In our sixth of our UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 special, we sit down with Grace Vella, Founder and CEO of Miss Kick!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Grace Vella and I’m the Founder and CEO of Miss Kick. I’ve grown up in a football mad family and I’ve been very fortunate to play for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. I was released at 18 like a lot of young players and after that I was a little lost, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
I studied psychology at Manchester University and whilst volunteering for a homeless charity it made me realise that I still had so many more opportunities still. I had the opportunity to go to university, I had a loving family and I had a roof over my head.
I wanted to get back into the football space and I’d had the idea for a clothing brand for women’s football for a while but I just just needed to take that leap. I spent a good six months researching and analysing, learning about business and launched Miss Kick in June 2018 at my dad’s football tournament. The idea behind Miss Kick was inspired by my experiences as a young girl in football. My time in football was really positive but I often felt as a girl, we were treated differently. We were treated second best. And I really wanted to do something to change that. The way I saw the solution was through a clothing brand which gave a donation back to grassroots football.
I came came straight out of university to run a business but I’ve had loads of other random jobs. I’ve worked in a shoe shop, I was once a bartender on Hollyoaks for a bit when I used to do a bit of work as an extra and I’ve also been in a couple of TV adverts. I worked in a pub but I was when I came out of uni when I was trying to grow Miss Kick. I’ve been full time on Miss Kick now for the last 18 months or which has been great!
What do you do in your current role?
Gosh, what don’t I do? I think it’s quite unique in a startup environment because we are a very close knit team and although I have the title of CEO, I definitely do a lot of other things. I am very lucky to be in my position because I get the opportunity to oversee every department, I get to be nosy and learn about everything.
So I oversee the brand, what’s going on our socials, what the product is, do talks and events, review budgets and analyse how we’re doing sales wise, engagement wise. The list goes on.
I think the biggest thing that I’m learning at the moment is how to be a leader and how to run a team, I came straight out of uni in to Miss Kick so I’m learning as I go.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Every week is so different and I’m so thankful for that. I don’t think I could sit in a 9-5 job where you’re doing the same thing over and over again. So one week I could be on set doing photoshoots with footballers and then the next day I might be sitting down with financing, reviewing what we’re going to be spending that month. I might be in the warehouse making sure everything is going well and then I might be travelling for meetings to see if we can sponsor any teams. There are so many things going on all of the time but like I say, that’s the environment I want to be in.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I knew I wanted to work in sport, because sport gave me so many opportunities as a young child. I come from a very normal family, but football kept me focused and I think that spilled out into all aspects of my life. It really did keep me on the straight and narrow.
Because it gave me so much, I wanted to make sure that other girls out there weren’t missing out on that opportunity. I still feel football in particular is not a very welcoming sport for all females and I just didn’t want those girls to not have the same experiences that I did.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My number one focus at the moment is just ensuring that as we grow as a business, everyone’s aware of the strategy, and is aware of the direction and the vision for the business. As we’re growing, so many opportunities arise and it’s important that we have that roadmap, that timeline so that everyone’s aware of the direction that we want to go in as a brand. It’s a challenge but I need to ensure as we grow that the strategy is communicated across the team, across social and across all comms.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
We were recently able to secure investment for the business, but I can’t even begin to tell you how long it took to get that over the line. I was going into meetings, I was pitching and I had people telling me “this isn’t gonna work, the markets not big enough, you don’t have enough experience.” It was a very, very difficult time trying to get that over the line but ultimately I got there in the end.
So although I was probably failing, I was learning very quickly how to communicate better and how to really position Miss Kick as a viable product. I’ve also learned that not everyone is going to believe in you and that’s okay.
It’s taught me that even when I experienced setbacks now, or even when things go wrong, I always believe no matter what that we’ll find a way out of it. Having that attitude and having that mentality is so important in startup life, in business and in sport as well.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Women’s football is just booming. I’m almost a bit jealous that I’m not five or six years old, coming through now. The growth of the sports scene is just absolutely incredible. I’m so glad it’s going that way because it’s something that the players deserve.
What excites you most about UEFA Women’s EURO 2022?
I can’t believe it’s finally here, because I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. With England hosting it, I think it’s going to be so transformative for the country. I really hope it inspires every single girl to get involved in football, and to really give it a go.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I wish I could change the perception that people have about women’s football and women’s sport. I still feel like some people view it and they don’t believe it to be a real sport. They don’t believe that these players are talented. And I understand that, it’s because people compare it to the men’s game. But if people just gave it a chance and an opportunity to watch it, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised. So I wish people viewed it and put it on the same sort of pedestal and level as the men’s game. Because ultimately, these women who are athletes, they’ve trained every day the putting in the same amount of effort.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Not a lot, this is probably something that I do struggle with. I guess I switch off best when I’m around other people. So whether that’s spending time with my family at home, or spending time with my friends going on holiday.
It’s difficult because when you’re in business, you don’t really ever have time off. But it’s something that I’m definitely learning because I’ve found when I have a weekend to switch off or go away, I come back so much more refreshed, I think quicker, the ideas are flowing.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Be tenacious and be bold. If you want to work in sport, it’s the same for any industry, you’ve got to be passionate, you’ve got to really believe in what you want to do. Because ultimately, if you want to be successful, if you want to reach the highest level in whatever industry that is, you’re going to have to work hard, there are going to be setbacks and you’ve got to have resilience.
How to follow Grace Vella and Miss Kick…
Thanks for reading our chat with Grace Vella! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.