International Women's Day 2021 –
The Success Series: Anne Doherty-Lyons
In this third instalment, we meet Anne Doherty-Lyons, whose latest business, Wild Hearts Gang, was driven out of a conversation with her husband and his daughter.
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With one business forced on hold and the other taking care of itself, Anne Doherty-Lyons, founder of Wild Hearts Gang, describes her early lockdown experience:
“I was baking myself into a frenzy; I needed to do something!”
Not one to sit still for long, Anne’s eclectic career history includes fashion modelling, Head of Client Services for a well-known construction firm, setting up a customer care business and an events company. Anne’s latest business, Wild Hearts Gang, was driven out of a conversation with her husband and his daughter.
At 11 years old, Anne’s step-daughter Charlotte was showing signs that her first period would arrive soon, and Anne wanted to ensure it was a good experience. “I’d been buying loads of little gifts throughout lockdown for people – letterbox brownies and the like – so I thought there must be something I could get – a few little nice things together, but there was nothing.” Undeterred, Anne built her own little box of essentials and treats for Charlotte, but then thought… “This could be a really good business”, and the idea was born.
From the outset, Anne was determined that she was creating a brand, not a product, and that above all it felt cool and accessible for the tween/teen market with a really fun vibe. “I didn’t want it to scream period; no droplets of blood and absolutely no mention of ‘Aunt Flo’”; Anne physically shudders at the thought. It was also important that body positive messages were delivered so that girls could understand what was happening, and how they might feel.
“I want to empower girls to be proud of their whole body from top to toe."
The leaflets are straightforward and informative, packed with positive messages.
And it’s a mix of creativity and a desire to be a strong role model for her children that has spurred her onto new heights. “I found out I was pregnant with my first child at six months when I was 16, and people thought because I’d grown up on a council estate that I would just become a statistic, but I wanted to set an example; I wanted to show my daughter that nothing can stop me.”
Anne has always been goal-orientated and uses affirmations to reach her goals; her first car was a Micra and she was determined the next one would be a Mini. When she worked in construction, as one of two women in the business, she grew her customer experience team from two to sixty. She’s also taken a hugely hands-on role to the new business, getting involved at all stages from branding, copywriting, photography, labelling. She’s received countless test pots as she reviews the prototypes, and not being able to visit the factory has been the only real frustration lockdown has caused. And it’s been a family affair: Charlotte, as the target consumer, gives feedback on the designs and products, while her daughter – a web designer in her own right – has designed the website, and her son, who is studying financial and business management, was roped into managing the stockists and building the spreadsheets while he was home from university.
Celebrity endorsement videos on Instagram and other social media combined with a big press push have really helped the brand reach a wider audience, but it’s all about the end consumer for Anne.
"Seeing the pictures and videos of little girls opening their boxes is gorgeous.”
Wild Hearts Gang is also working with their local Action for Children, providing charity boxes for girls who need this most.
Anne has been inspired by the number of people who have started their own business during lockdown and offers the advice, “Don’t live with ‘what ifs’. What’s the worst that could happen?” However, she acknowledges that she had savings behind her when she started, and she counsels, “Have some savings, or someone backing you, or just start it as a side hustle. Once you’re making money from it, you can think about giving up security.”
A final ambition for Anne? “I’d love to have a massive warehouse and our own factory.” We can’t wait to see what Anne and the Wild Hearts Gang do next.
More from the Success Series
In our first instalment we catch up with Cath King, owner and Director of Truro Business Hub, to discuss her journey from a global military training brand to transforming one of Truro’s most treasured properties.
Jan Lever MBE
In our second instalment we meet with Jan Lever, founder of Jigsaw PHSE, to discuss how she took “an idea that just wouldn’t go away”, and turned it into a business which provides services to more than 5,000 schools across 38 countries.