Meet Alexa, a talented entrepreneur with multiple successful businesses under her belt! Today we dive deep into the mission of her business Huha: innovative, zinc-infused undies designed for feminine health. Read on to learn about her personal journey, how she threads sustainability into her mission and her thoughts on the most rewarding part of her job.
What is your story?
My childhood years aren’t glamourous and it took me a really, really long time to discover my path. I remember my mom being so frustrated with me because she didn’t know what to do with me! I was uninterested in sports, and I wasn’t a particularly good student. I always had this sense that I didn’t know what all my options were, so how could I choose just one? I spent most of my time daydreaming.
Eventually, I discovered writing and that changed things for me. It started with writing in my journal, and then progressed to writing short stories.
This led me to London, where I explored fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, while freelance writing and blogging at the start of the “Influencer” age. I continued to travel and began designing and making my own clothes, which led me to launching my first eCommerce apparel line in 2015. Eventually, I’d accumulated so many digital marketing skills that I launched my agency, Studio Media, where we continue to work with brands on their marketing and content creation.
And now, coming back to the apparel business with Huha, it’s wild how things have come so full-circle. Mine has been the furthest from a conventional path, but it’s been marked by exhilarating times, endless learning, and lots of travel – which I love!
What inspired you to start your business?
I’m a natural problem-solver and I’m constantly thinking of new ways to innovate. But healthy underwear was an idea that stuck, because it had such a strong meaning for me.
If you think about it, our underwear means a lot. It’s tied to our sense of identity, our intimate experiences, our self-confidence, and our health.
When I began exploring the industry and the literature, I learned about how wronged women have been when it comes to our underwear.
To start, synthetics are bad for vaginal health because these manmade fibers lead to bacteria growth, which puts us at risk of infection. Tight fitting underwear also increases the chance of yeast, UTI and other infections. And textiles used to make our underwear are often processed with harmful chemicals that have a plethora of negative health implications.
And yet, when I looked through my underwear drawer, all I saw was synthetic fibers, nylon, polyester, sheer panels, bows and bling, lace, and skimpy fitting designs. None of it seemed to be designed with a priority on women’s health or comfort. And I felt there was something really, really wrong with this picture.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability isn’t just about organic raw materials, a lighter footprint, or biodegradable products, although that’s all part of it. For Huha, sustainability is about having a strong, foundational purpose, which then guides all of our decisions –– including the eco-friendly materials and end products.
We believe that women are powerful. That women are wonderful. And that together, women can change the world. We just happen to be empowering them with better, healthier, more sustainable underwear, but underwear isn’t really our purpose. Women are.
What does a typical day look like?
Every day is different, which I love. I’m usually in and out of the office, splitting my time between Studio Media and Huha, on photoshoots, in client meetings, and working with our vendors.
Favorite part of your job?
Simply put, I love the process of creating. Taking something from a thought, to an idea, to a real life, tangible thing. It’s incredible.
Most challenging part about running your own business?
Managing my own mental, emotional and physical health. The thing is, entrepreneurship is synonymous with personal growth. And personal growth can be painful. If you’re going to make it as a business owner, you’re going to have to change, grow, adapt, and pivot all the time. That’s really hard for a lot of people, but it gets easier once you learn to trust yourself and the process. No matter how far I come, I still have to deliberately check-in with my mental state (Am I choosing optimism or fear?), my emotional state (How are my emotions confusing the facts or tasks at hand?), and my physical state (Have I eaten today? Lol).
In each of those areas, some days are worse. Some days are better. And that’s all part of personal growth. Each day is not better than the last, but with time, getting better is inevitable.
Best advice for someone just starting to learn how to transition into a more low waste, eco-friendly lifestyle?
Creating sustainable products requires you to consider each level of the supply chain. Luckily for brands and business owners, certifying bodies exist to make the process not only easier, but verified. I recommend creating relationships with the certifying bodies that improve sustainability within your industry, such as GOTS and OEKO TEX for apparel. They’ll be able to walk you through the process of verifying vendors and certifying your end products.
When choosing what materials to use for your products, you can find sustainability indexes to help you make your initial decisions. For example, The Higg Index (for apparel and footwear) provides environments and social sustainability assessments throughout the supply chain.
If you weren’t running your business, what would you be doing?
I have a lot of passions, including writing and photography; but my passions have always led me to creating a marketing, saleable skill. So if I wasn’t running my current businesses, I think I’d be running yet another business!
My essential need for freedom and creativity has always prevented me from settling into a structured routine, so naturally my work style lends itself well to entrepreneurship. It’s hard to imagine myself doing anything else, and even if money wasn’t a factor, I’d still see myself being motivated to solve problems, help others, and explore my creativity through commerce.
What has been one of the most rewarding experiences being in your line of work so far?
It’s been extremely rewarding to create the brand, the message, and the “why” behind what we’re doing. Through spreading our message, we’ve been able to uplift women, hear and share their stories, and create a community that collectively believes in supporting each other, improving body confidence, and empowering women.
In a practical sense, it’s been incredibly rewarding to work and create alongside such skilled experts. Whether the natural dye house owner in Taipur or the technical intimates designer in Vancouver, it’s hard to describe how rewarding it feels when your vision and passion collides with the expertise and agency of another. I’ve loved learning more about the textiles industry and almost every day I pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all just a wonderful dream.
Best piece of advice to others that are wanting to start their own business?
All you really need to start your business is a strong vision. Everything else will follow. Take it from me: you don’t need investment, you don’t need a degree, you don’t need the “right connections” or the “right opportunity.”
Whatever it is you *think* is holding you back or standing in your way, I can guarantee you it’s just fear.
If you are passionate, authentic, and determined, nothing can hold you back.
And yes, fear will get in the way. It will come back. You WILL want to quit, probably more than you’d like to admit. That’s why a strong vision and determination is the key ingredient. It’s the only thing that will sustain you and refill you when you’re on empty.
Life motto you live by?
My life motto changes a lot, depending on what I feel I really need in that particular phase of my life. For example, in 2016, I focused on feeling joyful all the time, and that in itself brought me a lot of success. This year, I’m focusing on slowing down, clearing my mind, and being more thoughtful and deliberate in my daily actions. So far, it’s working.
There are a couple quotes I recite to myself often, however, regardless of what my current motto is:
“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” –– Winston Churchill
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive, and bring itself to believe, it can achieve.” -- Napoleon Hill
What’s next for you and Huha?
We’re currently working on moving spaces, expanding our team, and creating our next line of women’s intimates products. We’re really excited about where we can take not only our products and brand, but our customers’ daily experience with their entire top drawer and their overall sense of body confidence.
Keep up with Alexa and her business over at @wearhuha :)