Zuela - Steff Pitman
A bit about you?
I'm Steff the founder of ZUELA & Crystal healer helping women to build confidence. I have struggled with my mental health for years, suffering from anxiety and panic disorder. As well as depression as a teenager. I started Zuela to help other women with their mental health issues. I love all things holistic wellbeing and have become a campaigner for Mind Charity. Mental health and eco advocate.
What has your career path been over the years?
My career path started when I left university, I studied costume design but always wanted to work in fashion so I started interning at fashion houses. I had my first internship with womenswear designer Liz Black and then worked for Couture designer Julian Macdonald. After working on several fashion week collections I decided to leave and apply for head office jobs in retail places but kept being told I needed retail experience so I decided to work in retail and gain some insight into that area of sales, customer service, etc. I become a supervisor at Jack Wills but still didn't feel like it was the right path for me. I took a Lingerie course at the London College of Fashion. As I still felt drawn to lingerie and starting my own collection and then after 2 years in retail I left to start Zuela. I had been planning Zuela since uni but it took me a year to launch the brand. Working in a variety of places I had, I realised how unethical the fashion industry is which is why I decided to make Zuela a sustainable brand and do everything to make it an eco-conscious.
What made you want to start Zuela?
I wanted to create something to help women build confidence and support them, whilst being able to fit effortlessly into their daily routine. When I first started Zuela, my goal was to help at least one woman with their mental wellbeing. When I was struggling I felt alone and I wish someone had created a safe space with wellness tools and support. It is also why I love crystals and felt it was important to include them in the collection, crystals and holistic health tools were a huge part of my recovery so I wanted to make them fun whilst also helping people. I also know so many women who wear crystals in their bras and it used to drive us crazy when they would fall out so It also provides a solution to that problem.
What has been your biggest highs and lows?
My biggest high has been Zuela being asked to be featured in Vogue, it is something I always dreamed of and still so humbled that my little brand made it in there. My biggest low has been my health issues since launching the brand. I ended up in the hospital a week after launching and I am still undergoing tests and treatment. I have since been diagnosed with chronic fatigue too, so learning to live with that and run the business has been challenging. It brought back a lot of my anxiety, running a business is hard enough but when you're unwell it really pushes you. I know that it is another thing, I will be able to support others with too as I have learnt that self-care comes first which has always been my message but it has never been so important.
What made you come out and talk about Mental Health?
Once I started my recovery, I realised that if I had seen others talking more openly about their mental health it would have helped. The thought of anyone else suffering breaks my heart, so I decided to talk about it in the hopes that it would support others in opening up. Once I shared I also had more support which really helped with my recovery. I would hide it so well before, panicking in bathrooms, crying in private and it felt deceitful but it was hard to explain or talk about. Being honest felt freeing and like I could just be myself.
Who have been the key influences in your life?
My parents, I watched them start their own business when I was young and they even had me involved in helping design the logo. I think that's where I get my entrepreneurial flare from. They always told me I could do anything so I am very ambitious because I was taught to believe anything is possible when you put your mind to it. I have also had some incredible mentors from fashion courses and my internships.
Do you manage to keep a balanced work-life with your professional life?
How do you wind down in your free time?
I would say that is something I am still working on, finding a balance is hard but scheduling my time is a huge help in keeping me on track. I even schedule my family and fiancé in, if we are doing something I will send everyone a google calendar invite haha. I wind down by doing yoga and going on bike rides, I also love practising with my crystals and making them a part of my self-care routine.
What has been your biggest breakthrough moment so far?
My biggest breakthrough moment was when I hosted the Zuela launch party at Tell Your Friends in London and received my first order. I woke up in the morning to see press of celebs who had been at the event and people talking about the brand, that was a moment of wow I really did it.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I see myself expanding the brand into a wellness hub and running Zuela retreats around the world for women to work on all aspects of their wellness. I also plan to become a fully qualified yoga teacher and crystal sound bowl healer. I want to focus on bringing in my spiritual practice and using it to support others. I would love to be an ambassador for the Princes Trust and continue to make a difference as a mental health/ eco advocate.