Young Innovators Success Stories: Jess Strain, Ovrbloom, South West
The textile graduate increasing transparency in the fashion industry
While studying textile design at Loughborough University, Jess Strain realised there was a serious lack of information on where and how fashion products were made.
Jess founded Ovrbloom to help make the fashion industry more transparent. The company offers products such as summer hats, complete with their own QR code explaining which fabrics have been used, who has made the products and how much they have been paid.
Creating her own process for transparency led Jess to wonder how she could replicate this process for larger fashion brands.
“I was about eight months pre-launch when I joined the Young Innovators programme. I had a pretty good idea about the impact I wanted to have on the industry, but I knew I had a lot to learn and connections to make. I had vast experience in textile design and being a creative, but little business and entrepreneur experience,” she says.
The financial support offered by the Young Innovators Award helped Jess to surround herself with the right network.
“The living allowance allowed me to move out of my mum’s house in Devon. I moved to Bristol, where I could immerse myself in communities of creatives and entrepreneurs,” she says.
The move gave Jess the space and support to get her business to a key milestone – her website and brand launch.
“I wouldn’t have been able to move to Bristol, be part of a co-working textile studio space, or meet half the people that supported and attended my launch had it not been for the Young Innovators programme.”
Piloting a new approach
With her own fashion range of sustainably made products selling well at in-person markets and online, Jess is looking at where Ovrbloom could go next.
“I realised the way I can create maximum impact on the industry is through creating a service to help other fashion SMEs communicate their supply chain transparency,” she explains.
“I plan on spending three months working with an organic cotton manufacturer, developing my service offering to enable fashion companies to communicate their supply chain to their consumers. This should help to increase transparency and accountability in the fashion industry. I’m going to pilot this with a Bristol-based sportswear brand, and I hope to secure a medium-sized company to work with.”
While Jess always had a strong understanding of the impact she wanted to make in the industry, she credits the Young Innovators Award for giving her the confidence and strength to make it happen.
“The Young Innovators Award has been totally life changing. It has allowed me to connect with people who work in totally different sectors. I’ve had conversations and learnt about business markets I didn’t even know existed,” she says.
“It has opened my mind to new business possibilities and encouraged me to pivot my business to something that aligns with my values.”
From imposter to entrepreneur
Jess adds that the mentoring and wider support of the Young Innovators programme have been crucial in keeping her focused on her journey so far.
“I have found the time with experts to be the most important piece of support. It has felt like such a well-rounded package of support that has enabled me to make informed decisions about where to spend my grant and time,” she says.
“It allowed me to work with people who I would only have dreamt of reaching out to previously. Working with my incredible innovation champion and meeting with him weekly has kept me accountable and on track with my exploitation plan.”
So, what one piece of advice does Jess have for future applicants?
“Absolutely reach out to as many people in the cohort as possible. They weren’t joking when they said the most powerful part of the award is the network that you have access to. I’ve received such incredible support and encouragement from people at Innovate UK, Business West and fellow awardees.
“I now feel empowered as a young innovator. My imposter syndrome has quietened down a little, even though I still have a lot to learn. A running theme this year has been the saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. That now feels like an exciting possibility as I begin to explore life as an entrepreneur!”
Join us and become part of the Young Innovators community. Find out more about the programme here.
Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.
The Young Innovators Awards are an annual competition from Innovate UK that finds, supports and celebrates young people with great business ideas.