After securing a government Start Up Loan with Fashion Angel, buyer turned brand owner Cara Melzack has launched her fun knitwear brand to rave reviews. We caught up with her to find out more about the UK produced, Cara & The Sky.
What is your brand’s USP?
Unique, affordable knitwear is at the heart of the brand, with each unique style carefully considered, from shape, to quality, to the fit . Our first capsule collection includes trend driven but trendless knitted pieces including jumpers, cardigans and dresses, all designed here in the UK.
I am really proud that we produce in the UK and only make small quantities so there is no excess stock going to landfills at the end of the season. We try to be as sustainable as possible by using recyclable labels and packaging.
Where did the name come from?
I wanted the brand to represent positivity – the name comes from the brands’ motto Create A Right Attitude & Reach The Sky – this positive message is something I live by. If you have the right mindset, live life to the fullest and believe in yourself, then the sky’s the limit to what you can achieve.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have over 10 years’ industry experience within high end, value and fast fashion brands ranging from Ted Baker at the beginning of my career, to most recently start up brand Lost Ink. Having specialised in knitwear, I have an in-depth knowledge of the design, yarn, gauges, fit and construction of knitwear garments.
What were you doing just before setting up the business?
I was made redundant from my role as knitwear buyer at Lost Ink whilst busy planning my wedding, but this gave me the push I needed to finally start my own business. .
What made you want to start your business?
I have always wanted to own my own business from a young age. Although being made redundant was a shock, looking at the tough UK high street climate, made me think that it was a good time to use all the lessons I’ve learnt from my previous roles and start my brand.
I saw there was a gap in the market for affordable high-quality knitwear that reflects individuality and personality. I wanted to bridge the gap between high-end and high street and decided to focus on one area (knitwear), do it well, and then build from there.
When did you launch and how was the response?
We launched in October 2019 and had a great response from bloggers, media, friends and family. Everyone loves the product and price level, and are so complimentary on seeing something different from what’s on the high street.
How did you hear about Fashion Angel?
When I was looking into funding, I came across Start Up Loans and Fashion Angel via Google. The Start Up Loan and support from Fashion Angel really helped me get off my feet and gave me the confidence to move forward with starting the brand.
What did you gain from the pre-loan business support and mentoring?
Fashion Angel’s support was invaluable in enabling me to receive the Start Up loan funding. My Business Adviser Vivienne Austin was an amazing help getting my business plan in the right place to be approved for the loan. It was amazing to have the founder Alison Lewy at the launch and a huge boost of confidence that she bought one of the jumpers on the night!!
What is your route to market?
We are selling both at wholesale and retail. Cara & The Sky is already being stocked in 5 boutiques and with home styling service, The Wardrobe Edit.
The range is also on sale on the Cara & The Sky website, Silk Fred, Depop, Ebay and Etsy (leaving no stone unturned!).We also plan to take part in select markets and pop-ups over the coming months.
Who are your target customers?
The brand was originally designed with the 25-35 year old ‘every girl’ in mind; however, since launching it has had an amazing reaction from ages ranging from 13-70. The styles are extremely versatile and can be styled in different ways depending on your age and personal style, so really there is something for everyone.
What, so far has been your biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Logistics ! Unfortunately there were initial teething problems with the warehouse and fulfilment centre I had chosen to work with, which thankfully have now been sorted. Navigating the new world of PR and marketing has also been a huge challenge, but luckily I have a friend in the industry who is able to advise me.
In hindsight, what do you wish you had done differently when starting out?
I wish I’d looked at the logistics and warehouse side in more detail. This is a huge part of a business and I don’t think I gave it enough time or consideration. But when you’re a one man band there is only so much you can do and things naturally get overlooked. I’ve really learnt so much from this though, and now in a good position to take the business forward.
Has your brand secured any press coverage?
Yes the reaction has been strong so far with coverage the Jewish News, and we’ll be in Cosmopolitan in December. I’ve had a huge amount of content generated from the bloggers invited to the launch. Their help has been invaluable and can’t thank them enough for supporting the brand at such a young age.
What is your greatest achievement so far?
Getting into Cosmopolitan! The fact that they picked up the range on my first press release is a huge acknowledgement that they see something special in the brand.
What would be your advice to anyone starting out?
Understand your costings. This is key to making sure your business is viable. There will always be hidden costs that sneak up on you, but if you make sure you’re accounting for everything at the beginning, it makes it all much easier. Luckily the business plan and cash flow need for the start up loan process makes you really look at this
Where do you hope Cara & The Sky will be in 5 years?
I want us to grow in to a global brand that is self-sufficient, spreading positivity and fun knitwear everywhere. As the brand grows I plan to expand the collections, including moving into different product areas, so the brand is not so seasonal and can sell all year round.
Interview by Letitia Allman
See how a Start Up Loan can help you start your dream business.