There’s a special kind of anguish when you’ve worked so hard for one path – perhaps a childhood dream – and you realise that it’s just not the one for you. However, in these times of turmoil and disappointment, incredible strengths can become apparent ; that lead you to new paths and a new, perhaps truer, version of yourself.
Today’s interview with Ellie, founder of NITARA might have you itching to hatch your own escape plan. Take that as our disclaimer!
HOC: Hi Ellie, great to meet you! Tell us about your journey to being an entrepreneur?
Ellie: I always wanted to have my own business. When I was a child, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I have a really vivid memory of drawing up interior designs for my own clothing shop one day (It was called ‘Ellie’s’ and it was in Paris, obviously – haha!); that was all I ever really wanted.
Long story short: I did end up doing a Fashion design degree, after that I worked in the industry for a brand I love and thought that would be enough…but it wasn’t. Within four months of working there I realised that I’m wasn’t really cut out for working for someone else! It wasn’t too long after that I left that job and started teaching yoga full time and the first plans for NITARA were born.
HOC: Tell us about your business, NITARA?
Ellie: NITARA was the brainchild of being a busy yoga teacher, living in activewear and being unable to find clothing that really aligned with the yogic way of life. I was on an endless search for activewear that was modern and cool, something different to ‘black on black’, but that was sustainably an ethically made…at the time I couldn’t find anything, so I decided to made my own!
As for the name, NITARA is a sanskrit word which means “to be grounded/deeply rooted”. It’s actually the spiritual name I was given at the end of my yoga teacher training on my first trip to India.
HOC: Tell us about the ethical side of your business?
Ellie: I’ve felt really connected to the ethical side of fashion for a long time, actually since my mum took me to a talk by Katherine Hamnett at the V&A when I was about 16/17. After uni, when I became more serious about yoga and the philosophy thats behind it, I started applying yogic principles into my life away from the yoga mat. The first connection I made was, again, to my clothing. how I expressed myself and what I was choosing to spend my money on.
When I decided to take the leap and launch NITARA, there was no question about my approach. Everything I put out into the world has to be 100% authentic reflection of how I live my life and the values I uphold. I often refer to it as ‘yoga first, business second’ because that’s just how my day pans out: first I do the yoga, then I do the things…and I try to make whatever I’ve learned on my yoga mat filter down into every action I make throughout the day.
The earth has a MAJOR overflow problem right now in terms of waste – as we should all be aware of by now! So it’s my strong belief that anyone looking to bring a new product into the world, should make it their mission to clear some of that waste away in order to make room for the new…which is why our collection is made from recycled plastic bottles, of course!
HOC: Couldn’t agree more. I love how you’ve combined your passions and creativity in your current business / life. How did all these little career swerves come about?
Ellie: Fashion was always my big dream. Then in my last year of my fashion degree, the idea to do my yoga teacher training kinda sprung into my head out of nowhere…It became a thought that would pop back into my head all the time, and if something haunts me like that, I just have to follow it!
So I travelled to India and completed my training right after I graduated, with no real intent on teaching in the end, I just did it to get that thought out of my system and for the sake of learning more…but I left my training with a burning desire to share everything I’d learnt.
After that came the stint working in the fashion industry. During my time there I taught yoga on the side. It didn’t take long to realise that I felt much more at home in the yoga studio than I did at work; which is why I decided to leave and teach yoga full time.
That sparked many more trips to India to continue my learning and to develop my practice. On my second trip I stumbled onto a massage course – can you see a pattern here? haha! Anyway, it turns out I’m quite good at massage (who knew?!) and since then I’ve massaged in almost every 5* spa and hotel in London, in a private home in the Seychelles and worked with celebrities and royal families…all at the same time as teaching yoga, of course.
In the background of all of that, I started working on NITARA. It took me 4 years to actually launch it, which is what happens when you try to spin too many plates at once I guess!
I did the Prince’s Trust Young Enterprise programme, I secured funding from them, developed the concept and products…and finally launched in April 2018. Now, I guess I’ve gone pretty much full circle! I run NITARA most of the time, I still teach yoga (and always, always will!) and I massage sometimes, but no where near as much as I have done in the last few years.
HOC: I feel like you are the right person to ask this to! Where does your drive come from?
Ellie: I feel like it’s a cliche entrepreneur thing to say, but without a ‘Why?’ you can’t drive anything.
So, my drive comes from creating a brand that’s an honest representation of the way I live, the kind of businesses I want to see and the world I want to live in. I’ve never understood why we have ‘ethical fashion’ or ‘non-ethical fashion’ , ‘conscious living’ and ‘unconscious living’… you know? That makes zero sense!
I think drive comes from your ‘why?’ ; being a reason bigger than yourself, your purpose has to bring about some new culture, idea or to change peoples lives in some way. That’s where real fire comes from. If my ‘why?’ was just to make some cool yoga pants, it would never have come into fruition.
My recommendation for keeping focus is to have some kind of vision or goal that you’re aiming for. You should have a 5/10 year vision and constantly ask yourself if what you’re doing is in alignment with that. That vision can be quite fluid, it can change slightly over time but it always has to align with your ‘why’ and your deeper message behind your business.
HOC: That’s very true. Without true passion you won’t find the energy to push your business forwards. Let’s go back a bit, for our entrepreneurial readers, what advice do you have for them to start their own thing?
Ellie: In my mind: launch fast and grow with feedback. I know I didn’t do that; 4 years is a long time to launch something! But if I could do it all again, I’d stop talking about it and just launch the thing as soon as I could. Your first products will never be perfect, so just launch with what you have and grow from there.
HOC: What personal achievement of yours means the most to you and why?
Ellie: Thats a hard one! I’ve had a crazy career so far and my life has taken loads of unexpected twist and turns, I’ve achieved a hell of a lot in quite a short space of time and I’m super proud of that.
But the achievement that means the most to me is probably the relationships I’ve managed to keep or nurture through all of that. You know how a lot of people say that: when they launched their business, tried to become artist or make it in music, that the people around them weren’t so supportive, they were told that it would fail or that they should probably get a “real job” well, nobody has ever said anything like that to me – not even once!
My family and friends are everything to me, I’m still best friends with people I met when I was 11 years old and through yoga I have met literally the most inspiring people you’d ever care to cross paths with. It would have been really easy to lose connection when we were half way across the world from each other, having completely different experiences for months at a time, but somehow that hasn’t really happened.
Because of that support network I’ve never really felt like I needed to prove anything to anyone, be anything other than myself or that anything was really that impossible. So every idea I’ve had or turn I’ve taken has just been an authentic expression of whatever I was really feeling intuitively drawn to at the time, because what ever hair-brained idea I had was greeted without question; just complete support.
That means everything and I’m fully aware of how incredibly rare that is! I don’t know if that counts as an achievement in the normal sense of the word, but it does mean a lot to me.
HOC: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Ellie: I feel like most designers have the same answer for this: Everywhere! I’m such a magpie! Part of a design could come from my travels but then I could get a colour palette idea from some artwork, a photo on Instagram/ Pinterest, a book, piece of graffiti, a flower in a garden or a student that walks into my yoga class with a cool attitude that I want to encapsulate somehow. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to keep your eyes open!
Inspiration for the shapes of our clothes are easier to come by because I usually find those while I’m practicing yoga or while I’m teaching. I want our pieces to be cool to look at, but also functionally do their job. I want your outfit to be the last thing on your mind while you move! Those ideas usually come when I’m on my yoga mat or working out in something that’s perhaps not doing its job so well, so I dissect why it’s not and how I can make something better!
HOC: Finally, If you ever have a creative block / funk; how do you get yourself out of it?
Ellie: Most of the time, I get outside. I grab a coffee and walk in nature, or as much nature as I can find in London!
Or I move: I’ll do a 15min yoga session or some other kind of work out. This is a bit random, but I’ve found a quick 8 minute ab workout on youtube works well when I’m really lacking motivation! I get back into my body and out of my head, focus on something else for a bit and then I’m usually good to go!
To follow Ellie’s business head over to Nitara-London.com
All photography Sam Lindley