How to Keep Consumers Engaged

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Cases & Strategies

In today’s overcrowded market, we can agree that brand loyalty is a massive challenge which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to have your consumer engaged at every opportunity.

But…How to do it? First and foremost, be very clear about what the brand is, what it stands for and show that you really care about them. Nothing new here, right? You probably have heard about the importance of being ‘authentic’ at least 100 times and it’s not rocket science to portray a relatable image. However, the simplest actions can be also the trickiest ones, so to make things easier; here goes a list of ideas to attract, entertain and make a difference with your beloved customers:

– The social in social media channels means you can have a direct conversation and should use as an open channel to check their reactions about everything: collections, products, customer service etc. Ask for suggestions, check if they are enjoying the purchases and reply all messages. Even when the feedback is negative, use it to evaluate what can be improved or changed.

– Be ahead of your consumer’s needs: anticipate seasonal needs (not in a ‘Floral? For spring? Groundbreaking’ way but in a way that surprises and show that you understand them. It may be a collaboration with other brand that makes an accessory that compliments your clothes offer, for example, or even a service that matches their lifestyle. Anything that meets convenience and care with a little charm is always very much appreciated.

– Speaking of social media and collaborations, make consumers feel like they are part of the creative process. Make polls on Instagram Stories and ask for their opinion about colours and shapes for the new collection, for instance. Or embrace UGC as a tool to build a community around the business.

– Showing the human side can be a great idea, if the brand embraces it. The recent John Lewis & Partners campaigns reinforce the notion that everybody matters by showing the people behind different departments.

– Moreover, show your creative process, how the products are made and your supply chain. If you advocate for sustainable practices it is imperative to show evidence that you follow ethical guidelines and live by them.

– Special clients need special attention. Your oldest and/or best customers deserve to know they matter. Every now and then treat them with something extra that will surprise and amuse!

– Last but not least: always remember that people don’t buy just a product, they buy other people’s dreams and aspirations! Be kind, be human, be inspiring and treat your consumers as you like to be treated.

Image: Vogue Paris

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Sabinna Rachimova, Founder of Sabinna

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

Sabinna Rachimova has always been interested in craftsmanship and from an early age learned how to crochet, knit and sew from her grandmother. Years later, her passion became her job when she founded Sabinna, a conscious fashion label made in Europe. In this interview she talks about her first experiences in the industry, the challenges to build the right team and why you should build your own unique success story

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand?
Sabinna Rachimova: I was always into handcraft, I learned how to crochet, knit and sew from my grandmother. Later, I became interested in fashion history and contemporary fashion design. I did my first internship when I was 14; I worked for an Austrian fast fashion company, sorting out their archive. Every job I had since then, and I had many, was connected to the fashion industry. After graduating from high school, I tried my luck and applied at Central Saint Martins and could not believe when I got accepted. By then I already knew, I was going to start a fashion brand some day.

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Sabinna Rachimova: Running your own business means facing all type of challenges every day. I would say the financial challenges are definitely the hardest. I need to make sure to plan ahead, generate enough cash flow, get sponsors where needed. Another challenge is finding the right people to join the team. It isn’t only about the skillset but also about the mindset.

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Sabinna Rachimova:  Be prepared to work hard! The best way to find out if something is working, is to try it out. And last but not least: Don’t try to copy an existing success story, see it as inspiration to create your own path.

Learn more about Sabinna here: www.sabinna.com

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Vilija Buteniene, Co-Founder of Huedash

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

Shopping online is part of our everyday life but it doesn’t mean that we are having a pleasant experience browsing, searching and not always find what we want. Enters Huedash, a customer engagement tool that help brands turn customers into active, authentic and relatable influencers. It’s simply the future of e-commerce, as its co-founder Vilija Buteniene points out. In this interview, she talks about the idea behind the app, how the best lessons come from mistakes and the importance of having a strong vision.

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand?
Vilija Buteniene: Together with my co-founder, we’ve realised that people come in all different shapes and sizes, fashion comes in many different tastes and guises. So everything is a story. We wanted to enable people to tell their visual stories. Here at Huedash, we believe that everybody is an influencer, and our platform lets them discover to inspire.

While following all-stars influencers, I have realised that it had become more difficult to find a more relatable and more authentic view, shared by “real” people. Stories told by customers are more relevant to other customers. Authenticity and trust are at the core of how influence works. Even being a techie, I must admit that there is still no substitute for the connection between people, and technologies help us explore and produce innovative ways of enhanced shopping and consuming in general.

We were confident we would enable people to share their powerful stories, to turn from customers into active promoters of their favourite brands. Since Huedash users own the products they are promoting, their recommendations a lot more authentic and relatable. Huedash works as a mobile app and a website where people shop from peer photos, create their own shoppable posts and earn rewards for promoting their recent purchases, and redeem them for new products. We also see the power of crowd-styling as one of the solutions to extend the lifecycle of clothes as customers can find more new ideas to wear the same item longer.

A strong vision that there is a space for more relatable and natural shopping delivered by customers was the core inspiration that gave us motivation to start building a shopping app, approaching cool UK’s fashion brands and start gaining the first customers. It has been an amazing journey so far and together with our team, we’re shaping the way we are shopping for fashion products today.

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Vilija Buteniene: Launching a new brand is always related with some challenges, that’s why it’s exciting to start a new business. This business is the third one for me, so I was aware of some challenges I’d been going to encounter already. We’ve been working on this project for 2 years now, and we’ve got a moderately expensive mistake made by choosing the wrong advertisement campaign. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to learn from this and make a better choice next time.

Fashion tech is very fast paced and you must be aware of changes in customer preferences. You have only 8 seconds to capture anyone’s attention and keep them engaged with your content. So you must get ready and get real. People have no time for the long journey from discovery to purchase as they browse and shop on mobile devices while on their journey home or to work. They want relevant content, they want more transparency and trust in the existing influencer marketing activities and they want recommendations by ‘real’ people. As a startup, we’ve been searching for our unique identity that would resonate with our target audience, the one that people could easily relate to. Making right decisions on what next steps you need to take in igniting people with your vision, bringing customers to your platform is a huge challenge as well as the most exciting and rewarding activity an entrepreneur could ask for.

When you work in a tech startup, there are so many opportunities and directions you could choose, however, only a clear focus and the right priorities will bring the startup to the next step. From our early customers, first brands we’ve got so many insights, suggestions and requests, and including our own ideas on new features it had become unmanageable – which one is our priority, is this one absolutely needed, will this activity bring Huedash towards our vision? – these were the questions we needed to ask before each task. This was an important lesson we’d learned after a one year’s work together as a team.

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Vilija Buteniene: Start today: bring a piece of paper and write down your ideas, your vision, why it’s important to you and others, what resources you will need. Try taking even a very small step each day, it’s a good feeling, knowing that you’re working towards your vision.

Learn more at www.huedash.com

3 Essential Questions to Answer Before Launching a Business

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Business, Fashion

Are you planning to launch a business? Before going ahead with the idea, here is a quick guide with 3 essential questions to be answered in order to evaluate your growth potential:

1-      What kind of business are you building?

– Lifestyle business:  it can be based on a hobby or something you have learned/trained for and usually doesn’t demand a massive investment. A large portion of creative businesses start like this.

– A corporation: something that may scale fast and need a proper structure: staff, office space, external funding from VCs or a significant bank loan. Tech and financial companies usually run in this category.

– A side gig: that extra income that you don’t plan to turn into the unique source of income. Something that you enjoy doing but at least in the near future don’t see as a full time job.  It can be associated with arts & crafts, culinary talents or being a private tutor, for example

2-      What’s the market size?

Is there a gap in the market worth exploring? To answer this question, do a market research so you’ll find out if the business is viable and scalable. Maybe you’ll realise that the side gig has the potential to be turned into a lifestyle business or that idea for an app demands more investment than you thought. When you size up the market, the potential for profit, and who are your target audience, you have a clear picture. So learn about it, do surveys, focus groups and get as much feedback and data as you can, to prove your point and build a relevant business.

3-      Can you make money out of it?

The final and more important question. Now it’s time to project revenues and profit. This includes the initial amount of money to be invested, fixed and variable costs and lots of spreadsheets that may drive you crazy at first sight but will actually help in the process of reaching goals. If it’s too much to handle, don’t hesitate in getting professional advice. Plan carefully and don’t take any step until you feel confident and prepared.

More resources:

The 5 Essential Steps to Launch a Brand

How to Balance the Emotional and Rational Sides in Brand Building

How to Create a Brand?

How to be a Freelancer in the Creative Industry

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Jessica Kruger, Founder of Luxtra Bags

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

Fashion has always been a passion for Jessica Kruger but from a young age she knew if she would ever venture in the industry she had to make a difference. Luxtra  was created initially as a regular accessories brand but this year, Jessica decided to discontinue the use of leather and adopt materials like Piñatex – a.k.a. pineapple leather. The first bag using the material is available now and will soon be followed by card holders and travel pouches. All vegan and super sustainable!

In this interview she talks about her journey from Australia to Paris, the challenges to embody an entrepreneurial mindset and why all you need to start a business is having the guts!

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand? 
Jessica Kruger: Fashion was my first love. No…. My second. When I was 8, I wanted to be a scientist, because my grandfather, a physicist, showed me inspiring experiments. But i also just drew dresses and dresses, and my mum taught me to sew at a young age.

Towards the end of high school, you hear that fashion doesn’t pay. My father is an accountant so money mattered. I pursued architecture and then a regular Arts Degree.  I moved from Australia to Paris and along the way eventually made my way back to fashion. But thanks to my upbringing, it had to be from an angle of making fashion better for the planet.

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far? 

Jessica Kruger: Coming from a modest Australian family, I knew no one in Europe. I have always felt like an outsider, which I know many people also feel. As a young girl, my sister and I were taught not to be opinionated, never to contradict, there was a limit to how many questions we could ask. We were conditioned to be meek and compliant girls.

This has been my biggest challenge: Learning to say what I want in unapologetic language (yet also blending in the politeness I cannot shake off) to get what I want and need. I am learning to be less of a people pleaser. I’m making progress.

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Jessica Kruger: 1. You need to simply *start*.  2. You don’t need industry experience. It could help, of course, but it can also be a strength if you don’t have it. I started a restaurant in central London with no experience. And now with my second business, have created a sustainable fashion brand. I knew nothing about either industry, but just charged right on in.

My advice is to have guts. The way I see it is that life is far too short. Personally I want to make an impact and I never EVER want to think “what if”…  so I just get right on and dive in.

Practically:

Make a plan. Break it down as small as you can, and start with the tiniest baby steps. What is one thing you can do TODAY to get you closer to your dream. TODAY. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not after your next pay cheque.

Now. THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT.

Learn more and follow Luxtra:

www.luxtralondon.com

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Entrepreneurial Lessons: Jo Garside, Coach and Founder of Time to Glow

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

The story may seem familiar: you are unhappy with your job and feeling stuck in life but doesn’t know what to do about it. Jo Garside felt exactly like this until she decided to take action and make a change, leaving her corporate job behind to become a certified coach and founder of Time to Glow, where she helps individuals and organisations.

Jo recently hosted an edition of the Business Breakfast focused on confidence and how to tame our inner critic, a subject we can all relate to. I caught up with her to learn more about Time to Glow, the challenges of becoming your own boss and some advice for those thinking about taking the leap of faith:

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand?
Jo Garside: I had been in the corporate world for almost 10 years and I was constantly “switched on”, overwhelmed and frazzled. The turning point was when we started to receive the RSVPs to our wedding in 2017 (we had lots of friends and family travelling from Australia and we thought many wouldn’t be able to make it). I was completely humbled that people would travel all that way for us, and it was at that moment that I knew something needed to change in my life. I was a slave to emails and my job was very reactive, to the point where it was seeping into my personal life. So, I finished up at my current job, took the summer off to get married and became a full-time coach. I haven’t looked back since!

It took me a while to come up with the brand Time to Glow but I absolutely love it! When we have clarity and are living a life in line with our values, we glow with confidence. It’s that inner glow that you can’t really put your finger on, but when you meet someone who has it, it’s infectious! We also put off taking risks and going for things that we really want – often because we are scared of failure and judgment. I always say to my clients, “stop putting it off, NOW is your time!”

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Jo Garside: The biggest challenge has been owning my story and sharing that with people. I always thought my story wasn’t interesting – why would anyone want to hear about ME?! I’ve since realised that stories are incredibly powerful and everyone has a story to tell, no matter how big or small. Getting more visible and putting myself out there (on social media, speaking at events and running workshops) has connected me to so many amazing people. That’s the beauty of being authentic and vulnerable, it unites people and helps us feel less alone.

The other challenge has been getting comfortable with marketing (I guess that goes hand-in-hand with being visible!). I’m a bit of a technophobe, so learning about Facebook ads, Instagram algorithms and how to launch a podcast has been a steep learning curve!

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Jo Garside: I know a lot of people have said this already, but honestly just DO IT! If you are passionate about something and you truly believe in its purpose then you’ll make it happen. It’s hard work and entrepreneurialism can give the impression that we’re sat on a beach sipping a cocktail whilst answering emails, but that’s not the case! Yes, having my own business gives me more flexibility and freedom, but it means that there’s always something to do – so make sure you do something that you love!

Follow Jo at:

www.timetoglow.co.uk
Instagram: @timetoglowcoaching/
Facebook: timetoglowcoaching/
Linkedin: Jo Garside

Sustainability for Meaningful Brands

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Branding, Cases & Strategies

What makes a sustainable brand now? The term has acquired such a broad context – it can refer to the use of naturally sourced ingredients, biodegradable fabrics, recycled materials, transparent supply chain, second-hand/vintage pieces…  It can be a few or all of those things together. On the other hand, we know that the best sustainable practice is to consume as less as possible, which is a total paradox business wise.

So, is there a way to mind your environmental impact and not just follow the trend for marketing sake? Yes, as long as you are honest with the brand values and live by the standards you are communicating. Using organic fabrics or ingredients? Great, make sure that your packaging is also made from natural or recyclable materials. Promoting a transparent supply chain? Pay competitive wages to employees and don’t try to get services like styling, copywriting or web design for free just because you are a startup or a small company.

Most importantly: don’t try to fool consumers. The damage can be really serious.  If you can’t guarantee what you are promising, don’t do it. It’s better to state your intentions to be environmental friendly and grow your brand towards it in the long run than make a void statement and be called off. Your credibility will be lost and customers will disappear.

Remember: meaningful brands are honest brands. They stick to their values and live by them. If sustainability is among yours, make sure to employ it from the first scratch of a product or service. Always.

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Cynthia Morrow, Founder and CEO of Covett

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

Who doesn’t love a beautiful piece of jewellery? But buying something that is pricey and will only be worn maybe a few times a year, plus the worries of keeping it safe can be discouraging. So, why not co-own it instead? That’s how Cynthia Morrow had the idea to launch Covett, a smart ownership model for luxury jewellery. We talked to her to find out more about the business model, how to target early adopters and the challenges of scaling a company that is changing the market mindset:

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand?
Cynthia Morrow: I was interested in launching a business in the sharing economy that would have low capital requirements.  Years ago a friend of mine and I were going to share our diamond jewellery and that idea has stayed with me.  When I originally started I was going to launch a company that delivered the co-ownership of luxury goods but I realised I needed to focus, so I decided to start with my true passion which is jewellery.

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Cynthia Morrow: Covettism is a mindset shift; people have to understand that they can actually have more by owning less. So it’s going to take a while for people to get the concept.  Which leads to the biggest challenge, which is finding early adopters because the concept is new and really only about 10% of the population are early adopters.  We are focusing on building awareness and spreading the word right now.  We have a handful of early adopters, but we must really grow those numbers in the coming months.

The second challenge is finding the right people to connect and partner with, especially on the jewellery side. We are constantly looking for people with unique offerings of very high quality.

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Cynthia Morrow: Sounds cliché, but just do it.  We are following the Lean Startup Model, which allows you to focus on doing what you need to do without spending a lot of effort and money on things that aren’t important for the stage you are in.  I highly recommend it.

Learn more about it  and how to register to become part of the Covett Community: https://www.cove.tt/

Why We Buy Brands?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Archetypes, Branding

Have you noticed that although there’s no shortage of options to purchase a similar product, we are always inclined to prioritize certain brands? It’s because at the end of the day, we don’t just buy a product, we buy a brand. We buy what it represents and how it will make us feel. It’s an aspirational process about our perceptions, desires and needs. So why we try to rationalise something that’s purely emotional?

Coca-Cola it’s the greatest example of how emotions reign supreme in the purchase behaviour. It’s notorious that Coke has lost to Pepsi in many blind taste tests. Nevertheless, Coca-Cola represents happiness, joy, nostalgia, something very familiar that we keep close to our hearts – like the image of Father Christmas they crafted.

When we talk about the brand building process, keep in mind that it’s a balance between the rational – the sales channels, marketing strategy, positioning statement, financial projection and all the actions that turn an idea into a proper business – and the emotional – the purpose, the essence, the why: what will make you unique in the eyes of consumers and employees, what motivates you as a brand?

The emotional part is the key to make your brand stand out, have a purpose and win the consumer’s heart. Archetypes trigger the limbic brain (the area responsible for instinctive reactions) so when you have a brand working on archetypal territory the chances that it touches customers in a much deeper level, with a meaningful, consistent message is significantly higher.

For more inspiration click here

Image: Daniel Murphy

Entrepreneurial Lessons: Bhavna Malkani, Co-Founder of MeeBox UK

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

Subscription beauty boxes are nothing new but one entirely dedicated to nails and with specific themes is ground-breaking. That’s the idea that Bhavna Malkani, along with best friends LJ and Nathalie had over a post on Facebook that changed their lives forever.

In this interview, she talks about the Meebox USP (from homage to pop star Rihanna to their favourite cocktail, themes are creative, random and always a hit), the challenges to scale and run a business where partners are separated by three different time zones, and the advice they took from Nike.  

Project M: What motivated you to launch the brand?
Bhavna Malkani: It’s such a funny story on how MeeBox was launched. It all started with a comment my best friend Nathalie, made on Facebook about buying yet more nail polish. LJ and I commented on her post straight away, and immediately said the same thing which was Nathalie had too many red and coral shades and perhaps she should venture into other colours. We joked and said that we could actually start a business from Nathalie’s bathroom by starting a nail subscription box from her and boom! A magical light bulb moment happened and MeeBox was born. We didn’t quite sell Nathalie’s nail polish collection but it certainly was our inspiration! We took the conversation off Facebook, started a Whats App group called ‘Who Run the World,’ and since then, we eat, sleep and breathe this amazing adventure! We literally live in each other’s pockets with our group chats as we’re located in 3 different time zones –California, Florida and London

We are 3 best friends who are nail polish fanatics, just like our customers. Our combined professional experience, passion and interests is what drove us to launch MeeBox. Within just a few months of launching, we’re so happy that we have created a fun brand, constantly planning new ways to bring creativity, surprise, fun and value for money to our customers. We interact with followers morning, noon and night, offering personalised interaction, nail advice, tutorials to the MeeBox community, that is continuing to grow on a monthly basis. MeeBox is our dream and passion.

It’s no happy accident that we ended up running a creative nail business.  Back in 2012, Nathalie and LJ lived in the UK, they were flatmates and I would hang out with them every weekend (picture a scene from Friends – it was kinda like Monica and Rachel’s apartment!) At the time, LJ was training to be a nail technician, so Nathalie and I were more than happy to be her guinea pigs. We loved shopping for nail polish, trying different colours and brands. It definitely built a strong foundation for MeeBox.

Project M: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Bhavna Malkani: Although we have many positive experiences with MeeBox, we have of course faced challenges. One of the USP’s of MeeBox is we always make sure we find the exact shade or product that fits the theme perfectly otherwise we might end up postponing the theme, which is exactly what we did with our Intergalactic theme. We were keen to release this theme in the winter months due to the colours and nail art accessories being quite wintery. We also had a specific magnetic polish in mind however it wasn’t quite released in the market yet. Can you believe we came up with the idea for this theme in 2015 but didn’t release it until December 2018!? It wasn’t until an indie polish called Wikkid released a beautiful magnetic polish called “Taboo” that we were able to then release this box. Had this not been released, it may have been shelved for another year! HA.

Project M: What advice would you share with those thinking about creating a business?
Bhavna Malkani: Often people ask us for advice on business as we work with many small and independent businesses. Our advice is stolen from Nike – just do it. Put yourself out there. What’s the worst that can happen? So many people have such amazing ideas but often too scared or worried. You’re not alone!  It will never be the ‘perfect time’ and the time is now. There’s an amazing community out there to connect with, platforms and resources to support you in your goals such as workshops, networking events and business breakfasts in workspaces such as Hunter Collective. We have connected with amazing people on our journey.

Learn more about Meebox here: https://meebox.co.uk/