Online Business with Louise Houliston: Scaling a 7-figure intimates brand while elevating underserved women

Learn the bootstrapping journey of LoveDebs’ founder Louise Houliston building an inclusive lingerie leader. Powered by vulnerability-based leadership, creative mentoring support for female entrepreneurs, and responding to premium plus-size market needs with empathy and insight – success stemmed first from community nourishment over fast scale and profits. Houliston discusses the opportunities arising when you turn business frustrations into differentiated innovations while balancing digital growth levers like targeted influencer and social media marketing – all starting initially by simply following personal passion.

Hailing from rural North Yorkshire, England, Louise Houliston leveraged personal frustrations shopping for intimate apparel into a thriving seven-figure online women’s underwear brand, LoveDebs.

Struggling to find affordable, quality lingerie catering to plus-size women even in her early 20s, Houliston spotted white space competitors neglected. After losing her farm job in 2008 amidst an economic downturn, Houliston invested £5,000 in savings into launching her own premium plus-size lingerie line from her bedroom.

With pioneering body positive branding and an expanded size range addressing unmet needs, LoveDebs carved out a niche. Houliston focused intently on fit by employing only women designers familiar with curves for patterns. Delivering on style and comfort promises for a historically underserved demographic helped earn customer loyalty even against VC-backed giants entering later.

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We sat down to chat with Louise Houliston, a Belfast-based entrepreneur who established Ninjadry: the city’s only company offering a cleaning, drying and ironing service which picks up and delivers straight to your door. Check it out!

As we kick off our discussion, we probe into Louise Houliston’s professional background before she decided to embark upon life as an entrepreneur. Like many business owners, Louise started in with a vocation that was totally unrelated to the business she would eventually establish. She reflects on her life as a primary school teacher in England – a role she carried out with real passion and enjoyment before big changes came her way. Louise was starting her own family, and after seven years and a teacher, she began to consider taking a break to focus on the important things in life. 

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A New Approach to Returning to Work

Louise took some family time, spending time at home with her hands full until her children eventually reached schooling age. At this point, she began to reconsider her professional life, reflecting on her own aspirations for a business life. This, she claims, led to the birth of Ninjadry.

“It came from me wanting to return to work, and also came from those concerns about balancing everything out and spending valuable time with my children. In the background I did some research into what I would have to do to set up, and I quickly realised that England had a much higher amount of services who were willing to visit you at your door,” she remembers.

Louise’s former life as a primary school teacher equipped her with some of the essential skills required to effectively run a business, including those obvious qualities like strong organising skills, creativity and an attention to detail. “I felt that as a teacher, I brought some creative qualities to my role,” says Louise, “and I think this really helped me when I did decide to launch my business”.

The Ninjadry owner highlights the value behind the transferable skills teaching granted her. “I felt that I could use these skills in my own business strategy, from logo design and branding right through to social media campaigns, digital marketing and everything in between”.

Whilst Louise was able to hit the ground running with these essential business skills, she emphasises that taking her business from a mere idea to a fully functioning business represented a significant learning curve. But how was Louise able to steer her idea towards reality, and what really separates Ninjadry from other launderettes, dry cleaning and ironing services out there? The businesswoman highlights the services offered by Ninjadry, which are supported by an online infrastructure.

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A Simple and Convenient Service

“Customers place their order online, and a driver comes to the door to collect the order. It is returned 48 hours later, and that’s our guarantee as a service provider”, she shares. “At Ninjadry, we’ve got four different categories. We’ve got dry cleaning & specialist cleaning; wash & iron, wash & fold and pure iron.

Families typically spend a few hours taking care of these types of chores every week. We set out to try and give some of that time back by offering a service that is really simple and convenient,” she adds.

But how does Ninjadry harness the digital world to improve its service offering? According to the owner, this aspect comes in multiple forms: “We coordinate with our customers throughout the process with SMS messaging and emails. Customers can stay informed and track their order.

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There’s also a seamless online payment process, and customers can typically process their order in 45 seconds. This is a big difference compared to the few hours this typically takes a family every week”. Customers can also access their own account and track their order.

Louise admits that part of the success of Ninjadry can be attributed to the company’s commitment to a seamless, quality service, as well as the positive rapport that they build with each and every customer who uses them. “We really value their feedback, and at the state we only had a few people who knew us. Last month, we took our 1000th order, and we have 300 regular customers.

We are thrilled about this – it’s really caught on in Belfast, and we are trying to disrupt the market with our online platform. We really analysed the market to see what was there – it seemed aged and it needed an injection of modernisation. That is what truly separates us from the rest.”

Where does the future lie for the team at Ninjadry? According to the brains behind the business, they eventually plan to have a fleet of vehicles operating across Belfast. “As we go and scale, we’d like to cover all areas of Belfast. We try to analyse our own touchpoints from the customers we’ve grown, and a lot of it’s online. So, digital marketing and email campaigns will be really important, and so will paid campaigns,” she says. She adds that growth is inevitable, and has proved that market research and ongoing research is critical to business success. 

“Our feedback is really appreciated, and we’re constantly finding things out that we can feed into our own business model. It’s as simple as your Amazon or food delivery service – and we want to be the next big service that delivers to your door.”

Ninjadry’s services can be accessed via their official website. Our viewers can also follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Feel free to check out the full video, and follow our business YouTube channel for more industry-leading insights!

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Key Lessons and Insights from Louise Houliston’s Journey:

1. Identify a Gap and Offer a Solution:

  • Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Identify a specific need or pain point within a niche and tailor your product or service to address it directly.
  • Conduct market research, analyze competitor offerings, and understand your target audience’s needs to ensure your solution is relevant and valuable.

2. Build a Strong Brand Identity:

  • More than just a logo and colors, your brand encompasses your values, mission, and the emotional connection you evoke with your audience.
  • Invest in building a consistent brand image across all platforms and touchpoints, ensuring your communication resonates with your target audience.

3. Leverage Storytelling and Community Building:

  • People connect with stories. Share your own entrepreneurial journey, the inspiration behind your brand, and the stories of your customers to create a deeper connection.
  • Foster a community around your brand by encouraging interaction, creating engaging content, and providing value beyond just your products.

4. Focus on Customer Experience:

  • Customer satisfaction is paramount. Prioritize exceptional customer service, offer responsive support, and actively listen to feedback to continuously improve your offerings.
  • Build trust and loyalty by exceeding expectations and going the extra mile to create a positive customer experience.

5. Embrace Continuous Learning and Adaptability:

  • The online business landscape is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date with trends, be open to innovation, and adapt your strategies as needed.
  • Invest in learning new skills, attending workshops, and surrounding yourself with mentors or advisors who can support your growth.

6. Passion and Purpose Drive Success:

  • Don’t just chase profits. Find a product or service you truly believe in, something that aligns with your passions and allows you to make a positive impact.
  • This genuine passion will fuel your drive, resilience, and ability to overcome challenges as you build your online business.

7. Find Your Support System:

  • Building a successful online business requires effort and dedication. Surround yourself with supportive individuals, mentors, and communities who share your vision and can offer guidance and encouragement along the way.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, delegate tasks, and build a team of talented individuals who complement your skills and expertise.

Specific strategies/tactics deployed across marketing, ops, tech, and customer retention.


  • Leveraged influencer collaborations and organic social media to amplify body positive brand positioning to acquire customers
  • Personalized email/SMS campaigns boosted re-purchase rates
  • Targeted paid ads to lookalike audiences similar to repeat shoppers


  • In-house designer team focused intently on proprietary prints and quality materials fitting curves
  • Optimized sizing/cuts based on customer feedback loops and reviews
  • Built loyalty programs and referral rewards


  • Invested in custom ecommerce site enhancements like virtual fit tools using 3D modeling for personalization
  • Integrated data analytics to optimize merchandising strategies

Customer Retention

  • VIP rewards program for top buyers
  • Customer advisory panel to collect product R&D insights
  • Exclusive early access to new collections
  • Hassle-free returns policy
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Online Business FAQs

Questions on scaling your own brand? Key queries are tackled below.

Q: Should founders raise investor money or self-fund?

A: Weigh funding needed to accelerate goals versus risks of equity dilution and reduced control. Many factors influence approach here.

Q: What hiring mistakes should be avoided early on?

A: Moving too quickly without screening culture add or not defining roles crisply. Take time to select team intentionally despite scaling pressures.

Q: Where to focus when bandwidth limited as a solopreneur?

A: Strengths often provide clues. Excel at crafting product first or marketing levers like social content or community building depending on experience. Consider outsourcing the rest until more resourced.

Online Business Conclusion

LoveDebs’ success reminds entrepreneurs progress often emerges from difficulties or setbacks exposing opportunities hiding in plain sight. Houliston bravely addressed her own disappointment with size options head-on through nurturing a brand elevating customers neglected elsewhere.

Female founders specifically should stay attuned to such experiences highlighting where competitive offerings fall short. Convert frustration into fuel powering your differentiated value proposition through innovation tailored for an underserved segment. With consistent community nourishment, the foundations stand strong.

ProfileTree is a full-service agency specialising in web design, content marketing and digital strategy.

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