After 8 years of working as a Director with global healthcare companies, Naudia planned a short travel break to relax and refresh after experiencing the notorious corporate burnout felt amongst many young graduates. Naudia’s three-month travel plans in South East Asia extended to a year of market research, product building, testing and ultimately the launch of her own premium anti-insect sleepwear brand, We Drifters. We spoke backpacking, bugs and business building with Naudia as she shares the inspiration behind her first business, the key skills learnt in her career which have helped her survive in the start-up sphere and her top tips for launching a brand whilst holding down a job.
What inspired We Drifters premium sleepwear?
I was inspired while I was travelling in South East Asia a few years ago. I was having a much needed career break and the most amazing time exploring a side of the world that I hadn’t seen before. The only downside was that I was really struggling to sleep at night – I kept getting bad bug bites which I then had allergic reactions to, and my repellent sleeping bag liner was very uncomfortable to sleep in. This gave me the idea to design something comfy that you can sleep in whilst keeping bugs at bay, which led to the creation of our premium anti-insect sleepwear made from a lightweight bamboo fabric and anti-insect technology.
Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to start your own business?
I initially decided to leave my corporate job to go travelling. I was definitely experiencing burn out and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do long-term. I knew I wanted greater autonomy and freedom but wasn’t quite sure how to achieve that. Deciding to go travelling was a way for me to make an initial change and get a new perspective, with the hope that I would get an idea for a career shift or new business. Fortunately whilst travelling I got my light bulb moment to create anti-insect sleepwear and I also became passionate about building a community and brand around travel and living life on your own terms. Starting the business filled me with purpose and a new journey which I was so excited about and from there, I made the decision to not return to a permanent position in the corporate world.
Are there any transferable skills you have learnt from your corporate job that have been relevant when starting your own business?
Everything I learned in my corporate role has been incredibly useful for starting my business, although of course there has been lots of new things I have had to learn. My corporate roles included project and account management, which require you to be organised and good at scoping out projects, setting up timelines and managing all elements including people, and resources of a project. This has probably been the most helpful skill as it’s allowed me to manage the product development and set-up of the business. I also managed marketing and communications projects, which have been great for my marketing strategy. Most of the projects I managed were within healthcare and even included some travel health, which gave me skills to understand the science behind the anti-insect technology that we use.
The brand ethos is about “living life on your own terms,” what does this mean to you?
For me this means living life authentically, in a way that is aligned to your core self and not other people’s or society’s views or opinions. It’s about tuning into what you want to do and how you want your life to be and then becoming that, which I think is really about embracing your true self. What that looks like is of course different for everyone and I think you know when you are living life on your own terms by how you feel the majority of the time.
Besides backpacking, you also enjoy short European trips. Why is our Dahlia backpack bag your favourite city break travel companion?
I really love travelling with a backpack which is practical and functional, but also looks great. Especially for European trips, I like a bag that is versatile and stylish that I can take from exploring the city from the day to evening. I often travel with my laptop so I particularly like that it has a compartment for this. The look also goes well with my minimalist style and complements all the outfits I pack, which is something I always think about when limited on baggage. Plus, it is lightweight, just like our premium sleepwear, which I think is a must for anything you are taking with you on travels!
We Drifters sleepwear is inspired by travel and enhanced by tech. Can you tell us a little more about the anti-insect technology and how this makes the sleepwear unique?
The bamboo fabric, which is naturally breathable, sweat wicking, and has temperature control properties, is impregnated with HHL Technology Vital Protection. This is a revolutionary insect protection that is OEKO-TEX® approved and 90% effective against many biting insects, including mosquitoes, midges, ticks, bed bugs, sand flies and fleas. The treatment is tightly bound to the fabric fibres before the sleepwear is made. The fabric keeps insects away, as their nervous system senses the treatment and are naturally deterred. The sleepwear is also unique in that we have added a feature for the top and trousers to attach together to form a onesie. Each sleepwear set also includes socks and a pillowcase which converts into a compact storage bag which all the items can fit into. You can find out more on our website at wedrifters.co.uk.
Do you have any advice for those looking to start a product business?
Initial research is key, it is important to understand the market, competitors and also get a good understanding of the process and steps to progress an idea to the physical end product. I would advise speaking to people who have done something similar and whenever possible getting recommendations for suppliers – speak to several suppliers before deciding who to work with. For me it was important to work with people who really believed in what I was doing and wanted to achieve, so that they became more like partners, advising me and becoming invested in the business.
Top three tips for growing your side hustle without quitting your day job.
- Plan and block time for the side hustle and stick to it – if you don’t prioritise that time it just won’t happen.
- Network with other founders and people doing something similar – having a community and support system around you can really inspire and motivate you to keep going.
- If possible, find a day job with flexible working – this can really make a difference and support the side hustle instead of working against it, and if you don’t look or ask for something more flexible, you will never know if it is possible!