When Victorian mum-of-three Kate Hewett took up cycling a few years back she couldn’t find women’s cycling clothing she liked.
It was either too small, too short, or frankly too damn ugly.
So, the now 48-year-old decided to create her own solution with the help of artist friend Yvette Harbinson called Dink Design – a nod to the practice of dinking, which is to have someone ride on the bike’s crossbar.
We caught up with the former registered nurse, turned full-time designer, to find out more about the new figure-flattering cycling range, and to get her tips for others thinking of starting on their own mid-life business venture.
50SW: Tell us about some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome those?
Kate: There seemed to be obstacles everywhere I turned in the early days. I didn’t even understand about social media! I really had my head in the sand and so had a lot of catching up to do. I didn’t know how to register a business, how to set up an email address, a website, where to access fabric, printers, people to sew and the list goes on. The local councils were a really valuable resource. They offer a lot of free or low cost information seminars so I went to every session I could. Sometimes more than once! They also offer free 60-minute business mentoring sessions from time-to-time so I was lucky enough to get to a couple of those too. They were incredibly helpful. And other than that I asked everybody I knew for help with just about everything. I really found that people were very keen to help give me leg-up.
50SW: Was there a moment when you thought, ‘bugger this, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!’?
Kate: There have been times when I have definitely felt like this. Usually due to lack of knowledge… and I have found the clothing and manufacturing industry quite intimidating. The way I have best been able to get around some of these issues is to arm myself with knowledge. I read, I do online courses and I ask a lot of questions. And I keep asking until I understand. Some aspect of what I’m doing have taken me years to fully grasp. This journey has been like a wave. At times I’m riding high and the next minute I’m getting dunked and I’m scrambling to tread water. But the dunkings thankfully are few and far between. Just when I think “why am I even persevering with this?” I get a lifeline thrown at me and I’m up riding the next wave.
50SW: How is the range going so far? Who is buying the product and what’s the feedback been like?
Kate: Sales are slow and steady. My challenge has been (and still is) working out how to access my ideal market via social media. Most people have told me that this is the way to sell but I’m not so sure. I feel like women would prefer to try things on before they make a purchase. I have stock in a couple of shops in Melbourne and they definitely sell better in the shops than online. I’m selling mostly larger sizes, which thrills me. Because I really wanted to be able to clothe the size 14 and up crowd. The options for ‘real sized’ women in cycling are very limited. The neck gaiters sell really well. They’re gorgeous to wear and very versatile. Made with pure merino wool they’re lovely on the skin.
50SW: What’s your message to our mid-life readers who might be thinking of doing their own ‘side hustle’ or starting their own business for the first time?
Kate: Prior to starting this business I worked as a registered nurse. My last job being for Eastern Palliative Care. But after sustaining a head injury in 2017 I finished up with nursing and threw myself into Dink. It’s been so rewarding. I’ve always loved to learn and so this has been a wonderful learning opportunity. With everything I master I feel such a sense of empowerment. It’s by no means easy but I would encourage anyone who has a great idea in their heads to give it a go. There is a lot of help available to what’s known as ‘start up businesses’. Start with local councils and get as much information as you can. Friends and family are a wonderful source of information too. When I’m feeling exasperated I refer to Janine Allis’s book The Accidental Entrepreneur and then I don’t feel so alone on this journey.
50SW: How did the interest in cycling start? How much cycling do you do now?
Kate: My interest in cycling began about four years ago when I was up at Bright supporting my partner (who is an avid cyclist) in the Alpine Classic Cycling event. I was pretty much hooked from the get-go. Now I ride every Tuesday and Thursday mornings with a great bunch of women called the Box Hill Breeze Group. Just 25km and then we stop for coffee before starting our ‘real’ day. I love it. And then on weekends I’ll have a longer ride when I can sneak away ( I have three daughters, one of whom has Down Syndrome…it’s busy!).
50SW: What’s next for Dink Design? A new range for men?
Kate: Next on the agenda for Dink is winter gear. I’m really passionate about merino wool. So I’m thinking about that and also other warm clothing/jackets for those freezing cold winter mornings. I’m also really keen to start a men’s range. I’ve had quite a few requests from the gents…who like me aren’t too fond of squeezing into lycra. But for the moment I’m still focused on what women want. I really want to provide a top quality garment that makes every woman feel great on a bike.
- Have you got an inspiring story about a new venture – or adventure – in midlife? We’d love to share it with our readers. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a short summary and we’ll be in touch.