Interview with Students and Founders of new high fashion brand 'Emikko'
Crystal and Arseni are the founders of Emikko. For Crystal who is just 19 years old and studying in her 2nd year at Royal Holloway, University of London this is a remarkable achievement. Crystal has taken part in many fashion events and activities such as organizing her charity fashion show called ‘The Innovation’ and interned at Elite Model Management, a small luxury fashion brand Naoko Tsuruta. She has also contributed to “The Shoe issue” for ‘The List’ Magazine in Hong Kong. Crystal is now the Co-Founder and CEO of Emikko. Arseni is originally from Prague, Czech Republic and after his work experience in New York and London he was inspired to become an entrepreneur. He wishes to carry on forming a business that would encourage other young people to start up their own business. Arseni is now the CFO and COO of Emikko.
1) What inspired you to start “Emikko”?
Crystal: I am still in my second year in University but nevertheless, it has always been my dream since I was 12 to be a fashion designer and somehow establish my own label. I have always been interested in fashion because of its ever-changing style. People never realise that fashion is an art and that the clothes you wear portray your personality and your attitude. My dream was so far fetched and never did I think I would establish my own business. But it was during my first year in university that Royal Holloway Entrepreneurs was offering a mini grant of £2,000 to launch your business idea, I thought to myself I had nothing to lose and its something that I have always wanted to do. I eventually was awarded £1,000 from the competition and thus, Emikko was established. Starting your own business really makes you more independent in the aspect of making decisions, risk taking and being creative. Unlike a traditional graduate job, Emikko enables me to be self-committed and take control of my decisions.
Arseni: I have always observed that most influential entrepreneurs had started their business in early stages of their life. Before I went into university, my mentor from New York said that there is no better time than starting a business while being at university. I realised that I had great access to a number of fascinating people. When it finally 'clicked' we transformed Emikko from a small idea into a fashion brand.
2) What steps did you take, when you realised your idea could be a viable business opportunity?
Crystal: During my first year in Royal Holloway, I was in absolute culture shock – growing up in the centre of a busy city in Hong Kong, I was totally thrown into an environment that was completely the opposite. Royal Holloway is situated in a small town called Egham, and I guess the most exciting store in the town is Tesco, other than that there were no shops where I could purchase high fashion clothing and with such a large population of students in Royal Holloway, I thought that my fashion business would work. I wanted to give students choice – heading down to London to buy some clothes is time consuming and costly, hence I thought, why not just create a platform whereby students can purchase the most fabulous clothes without spending transportation costs?
3) Do you feel going to university, changed your mindset or helped you in any way to pursue your own business?
Crystal: Of course, you meet really interesting people with various skills and personalities in university, and each one of them inspires you to do something great. I surround myself with people who are really driven and ambitious, this has really enabled me to pursue my dreams. Royal Holloway has also given me many opportunities, help and advice to pursue my own business, for example Royal Holloway Entrepreneurs always encourages students to start up their own business and offers funding, advice and help. Without these opportunities, I wouldn’t think twice about setting up my own business because it would have been very difficult without the support.
4) What type of activities or roles have you been involved in day to day at “Emikko”?
Crystal: As the business has just been launched, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. The next steps in the business are trying to find boutiques in London that would be interested in buying my pieces for their shops and finding manufacturers in China that would be able to batch produce the collection so I can reach a wider market.
Arseni: After the launch we have never stopped working on generating more ideas. Even though it’s early stages we have managed to participate in competitions and tried to think of ways to expand, in hopes to establish networks and spread the word about our business.
5) What has been your biggest struggle starting your business till date?
Crystal: The biggest struggle is getting started and finding people that you get along with in a business environment. The other struggle is trying to do everything yourself, there will be a lot of people who think your idea is fantastic but will not fully believe in it, thus people will not be willing to support you 100%. For example, when I producing my sample initial collection, I had to stay at the tailor until 11PM for two months in the summer holiday to make sure the collection is completed by deadline. At this point, I wish I had someone to help and support me. During this time, I was balancing my internship and attempting to finish my sample collection. I found myself thinking if it was even all worth it and started to question the time I was committing to Emikko.
Arseni: Taking the first step is always most challenging. Rather than keep talking about it, we decided to take the first major steps, weeks after generating the idea. With a small budget, we had to be careful of how we spent it. Using our connections we put the production into Asia, during the time of production, a fashion show opportunity in London came up and after 24 hours of the completing the collection we had to fly over from Hong Kong to London for the fashion show.
6) What tips do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
Crystal: If you start something, make sure you finish it because you never know what the outcome is going to be. Every entrepreneur will have to make sacrifices. If you truly believe in your idea, then don’t give up! You never know till you try!
Arseni: Competition is fast moving, so you need to have a competitive advantage in order to attract customers. Therefore, every business needs to focus on creating something truly unique.
7) What are your plans for the future?
Crystal: I hope in the future Emikko will expand by opening shops in Central London and becoming a worldwide brand. That's still a long way to go but in the meantime Emikko is focussing on finding a manufacturer.
Arseni: I don’t think that following steps of Mark Zukerberg or Bill Gates and dropping out of university is a wise choice for me. This is mainly because it will affect Emikko, I see Emikko developing its next major step by collaborating with other aspiring entrepreneurs in Royal Holloway. We have recently partnered with Seongho to expand our frontier to create a casual ready-to-wear clothing line called Emik-Kim.
Take a look at Emikko's Chic new website www.emikko.com