Firstly, tell us a bit about you?
I was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, attended Columbia University in New York with a focus on Human Rights. My time there set the course for a career in the social impact space which took me from New York to Dubai back to Lahore, ultimately arriving to London, where I now live with my husband, our 11 month old baby boy and a 3 year old dog named Captain!
Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?
TreeTy is a London based online concept store bringing together conscious consumers and design-led sustainable/ethical brands around the globe. The idea was born out of the realisation that like my family, there are many consumers who would like to switch to responsible buying but do not know where to start and equally do not want to compromise on style, design, elegance and individuality.
At TreeTy we aim to make such choices easier. We are a purpose and value driven company, offering a curated selection of sustainable brands complimenting one another, each with its unique story and design.
The name “TreeTy” is a play on the word “Treaty” which represents an alliance between consumers and creators to support a more sustainable future. It is a reflection of our commitment to create an ecosystem which transcends national borders.
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
I can’t say for certain if there was a specific moment things changed, this was an idea brewing in our minds for quite some time and the more I read about the future of cities, the climate crisis, consumption and waste. The more TreeTy felt relevant.
Of course, giving birth during this process and at the peak of covid gave further credence to the importance of a concept such as TreeTy.
What struck me most was how difficult it was to actually switch to sustainable and ethical products that reflected my needs. Finding beautiful products that aligned with my style whilst being sustainably sourced became an arduous and time consuming search. It was at this time I committed to the idea of TreeTy and launched the business in partnership with my sister and husband.
What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge so far has been juggling (first time) motherhood with a new business.
Equally though, it is also adjusting to the reality that you are the CEO/CFO/COO/CXO/CMO (add your choice of acronym) all in one and each require you to learn a new set of skills.
On the product side, the primary challenge had been securing partnerships with brands that understand your vision and entrust you with representing their name. I cannot emphasise how exciting it was to secure that first partner…it’s that initial wind in your sails which breathes life into your business!
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
The first win would have to be the partnerships we secured prior to our formal launch. It stood out as a testament to the fact that there is faith and a shared vision for what we had set out to do.
Our other milestone was securing the B Corp (pending) certification, it is both a powerful and humbling acknowledgment to become a member of this important global organisation which ensures we remain true to our ambition and hold ourselves accountable.
Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?
At present, TreeTy is are a self-funded business – this has been a deliberate decision as it would be premature at this stage to bring in outside investors, especially as we are only in phase one of a three phase journey for Treety. With investment comes the risk of diluting decision making and while we intend to approach this space when the timing is right, we are focused on laying a strong foundation for TreeTy at the moment.
What has been your best investment?
Our product partners are our best investment.
TreeTy’s ethos – to create an alliance between consumers and creators for a more sustainable future – goes beyond ‘supply/demand’. These partnerships are intended to promote an atmosphere of mutual collaboration and a shared goal.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
Too many to share today!…in many respects the gift of a the startup journey is the ability to convert mistakes into teachable moments. One such mistake was trying to time the perfect launch of the business. In mapping out when the platform was complete, we delayed ourselves by an unnecessary 5 months. The lesson was simple – just get on with it – there is no “perfect” time to launch and there is never a “finished” product.
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
The most encouraging part of being a female entrepreneur in a start-up ecosystem is finding strength in the stories of so many other women.
It’s fair to say that we are no longer the few – everyday I come across new brands led by amazing women with inspiring stories – women and brands we would be honoured to partner with at TreeTy.
As it relates to change, what I have personally benefited from are the number of online incubators and mentorship programmes bringing together female entrepreneurs such as the Female Founders Program lead by Hatch Enterprise, which I am participating in. This sense of community has been uplifting and made the journey more supportive and insightful.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
The decision to start a business is challenging enough in itself but once you’ve gone beyond that, do your research, know your market, know your competitor and just get on with it. Be your harshest critic but also your biggest supporter because success is a state of mind, a day without positivity is a day closer to failure, ask for feedback from everyone but ultimately have confidence in your own decisions and do not second guess, nothing is permanent. Be adaptable….get comfortable with being uncomfortable – as an introvert, I prefer to stay behind the scenes, but here I am, talking to you!
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
There is something to be learned from every conversation but my entrepreneurial instinct comes from my father who is an entrepreneur, a relentless adventurer, and rises up stronger after every fall.
What was your biggest learning of 2020?
On a philosophical level, 2020 has further reaffirmed the path that I have chosen for myself. While the year witnessed dramatic events unfold around the globe, for me, it was the year I became a mother and I launched TreeTy. 2022 was a reminder that every moment I spend working is a moment away from my family – with this time being so precious, it should be towards something I am passionate about and love doing!
With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Over the next five years I expect for TreeTy to expand its footprint and become a leading platform across the UK and Europe and to proudly cover independently owned, thoughtfully curated brands aligned with our values. We are currently planning to rollout an exciting feature of the next phase of TreeTy, but are keeping it a bit hush hush at the moment…you’ll know when it happens, but it’s one step further towards creating a true eco-system.
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?
I love the Monocle Entrepreneurs podcast I just find it to be incredibly inspiring hearing stories of how people started out.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Don’t be discouraged, surround yourself with positive thinkers with a can-do attitude. Building a business is a long process, so stay committed to your goal, remain focused, speak to as many friends and mentors as possible, grow thick skin and know your brand!
Where can we find you/how can we support you?
About your author
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
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