Women We’re Watching: Charlotte Hale, Founder + CEO of Plum Pretty Sugar
Charlotte Hale founded Plum Pretty Sugar a decade ago, taking inspiration from a West Coast backdrop of easy-living chic. From Southern California by way of the UK, Charlotte is the originator and pioneer of the now global multi-million dollar bridal ‘getting ready’ category and Plum Pretty Sugar holds steadfast as its leader. Her personal experience and her dedication to sustainability in a category often bathed in consumerism is what makes her a Woman We’re Watching.
What inspired you start Plum Pretty Sugar?
Until recently, I referred to Plum Pretty Sugar as my first child—now I realize it’s not my child, it’s me. It is my story in every way. It’s tied to a divorce and devastation, it’s tied to joy and a new marriage, babies and everything in between. It reflects my voice, my imagination, my everything at every given time… now, then and what will become.
You were designing Plum Pretty Sugar well before brides/bridesmaid robes were the trend they are now. Where/how did you get that vision?
When I created Plum Pretty Sugar a decade ago, I originally concepted it as a lifestyle brand that focused on sleepwear, home decor and eventually apparel. I knew from a prior business I owned that robes would be integral to the sleepwear portion of the company. Keeping in mind that bridal ‘getting ready’ didn’t exist—there weren’t any bridesmaid robes, bridesmaids pajamas, bridal robes—I strategically set out to determine product use categories wherein women could potentially wear robes.
I dug in and came out with a new idea: brides the morning of their wedding and bridesmaids. The marketer in me intrinsically knew I could create a new usage while also expanding the wedding festivities into a morning prep period. I believed I could create and maximize opportunities for friendship, family and bonding that would be well-received by brides. And so started what is now the bridal getting ready category within the wedding industry.
You’ve hit the 10-year mark on the company-what has that journey been like, from both an emotional and a business standpoint?
The wedding and bridal industry has changed drastically since Plum Pretty Sugar began in 2009. Ten years ago, the industry centered around bridal magazines, bridal books and less than 10 blogs. Social media was limited to Facebook, which wasn’t used for business at the time and it pre-dated the rise of influencer.
2019 is a different landscape entirely. The bridal client is also extremely different. She is primarily a millennial and her desires and expectations are disparate to the Gen Xer that proceeded her. She grew up in a socially networked world and seeks and discovers information about all things, including her wedding, differently.
She also consumes it differently. Her wedding is meant very often for the public eye and the connections she’s fostered throughout social media and she therefore seeks products and experiences for reasons we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. Therein, we see both the product and experiential trends that feed this consumption.
It’s been interesting to be a part of it. Often as a CEO, I don’t realize it’s changing until we look back. We’re so accustomed to change at Plum Pretty Sugar, it is nearly routine. And that’s what makes it exciting.
Emotionally, there are high highs and low lows. And so many lessons! One that stands out, mainly because I’m still working on it, is managing criticism, dis-believers, trolls and unkind people in general. When you start a business, and develop a category especially, there are many naysayers who don’t understand and are unable or unwilling to see the vision, or are, frankly, just mean. I’ve learned to surround myself with a team that protects me, which in turn allows me to move the brand vision and the company forward without being halted by ill will. With that comes a knowing of clearly understanding my strengths, my weaknesses.
You have a personal story of domestic violence and you’re partnering with a few anti-domestic abuse organizations in celebration of your 10-year anniversary. Tell us how you’re using your power as a businesswoman to raise awareness.
It’s both a purpose and issue close to my heart that can shatter lives and families. I’d like to help affected women build back their lives—and their confidence—and always create awareness to stop the abuse cycle into the future.
The wedding industry is comprised of many smart and talented women and men who have a platform to create awareness for the issue. Understanding the cycle, working to prevent it and helping to build back lives is important. Plum Pretty Sugar was also borne out of this issue. I created it to build back my own life and my own story as a victim of abuse.
If you could wave a wand and change one thing about the world today, what would you change?
Kindness. I think it serves us on so many levels.
Interested in more successful women changing their industries? Read about this CMO’s desire to bring CBD to more mothers, and this co-founder’s goal to make fragrance more about accessibility.