Founder Friday with Jacinta Timmins: the secrets of launching a sustainable clothing brand

Passionate about rock climbing and mountain biking, Snowy Mountains native Jacinta Timmins has spent a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors. However, over the years, she found herself unimpressed by the clothing offerings in this space.

“Many of the mountain biking apparel brands on the market today originated from another sport called motocross,” she explained. “Then they switched to mountain biking because a lot of people who love motocross also love mountain biking.

“You can see these influences in their clothing. Many of the feminine garments are very bright, in colors like pink, orange, yellow. And if anyone else is like me (which I am sure), I found that incredibly offensive. I didn’t want to wear that!”

She decided it was time for something different to enter this clothing space, with clothing that is durable, minimal and “something that people think they can use and wear for a long time.”

Favoring support, comfort and practicality with the needs of Australia’s estimated 300,000-strong mountain bike community in mind, Norman Mountain Biking clothing brand was launched earlier this year.

For Jacinta, who has a background in digital marketing, technology and UX design, Norman co-founder with business partner Charlie Timmins was a welcome pivot. It combined her love for the outdoors with her passion for environmental sustainability. It also allowed her to use her problem-solving skills in designing apparel and fashion web platforms.

“To start with, I had no idea about developing this physical product. It took me a long time to ramp up the brand, I’d say two and a half years of research and development before I could even bring anything to market,” she explained.

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“Making the website, doing the photo shoots for marketing, relying on my contacts, that was easy for me, because that has been my world for 15 years. But learning how to design the product, finding real sustainable inventions… That was something else.”

Developing a sustainable clothing brand

Designed locally and manufactured from ethically sourced fabrics, Norman has sustainability at its core. An ongoing partnership with Keep It Cool, a Snowy Mountains nonprofit, supports community tree planting initiatives, and many of the garments are made from recycled fabrics supplied by Repreve.

Source: delivered

“We only started two months ago, but the feedback is great,” Jacinta grinned. “Let me tell you it can be really scary getting feedback when you’re just starting out. But it’s something to take with you and accept as something to learn from.”

She recalled a comment about the minimal aesthetic of the clothing (“there were one or two comments about the clothing that just looked”) and added that an important lesson in her business trip was to take note of sincere constructive criticism.

“There is feedback that you take with a grain of salt and then there is feedback that you take to heart. For us it was about sizing and it’s definitely something I’m passionate about. I would like to take pictures of different models of different sizes, shapes and forms.

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“So my approach was: let’s go to market as soon as possible with a small line and see how people react to it. Then we can continue to grow and develop. We will be launching new size ranges in a few months, which is really great.”

But why the name Norman?

“Somewhere during the two-year research and development process, my husband said to me, ‘What about Norman for a kid’s name? It’s sharp. It’s quirky. It’s a bit nerdy and it’s cool.’ I liked it and thought: why not use it for the mountain bike clothing?” she explained.

“All motocross brands are really flashy and cool, but we wanted to be different. And that’s where we ended up.”

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norman founder jacinta timmins outside with a mountain bikeNorman mountain bike clothing. Source: delivered

About running your own business

Launching Norman and balancing a successful career in leadership activities for the design group at Canva, Jacinta is no stranger to managing time and responsibilities. Her advice from an entrepreneurial perspective is not to get caught up in a seemingly endless to-do list.

“You will never feel like you have completed a task. There will always be things you want to do to keep building or improving. You’re your own worst critic, so you’ll never feel like it’s done,” she noted.

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“So make sure you’re not too busy checking off items from a list. You have to make peace with saying, ‘I’ve done this the best I could. I’ll leave it up to the customers to give me feedback and I’ll build on that.”

It’s a motto she also extends to dealing with failure: “Failure is an experience that helps you grow, learn and become a wiser person. It’s not what you think it is.”

Got the best advice

According to Jacinta, the best advice she’s received over the years is to always have a side job – be it for other interests, hobbies, or projects.

“Your job shouldn’t define you as a person. What you should define is your experiences,” she explained. “The way you can experience more is if you have more side hustles, have as many side hustles as you can. It could be a craft project. It can be a diary every day. It could be anything that isn’t your full-time nine-to-five job that you’re being paid for.”

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