very hard, but that the first year was very slow.
Here, Miria shares her top pieces of business advice she’s learned along the way.
Don’t let lack of experience put you off
“It was pretty tough at the beginning because I didn’t have any business experience; I was a self-employed make-up artist, that was the only business experience I had. I also didn’t have any design experience as well, so it was very much about doing a lot of research, looking at what was working in the international brands and then just winging it along the way. Our first collection were very basic designs, but our main point was making sure we had good quality fabrics.”
“The response to our first collection was good but slow – we had to do pre-orders and people just turn away from pre-orders. Everyone was waiting to see how that first collection was going to go, waiting to get reviews from girls and waiting to see if it was any good. It was very, very slow for the first year; it wasn’t until we got all the feedback from the first lot of customers that we made a few changes to the fabric and to the colours. When we started growing was when we started listening to the customers about what changes we could make.”
Build your community
“Hine is definitely a community brand; I feel like that’s really our point of difference. Every day we get messages from people telling us that Hine has supported them in the journey of changing their lives. Those are the stories that push us and motivate us to keep going, because we know we’re doing something right. Early on, the people in that community trusted each other – they could trust me, they could trust the brand, because we were real people who were talking to them and engaging with them. After a year, we could step back and watch the community engage with each other. Girls would see another girl wearing Hine and be like ‘Oh my god!’ there was that instant connection.”
Find a mentor
“At the end of the first year, I knew I needed help to grow the business because I was not experienced at all – I was winging it and learning along the way, which is cool and I feel like everyone should do that too. But my mentor really helped me grow as a business women. It’s still so easy for my mindset to be, ‘oh, that’s too far of a dream,’ but when you surround yourself with the right kind of people, they’re the ones who will say, ‘That’s achievable; I know you can do that.’ The biggest piece of advice I have for aspiring business owners is to get a mentor. When you start off, you’re in the deep end. You’re blind and you’re just trying to figure it out along the way. If you want to grow your business, that’s when you need a mentor to guide you and take you to the next level in your business.”
Look for people who support you as a business owner
“My mum was with BNZ – I was with another bank but decided for my business, I wanted to go with BNZ and now my house and my personal accounts are with BNZ as well. They’ve been amazing – I’ve got a really good account manager who really looks after us. We’ve got Andrew and what I love the most about him is how invested he is in our business, he’s so passionate about it. He’s been so supportive – not only towards the business but towards me as a business owner as well.”
Ignore the naysayers
“When I first started, I had people tell me that the business wouldn’t go far because it had a Māori name. That was disheartening to hear. I was also told ‘you’re just going to be a Māori brand, you’re just going to cater to Māori women.’ But that wasn’t my vision. And today I show proof of that, because our customer base is so massive, across ethnicities, cultures and age groups.”
Represent your people
“Our values here at Hine are definitely kaupapa Māori; I feel that the purpose of Hine is to encourage our wāhine, especially our Māori and Pasifika women, to take care of themselves. We use as much Te Reo Māori as possible, not only in Hine but in our gym. That’s something my dad taught me when I was growing up: No matter what I do, I have to always try and represent our culture and give back to our people.”
Any views expressed in this article are the personal views of Miria Flavell and Capsule, and do not necessarily represent the views of BNZ, or its related entities. This article is solely for information purposes and is not intended to be financial advice. If you need help, please contact BNZ or your financial adviser. Neither BNZ nor any person involved in this article accepts any liability for any direct or indirect loss or damage arising out of the use of, or reliance on, all or any part of the content. BNZ terms and conditions and fees apply to the products and services mentioned in this article.