Molly Goddard talks Desmond & Dempsey, pivoting during COVID and the best advice she’s ever received

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  • Next in our Women Who Win series is Molly Goddard, co-founder of luxury UK pyjama brand, Desmond & Dempsey...

    You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Desmond & Dempsey, with the luxury UK pyjama brand being a firm favourite across the nation.

    Celebrating life at home, Desmond & Dempsey has been having a real moment, and its iconic pieces – all in bold colourful prints – have become stylish work from home staples.

    From signature pyjama sets in the D&D iconic Sansindo Tiger print and Jaguar night robes to Chango Monkey eye masks and Leopard slip nighties, sleepwear has never been so chic. It’s hardly surprising in fact that increasing numbers of people (this writer included) are dressing up D&D sleepwear with heels and wearing it out and about.

    So, now that we’ve established that a pair of fancy D&D linen jammies and a leopard robe are essentials, how much do we actually know about the people behind the brand?

    Introducing the beautiful and business-savvy husband and wife co-founders, Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffery.

    Marie Claire’s Women Who Win interview series celebrates strong and inspirational female trailblazers who are paving the way, and Molly Goddard and her strong determination and kind outlook is that in a nutshell.

    MC Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Molly to talk Desmond & Dempsey, how the pandemic has affected business and her secrets to success…

    Take me back to the beginning of Desmond & Dempsey…

    Oh it’s a corny old love story. Joely and I did long distance for far too long. Then when I moved to London, I brought with me a collection of really flimsy nighties but quickly switched to wearing Joely’s shirts for the sake of modesty (and his flatmates).  In my head this was all very Richard Curtis heroine, but unfortunately my personality is less “cute girl wearing Hugh Grant’s shirt” and more “Hugh Grant spilling orange juice on everyone else’s shirt,” so Joely revoked my access to his wardrobe pretty quickly. We went out searching for a replacement and when we couldn’t find anything, we began – probably underestimating how hard it was to make a pair of pyjamas. A year later, we had one style of pyjama (the Signature Set) in three prints, and started selling them online. Very early on, we had some great press and so got the call up from Selfridges, Fortnum’s and BG’s… The business is still 80% online, but we have some great partners that we work with now too.

    How did the pandemic change business?

    Being forced to stay at home means a pretty good time for an online pyjama business to be totally honest. The growth has meant we have developed our team and are starting to look at opportunities outside the bedroom. When London started to shut down, and our wholesale partners needed to cancel orders, we took a few risks and took on their stock so not to let down our factories. It paid off as it meant we were able to see the growth directly. A little pivot (but one I am really proud of) was an initiative we launched during the lockdown last summer called Gift4Good. The plan was to have a great big sample sale, but instead invited our community to nominate someone who needed some comfort and sent D&D’s on their behalf.

    Do you have a favourite piece in your collection?

    The Deia Signature Set. It’s the first set we ever made, and I am a nostalgic old fool.

    What has been your biggest challenge?

    Finding balance. When we started D&D it consumed our life and we lost a few friends because of it. I am still learning how and when to prioritise. I haven’t mastered ‘boundaries’ yet…

    How can you achieve the right work/ personal life balance?

    Personally, I haven’t mastered this great life lesson. I am optimist and fall in love with everything and everyone, but end up letting people, or projects down because I run myself into the ground and crash before finishing things. I am learning to listen to the subtle hints of the universe (and my husband and my mentor) to say no, to slow down, before the explosion. It’s really really hard though and I think acknowledging that and being okay with the fact that sometimes one part of your life needs a little more, is okay and needs to be talked about more.

    Have you ever felt discriminated against as a female founder?

    Once. When we were raising our first round of investment, one potential investor directed all of his questions to Joel until the very end when he asked me, how as co-founders and husband and wife we would manage raising children. Safe to say we didn’t partner with them.

    What is the best advice you’ve received?

    You win more bees with honey than vinegar.

    What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

    Look, there’s been a few. I am learning how to become a leader. The mistakes that haunt me the most are ones where I have been impatient.

    What will you never compromise on in business?

    Good people who make the right decisions kindly.

    What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

    When I was 20 I moved to Madrid. I had just met Joel in Whistler, but didn’t want to be the girl who moved halfway across the world for a boy, so told myself that moving to Madrid was the sensible thing to do. I didn’t speak any Spanish, or know anyone. I don’t know if I would have the guts to do it now or I would be braver and bold enough to move for love.

    How do you celebrate success?

    With Champagne and French Fries.

    What has been your proudest moment?

    Oh I am covered in bruises from constantly pinching myself at what D&D has become. Recently, I overheard mum and dad telling the poor barista about ‘their girl’ and ‘the business’ and it felt pretty great. I am incredibly proud of the team we are building, especially the women who have been with D&D from the start and are now leading the business.

    What is your superpower?

    Sleeping. Anywhere.

    How can we all ask for more?

    By putting time in the diary and not being afraid of a conversation. I think if you go into a conversation wanting to understand rather than talk, you will usually come away with a whole lot more. For example when we started D&D we had no experience in manufacturing. At the beginning I would go to suppliers asking for them to make our pyjamas for a certain price. They kept saying no. When I asked a factory to show me how they made a set of pyjamas, what was the most time consuming point and how we could work together in the future, they spent hours teaching me, and working out with me how we could make the best pair of pyjamas and make a business out of it.

    What is your mantra?

    To have a candlelit dinner you just need to light the candles.

    What would you want to change for women?

    I think seeing paternity programmes across all industries would have a great impact on all of our lives.

    What could we all achieve if we supported each other?

    World peace haha. I do think if we all practised a little more kindness and learnt to better listen we would all be a little happier and isn’t happiness the magic in life?

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