I love to feature inspirational business women on my blog. Today I share an interview with Catherine Ransome founder of the clothing brand for teenage boys and young men known as Backwards Brain.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
I had a lovely childhood. My mum was super devoted and always home as she worked for my dad’s business. Myself and my older sister, Amber were born in London but moved to Bristol when I was around 3 as dad’s business opened offices in Bath and Bristol.
I have fond memories of primary school other than year 4-5 where I was quite badly bullied and lost quite a few friends. I hate to say it but following that year of trauma I decided to bully my bully back when we went on to secondary – but not for long and we then become friends.
I went to a local private school where I was not as academic as the majority of the girls there. I wasn’t seen as the best behaved child either and once you are given a label it is hard to shake. I didn’t mind secondary but because I was at a girls school and most of my friends went to the local school I generally socialised with my primary school friends at the weekends. I suppose you could say it was the best of both worlds.
As soon as I was 16 I got a job at the local Waitrose as I was keen to make my own money.
I left my school after A-Levels and had decided I was going to have a year out. I was in a relationship with a boy I had gone to primary school with and been very close friends with for a while so didn’t want to go off to uni straight away. Shortly after receiving my A-level results I found out I was pregnant! Telling the parents was an interesting one! Mine were amazing but my partner’s were awful – especially to me! The long and short of it is we (myself and Elliot) moved out which my parents helped with a lot and began to prepare for our new arrival. When I was 8 months pregnant – Elliot didn’t come home one night so I went out in the middle of the night looking for him! Elliot never came back and I found out he had been taking my parents’ money and not paying any bills so we were in debt. My parents paid off the bills (super fortunate they were able to help) and I moved home to go on and have my baby boy, Leo. Elliot was not involved at all until I sought him out when Leo was 7 – he never paid maintenance or supported us but as I said we had my parents – his parents have never met Leo but live in the road behind my parents and live 3 mins from us!
Life was very hard and I had a lot of things I had to work out. I had gone from being a child to having one and Leo was the first baby I had ever held. I stayed at home until Leo was 2 and then moved out for a year or so but because of money and childcare I moved home again until Leo was 6 at which point I met my now, husband, Jon and his son Jasper. I always worked full time and that meant my parents doing some drop offs and picks ups for me and me missing quite a lot of time with Leo BUT I was adamant I was going to make a life for us.
Leo and I have such a special relationship. I will always have a bond with him because of what we went through together and he made me who I am today. I felt our special relationship slipping away when he became a teen and we are super alike so the arguments are painful! Leo had his own issues due to the lack of his biological dad being around and this came out in various ways but that would be a whole other story. BB was born for a number of reasons but a couple of them being to bring Leo and I closer together and also I wanted to show Leo that with hard work you can achieve ANYTHING!!
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
I got a job at Waitrose when I was 16 and absolutely loved it – the friends I made gave a whole new social circle!
I learnt :
How to time manage
How to deal with difficult customers
That a smile goes very far!
That making your own money is so satisfying.That pushing yourself to come out of you comfort zone can pay off.
I also learnt doing a Sunday shift having been out on a Saturday was PAINFUL!
I then qualified and became a freelance PT following the birth of Leo because I put on weight and was unhappy and believed if I lost the weight and became healthier I would be happier and I was so I wanted to help others. The hours soon proved to not work as I was doing very early mornings, would be quiet in the day while Leo was at school and then would have late nights working.
I then got a 9-5 office job at a financial company and worked in new business. Within 6 months I was promoted into Marketing and the rest is history – I had found my calling. Following in my father’s footsteps I loved being in Marketing and became Marketing Manager just before I had our youngest child, Rocky. I had a super supportive boss who saw something in me and always willed me to push myself! I loved my marketing days!
What led to you setting up your business?
The struggle my eldest son Leo had with finding designer clothes to fit him. Leo is super small for his age and as a teenager wanted to wear the adult labels like Stone Island, A Bathing Ape but he was too small. They had a junior range but all the labels either had a younger age on them in big numbers or the had ‘Junior” written in the label – They were also made differently – not as high quality but still carrying a high price tag. Leo was fed up of his clothes being labelled junior so we started cutting them out – It was a day when I was doing this that the idea to create our own clothing line came about. We were adamant we were going to cater for young adults who wanted to start wearing adult lines but might not be quite big enough yet – We also wanted to change the way we sized our clothes so larger people didn’t have to have large written all over their label and smaller people didn’t have to have a younger age on their label or the word kids or Junior. That is why we size in Shades – you are not a number you are a shade.
What are your products?
We are a male clothing brand aimed at young adults 14-25. We currently stock a range of tees, hoodies, hats and joggers.
What makes your business special?
Our sizing and the passion Leo and I have for it. The designs are all done by Leo and myself and we think they are pretty iconic. We really want to make this work. Leo needs to know he can achieve anything he wants with a bit of hard work!
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
DO IT! If you never take the risk you will never know if you could have made it! If you are willing to work hard DO IT DO IT DO IT. And network with as many people as you can. You will always be able to find someone who has hit the same barriers as you and talking to others can be so empowering! You are powerful. Take the plunge!
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
Not a lot! I love to exercise and used to be a personal trainer so I do find that when I am training on a regular basis I am much more productive AND happier!
Who supported you as you set up your business?
My incredible husband and my family! My husband is a hard worker and runs his own business. I left my marketing career to look after our son, Rocky and work for him before setting up BB.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
I know a lot more women are taking the plunge already but I would love to see more mums having the opportunity to work alongside caring for their kids – not being stuck in a job they don’t enjoy just so they can have the maternity pay – So if they want to go at it alone they can.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
Oooooh hard one – But I am going to say – Small Great things! I couldn’t put this book down which is always a good sign, The writer Jodi does such a good job of capturing your attention and pulling on the heartstrings. It must have been a hard subject to write about but she does it well. I love the unconditional love the main character has for her son and how normal she tries to keep his life while hers is falling apart.
If you could recommend ONE Instagram to women, what would it be?
Insta: @positivelypresent – Whenever I see a post from them it makes me smile! When I have been feeling a bit low or not very productive I can go to their page and it will instantly feel better! I also love the parenting fails or memes because I can relate to the majority of them. We are not perfect as humans so it’s good to share all aspects of life not just the good bits!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just that I hope any women reading this knows that they can do anything if they really, really believe in it. I have had so many ups and downs with this business so far. Whether it is a huge success or not Leo and I have achieved something great! It was important to us and I’’m glad we are trying.