It's International Women's Day, so let's meet our female Founder
Rachael Cunningham is the Founder of Sebastian and Millicent, the retail home of luxury designer lingerie and artisan pleasure products sourced from independent designers all over the world. However, it wasn’t until her mid-thirties that Rachael started considering how her own intimate wellness might be affecting her overall health and she set a course to change the way women prioritise themselves. Sound interesting? We thought so too, so decided to take a peek into the world of Sebastian and Millicent, and explore Rachael’s entrepreneurial spirit…
Hi Rachael! Sebastian and Millicent is a wonderful concept, when did you open your doors, what’s your background and what is the story behind the name?
I started the business three years ago, but the idea had been in my head for at least a decade. I have a degree in psychology and have previously worked as a forensic mental healthcare nurse which has had a strong influence on the direction of the business. As for the name…there’s no story behind that, I just love those names!
So, you’re a fresh entrepreneur! What inspired you to start Sebastian and Millicent?
I like to call myself an Empowerment Entrepreneur! Through Sebastian and Millicent, I wanted to empower women and create a brand that embodied the essence of self-care and self-love. Central to Sebastian and Millicent is the understanding that love and sexual intimacy form part of a dynamic, interconnected experience that unites individuals together. However, how we experience these feelings varies hugely and is directly related to the readiness and desire of an individual to grow as a person. Studies show that people that nourish their sexual self-esteem are able to improve self-confidence and use that energy to fuel positive changes in their lives.
Instilling confidence seems to be a driving force behind Sebastian and Millicent. What do you think are the main issues that lower self-confidence in women?
There has been an insistence on valuing women’s bodies first and personalities second for years which impacts self-esteem. It’s not about thinness, or even the ‘perfect curves’ – the Marilyn Monroe curvaceous look just as unattainable for some women as a thin physique. The deeper point here is that trying to shift the ideal body shape shouldn’t be the ultimate aim – we need to stop judging people by their looks in the first place. Every woman, and man, has the right to feel confident about how they look and feel – lingerie is the beginning of Sebastian and Millicent’s journey to encourage women to value their body, and empowering them to change it if that makes them happy.
There's no doubt about it: most women need a good bra in their wardrobe. What makes the Sebastian and Millicent shopping experience so special?
You’re right, lingerie is a must in most women's lives and studies have shown that when wearing lovely lingerie women feel more confident and empowered. The women that shop at Sebastian and Millicent are confident and self aware, with high emotional intelligence, and I aim to match that in the brand selection available. Almost every piece in the collection is from a designer you won’t necessarily find on the high street, so it’s all about taking women on a journey of discovery. I find discovering a fresh designer for the first time really exciting, so the choice to focus on smaller brands was driven by the desire to provide a shopping experience that is progressive and concentrates on individual choice that reflects personal style.
Customer experience is also really important and I wanted it to be a main point of difference. Sebastian and Millicent doesn’t just offer an online retail site, it also offers private appointments, Skype and telephone bra fittings, lingerie wardrobe reorganisation, and can source pretty much anything – i try to cater to any woman’s dreams!
How does this translate into erotic toys, which are typically seen as crass?
I think wellness depends on a lot of factors, and whilst the majority of us are au fait with the importance of exercise and a balanced diet, sexual wellness still remains somewhat taboo and is often neglected but it’s so important to embrace as part of a healthy and fruitful relationship with yourself and others. Sebastian and Millicent chooses sex toy brands to partner with that give people opportunities to nourish the confidence to improve their intimate health and wellbeing.
What would you suggest to someone who hasn’t ever had a bra fitting?
Seriously, you to contact me for a bra fitting! The experience is quite liberating, and confidence levels will be through the roof! Most department stores don’t fit properly because their staff rotate around various sections within the overall store, therefore they’d quickly forget how to fit a bra by sight if they were taught and so rely on using a tape measure taking only two measurements. This is why most women are in the wrong bra size – a tape measure doesn’t stretch like the elastic in a bra band does, and a tape measure also can’t cope with breast volume. Sebastian and Millicent only ever fit by sight and so women get the right fit every time.
Sebastian and Millicent is clearly much more than a standard retail business. Where do you want to be in the next couple of years?
I want the business to continue to grow into a lifestyle service that gives back to clients. The entire shopping experience is much more complex now than it was ten years ago; now, it’s all about the emotions and feelings people experience. Sebastian and Millicent is still very young and there are many exciting things to come, such as events, workshops, and own brand.