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Episode 232: Diversifying Business and Building Relationships with Aliza Reger


Change is inevitable whether in business or life. For the past two years, there have been tremendous changes. As business owners, we have to see things quickly to adapt to them and react accordingly. In this episode, Adam Stott and Aliza Reger talk about having self-discipline in business, relationship-building, and adaptation to change.

Aliza Reger is the CEO of the Janet Reger lingerie brand, born in the UK and amongst a small group of true lingerie experts. Her vision and drive to take the brand to a new level helped her close a series of partnership and licensing contracts both in the UK and globally. Aliza signed a global contract with Hoplun, the world’s most prominent lingerie manufacturer, and has other licenses including the romantic collection of beautiful bed linen by Zorlu, and the home fragrance collection by Laurelle London.

Show Highlights:

  • How Aliza became involved in the family business at a young age
  • Stepping forward and taking responsibility for the business
  • Her method of learning the business process
  • The importance of communication and paying bills on time; and
  • Learning to give yourself time is a form of self-discipline

Visit Janet Reger brand website https://janetreger.com/

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Transcript:

Please note this is a verbatim transcription from the original audio and therefore may include some minor grammatical errors.

Adam Stott:

Hello, everybody, and welcome to this very special episode of Business Growth Secrets. I’m here with Aliza Reger, who is a massive brand owner who has done business with some of the biggest brands in the UK, has achieved some phenomenal things, and has had an amazing career.

So I’m really, really excited to speak to you and to find out more about that and hear a little bit about your story. When we do these Business Growth Secrets interviews, what we like to do is really, you know, get behind the business career and find out the different things that you’ve been doing and the motivations. And I know that you know, from our previous conversation, you’ve taken things in a different direction in the business and you know, you create some great growth.

So I want to hear all about it. So do you want to maybe just introduce yourself? And you know, tell us a little bit about you. And how long have you got?

Aliza Reger:

My name is Aliza Reger. My mother founded the Janet Reger brand, over 50 years ago in London. Her background was freelance lingerie designer, and then she went from freelance working for various brands to making her own label, which grew very, very quickly in the sort of late 60s of London’s 60s 70s.

So we’re now 50 years or 50 something years-long and considered a British heritage brand. And you know, in that 50 Something years, lots has happened socially, economically, historically, certainly in the world of fashion. And underneath the fashion that the underwear business, there’s been tremendous changes, and we have had to adapt with it, verses that I’ve had to adapt with it.

My mother had to adapt to it. And one of the beautiful things about being a small business is that you have to be quite agile, you have to be quick on your feet. And you have to see things that are coming and the changes and react accordingly.

Adam Stott:

And you came into this business. So your mom started, why do you think that it was so successful at the beginning? Why did your mom move out of being like a freelance designer to kind of build this brand? What do you think your mom initially stumbled across for this business that really allowed it to go on at the beginning and become accessible?

Aliza Reger:

At the beginning, it was all very accidental. You know, there wasn’t a big business plan, there wasn’t, we’re going to do this. And then year three, we’re going to do that. It just, it really was one of those sort of kitchen tables except it wasn’t a kitchen table. She had a cupboard that folded out and the designs were in there. And my father saw her designs and said to her you shouldn’t be doing this for other people, you should be doing this for yourself. I was just telling somebody last night I remember as a very little girl, my father having a sample case, knows that the lingerie samples in one hand, and I was about yay high.

And he tapped me under his arm, samples in one hand, me and the other hand, and I dropped on the counter in various shops, and I remember plopped on the couch with a bag of sweets told to sit there, he would show you know, his collection. And the order was given there. Very, very different times to how business is conducted today. Completely different. You wouldn’t take your kid with you to fail. Unless you know he was you had absolutely nowhere to go with it.

The orders started coming in because what my mother was doing at the time was very different. Nobody was doing what she was doing. Nobody was making beautiful matching sets in bright colours. And the rest of the lingerie industry was very sniffy, particularly in the UK. They were English women who would never buy it. Or British women will never spend that kind of money. Nobody will spend that kind of money on lingerie. They did it because people like beautiful things. And it became the thing to aspire to whether it was your 21st birthday present or whether it was your wedding. I still now meet ladies and I go, “Oh, yes, of course, it was my first set of laundry that was almost a rite of passage.”

Adam Stott:

Awesome. It’s really good that I mean, the things that you just said one that your dad seems to be really supportive because a lot of the time people don’t have that. That kind of support, and maybe that encouragement. And then it sounds like your mom, very creative, bright and very thinking outside of the box, which is really…

Aliza Reger:

He was the business side, she was creative. And I sort of grew up with the business. 

Adam Stott:

Yeah, I saw that, you know, from reading a bit about you and reading some of the press articles, you’ve done that very early, you became involved in the business. Right. So what age did you start getting involved in the business?

Aliza Reger:

Oh, probably stuffing mailouts. Again, you know, mailshots, as probably stuffing envelopes, probably from the age of about seven or eight. 

Adam Stott:

Wow. Right. And did you love it? Were you interested in it?

Aliza Reger:

I have always been quite financially motivated. So yes, you know, however much pennies I got per 100, I’m sure it was nice, that was a motivation. And then when I was a little bit older, probably about 10, I would be gift wrapping. So even to this day, I wrapped the fantastic pastor, like if that thing is perfect.

Adam Stott:

That’s a skill in itself. I’m the most horrendous gift rapper you’ll ever meet.

Aliza Reger:

And the things to use as little papers as possible. Right, It has a really neat finish. And I’m one of my cousin’s children, when he was very little, he could never remember my name. And he used to call me, the lady that makes the nice presence.

Adam Stott:

Nice. So you got into the gift wrap inside of it. And then what happened, you kind of moved on. And, you know…

Aliza Reger:

From gift wrapping, we then or I then went to help my parents at trade shows because again, I grew up speaking languages, because we are, you know, I’m from a very European background, English, French, German. So, I would help at trade shows, because I spoke languages, and by the time it was probably about 14/15, and it was in the school holidays, and also in school holidays, I would help in the shop, some mostly back a pass. And when I left school, you know, I really was the office junior, I was in a getting the lunches and during the post-run, and really the menial jobs. And I think when you need to learn a business, it’s a very solid grounding to start at the bottom. Definitely, there are very few jobs that I haven’t done. 

Adam Stott:

Which gives you a very broad understanding of the business and of course, being CEO today, it’s good that you’ve, you’ve done every step. So did you know at this point, when you’re starting off, did you ever have those kinds of ambitions for it, or you just felt…

Aliza Reger:

Like, you know, I think like an 18-year-old, especially when I was sort of at 20, we just didn’t see that far into the horizon. Of course, the world was a much more uncomplicated place then.

Adam Stott:

And so what kind of happened from now you started moving on, you started working in different areas of the business? 

Aliza Reger:

Yeah, the only thing I really can’t do is I’m not very good at sewing machines. 

Adam Stott:

Well, that’s fine, isn’t it? Right? So you’ve done all those different bits, and got into the business? When did you start feeling that, hey, you know what, I could make a difference and get involved with leading this business. Because you’ve gone on and you create some great movement and growth within the company took in some different directions.

Aliza Reger:

It again, it very much happened, rather than this is the date this is going to happen. I worked very closely with my mother for many, many years. My mother, as you probably read, was diagnosed with breast cancer. And as she worked less, and really became more unwell, it was just a natural progression. And I think as human beings we are made that when we have to step into the position when we have to step up to the plate, most of the time we do, or men most of us do.

Adam Stott:

Well, so you took on that responsibility.

Aliza Reger:

Yeah, and it wasn’t kind of simple. So you’re doing that, you know, difficult, you know, just do it make it happen. And by that time, we already had our licensing business going on, we were already very involved with the diffusion lines, which was a huge help, and was already the beginning of the democratization of the brand.

So at one point, you know, it was a very, very high-end brand, where you could only buy if you knew either saved your money or had a lot of money or were prepared to really treat yourself. It was a special purchase. Whereas with the licensing and the diffusion lines, they have become sort of what I call. Everyday treats everyday luxuries, they’re the things that most people can treat themselves to ever, we need nice things in our lives now more than ever, it’s about having a beautiful home being comfortable in your head, we’ve all spent so much time in our homes.

Adam Stott:

You know, and so as you take it over, you’re taking over the business now because, you know, suddenly you [00:10:27-00:10:29] when you’re taking things on, you start to look at taking things in a different direction. I know we mentioned earlier that you’ve got now fragrances, for example, is a line that you’re going in, you’re launching a new fragrance as well. So you’re looking at different things. Well, how did these things start coming to you? And what kind of impact did that have on the business? Maybe has, you know, your set of eyes on what you were doing? What impact? What things do you think that you did that really made a good difference to the business and the brand overall?

Aliza Reger:

Well, I think when we signed the licensing deal that we had with Debenhams for 20 years, that made a huge difference to the business because suddenly, we were in 200 stores up and down the country and in all of their overseas stores. So that suddenly took the brand to a very wide audience on the brand at a democratic level. So you know, abroad for 25/30 pounds, where it’s something that was affordable to most people. And where that’s you know, that has sadly come to an end but for the time being because you know, Debenhams had their own problems. And they’ve now set up again, and they’re up and running again.

We also put a reset button on and worked with a fantastic manufacturer and a fantastic company in Hong Kong. And our new collection is launching later this year. We launched a little capsule collection with them last year called Janet Reger and was sort of just testing the market, just kind of getting the feel of each other, seeing how we all love each other. And we did and it was all good. And that had a fantastic sell through that was a next and Kaleidoscope catalogues and summer. So there was a reasonably good distribution in the UK, and a little bit in Europe. And now we’re sort of going on a much bigger scale law case in early July. So we’re busy working on that at the moment.

Adam Stott:

Sounds really cool. What were some of the biggest lessons that you learned throughout that process? For you personally, you know, going from being somebody that started at the bottom works your way up to being CEO, doing international deals, what for you have been the lessons that you’ve learned personally, would you say how long have you got? Well, that’s what it’s all about, I want to try and deliver some of these lessons too.

Aliza Reger:

I can’t say in terms of priority, which was the most important lesson. But I think, as they come into my head, and these are not necessarily in order of importance, I think it’s very important to speak and to communicate, when you have, for example, delivery issues or payment issues or whatever the issues are in that business, you need to speak to the people that you’re working with, and have to communicate, you are waiting for delivery to come in, and you’re sitting there and you’re waiting for it.

And you’re expecting it on the 15th of January, and it’s not going to be with you until the 30th I need to tell you, and if I’ve told you, you’re going to be much more amenable, so you know, I’ve got a bit of a problem. There’s a certain supply chain, it is coming, we’re going to be two weeks delayed. Bear with us. Same with payments, you know, all too often people can’t pay, whether you’re on the receiving end or on the paying and communication is so important. 

The other thing I’ve learned is on that payment side where you know, if you don’t pay somebody Bill, you really piss them off because everybody needs it. Of course, if someone I can’t pay you the full, let’s say 10,000, I can’t pay the full 10,000 But let me send you three now and three next week and for the week after people are always open to that or much more open to that than if you ignore makes people crazy.

That does not it does not do well for good business. You know, I think a to-do list a to-do list every morning is probably actually the most important thing I’ve learned. What do I have to do today? Pen and paper to do lists. It’s really old fashioned to do today. I need to know who I need to speak to. This is how I need to email. These are the jobs I need to get done and it’s very satisfying when you can go tick, tick, tick, job done and go tomorrow. What do I need to do? And then you take it forward. This didn’t get done today. Okay? Not the end of the world. Do it tomorrow.

Adam Stott:

Yeah, absolutely, in fact, taking it forward, very important. 

Aliza Reger:

So knowing, always knowing what you’re not knowing what you’re doing fourth, most business people know what they’re doing, too. Keep that communication structure. And I think self-discipline.

Adam Stott:

Really important. So, what’s your vision of self-discipline? How do you do? Because I agree, I think that discipline is massive, right? So how do you see that?

Aliza Reger:

Self-discipline, punctuality, getting jobs done, being where you’re meant to be, you know, I was always taught second by my mother, get to a meeting five minutes early, who sit there and read the paper, you’re not stressed, when you walk into a meeting, and you’re late and you’re stressed? You’re full of…

Adam Stott:

You are massive, and it’s so true, you know, run away, if you can, can’t you?

Aliza Reger:

Have things happen, you know, life happens. And people get stuck in traffic. And you know, things do happen. But what often where it’s avoidable, it’s just one less thing to stress about?

Adam Stott:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Aliza Reger:

And business life is stressful. So, if you can take a little bit of stress away by thinking about how my journey is going to take me so long, and I’ll just give myself a bit, I’ll give myself 10 minutes time, because the train doesn’t arrive on time in case this happens. If you give yourself time, those 10 minutes, you can always use, I call that filling in time, there’s always an email to send, there’s always, you can always find something to do in this.

Adam Stott:

It is an important lesson. One of the things I like to do is whenever I’ve ever said, I’m going to do something, I always like to follow through on what I say I’m going to do. Yeah, so I’m going to do it. 100% do it. And I think that’s a discipline that people really, you know, need to build in. Don’t they? Do you think that? You know, it’s interesting, you said that you learned that from your mom, you know, especially with a lot of people, a lot of people don’t do that. And that can be a big failure for a lot of people. Do you think they can teach someone self-discipline?

Aliza Reger:

Yes, like, I think self-discipline is really hard. It’s not something that you’re necessarily born with, you know, some of us are more talented at it than others. But it’s like a muscle, you know, the more you practice it, you know, and there are so many tools today. Visualization, you know, what do I want to do? What do I want to be? I also think, bite-sized portions, you know, sometimes, especially in this, there are big problems. A friend once said to me, you can’t eat the elephant hole. And so you know, it’s a really big problem. You know, we had a lockdown, we’ve had some very big problems. In our business world, all of us have the personal wealth to deal with. It’s been a very difficult two years. 

But if you sort of oh my god, oh, my God, then you start panicking, I think, no, you have to sit down and take it in small bite-sized chunks. And we deal with this today. Absolutely. What’s happening today, tomorrow, because life also changes and some of the things that, you know, we stress about, you know, I remember stressing about all I’m not going to get paid by Debenhams, and they’re going to go broke, and they did go broke. And I didn’t get paid. And you know what? I’m still there.

Adam Stott:

Right? Yeah, absolutely. And that must have been really tough, you know, especially after you’ve had such a long relationship. Right? I must have been really…

Aliza Reger:

It’s a question of perspective, we had a 20-year relationship. And in those 20 years, I always ate. It was always wonderful. I worked with some fantastic people with who I have great relationships still today, I learned a huge amount from them.

Adam Stott:

What you just said, is a very, very self-aware, intelligent way of looking at that situation. And a lot of people don’t, you know, a lot of people don’t look.

Aliza Reger:

I’ve got a, you know, for 20 years, or, you know, without fail, and the last time or the last few times, I didn’t, and you sometimes have to take it on the 100%.

Adam Stott:

A very self-aware, intelligent way of looking at it. Because a lot of people want to there’s that blame culture, I want to blame but forget the person that actually for 20 years, you know, was a big part of what you do and a big part of the brand, isn’t it and I think the intelligent way to handle some of that.

Aliza Reger:

One of the things that I also learned quite early on, and I had a lovely, lovely window dress so once he said to me and I took this off-board, I never forgot it. Be careful of the toes you tread on today. They are attached to the legs that will kick you in the bum tomorrow. Nice in business, it never does really, to fall out. Sometimes we want to tell people what we think of them, or we want to give them a piece of our mind. But sometimes it’s very worthwhile to write it on the wall. But don’t say it to them, get it out, but it doesn’t always have. It doesn’t always help. No, that’s true. No. Business, these people come around again and again.

Adam Stott:

Absolutely. They’re in the next deal, aren’t they, you know, the next large chain? And you’re sitting in front of them? You never thought you would be but yeah.

Aliza Reger:

As much as you’ve got a list of businesses, businesses based on relationships.

Adam Stott:

I love that. And that’s kind of where I was going. You know, I think if the lessons that you’ve learned really come back to that, don’t they? Are relationships so vital?

Aliza Reger:

Unfortunately, I haven’t properly prepared for the talk, because otherwise, I would have written these down in my order of the most important. And I probably think yeah, relationship building.

Adam Stott:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I’m a big believer in that as well, the more you know, the more relationships are so important. And it makes business so much easier, doesn’t it when you’ve got good relationships with people? 

Aliza Reger:

And you know, we often need help. And I think asking for help is a huge thing, that perhaps men find it more difficult than women, culturally. But I think that is beginning to change. But I think it’s really important when somebody has a skill set that you don’t have to say, oh, you know, such and such a person or you know how to do this. Can you help me? Can you introduce me? Or can you do this to me? And, you know, we have far bigger networking opportunities today. And I think as human beings we like to help, we like to feel useful. Yeah. 100%. And, again, I think it is very reciprocal, you remember who helped you? Or who gave you some useful information or put something your way? Absolutely. I am a great believer in paying it back.

Adam Stott:

Making sure that you look after those people who look after you, which is what it’s all about.

Aliza Reger:

It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the people you look after, are not the ones that look after you. But there are other people that look after you. So where it comes from, I think, is slightly irrelevant. But if someone helps you, you help someone because and that sounds a bit kind of, you know, spiritual and airy fairy, but it does work that way. If you look after people, people look after you.

Adam Stott:

Too many people look the other way, they only want to help the people that sort of help them. If you actually just go out and help without expecting anything back, you get more background, you know?

Aliza Reger:

I think it does perfectly.

Adam Stott:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, you know, some amazing snippets of advice there and bits that can really help people, you know, this podcast is listened to by business owners, all different stages, and a lot of them at the beginning of their journey. I think you’re talking about the discipline of relationships that adds a lot of value. 

Aliza Reger:

That’s such an important thing. If you can pay bills on time. I also think it gives you a bit of credit for when you can’t.

Adam Stott:

Absolutely. 

Aliza Reger:

So this goes through ups and downs, you know, that there are no ups without downs. There’s no business that hasn’t had its ups and downs, particularly in the last two years.

Adam Stott:

Yeah, certainly. And you’ve got some really cool stuff happening now within your business somebody which you mentioned to me before we come on, to want to mention a bit about that.

So you’ve got it’s exciting times, because again, you know, we had a tough few years, but sort of in that two years in that lockdown time it was we were working, I was baking and working and working and baking, and very much putting together these new lingerie collections with our partners floorplan in Hong Kong. So there’s a fantastic new collection, a completely new concept for us, which is incredibly exciting. Lots of new business distribution channels.

Again, we will be working with next and a lot of the British High Street. I hope we can rekindle our relationship with Debenhams. That would be great. So that’s very much in the view. Then we have a home fragrance collection which is just in its final stages and we will be launching some of it at London Fashion Week. In a few weeks time. That’s extremely exciting. And a home a bed linen collection, which is already on sale at Next. Nice that they like the bed linens. So pretty. It’s all about crunchy bedrooms. I like it. Pretty slick.

Adam Stott:

Yeah. A female demographic, male demographic or both?

Aliza Reger:

You know, I think today it has become very blurred, the lines are blurred. Let’s face it. We’re all a bit metro, a bit more masculine. more feminine. Do girls know how to change tire boys wear face cream? It’s all good.

Adam Stott:

I do, don’t know I, right? What’s the product that you tell you are most proud of, most recently that you’ve been behind, or the things that you’ve used? Since you’ve been in charge of the business, what would you say, has been one of the proudest things.

Aliza Reger:

You’re asking me to choose a favourite child. In terms of volume, and in terms of potential, I’m very proud and very grateful for the opportunity, and the partnership that we have formed with Hopland. Because they are the world’s biggest lingerie manufacturer. So that is a huge achievement for us. A huge moment of recognition that he wants to work with me and I want to work with him. And you know, he loves my brand. And I love his manufacturing capabilities. So it’s a sort of a marriage made in heaven. But at the same time, you know, I’m also working with this amazing factory in Turkey on our bed linen collection. So you kind of asked me to choose a favourite channel. 

Adam Stott:

And what’s going on. And lots of…

Aliza Reger:

The home fragrance is new. And I’m just in awe of them. They are a fantastic company based in Essence. And they are just so they’re in the south in the state. They’re so entrepreneurial, they’re so successful and so energetic. And I think, again, going back to this, I think energy, energy is really important in business. 

Adam Stott:

Brilliant stuff, you have passion, energy. Well, I think you’ve given some amazing lessons there. So thank you for coming on, you’ve got the most beautiful background. You can’t see that. But I’ve got a mountain in front of me making me very jealous. You’re in Austria, it looks amazing, don’t you? So, you know, well done you. It seems like you’ve really taken those lessons on, you know, and created something that your family could be very proud of. So that, you know, my big congrats to you. And thank you for coming on. I think you’ve dropped some great wisdom there that a lot of people that can listen to are going to get some massive value from so thank you again for coming on. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you. 

Hey, everybody, Adam here. And I hope you love today’s episode. I hope you thought it was fabulous. And if you did, I’d like to ask you a small favor. Could you jump over and go and give the podcast a review. Of course, I’ll be super grateful if that is a five-star review with putting our own cities podcast for you, delivering you the content, giving you the secrets.

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