Starting a business from your bedroom to London based designer – this is how women rock the entrepreneurship world! Estonian designer and former EBS student Kriss Soonik talks about how to build your own brand and how does branding works.
As we all know, starting your own business is difficult and gets more and more competitive as the business keeps growing – a great CEO has to stand strong and fearless.
With fans all over the world, including Naomi Campbell – Kriss Soonik never fails to produce fierce collections where the power lies in the little satin and silk details.
Good morning, Kriss! Firstly I would like to ask, what made you leap into the risky field of entrepreneurship?
I’ve always had the soul of an entrepreneur. I’ve been involved with event organising ever since high school and I also led a dance team when I was 16. When I started with fashion, I realised that if you want to do what you want, you must have your own company. I’ve always had a gutter feeling that I must do my own thing. It was wasn’t a question about my ego, it was about doing something and the need to establish myself.
What was your journey like?
I paid attention to absolutely everything in other companies and gathered experience. Becoming an entrepreneur is a long journey and you must stay true to yourself. Whatever you’re doing, you must time it right. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in EBS and continued my Master’s studies at London College of Fashion. I’ve always know I want to create luxury lingerie and I gained experience from two London based luxury lingerie companies. The latter was my dream. I was even ready to mop the floors just to get my foot through the door. Luck plays a big part in this too. I did not get an internship there at first. I emailed the company again and asked them to let me know if anything becomes available and it did! There are a lot of entrepreneurs in the world, you just have to respectfully remind them of yourself and stay in the picture.
How important is to have a decent social media account for a brand?
Instagram is an important channel right now, but we’re always keeping an eye on what’s the next big thing. Starting a brand online has changed a lot it a short amount of time. Instagram is a great way to let people know who your are and what you do. It’s also a good way to see how people picture us. Marketing used to be done mainly through magazines, but now, photos become available instantly as the new collection launches. To stay active and grow your following, you do still need a marketing plan. There’s a tactic for everything!
What was the key for connecting with your customers as a lingerie brand?
From the beginning, comfort has been the main focus of Kriss Soonik’s brand. It has been our keyword. 9 years ago, when we attended our first exposition, we were the only ones offering this kind of lingerie. Of course, now it’s being done everywhere, but I believe we’ll be remembered as the creators. The creators of this revolution! How we differ is by fun comfort that makes every woman feel confident. Our promotional photos have always been a bit twisted yet natural. Recognition builds trust and all fun everyday women can relate to our brand.
While you were building your own brand, where there any certain rules you followed?
Inevitably, lingerie is something that can go wrong with very quickly. I’ve been extremely protective of the brand and its image since day one. I’m very selective when choosing where and which photographers and models work for us. Nothing is left to chance and due to that the niche and luxury of the brand has lasted. You have to always think everything through very carefully. You need to stay in control, because shipping worldwide can offer a lot of surprises. It’s one thing how you yourself see your products, but how the client wears it daily is another. Everyone, who wears our products, represent the brand as well.
How do you manage your brand’s social identity? How to manage something, that you can’t control?
Thankfully, we haven’t suffered a crisis yet. We have been strongly influenced by Japan, though. The more we work with the Japanese market, the more Japanese style it requires from us. Japanese clients have a totally different mindset than Europeans. The Japanese want more out there pieces with a lot of varieties how to wear them. They’re a lot crazier with their style compared to the modest European client. This as well is the point where my vision and the customer’s needs part. Japan has always been a source of inspiration for me and it’s unbelievable how things have progressed. At one moment we realised that we’re unable to control it but we can just go with the flow and let the market bloom. We have two separate Instagram accounts now – the other one is a bit different from our usual image. Every move like that affects the brand and the way it’s going a lot. Since we started working with Japan, they have become increasingly interested in European brands so we have – once again – started a revolution!
Is it just the beginning?
It’s the beginning of the beginning – we’re still trying to realise what we’re doing. They always say that the beginning is the most difficult part, but actually staying in business is the tough part. In the beginning you have a lot of willpower and the feeling of freedom – everything is new and exciting. Once you’re actually in the business, you might not be able to recognise these moments and changes that much. We live in a world, where you constantly need something new. If your company is 5 years old, then it’s not a new company anymore. You must keep rediscovering yourself and keep things fresh. The pace is fast and the speed is quick. Companies must be open to changes – you close one door, but open five others instead.
What’s the flame of entrepreneurship like?
On some mornings you really feel like you can’t do it anymore. Can’t think, can’t read emails. But it’s your baby! If you really want to stop, then do it! But if there’s still fire burning inside you, then you must keep going! It’s a fact that the best ideas come to you when you think that you’re not thinking anything. Luckily, we don’t build planes. We produce joy and smiles!
You shouldn’t copy other. You can’t never be sure what goes on behind the scenes. It can be difficult to experiment with new things because 90% of the people are quite safe with their purchases. We just have to find the 10% who would wear our products. At first, the biggest shocker was that why isn’t anyone doing the same thing already?! Soon enough, we realised that mass production is the way most go to make more profit. I will stay true to myself – you never know what works, you just have to try things out! Fashion business is very fragile, but I’m headstrong and take risks every season.
What would you say are the best marketing tricks you have done to increase your brand?
Marketing wise, campaign photos have really worked for us . It’s great to see how the pictures live their own life. Clients post a lot of pictures themselves as well – it shows that they like it and want to share it with others. There are certain products that have a marketing purpose and I do showcase them first on the shelves. If they catch the client’s eye, they eventually lead to our other products and then to our website and then everything else. So the eye catching piece! And photos photos photos!
But we all know that any of that will not work, if the leading fundamentals are not on point. From the experiences itself, what would you say are the three qualities which a starting entrepreneur should have?
– You must be extremely resistant!
You don’t know it at first, but you have to do it! Be confident and keep going!
– You have to be polite and a good networker. No one wants to work with people who are cocky and full of themselves. As an entrepreneur, you have the ability to choose who to work with, it won’t last with rude people. Stay polite! You never know who’s going to matter later on.
– Passion! You can’t do anything without it! Money shouldn’t be the only motivator, you have to create some other value no matter if you’re a lingerie brand or something else. Create value and be passionate! If we can manage to make women feel good in our lingerie then that’s all! You must connect with the field you’re working in. That’s what drags you out of the bed every morning.
Translate: Triin Tikk
Editor: Kärt Mättikas
Pictures: Kriss Soonik