To tell the story Loskey, we need to travel back more than 25 years to understand where the journey began.
Back in the early 1990s, I’d just left university with the aspiration of changing the world. True – this didn’t necessarily differentiate me from my peer group of idealistic, young twenty-somethings – but I was, at least, laser-focused on starting a career in International Development. So, I was thrilled when I got my first job working with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, DC. I was hired to work on a child survival project that spanned Asia and Africa. Soon I was travelling to Manila, and then Dakar, setting up the regional offices that would support our programmes in partnership with the local governments.
At first, it was everything I had hoped for. I felt passionate about what were we trying to achieve – immunisations for every child. I was inspired by the dedication of our local partners – doctors and health practitioners, often working in very challenging circumstances. However, as the years passed, I became more and more frustrated with the endless bureaucracy and occasional corruption that accompanied it. Even the simplest request required about 15 faxes (yes, faxes) back and forth with USAID. Money often didn’t end up in the right places, instead lining the pockets of local officials rather than purchasing vaccines. More often than not, I found myself thinking ‘there has to be a better way!’
Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that I decided to take a bit of a career detour in the mid-1990s. In fact, it was more of a sharp left turn into an entirely different career. I’d enrolled in a Masters’ programme in International Development, but after continually telling everyone that I could ‘later translate that into a career in business,’ I decided to take a more direct route. I left Development to pursue a business degree and found myself post-graduation working in this new-fangled thing called the ‘internet’ (back when it was still just telecoms, and well before it was known as digital). Some may say I sold-out. They may be right. But I’d do it all again as this path led me to my husband, and ultimately my two children (more on them later!)
My new, rather corporate, career path also led me to some very interesting places, as well as some not-so-interesting ones. First, it was London (glamour, sophistication!) Later, it was Preston (um, enough said). Along the way, it was fashion (more glamour, sophistication!), but also estate agency (I’ll leave that one to you). I’ve had many people – well, mostly headhunters – tell me that my career has been ‘eclectic’ – they couldn’t see how it all fit together. It always made sense to me. Each of these stops along the journey gave me more knowledge, insight and tools for the next stage.
However, as the years (well, decades) passed, I again became frustrated, and then disillusioned. The passion I had at the start of my career slowly evaporated – I simply no longer believed in the purpose of what I was doing day after day. In fact, it became increasingly difficult to identify a purpose, let alone believe in it. Add to that the challenges (read: obstacles) of being a senior woman in tech, and I found myself craving something more, something different. Be my own boss – yes, that was definitely part of it – but it was more about re-igniting that passion that I first felt all those years ago back in DC.
And that is how my eclectic career has led me full-circle. I’d never stopped thinking about how there had to be a more effective means of driving international development than working with an intricate web of government agencies and NGOs. I knew from my time in the field that the most effective way of driving development is the economic empowerment of women. When women have financial means and are able to make decisions about how household finances are spent, investment shifts to children’s health and education, benefiting society and future generations. I also knew from my corporate career that women’s empowerment has a long way to go, even in the ‘developed’ world. My challenge, therefore, was how I could use the menagerie of skills acquired during my multi-decade ‘alt-career’ to do things differently.
And thus, the idea of Loskey was born. I would create a product that would provide fair and safe employment opportunities for women in the developing world. There would be no need for government agencies and NGOs. I would go to them directly with the ambition of building a women-owned and dominant supply chain – no middle-men required. I would use everything I had learned in my corporate life to make it a success – that’s how all my varied experience fits together. But a key question remained – what would I make?
The product had to have a supply chain, from raw material to completion, where women could participate – ideally all within a single country. So, I put my consumer hat on and thought about what I would value. Suddenly, it became very clear. I have been on an endless hunt for the perfect t-shirt for most of my adult life. No matter how much I spent, or how many I bought, I could never find it – either the fit wasn’t quite right, or the quality not good enough to withstand a few washes. More often than not, I found myself thinking ‘there has to be a better t-shirt out there somewhere, right?’ So, as the saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself.
So that brings us pretty much up to date. I bid farewell to my corporate career and started Loskey. Its mission is to create a women-dominant supply chain to economically empower in the developing world while ending my (and hopefully your) life-long quest to find the perfect t-shirt. I have been on this final stage of the journey for a year now, but now you know that the true inspiration started as a small seed more than 25 years ago and has been slowly growing ever since. The 22-year-old inside of me (let’s be honest, there are a couple of them in there now) is bursting out to try to change the world once more. Some may dismiss it as a mid-life crisis. I think it is a mid-life inspiration.
Last, but certainly not least, you may be wondering why I have decided to call my brand ‘Loskey’. Fair enough – reactions to the name have been very much akin to reactions to Marmite. It’s a love/hate thing. But remember those two children of mine I mentioned above? They are called Lucas and Oscar and nicknamed Lukey and Osk. Loskey is named for them. In part, because I want to do everything I can to ensure that the world they inherit is a better place. But, more importantly, I want to show them that anyone can change the world, even just a tiny bit, by simply deciding to do it.
Oscar and Lucas