Nikki Clarke

Founder of Cadenshae

Trust your gut. Always. There’s something inside you that guides you, and if it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not. Don’t doubt yourself.

Nikki Clarke is the owner and founder of Cadenshae, the maternity activewear global leaders, wife to Adam and a mother of four, soon to be five!

Helping others has been at the core of every major decision Nikki’s ever made. From serving as a medic in the New Zealand army, to performing treatments as a beauty therapist; to encouraging others as a personal trainer, and now by helping mothers worldwide be the best versions of themselves.

Nikki loves spending time with her family at the beach, on the farm or out camping!

Where did the idea for Cadenshae come from?

Before I became a mother, I was a Personal Trainer, and so once I had recovered post birth, I decided to head back to the gym to catch up with clients, Caden (my daughter) off, and do a bit of a work-out. As I was working out, Caden got fussy, so I went to feed her and this is when my ‘ah-ha’ moment came about! I battled my sports bra as I was trying to feed her…it was a mess, and I was left infuriated. “This is impossible! There’s got to be a better way!” I thought. So, as soon as I got home, I went online to look for some quality nursing sports bras. There was nothing.

I decided there and then if no one else would make the gear moms needed, then I’d give it a go! I had absolutely no experience in fashion design, but I knew what was needed, so began drawing…

Flash forward 19 months, and Adam (my partner in life and business) and I have just welcomed our second baby girl, Ryan into the world! Four days later, $20k of nursing sports bras arrive from China, and are emptied onto our front lawn…here we go!

In 2020 we’re set to turn-over close to $7 million. Cadenshae (named after our first born Caden, her middle name is Shae) now employs 20 staff and is recognised as the leading activewear brand for pregnant and nursing mothers, worldwide. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA and Canada are our target markets.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It’s busy! In short, wake up, work out, deal with the children. I then head to work, assess what everyone is up to, deal with any issues, tell the team what I’d like the focus to be on for the day, and leave them to it. I then focus on whatever project I’m working on, which is usually something to do with future-proofing, growing the business, creative ideas etc. Now that I have the staff on board to run the day-to-day operations, I can focus on the future/strategic planning etc. I also deal with issues/questions throughout the day as they come up.
I leave the office around 4pm, grab the children, head home, do a little bit of work while my husband makes dinner, eat, deal with the kids/work if need be/relax (if nothing is going on)! Then at about 8:30pm/9pm I’m in bed, thinking about what’s happening tomorrow!

Having four children and running a business has taught me to be very good with time-management. I don’t fluff around. I get things done and get on with it. I focus on the majors and complete them, rather than beginning a number of projects and spreading myself too thinly. I want to be the best mother possible first and foremost, so when I’m at the office, it’s on – I get things sorted, fast, so I can spend more time with my precious wee ones!
My husband is a huge reason as to why I can be so productive, we’re a team in business, life, parenting etc. Everything! We support each other whole-heartedly, so when I’m busy at work, he has the kids and takes care of everything, and vice versa. Having a fantastic partner in life as well as the business has absolutely allowed me to do what I’ve done.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have a very creative, constantly evolving brain, it doesn’t stop to be honest, so I am always coming up with ideas! To bring them to life though, I’ve employed fantastic people to make it happen, and fast. For example, we have a strong focus on top quality content for our social media pages, as that is essentially how we get our bread and butter! We do it all in house (you’ve got to be fast these days with your content, keeping it fresh, current and fun). The photographer, the models, the social media team, the graphic designer etc., it’s all in house so we can make things happen on our own, when we want to.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Cadenshae is an e-commerce, DTC company, which isn’t overly common. Running my business this way is exciting…I also love it because I can keep ownership of how everything runs, and really connect with our customers, rather than selling our stock to retailers and having the ‘middle person,’ involved.
Also, obviously trends we create with our clothing are SO exciting! For example we have just made a ‘Kiardi,’ a combination of a komono and a cardigan, no one has done anything like this before, so we actually really love being the trend-setters! I just know this one is going to be a hit!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

This is an interesting one! Every morning I have a cold shower. I don’t want to, I hate it, it’s awful…but once I’ve done it, it feels amazing. The reason why is because before I have even had breakfast, before I have started my work day, I have already overcome a challenge, beaten something. It puts you in a real ‘kick butt,’ mentality and I’m so ready to take on the day and whatever it entails after doing that!

What advice would you give your younger self?

I think throughout my life I have always backed myself (my parents are amazing and taught me to believe in myself from day dot!) so I wouldn’t have to say anything like that to myself, but I do think I have been caught out a few times when I have probably been ‘too nice,’ and it has bitten me in the foot. I think the other major one would be to ALWAYS trust my gut. No matter what in life, I have learnt that my gut is always right…

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I truly believe you can be/do whatever you want in life. A lot of people don’t agree with me on that, saying not all people are, ‘born equal…’ but I think if you want something bad it enough, if your whole soul wants it and you think about it every day/night…if your passion cannot be contained…you will make it happen, you will succeed. Some people don’t really want much in life, and that’s fine…but those who really want something…they can do it, the fire in their belly will ensure they get what they want.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Have a seriously solid interviewing process. Make sure you get the right person, the first time. Vet properly, interview thoroughly and trust your gut. They may be perfect on paper, but if something is telling you this person is, ‘not quite right…’ then do not hire them…keep looking until you feel 100% comfortable. The ramifications of hiring the wrong person can be so very costly, in so many ways.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Investing in the best software early on, even when we really couldn’t afford it, we did it. You need the right systems in place to grow and you can’t skimp on it. Get the good stuff and then you have no regrets in the future.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had a few! But I’ve learnt from all of them, there’s always a silver lining! I think this one will have to go back to not hiring properly in the past. We have got some solid systems in place now, so implementing successful hiring systems has been huge.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Nope…any ideas are all mine…can’t risk one of you fabulous/smart people taking my idea! 😉

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My husband and I never get to spend time together, sans children…so we went to a UFC fight in Auckland and we went out for a fabulous dinner and spoiled ourselves! It was far more than $100…but as I say, we never do it, so we really went for it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Asana – it’s an organisation tool for business management. Couldn’t function without it. Everything that’s being done is all in there for everyone to see/update etc. I can see in one fell swoop where we are at with projects.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m not much of a book reader, but my husband has read the 5am Club and loved it…might give that a go!

What is your favorite quote?

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Key Learnings:

  • Trust your gut. Always. There’s something inside you that guides you, and if it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not. Don’t doubt yourself.
  • Manage your time well. Work smarter, not harder. Realise how precious your time is, and don’t waste it. Use your time wisely and on projects that truly matter…don’t get caught up in unnecessary ‘noise.’
  • Invest in software/tools/people that will be able to service/work with you as you grow. If you believe in what you’re doing enough to try and launch a business out of it, then really back yourself and do it properly!