#GIRLBOSS Interview: Charlotte and Jessica, Coconut Lane

If you've never heard of Coconut Lane, are you even a blogger? I'm only joking, but since 2015 Coconut Lane has been the answer to those who want a brand that represents sassy and classy ladies who are totally fearless and not afraid to be unapologetically authentic and fearless.
Coconut Lane sells some pretty cool stuff, from iPhone and Mac cases, to jewellery, to notebooks and weekly planners. It's a brand that infuses home, interiors and accessories with fashion and style.

I first discovered Coconut Lane towards the end of 2015, when the founders, Charlotte and Jess, got in touch with me and asked me to become a Coconut Queen. Excited to see a funky and quirky emerging brand for a blogger and aspiring boss lady at the time like myself, I said yes and came on board.

Over two-and-a-bit years later, the brand is still going strong and has a lot of wonderful products to offer.

Find out more about Charlotte, Jessica and the start of Coconut Lane.

What - or who - inspired you to start Coconut Lane?
Jess: Having been best friends since age 11, we have always dreamed of a joint business venture. We attended uni together where we started to brainstorm ideas - we came to the conclusion that you can't just think up a business idea - you have to wait for it to come to you! In September 2015, that's exactly what happened. After some marketing and social media experience, we decided to start Coconut Lane. Our mission was simple - to use the power of bloggers and social media to create a super sassy home and fashion accessory brand which would be unique from its competitors.

Describe Coconut Lane in three words.
Jess: Classy, Sassy, Bad-assy.

Describe the typical Coconut Lane customer.
Charlotte: Our customers are the super sassy gals of the 21st century. Coconut Lane is a place where pop culture merges with the latest trends to create something fun, vibrant and SO exciting. Lots of our products have honed in on the blogger industry, which makes bloggers one of our biggest customers in their own right. We wouldn't be where we are today without their help and support. Each and every blogger that we work with is a #girlboss and that's why bloggers are our continual inspiration.

Describe a typical 'day in the life' as the founders of Coconut Lane.
Charlotte: Every day at CL HQ is different from the next - but every job is integral to the success of Coconut Lane. We always have a meeting first thing where we catch up on our aims for the day and what we want to achieve (as well as the obvious catch up on the latest girly gossip - we are BFFs after all!) The rest of the day is spent on a whole range of tasks from general admin and brainstorming to super exciting meetings planning collabs with bloggers and other brands.

What has been your highlight since starting Coconut Lane? What are the fun aspects of running Coconut Lane?
Jess: There are so many highlights since we started back in September 2015. Launching our LUXE range and notebooks was a massive achievement for us and it got such a fantastic response. Whatever the target and end result - it's so satisfying to see a task through to the very end and know that we are responsible for its success. That “we made that happen” feeling is a rare, priceless and wonderful emotion. Despite the challenges, running a brand like Coconut Lane is the very epitome of fun.

What aspects of running your own business have you found challenging? How did you overcome these challenges?
Jess: When we started Coconut Lane, we invested some saved up Christmas money to kick-start the business. Whilst Coconut Lane has grown month on month, we have struggled to finance certain aspects as we haven't wanted to seek investment. We love the fact that Coconut Lane is our business and we have the final say. This being said, a challenge would definitely be the financial instability and uncertainty of running your own business. You can't just rely on a pay cheque at the end of the month! However, we wouldn't change it. The challenges are what makes it exciting and rewarding.

Charlotte: Finding enough time to do EVERYTHING is another huge challenge - but having 2 of us working around the clock is a massive help and makes it manageable for the moment. It can be hard to juggle the commitment and find time to do other things we love - I can't remember the last time I had a weekend off. It's all worth it though - seeing Coconut Lane grow is the best feeling in the world.

That's understandable. When I decided to become self-employed I felt the same way - I didn't want to seek investment and I didn't want to ask for a startup loan. This is because my businesses - freelance writing and blogging - didn't require much money.

Setting up was easy because I already had a laptop, I already had my blog and all I had to do was find a suitable platform/website builder for my business website. However, I have since invested more and more money into my business, but it's been my money.

I do love the fact that being a boss means that I have the final say - that's so liberating! And it's so rewarding to see a business grow and go from strength to strength.

What's been the biggest lesson you've learned since launching Coconut Lane? And what's the one thing you wish you had known before starting Coconut Lane - that you did not know before?
Jess: The biggest lesson we've learnt is that it's OK to make mistakes! Creating and developing a brand is hard work and no one gets it spot on. If something doesn't work then we try something new and learn from what went wrong. Developing ideas and not being disheartened when something falls through or doesn't work out as we'd hoped is the key to success.

Charlotte: If there's one thing we could have known before starting Coconut Lane it would have been to have had the confidence to start it sooner! When we first came up with the idea there was so much negativity coming at us from all directions - the number of times I was told that I don't have enough knowledge or experience and should wait a few more years - apparently, 23 is too young to start a business. I'm so proud that we went for it and didn't listen to the criticism - we've achieved so much.

I think the statement 'it's OK to make mistakes' is definitely true. That's something I've discovered since self-employment. I've made mistakes but at least I've learned from them, evaluated what wrong and changed strategy. In previous jobs, I was always put down for making mistakes and not being perfect but it's an essential part of business ownership and a vital part of life and there's nothing wrong with that.

Also, I do agree - you're never too young to start a business. Some of the most famous and successful businesspeople in the world started businesses really young. My business advisor always told me not be a deterred by my age or level of experience, and I know I'm good at what I do so I do wish I'd started sooner (that's my regret too!)

I think whenever you start a business, there will always be people who will hate or criticise and I've experienced this myself. The best thing to do is to drown out the noise and not listen to them - those who mind don't matter.

What would your advice be to a young woman who's interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
Charlotte: Don't worry about what people think - other people aren't going to make things happen for you so it doesn't matter what they say.

Jess: Follow your dreams and believe in yourself. You'll never be a successful entrepreneur without taking risks and seeing what can happen.

Thank you to Charlotte and Jessica Lancaster for taking part in this interview.

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