(L-R: Rachael Oku, co-founder of House of Leopard; Rebecca Oku, co-founder of House of Leopard; Becca Shaw, founder of Becca Who; Barbeline Lusandu, founder of Barbeline; Kat Archibald, founder of Katsillustration.)
As well as being a celebration of leopard print, House of Leopard is also about women’s empowerment. As two female co-founders, we’re passionate about championing female-run brands and want to shine a spotlight on women who are juggling their growing businesses around other commitments, to redesign their lives and achieve economic independence.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we want to share what led us to start House of Leopard, and ask some of our partners what motivated them to launch their own businesses, and what women’s empowerment means to them.
Rachael Oku, co-founder of House of Leopard
“My sister and I grew up wanting to start a business so we could pursue our passions together, travel the world and have a lot of fun doing it! I’ve been freelancing on and off for a decade, and love the freedom and flexibility it’s afforded me, as well as the control and agency over what I do. House of Leopard has given me an opportunity to continue ticking all of these boxes, while creating something meaningful that I can share with my sister for years to come.
To me women’s empowerment is about women having equal choices to men, and also each other, when it comes to designing their work and home life. I strongly believe one shouldn’t need a reason, such as being a parent, to request flexible working or for it to be accepted that their job isn’t their whole life. Women should have complete control over all aspects of their life, and financial independence (and education) is the fastest way to achieve this. It’s important for us to work with female-run businesses so that more women can pursue their passions, whatever they may be, and make a living doing what they love.”
Rebecca Oku, co-founder of House of Leopard
“Rachael and I started House of Leopard together, seeing it as a way to provide something that we wanted to see in the market, but also for the opportunity to work for ourselves. Having worked in media for over 12 years and recently become a parent too, House of Leopard gives me something of my own – where my ideas and enterprise belong to me. And I get to create something with my sister too!
To me, women’s empowerment is supporting women’s ideas, allowing their voices to be heard, giving them space and flexibility for creativity and understanding the challenges and responsibilities they face in the wider world. We’re proud to work with so many female-run businesses at House of Leopard.”
Becca Shaw, founder of Becca Who
“Deciding to create my own brand and become my own boss was a way that I could be authentic to what I love, and pursue my passion of art and design without compromise. I started ‘Becca Who’ alongside parenting my youngest son. It’s required much hard work and determination – finding the best balance between motherhood and my career hasn’t always been easy! But the rewards of each milestone and achievement – both as a mother and a business owner – of course, make the challenges well worth it, whilst feeling that I’m setting a positive example for my children.
Understanding first hand the challenges that are often faced by women, it’s rewarding to engage with other females throughout this journey, sharing our skills, knowledge and insights, to support and inspire each other to continue pursuing our ambitions and achieving success.”
Andrea Huntley, founder of Monkey and the Giant
“Starting my own business took a courage that also humbled me, it took a determination that helped me focus on the important things in my life, and it was my way of saying to the world that I had something to offer and goddammit I was going to offer it. For me the hardest part was putting myself and my work out there… it feels like you’re making yourself vulnerable, but in fact once you do it you’re in fact making yourself strong.”
Barbeline Lusandu, founder of Barbeline
“Women’s empowerment is a great subject in this day and age because when I was a young girl growing up in the Congo, where I am from, there weren’t really empowered women around me. We had the hope that a man would come and help us out of whatever it was that we were in.
Today, as a woman who’s worked by myself and is a single mum, I realise that women everywhere can do anything they want to do on their own without having a husband to say ‘yes’ and agree to help you become successful. A woman can be successful with or without a man.
I’ve mentioned a man a few times because whenever I have a launch or a pop-up store people seem to always ask me “where is your hubby?”. I never really understood that question but it’s probably a way of them trying to understand how I have done it all with no help.
By the time I was 8 or 9 years old I went market now and then to buy and sell fruits and I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I’ve always been doing something on the side and starting my own business and being an entrepreneur is just in my spirit. Even before becoming a mother I always believed that I could do anything, and whenever I’ve tried I’ve successful at it.”
Emma White, founder of Honey & Toast
“I started H&T to test myself – I had always wanted to try going out my own – and felt that while on maternity leave it was now or never. What better target to work towards than providing a flexible income allowing me to spend more time with my children.”
Kat Archibald, founder of Katsillustration
“Running a creative business was my lifelong ambition but I was massively afraid of failing and with two children to support, the risk seemed high. In the end it was my boys that inspired me to go for it – I wanted to be a role model to them and show them the importance of working hard and pursuing your goals.”