Happy Friday everybody and thanks for joining for the third Q&A of our Inspire Interview Series! (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, and Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer).
Today is a really exciting one because I know so many people dream of starting their own businesses, and even quitting their corporate jobs to pursue passion projects elsewhere…
Find out how the incredible Leyla Cooper, a former lawyer, now Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic made the switch, and also her expert skincare tips! It’s a really great one because you can tell how much knowledge and hustle she’s poured in to make this wonderful brand a success.
I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. – Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic and former lawyer
If somehow you haven’t yet come across this increeeeedible skincare range, it’s a bespoke product line designed especially for active women, and it’s totally ethical (the products are super natural, not at all animal tested, and are registered with the Vegan Society). I came across it one day in Harper’s Bazaar, and fell head-over-heels in love! If you have yet to try their gorgeous products, be sure to visit their instagram, facebook and twitter to get the scoop. I honestly couldn’t recommend them enough, they’ve really transformed my skin.
So without further ado, let’s jump in with Leyla…
B: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came up with the idea for Pretty Athletic?
L: I’ve always enjoyed running and exercise. I used to work as a lawyer, and exercise was something I relied on to help deal with the stress of work and to keep my head clear. Like many busy women I would fit in a workout whenever I could, be it an early morning run or a lunchtime or evening gym session. One day I realised that my skin post-workout was a challenge and amongst all the many skincare products out there for various skin types and situations, I couldn’t find anything specifically designed for active women, be it for pre/post workout skin (i.e. hot, sweaty, stressed, skin) or to help protect and repair skin that is subject to environmental damage whilst exercising outdoors.
B: What made you decide to take the leap and start your own business? What was your working life like before and has it changed a lot? How did you find the transition from working in law?
L: I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. Then my husband injured his spine (he’s fine now thankfully) and it put things into perspective and I felt that life is short and I had to leave to do this thing that I was passionate about. As for my working life, I worked hard as a lawyer but I work harder now.
B: It’s funny because I really suffered with skin issues when I started training more and waited a long time for a brand targeted at women who workout so I was crazy excited when I discovered Pretty Athletic – but how did you navigate the gap between having an idea when you realised it was something people needed, and creating a product?
L: In a nutshell: Market research, a fabulous team of cosmetic formulation chemists, hours of product and ingredient research, and lots and lots of testing.
B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life at Pretty Athletic HQ?
L: Sorry to be clichéd, but no one day is the same. Each day I deal with a variety of issues including social media, new product development, website tweaks and improvements, customer enquiries, brand collaborations, marketing, retailers, VAT/invoices/accounts, events, liaising with my business partner and our fabulous intern Laura, and the list goes on..
B: What has been the most challenging part of moving from law to running your own business?
L: The success or failure of the business falls on me- and that’s a lot of pressure.
B: Do you have a favourite Pretty Athletic product?
L: For the face, our Workout Glow as I use it to cleanse and hydrate pre and post workout, and anytime during the day when my skin need a refresh, and I also use it every evening to remove my eye makeup. For the body, our Hydration Kick body moisturiser as I don’t like traditional body moisturisers as I dislike how they feel on my skin, whereas this is a gel not a cream and so it just sinks in and is so refreshing, and also it smells amazing – like a spa.
B: What advice would you give to someone looking to take the leap and start their own business?
L: You have to absolutely love it, as you’ll work harder than you’ve ever done before.
B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so?
L: I have made many mistakes, and each time I learn not to make those same mistakes again!
B: What are the best and worst bits of working for yourself?
L: The best is the flexibility; if I want to go for a run at 3 in the afternoon to clear my head, I can. The worst is that you take everything – such as any rejections – very personally.
B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?
L: Looking back and knowing I did my best.
B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
L: I have never met her but I look up to and am inspired by Marcia Kilgore (founder of Bliss, Soap & Glory, and Beauty Pie) who despite having been incredibly successful never rests on her laurels and keeps building successful brands and coming up with innovative new ideas.
B: Can you describe your daily skincare regime? What are your top tips?
L: I keep it quite simple. In the morning I cleanse my face and apply moisturiser, plus SPF if the sun is out. Pre/post workout, and also at the end of the day I use our Workout Glow to cleanse and hydrate, and then before bed I alternate between a facial exfoliator and nourishing cleanser, I remove my eye makeup with our Workout Glow, and I then use a face oil. About half my skincare products are Pretty Athletic products or samples of new products from our cosmetic formulators that I am testing, and the other half are from other brands as I like to keep up to date with new products on the market. My top tip? Exercise – it’s amazing for your skin. (Just ensure you cleanse and hydrate after sweating!)
Fave workout? Running
Nut butter or avocado? Nut butter
Massage or facial? Facial
Nature or nuture? Nurture
Talent or hustle? Hustle
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate
You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist? Playlist
Moisturiser or face oil? Face oil
You’re on a desert island and can only have 3 beauty products – what are they? Our Workout Glow, shampoo, and sunscreen.
It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make? Chocolate.
Thanks so much for your insights Leyla!