Inspiring small businesses: EBYAK sustainable vegan-friendly menswear

In our ‘Inspiring small businesses’ series we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who took their idea to the next level and built their own business. Starting your own business is a huge step, no matter how small your business is, so by bringing you closer to the great minds behind these inspiring businesses, we hope that you will find motivation and survival tips for building yours.

Next up in our series, Ashlea Atigolo, the founder and designer of EBYAK, a sustainable vegan-friendly menswear fashion label shares the story behind her success.

What is it that you do?

I am the Founder and Designer of EBYAK– a sustainable menswear brand with the first men’s sustainable streetwear collection that is vegan-friendly and awarded the seal of approval from Peta. After years in education, teaching children from the ages of 3 to 15 years old, being part of the development of an educational programme used in UK Government schools and becoming a Director of a private tuition company, I knew that although I loved educating children I couldn’t hold back the desire to pursue another lifelong passion of mine – to pursue a career in design and running my own business. During my maternity leave for my daughter, and coupled with my self-taught private design work increasing, I decided that instead of returning back to education it was time to take the leap of faith and start my own entrepreneurial journey. This is when EBYAK was born.

What’s the story behind your business?

I always knew that I wanted to use my creative talents to empower people and to be different than everyone else. So, I first decided to create EBYAK due to the lack of attention to menswear, especially by a female designer – less than 14% representation!  I knew that because of this I wanted to challenge and change the misconceptions of a menswear label run by a female founder and fashion designer. Not only was it important to me that I challenged the stereotypes and changed the status quo that women can also design for men, just as much as men are known to design for women. I also wanted to represent forward-thinking positive change and to inspire other female founders and designers too.

The very popular and much-loved ‘street-style’ inspired clothing is becoming the second largest cause of land-fill waste and environmental issues, due to its popular rise and because of some of its fast-fashion processes. Knowing this made me want to start my mission in changing these negative effects by offering a better alternative. I set out to design the UK’s first men’s sustainable streetwear line titled – “The Collection” that was also not only stylish, but sustainable and vegan-friendly too.

I hope that not only will I be able to breakdown the barriers women face within ‘male-centric’ industries but that EBYAK and “The collection” will help towards solving a bigger environmental problem too.  The Collection consists of 30+ modern design pieces ranging from premium constructed t-shirts to sport-luxe style hoodies. All the garments showcased are made using 100% certified organic cotton, GM-Free, and animal-free materials and they are hand-finished in the UK using low ink waste technology.

What inspired you to start your own business?

From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to be able to make my own decisions for my future and to inspire people, so being my own boss was always on the cards. It was important to me to have the freedom of choice and to be able to know that I would not have to depend on someone else’s vision and future. The thing about starting a business is that most people have different reasons for starting a business. For me, I also really wanted to be able to empower and inspire myself and show that I could overcome any fears that I had to inspire more people that being an entrepreneur is possible.

What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

The most difficult aspect of running your own business is that you have to be ready to commit your all to do everything that is needed. You also have to be prepared that you will sleep, eat and breathe your business and that might mean having to sacrifice a ‘normal’ lifestyle, especially in the early days.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

The best thing about running a business is that when seeing the rewards and recognition like doing this interview can make it all worth it! There are lots of benefits to running your own business from taking time off for an hour to take your toddler to the park, sipping on cappuccinos and working from a cool cafe to feeling super excited every time you’ve made a breakthrough. I think that the feeling you get when you see that things are finally working is more significant and beats any job promotion.

To find out more about EBYAK, visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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