Nick Tefft, founder of Free Love, was part of our AccelerateME program last year, and is currently studying International Business and Economics at the University of Manchester.
1. What is your company, Free Love, about?
Free Love apparel is a LGBTQ+ store which focuses on the notion that pride should be a year-round thing. Instead of having pride for a few months, we feel that people should be proud all year, and part of what we do is give back to the community through donations such as shirts and monetary gifts. Additionally, we create designs for certain niche sexualities that bigger companies wouldn’t do.
2. What’s your story?
I’m originally from the United States. I went to college there for two years before moving to the UK. My studies in the U.S. focused on psychology and a bit of finance, and I felt that I would like to move towards the business route. I met some friends from the UK through Camp America, and after visiting them in Manchester, I decided to apply to university here. I got accepted, and found myself really liking the International Business and Economics course, which is very useful for entrepreneurship because it gives you a well-rounded view of business in a global perspective.
3. How do you find a balance between focusing on your studies and managing a clothing brand?
I think it’s really important to be able to leverage your time, and by that I mean delegating certain tasks out to other people. This allows me to focus on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter along with product designs, as well as the direction of the brand. I wouldn’t be able to do that without working with other people, so I think it is really important to find the right people who can fill in those gaps where you are not as strong or don’t have enough time.
4. What has been the biggest challenge to opening a clothing brand?
The number one challenge would have to be the management of everything, in terms of time management and getting everything done. When I first started out it was just myself, so I had more orders coming in than I could handle, which proved to be a huge problem and I didn’t know how to get all these orders out in time. Also, when you are scaling, you never know what to expect, and having an unexpected rush of customers while realising you can’t handle it can be really stressful.
5. What is the number one advice you would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs that have just started or want to open their own brand/company?
Just get started with it. A lot of people are thinking about starting their own business, but never actually do it. I think if you just get out there and do it, start testing the markets, getting feedback on the product, you will start to learn invaluable things very quickly and eventually figure out the next steps.
6. In your opinion, what is the best thing about entrepreneurship?
What I like about entrepreneurship is the fact that you are not as constrained as you would be in a bigger company where your opinion might not be heard. If you really believe in something, you can try it, whereas in the corporate world your idea for marketing might be really good, but if your manager doesn’t like it, the idea will not go through. As an entrepreneur, you have that freedom to do what you want. I think it’s also a lot more fun to build a team with your friends so you are working with people you can have fun with. Additionally, entrepreneurship allows me to work around my own schedule alongside university.
7. Who inspires you the most and why?
My dad really inspires me. He was working at a corporate job for the majority of his life, until he decided to start his own company. It was just seeing the drive that he had - he was willing to take that risk and do something really big. When he started, he had three other people with him, so he wanted to do it with a team as well. That was really close to me, and made me feel this is something that I can do too. Now, whenever I stress about my business or I have any issues I can always go to my dad and call him, so I think that’s a huge asset for me.
8. How do you like to unwind?
I’m really fortunate to have a great group of friends, they’re really funny, and we always have the best time whenever we hang out. Everyone is so different, but we all still get along, it doesn’t really matter what we are doing, or where we are, as long as we are together. Additionally, chilling with my flatmates, playing video games and so on.
9. Where can people connect with you?
If anyone wants to connect with me personally, I’d say through Facebook, Nick Tefft. My Instagram is @nick.tefft, and my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m always willing to help out people who have questions, as I think it’s really important to give back, because when I first started out I didn’t have a mentor. My dad was there to help me out, but in terms of building something from scratch, it’s a bit different.
Inteview by Siim Pettai