Meet Rachael Calvert from Marvell Lane
What’s your elevator pitch for your lady startup?
MARVELL LANE is the fuller bust swimwear, lingerie and clothing label where style and functionality intersect. It’s for the style-conscious, busty woman.
What was the inspiration behind it?
There was a complete lack of swimwear available for younger, fuller-busted women and the styles that were available were simply too conservative and not particularly fashion-forward. So I decided to create something that I wanted to wear and that reflected my age, taste and approach to swimwear.
What was your background?
I used to be a lawyer and it did not suit my personality at all, in fact, I have now been a designer for longer than I was a lawyer! I have never worked harder than what I do now with MARVELL LANE, but I do believe that my law degree and work ethic from the legal industry set me up well for being able to work hard and conduct the research required.
Did you dive right in or was it a side hustle?
I did a bit of both and by this I mean, I had to fully launch MARVELL LANE because I had to produce a whole swimwear range (2x top styles, 30 sizes, multiple colours), however I wasn’t earning enough to give up my other work. So, for about 18 months I worked in both (part-time) and then when I could afford to, and MARVELL LANE was big enough to support itself, I switched over. Manufacturing is very capital reliant, so it was a big deal to do this. I didn’t actually pay myself a salary until about three years in though! My husband ended up supporting both of us for a small while.
How do you find juggling a small business and being a mum?
As Mia Freedman once said, ‘Balance is bullshit’… and I’m leaning hard into that at the moment haha. For me, I don’t have a choice with choosing not to work with MARVELL LANE and having little Murphy (she’s nearly six months old now), however you realise that your productivity in the hours you do have is incredible!
We have a carer for Murphy four mornings a week for four hours. I cram as much as I can into those hours, and then catch up on anything in the afternoon if it can’t wait, or at night-time.
I would not recommend people work and have a baby – maternity leave is necessary for a reason – if you have that option.
How do you reset and recharge after feeling burnt-out or overwhelmed?
I sometimes find this very difficult, to be honest! There are a few things I rarely compromise on: morning cup of tea, exercise (even just a rigorous walk) and a glass of wine after Murphy goes to bed and these little things make me feel human. I’m in a place where I know my business can’t just ‘go away’, so I’m pretty good at compartmentalising where I need to. There will always be tomorrow and rarely is there a problem that can’t be solved.
Proudest achievements so far?
Certainly getting amazing feedback from other busty women about my products. As a busty woman myself, I actually still experience many of the issues my customers experience and I think this really helps me with my design process and creating products, whether it be swimwear or lingerie, that I really want to access but rarely find. So when I hear from my customers that they love the product, it just makes my heart sing.
What kind of challenges have you overcome?
Capital. Capital will always be challenging when you’re in manufacturing so ensuring there is adequate cashflow can be very difficult. Everyone will tell you when you launch a business that you need to have everything professionally done – from website, to branding and social media – but I would say that’s not true. There are so many programs out there that allow you to DIY all of this stuff really well, so you can initially save that money when you’re bootstrapping your business. However, you should ALWAYS invest in good photography – it’s the only thing you can’t DIY if you’re not a photographer or particularly good at this haha.
Best piece of customer feedback?
There are so many, but sometimes the best piece of feedback doesn’t directly reference the MARVELL LANE product, but it moreso references the MARVELL LANE community and its role in changing the way women feel about their breasts.
For example, there are so many women out there who have ‘hated’ their fuller busts and through many of the conversations and messages I have through socials, I’ve shown women that often their problem isn’t with their busts. It’s with the lack of products available to fit their busts which causes the resentment. So changing the perception about their breasts is always a lovely thing to see.
What advice would you give others thinking of becoming ‘mumpreneurs’?
I’m only recently a mum – I had MARVELL LANE for nearly four years before having Murphy – so my advice is for any woman who is thinking about starting their own business. Consider this: Is there a gap in the market, or a need that you’re servicing? If so, then just do it. You will never work harder in your life, but just have a go.
My other piece of advice is that owning your own business can actually be overwhelming and unrelenting and it requires a lot of energy. So if you’re not in a place in your life where you can give it 100%, then what I recommend is keep working on your idea until you’re ready to give it a red-hot go.
The most surprising thing you’ve discovered?
In manufacturing specifically, that regardless of the best-laid plans, things can ALWAYS go wrong haha. I mean, I’m so experienced now and I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating but it gets easier somehow.
Future goals for your lady startup?
We know that the issues with having a fuller bust are not limited to just lingerie and swimwear. I’m really passionate about fashion, however, because I’m busty, many options out there won’t fit me (tops, dresses, etc). So I’ve decided to do something about it. We’re about to launch a gorgeous, cotton day dress that comes in blended cup sizes (i.e. size 12D – F cups and size 12G – H cups). This allows us to keep all the features we love – sweetheart neckline, open tie-back, cinched waist – without compromising on the bust fit. And this dress is just the beginning!