What It's Like Running A Small Business | Cara & The Sky

Cara Melzack is the founder of knitwear brand, Cara & The Sky. After spotting a gap in the market for colourful and consciously crafted knitwear, Cara & The Sky was launched in 2019. It has since gone from strength to strength and is now stocked in over 65 boutiques across the UK, Europe, Canada and the US. Ahead of our event with Cara & The Sky this weekend, we sat down with Cara and chatted all things small business.

Tell us about your background before you started Cara & The Sky.

My background is in fashion buying, I was a buyer for over 10 years, starting at entry level and working my way up to the top. I’ve worked at Ted Baker, Select Fashion, M&Co and lastly Lost Ink, which is where I met Beth. After being made redundant in early April 2019, I started looking at what I wanted to do – did I want to go and get another buying role or did I want to follow my dream of starting my own brand? I’d always wanted to own my own business and never really knew what that would look like. I’d been specialising in buying knitwear for the last 5 years of my career and I saw a bit of a gap in the market for fun, colourful, chunky knitwear, that was very designed into but still at an affordable price. 

What was your inspiration when you started the business?

Having bought from all over the world, I knew I wanted the brand to be British made to support the UK-made industry. I’d already worked with a factory that produced in the UK and I knew their quality & pricing so I reached out to them and luckily they supported me with my first collection. Five collections in and I’m still working with them!

Anyone starting a brand now needs to be very aware of their fashion footprint. For me, this starts immediately with my designs and samples. I endeavour for all of my samples to go to production, unlike fashion houses where they sample so much and barely any of it sees the light of day. My designs are also not meant to be 'on trend'. I want them to last a lifetime, so I've designed them to be a statement but trendless piece that you can wear over and over again. I also only do capsule collections and I produce in small batches to really go against mass consumerism. Transparency is really important to me so that my customers know what they are buying and where they are buying it from. I only use fully audited factories so that I know my workers are getting a fair wage and are working in safe environments.

What is your mission?

My mission is to bring joy and positivity to your life. My brand slogan is Create A Right Attitude & Reach The Sky. It’s the whole idea that if you believe in yourself, live life to the full and have the right mindset, then the sky is the limit to what you can achieve. I think what I’ve managed to do on my own, having never run a business before and knowing nothing about marketing and social media. I just wanted this to work, and I’ve had to work so hard at it, but it seems to be doing well, so if I can do it then anyone can.

What's the best part about running Cara & The Sky?

There are quite a lot of good parts actually, but mainly it’s seeing my collections actually sell. Since I started the brand I’ve sold over 12,000 units, which might not be a lot compared to major brands, but to think that there’s 12,000 people out there walking around in my jumpers is wild and it brings me so much joy. When I do my pop-ups and I get to see people’s reaction to the jumpers and how happy they make them, that is why I’ve done this. It makes me so happy to think that I’ve made something that someone is excited to wear and that they can put it on and know that they're going to feel good.

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?

Everywhere! I’m constantly researching and I use Instagram and Pinterest a lot. I also like to keep an eye on what the cat walks are doing. Whilst I’m not trend driven, it’s good to ensure the knits still feel relevant to the customer. I get a lot of inspiration for the colours I use from nature, especially flowers. Actually, one of my twists last year came from a Lego flower bouquet! When it comes to designing the collections, I try to look within and think ‘what do I want to wear’, what will make me feel cool, happy, chic and comfy all at the same time? For example, I’m a curvy 5"1 woman and I've always struggled to wear knitted dresses. So I’ve really tried to make the shapes of these flattering on me so that I know other curvy women will find the same and feel confident in them. There’s a lot of competition out there and the whole point of the brand is that it is supposed to be unique, so I try and make sure it’s different from what other brands are offering – whether that’s additional details, tipping, different sleeve shapes or colour combos.

Tell us a bit about the journey & the growth of the business.

Since launching in 2019, I’m now stocked in over 65 boutiques globally. I expanded into Canada in my second year of business and that’s growing nicely. Last year I expanded into the US and I’m probably in about 20 boutiques there now. I’m also trying to grow my own website – wholesale is still the biggest portion of my business, so I want to grow my own website to reach a wider customer beyond where it is stocked in boutiques. I’m really pushing international growth at the moment – the sky is the limit, let’s see where we go.

You can shop Cara's full collection this Saturday (28th October) in our Stamford shop. Chat to Cara about her journey of developing the brand and browse styles that are otherwise unavailable to shop with us at Iris & Violet. Juice and pastries available all morning and prosecco from 2pm. We can't wait to see you there!