Grace Vella, founder of the UK’s first clothing line exclusively for female footballers, hopes her ‘Miss Kick’ clothing line will tap an undeveloped niche in the booming women’s football market to inspire girls around the world whole to take the game.
Speaking to me this week ahead of the company’s third anniversary, Vella, 24, told me how her growing international clothing brand started as a whim at a pop-up booth. “I threw ‘Miss Kick’ at my dad’s soccer tournament. They were very basic t-shirts, just cotton t-shirts with a print on the front, but they got the job done, people adored them. and “They are not my friends, they are my squad.” We have come a long way since then. “
Vella revealed to me how the desire to move away from generic training gear to something more specific to women’s football and the girls who play it forced her to launch her own line. âWhen I was younger I felt there was no brand that represented my identity as a woman in sports. It was very male dominated. The reason ‘Miss Kick’ is born, it’s because I wanted to give back., I wanted to empower and inspire and give girls that identity, that when they put on this top, they feel like they are part of something. I often felt as a girl we were like an afterthought, we were never put first. I think that was always what the brand stood for and what I wanted to accomplish. “
âOther brands in the market are not specific to women’s football, they are more generic. So I think because we’re so specific it allows us to focus on their needs. In my opinion, if you look at the products that are available for women in football right now, you either go for your men’s fit, which is really, really tall, or your women’s fit, which is really, really skinny and tight. I want to be able to give this variety so that every young woman and girl who wants to go out and play has the confidence and feel comfortable doing it, I know the product right now is very much based on the clothes, your T-shirts and hoodies, which is more about building community and feeling like a part of something. As the business grows, I really want to design more specific products. We have some brilliant ideas coming up over the next twelve months that should hopefully really inspire and give girls that identity too. “
A youth team player for Liverpool and Manchester City, Vella grew up in the game and was made aware of the shortcomings of being a woman in a developing sport. “As much football was my passion and what I wanted to do. Women’s football was not as developed back then. You always had to have a job on the side. As I progressed and got older a little, that’s when the league started to professionalize and the first full-time players were arriving. “
After excelling as a developmental player alongside future England internationals Katie Zelem, Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan, Vella was released by Manchester City at the age of 18, ending her dreams of a football career. professional. “My ambition has always been to try to reach the highest level in football. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me. I also wanted to continue my studies, so I always wanted to go to university. too.”
Vella graduated with high honors from her Psychology degree at the University of Manchester and told me how the skills she learned during her course help her promote her business on social media. âWhat a lot of people don’t realize about psychology is very statistical, you have to look at the numbers, you have to interpret the data. I think it really helped me understand things like my analyzes of. social media, my sales analytics. Indirectly, it definitely gave me a little edge. “
Still, still short of the skills to break into the business world, Vella enrolled in an entrepreneurs program run by a British commercial bank. Looking back, she explains how it helped her turn her dreams into reality. “I started ‘Miss Kick’ when I was in college but I had no experience, I had no knowledge. I thought I needed help here because it was just me on my own. the NatWest accelerator across the university and it gave me a community of other entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and learn. I was based, before Covid, in a workspace shared with other start-ups -ups. They taught me the business model canvas, financial forecasting. They really gave me the skills I needed. They also helped me a lot to close my first investment round. would recommend any entrepreneur to try and find other people like you. It’s a pretty lonely journey Sometimes when you’re on your own then being a part of something was really beneficial. “
Like many other retail companies, âMiss Kickâ has been forced to adapt to a post-Covid reality, but over time to reassess her business model, Vella believes her brand has grown even stronger than before. âWhen we went into lockdown, a lot of my income, my engagement with the community was in person. We do a lot of events, we go out. I had fifteen events planned throughout the summer, so that really, really shook me It gave me time to think it over. It got me thinking about where I wanted to take the brand, what it looked like. I decided in July of last year that I wanted to do a brand overhaul and because I had this time to think it over and put it all together, we created this amazing logo. It was really essential for me to get to that next stage of growth. “
âI would like the product to be quite diverse. I want clothes that you can wear everyday, that you can wear for shopping, but also sportswear, clothes that you can wear to training. impatience, I want to look into more technical products What women wear in training, different body shapes and sizes, different fabrics.
Former Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United player Samantha Miller is a defender in the new ‘Miss Kick’ lineup. She said, “I loved Grace’s drive and ambition after speaking with her during the lockdown. She gave me information about the brand and how far she wanted to go. I was happy. to get involved and promote it because I think it’s great for young girls to see. “
2.5% of all sales revenue goes to the âMiss Kick Foundationâ, which from August will be registered as a charity with a mission to empower more women and girls to compete, playing and loving the game. Alongside Vella, the association’s directors include Nicky Affleck, former interim CEO of the London Youth Games, Richard Frost, former Brand Director at Nike and Jayna Patel, Head of community programs at the Premier League Charitable Fund. âI want to make sure I’m doing my part to create a level playing field for women and girls,â Vella explained âboth on and off the pitch. We’re really excited about this next chapter of the game. ‘Miss Kick story! “
âTo me, ‘Miss Kick’ is about more than clothes. It’s about creating this community that I’m passionate about as well. We’re launching a community app. During the lockdown, we were getting a lot of messages from young girls. who were struggling and missing their football so we set up a What’s App group chat and we had 30 daughters. It has now reached over 700 women and girls all over the world. It seemed to really help them and it has also helped the company. We thought that this might be something that we could do with our product. This community that we are developing on social media right now, we are going to transfer it to our app. be around connecting women and girls. There have been so many amazing stories that have come out of it and now we really want to expand this platform and create an esp ace sure where girls all over the world can unite. “