Ukrainian Top Designer: Building a business under occupation.
- What about war? I can say that, yes, I get used to it actually and I don't feel this stress probably. - Hey guys, since shooting this episode two weeks ago, Russia has launched a full scale attack on Ukraine. As you can see from the message to Kshusha they were bombing during the night but she's safe right now. And I'm going to add some links in the description so we can do our part to help the Ukrainian people like Kshusha, I hope you enjoy our conversation.
- [Narrator] We hear about the growing tension in Ukraine on the news every day but what is life like for people that are actually living, working and trying to move forward here? Many people in Ukraine now are the same people who fled Crimea after Russia took over in 2014. And despite what's going on those people don't want to leave Ukraine. - When I speak to my friends over here, they tell me they still feel safe and it feels like that if they give up on their life, Russia would've won the war without even starting it. I think after seeing Ukraine for the last eight years it's been a wary Russia. They became desensitized by the whole thing, and they started to turn their fear into determination to move forward.
- [Narrator] One of the many that escaped Crimea during the conflict was Kshusha, an Artist, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur who founded her own independent designer clothing brand in 2014. I'm here in Kyiv to ask about her experiences and what it was like to launch a scaling business in the middle of wars, revolution and uncertainty about the future. I have been to so many phone calls this week because I'm here in Kyiv and I've been like people calling me for work and things like that, and everyone seems so worried about me, my mom and everything.
How do you feel about what is happening right now, with Russia and Ukraine? I know for you it's normal because I know I've been in Kyiv so many times and it's been like eight years, but the rest of the world seems to think that things here are very bad and things are not moving forward, and how do you? - Well, I'm not agree of course, because we are moving forward and situation in little or like little business is changing every day. I think that we are growing. I'm not talking about my brand but in general about young people who have business. And I hear that every day something new appears, and people invent new things, they open new startups, they grow, some of them, of course go and break, I don't know some businesses are disappearing. But what I see that our business area becomes more strong, yeah strong, it becomes stronger.
What about war? I can say that yes, I get used to it actually and I don't feel the stress probably, because of course in like several months ago when we heard some news about probably upcoming war, we were very stressed and scared because for example my parents are still live in Crimea and we don't know how it will work if something will happen. - Oh, what I want to talk about it's, I know it's a fashion week in Kyiv, started I think yesterday. - Hmm. - And it's interesting to me because you are an unusual designer, and I go into your Instagram and I would expect, a designer from Kyiv during Fashion week on Instagram to see like, pictures of you at Fashion week, you're going out.
And instead I see you killing zombies (both laughs) on on-- - On PlayStation. - Yeah, on the PlayStation, yeah. You are an unusual designer.
- Really? - Well, yeah, I think so, I think so. - Maybe. - In a positive way. Do you game much? - Yes, I like this area, I like PlayStation all these new games, online games, I feel like huge relaxation when I-- - When you shoot people. - Yeah.
Not shoot people, no zombies. (both laughs) - Zombies and -- - Actually in the beginning when I had to kill somebody, I said, no, no, no, no, why do I need, I don't wanna kill them, but after they did it, I thought, okay, me or them, I need to decide. (both laughs) - I like the answers. - Yes, so yes I like gaming world, it's very interesting for me really. I read pretty much about new projects about the founders, how do they run their business, about their problems, about their some mental issues when they need to choose art or project which will bring money. So it's very interesting.
- Oh, you read about like the gaming industry and how, and I think it's very similar to the design industry in a way, right? It's like, - I think, yes. - you have to choose a lot of the times between art and what you love to do - It's true. and the business, right? - Yeah, it's true. That's probably why I decided to read and listen about their stories because I see some familiar things, and I thought that probably it's only my problem that not all things which I like can bring us money, I mean, about brand, I'm talking about brand. And I thought that it's my problem that all our dresses, they must be best sellers, but it doesn't work like that actually, it's never works like that.
And I thought that it's my problem, then I found these people, I saw their interviews and was listening to their stories. I understood that they have the same troubles, but their scales are much bigger. Their companies bigger, the industry is more.
- I agree, I agree with you. - Yeah. - I agree with you a hundred percent, it doesn't matter how big your business is. - Yeah.
- the problems are the same. And I see in eCommerce and I get this question a lot, it's like making like 1000 dollars a month and making 300,000 or 400,000 dollars a month. The problems are actually the same.
- Yeah, it's true. - And the business is actually the same, the structure is the same. - Yeah. - There's no such thing as like, oh, I'm building something or I'm doing something just for a small merchant, like in eCommerce.
It's the same thing, big merchants, small merchants, it just they have bigger size problems, but they have to deal with the same, exactly the same merchants. - Yes, I agree. Probably they have a bit more responsibility because they have more people I mean, in their companies and they need to communicate. For example, I need to communicate with 10 people per day. They need to communicate sometimes with 20, 25 or 30, because they're plenty of artists in their company, some managers, and some people who make sculptures, three day sculptures, and so and so forth, they have a bigger amount of departments and they need to control everything at once. It's very hard.
That's why some of them quit their jobs actually, and it's very sad, but they're still like there're left people then they have this possibility to make this choice and to move forward to another direction maybe. - Yes. And I think as you grow the problems become a little bit different.
And I think when I met you, which actually an interesting story, because I came to Ukraine because I was deejaying here for the first time. - No. - Yeah, you didn't notice. I arrived in Ukraine and a friend of mine was in a festival here and I came over here and I was meant to be here for four days. And what happened was that I went on Tinder and I decided then to stay for two weeks. (both laughs) And we matched, I think we matched on Tinder, right? Then we met. - Yes.
(both laughs) - Yeah, we did. - It's true. - It's true. And then we went out, it was very, very nice.
And at the time it was two people, it was you and there was someone else, and you really just starting. And that was, I think was like five years ago. - Yes. - And how many peoples in your business now? - 15 people. - 15? - 15, yes. 15 plus our manufacturers, without seamstresses.
- Yeah, without seamstresses. So with the seams there we're looking at 25? - I think more because we have several manufacturers we are working with, so some of them have 10 people, some of them 45, some of them five. So they're all have different scale, but of course not all seamstresses are working for us, probably with seamstresses around 25. - What happened? What happened in the last five years? Because I remember, so when I met, I remember was two people and you weren't doing any online.
I remember I was talking to you about eCommerce and things like that, you were like, I just send wholesale and I don't do much online. - Yes, we had some problems with website, today we have like a website that works normally, it's okay. I like it, but of course it has troubles of course, (Kshusha chuckles) but it probably our fourth or fifth website. And I remember that our first websites, I made myself, it was very strange.
I used tutorial on YouTube. (both laughs) - Okay. - I thought that I will do everything myself because of course I had no money, I had much energy, and I wanted to... And my first website was on Shopify actually. - Oh you're real? - I built it myself. Yes.
Like, okay, not built myself, but I used to Shopify and so and so forth. - Then you moved from Shopify you went to WooCommerce? - No. - WordPress? - Yes, to WordPress, but it's then we had second WordPress website and now a third WordPress website. - Why did you move from Shopify into WordPress? - Well in the very beginning we were counting our money very attentively. And for me, as for super, super young designer that times it was very complicated because I never knew how my much I will earn like next months. So I understood that probably this website for me it wasn't very reliable because I had to count my money.
I wanted something, free? Yes. - Yeah, gotcha. I understand what you mean, I understand what you mean. It's a problem that a lot of, when you start outside, you need to count your money and you need to make sure that either you're not overspending.
And I think the issue that I saw a lot of the time with Shopify was that to do the basic things it's not that expensive because start from 29, 17, but then when you want to do dedicated like pages, maybe you want to do up size, you wanna start adding up and stuff like this, and then the bill starts to rack up. - Yes. - Very, very, very, very, very, very, I think so. But what happened and how did you grow the business so much? Was that just in the last two years? So how did you develop? - We never had an explosion of business.
- Were steady. - Yes, it was in very relaxed speeds, let's say like this. Well, I use our target promotion.
I think that it helped me very much to grow business. And we found clients all over the world because of this type promotion. Also actually, as for me, nothing has changed, but people say that it becomes bigger.
I feel it, I see numbers of course, I see numbers of our items, of our income, of people, but I can say that I feel differently. I always feel like I'm in the very beginning. - I think you are at the very beginning, I think it's great to feel like this. I think for me as well, any business that I did in eCommerce I always felt I was at the very beginning because you always look at the future, you always look at what you can do next. And as long as you keep like a simple life, you don't change your life that much.
- No. - Even if you make your more money, it doesn't really change your life? And this is what happened to me as well. It kind of give you more, I was a bit more relaxed maybe, but I didn't start like buying things or changing my lifestyle, even though the business grow. - I think if one day I earn like a huge amount of money, probably I will be a little bit stressed how to keep them. (both laughs) Because when you earn much, you can lose much.
It's also, - It's true. - A problem. - When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose, that's very right. So, now I wanted to talk about a little bit how everything started, because you are, I know you are an architect, so how you decided to become a fashion designer and how you decided to leave a very, I think, good career as an architect then say, Hey, I'm going to just chance this become a fashion designer with no money and run my own brand as well. Not like working for someone else but just like run my own brand.
- Well, I never planned to be a fashion designer actually. And I loved my job, I like to be architect and I like this idea to make like beautiful buildings around the world. And actually, yes, I enjoyed my stay in the company I worked in pretty big company in Kyiv, in creative department. So it was like, mm, dream career, when you need to invent, to draw and to make propositions for people, but you don't need to make drawings. You know what I mean? Like you are a creative, you are working in creative department and you need to create something brand new.
So it was the best place for human who just left university, it's the best one without any internship and so on. And after I made one big project of trade center in Kyiv, it it's really huge, I felt probably that I have nothing to say, I don't know why. (both laughs) I don't know why it's happened actually, but I was interested of course, but I thought that I have no perspectives in Ukraine as architect because architects don't earn much and I can't plan my life or because my dreams about my life were a bit bigger than my salary. And this salary killed my ambitions in architects area. But before I quit it, I decided, I had no idea about quitting architect's job when I started learning about fashion.
I just decided to change pictures sometimes in my life to learn something new and I didn't plan to make business in fashion, I just wanted to have some fun. And sometimes in Saturdays I visited some school for seamstresses and tried to learn how to make trousers or short or collar or something like that. Because basically, I always worked with a computer, with 3D programs and so and so forth, but I never worked with my hands.
And if for some people in seamstresses school, they could make collar within 15 minutes, I needed probably five hours. For me it was very complicated task, because my hands and my brain they were connected only in computer but not in physical-- - With physical objects. - No, no, no, yes, not with physical objects.
And I just started to have some fun and to prepare several skirts, four skirts, just why not, why not to try? Well, I found seamstress and prepared like task for her. And she made skirts using my patterns. And then I decided to sell them.
Wanted to sell because I didn't want to wear them, I wanted to sell them. So then I sold two skirts and decided to make full dresses for this amount of money. So I had no brand, no label, no promotion, nothing at all, just skirts. And I decided to go to physical shops and propose them to sell it. So they sold it, I received some money. It was very, very simple method, actually, like very like in the market.
- Did you quit your job? - Yeah. - Already? - So that-- - Yeah, before you started this, did you quit your job? - No, no no - No no, you're still working as an architect? - Yes, I was still working as an architect. And actually I thought that probably it's possible to, - Do both.
- Yeah, do both, because fashion for me at that times was like fun. Not. - But then you quit your job? - Yes, I did. I quit my job because I saw a night dream. I don't know if it's okay if I talk about this.
- Of course, yeah, you can't think about anything? - Well, I had a night dream where I heard that some problems in my family are coming and that my granny we'll die soon. It was a night dream. And next morning I woke up and decided to quit my job immediately and go back to Crimea, from Kyiv to Crimea. And actually, yes, it happened in several months as my granny had some troubles with blood pressure, had heartbreak or, had a heart attack.
- Heart attack. - Heart attack, yeah. And in eight months she died, she passed. So, yeah, so this dream with a true, and when I came to Crimea and while my granny was alive, I decided to who focus more on dresses and on fashion, but I worked as an architect on freelance too. So money from freelance gave me some freedom to make at least something in fashion area.
So I found some manufacturers in factories in Crimea and started communicating with them. Of course I had ambitions also, I wanted to produce hundreds of dresses and so on. And I remember my dialogues actually, I feel so sorry about the people because I think that they thought that I'm a very big fashion designer and I always called them and said, I want to make dresses, yes, it'll be very big amount. (both laughs) But actually I had a plan to make at least five or 10, but my dreams were a bit bigger than my possibilities that time, yeah. And I just started to learn how to communicate with, - Suppliers. - Suppliers, yeah.
How to buy fabrics in wholesale or shops and companies. So I started making more dresses. And I remember I lived with my granny in one apartment and she always supported me. I remember this in the very beginning, we were sitting next to window in my room, and I remember how she was talking to me while I was making new dresses and so and so forth. So it was very, how would to say, very sensitive beginning for me, let's say like this.
- Yeah, because she had the, you told me that she had the big influence at the very beginning in your childhood as well. - Yeah. - 'Cause she exposed you to art. - She's like my second mom, actually, yes. - Exactly. She's put you to art, exposure to design and all of this.
Was this before 2014? - When it happened, yeah, yes, it was before Crimea was the next. - And what happened after Crimea was the next? That was the time that you decided to leave, yeah? - Yes, after Crimea was the next, I decided to stay at home for several months more after my granny's death. It happened almost in the same time. And then-- - And what happened, What happened, can you explain a little bit what happened in Crimea during that time? - Yeah, I remember one day I woke up around 4:00 AM because my room was full of light. When I opened the window, I saw army cars, hummers and tanks, and they were in the center of our city. Of course, I didn't understand what was going on but next morning we woke up and some bad news were going out of TV and my father told me like, Kshusha it looks like people from another country come to Crimea, so let's stay still and let's look, what will go on? - So you said people from another country, you didn't say Russians? - Actually, we understood that it was Russians.
- But they-- - They had no. - They were hiding. - Yeah, they were hiding. - Hiding their Russian identity.
- Yes, they were hiding their Russian identity. Actually not all of them were, I don't know if it's okay to say like this, they were not all like European. - Looking? - Yeah, but not all. - You could see what, the eyes? - Yeah, Asian eyes, yeah. - Asian eyes, like the 'jikistan, Kyrgyzstan. - Yes, or bush kiras - Okay, yeah, I got it, yeah.
- But of course we understood. When I hear like Russian language. - Language from Russian.
- I'm also, yes, I'm also use Russian language in my life. But when I hear their like Russians people. - You can hear that. - Of course, I understand that they came from the north, Of course.
- Yeah, and then you decided to fly it up the same because. - Yeah, I understood that probably changes will happen and this changes won't bring us comfortable life because some very simple things for which we get used to like credit cards or our banks or logistic it'll shut down soon. So it's happened. Actually, I understood that I have very big limits in my place, but actually, I planned to live by the sea and to enjoy my life, I didn't want to come back to Kyiv because it's very noisy, It's very dirty.
- The city, right? - Yeah. - And your brand is over at the sea. So I'm sure is like, I think I'm sure your, your idea of building a fashion brand was like, oh, I live Crimea. - Yeah. - It's an island around the sea, beautiful weather.
I'm gonna make a brand all over the sea and make beautiful floaty night dresses that you can wear on the beach. - And I want to bring this atmosphere of that place to girls around the world. For me, it was an idea. - Of course Kyiv is not a good. - No no no. - Kyiv gives you more like a street wear or things like that, right? - It's true.
- But it maybe work out good because I think people maybe in a city, they want the sea, right? - Hm mm. - While people at the sea, they want the city. You always want something that you don't have. - Yes, of course, it's true.
But also it's pretty big city and people are different here. Some of them like to wear some urbanistic clothes, I dunno and they prefer really street wear and something very comfortable, but some women, they get tired of this and they want to have something special in their wardrobe. So also I understand that eCommerce gives us huge freedom to bring this atmosphere around the world, it's also very important. And that's why it makes be business much easier than maybe 20 years ago.
- When I speak to like entrepreneurs or people that want to start the business, they often ask me, how much money do I need to start? Or what do I have to do? Should I raise money? Should I just start small? And I just wanted to ask you how much money did you have when you started? What was the steps that you took from the first investment and then the first, let's say the first hire? - Well, in the very beginning I had $200. It was my bonus at project company. I received bonus to my salary because of that big project, which I was working at. So my first investment was $200.
Well, I had $200 after I sold several items it became $400 and so on and so forth, very little steps, but I didn't know how to communicate with people, with customers. So I had to learn how to talk, what questions to ask and how to propose because architects, they're a little bit different for them to work as a seller in the shop it's something not very respectful. Like let's say like this. - Yeah.
- Because you are an architect and now you need to sell dresses. - You're like Prodavschitsa. - Yeah, Prodavschitsa it's not very nice.
Yeah, they think so. So I decided to go to the shop at the market. - And become a Prodavschitsa. - Yes and become a Prodavschitsa, it's true. But actually I enjoyed it very much because it was very something very new for me, absolutely unfamiliar. And I had to move every day.
I didn't have to sit out and lawn on my chair. For me it was interesting because we had very different customers. They had different sizes, they were different age and so and so forth. And I wanted to learn how it works in life, in physical life. - In real life.
- In real life, yes. So and I understood it for me pretty easy to communicate with people because I can hear them and have this empathy. - Yes, yeah, it makes sense. And I do think that that's an issue for a lot of people entering in online business and in online eCommerce is because you don't necessarily talk to customers straight away. But when you launch like an online store for you, there's a lot of people entering to drop shipping, right? - Hm mm.
- You just buying some clothes and then you selling them from someone else and then you use like a third party logistics. So you basically focusing on marketing, selling your products, but you are actually never seeing your products and you really talk to people much. Does that make sense? - Yes, of course-- - Yeah, and it's an issue, I think for nowadays, I think it's like, because you want to have the benefit of an eCommerce straight away, then you end up not knowing your customer because you don't have to go to trade fairs you don't have to sell. And I was speaking to a guy, that was like I think last week, and he told me that he started his eCommerce store and then it wasn't going that well. So what he started to do, because he had bought a lot of stock, he went into like trade fairs and he made like $20,000 in trade fairs.
Trade fairs are like, where different sellers go into like a big warehouse and then you have a small stamp like marketplace. And at the time he was just doing that because he had a lot of stock and he didn't want to lose the money. So online, it wasn't working, so he was like, my only option is to sell it at the market, but then while he was at the market, he was able to understand what the customers really wanted and then it relaunched this eCommerce store. - Yeah, it's true.
- And now it's very successful. - Yeah. - It's a kind of cool story where, the eCommerce was not working and then he ended up to like having to sell the stock in real life, because the eCommerce, he couldn't drive traffic, he couldn't Facebook ads and all of that.
But then he learned more about this cost, he changed the products and the product now is more successful and now he's making a lot of money and he's very successful. So I think it's important for even if you're selling online, even if you selling in eCommerce store where you can live, as you sell, you can live anywhere or you don't really need to see your customer I think it's important still to see your customer. - Of course. - And still having that type of relationship, even if it's for a short amount of time, like you did, like you didn't do it for a long time, but it gave you enough knowledge. - I think, yes. And this knowledge I gained that experience many years ago, like Prodavschitsa experience, right? But it's just the same every year people have the same requests and the same problems.
So times are maybe changed, but people don't. - People don't. - Yeah, it is true. So of course I understood that some women they want to show something or to hide something, what troubles and what issues about the bodies they have.
So it really helped me to be more, a bit more open-minded in this area, because if I didn't connect the reality, I suppose that my start wouldn't bring me some money. I think, yes. I couldn't gain and earn at least something.
If in the very beginning, I didn't behave more practical way. - Practical, yeah. - Yeah, because I didn't start from big silk dresses with some kind of embroidery and so on and so forth, my items were pretty simple, but they had nice patterns.
- Hm mm. - That was my first idea. So I had to earn for my everyday life. - Hm mm. - Because I understood that I need to earn for myself to have some life at least, right? And to grow business. So it must be very simple of objects, which I will be able to sell without big investments.
- Hm mm. - That was my idea in the very beginning. - Hm mm. - But of course I wanted to take part in some competitions, so there was like contest for young designers and I took part in it. I sent my sketches, they said, you're accepted, you can come to Georgia and so on, so forth. So I came and prepared the collection.
I paid like tons of money for this collection. It was made of pure silk and I made flowers of pure silk. It was very expensive. And then I understood that I'm not interested in Fashion week at all. - You don't do Fashion week? - Yes, once. - You done once.
- Yes, once. - Yeah, yeah. - Yeah.
Well, actually it was nice experience, but I can't say my business grew because I took part in Fashion week. - I agree, I see a lot of designer in Fashion week and they just produce, they have probably two or three people. I mean, you have over 20 people working for you now and you're probably a very successful designer, one of the most successful designers, especially in Kyiv and you don't do Fashion week. - No, I'm not interested in it. Yeah, I think that it's not necessary at all. I think so.
- What makes you happy though? What makes you happy about is that making money, is that making dresses? - I like when, for example, there are different items in brand. Some of them are more practical and some of them are a bit more complicated because it's always a risk when you try to show something special for the customer. Because I always have a fear that they won't understand this item, that they won't accept this design. And I don't want to disappoint my colleagues for example, because I understand that they have some hopes about brand, about their own future, about their own lives. And of course, brand will be prosperity if my designs will be sold out, they will become the best sellers. And of course I have this stress and fear that new collection won't be sold, every time I have the same fear.
But when I see that people buy and they enjoy and they write out this messages like, I feel myself differently in your dress and in your item and I want to get more because I love your brand, that makes me happy because I understand that we will grow after this collection at least a little bit and people and they know that I can make their future better. My colleagues, I'm talking about my company now, that I will be able to make their salaries higher, for example, because I feel very good when I understand that people feel comfortable in my company, that they earn enough because in Ukraine it's. - Hard. - Pretty hard, yes. And when I see that people accept my designs and they buy it, of course I like when my idea becomes a transaction, for me it's nice, I feel happy. Probably it's very simple, but I like it.
- No, I think I kind of understand what you mean, especially when you said when my complicated design, people buy my complicated design, so I think is the moment where your art. - Yeah. - Becomes revenue, like art and revenue. - Yeah. - Come together.
And a lot of the times it's like the things that you don't like to do become revenue and-- - Yeah, you get no satisfaction at all. - And you had that, you remember in one of your collection, you had bodycons for a while. And I remember talking to you and you were like, I have to do bodycons, I mean, there's nothing to do with my collection and my style, but women wants bodycons so I have to do bodycon. And in that moment you were just making a money decision.
- Yeah. - And I'm sure it wasn't make you happy. I think happy makes you when your design does you want or your team does, then you're able to sell your art. - Yeah, I still have this dream when we become bigger and more famous that we will have this level of freedom when we create something and of course people will get it because it'll be very famous brand and so and so forth. But in the very beginning, I didn't know how to explain how to wear romantic chiffon dresses in winter.
It had no logic in Ukraine because we have cruel winters and it's very cold, I didn't know how to sell it in winter at all. So I decided to use my previous experience from Prodavschitsa time. And I understood that bodycons probably will work. So, and we found nice fabric. It had pretty nice quality. And we prepared maybe 10 designs of bodycons and survived in Winter and in late Autumn only with the help of them, yes.
It was best seller. - Sounds almost like a farmer story Who survived the winter with bodycons, a farmer would say, we survived the Winter. - Yes, I always felt like we need to survive this winter-- - 'Cause you're a Summer brand, yeah, of course.
- Yeah, we are resort, but like resort from Kyiv, it's not Australia. (Kshusha laughs) - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - So that's why. - Yeah, I mean, outside will tell you it's minor sun today when we were shooting. - Yeah. - Definitely we know that. What's the future like what would you love to see, like as next step for over the sea? - Next step of over the sea? I want to build an art department in my company, because at this moment I'm an only person in art department.
- Mean the only designer? - Yeah, the only designer. I choose fabrics, I make, - Patterns. - Patterns, yeah and everything. So like, I control our photo shoots, all this visual material. It's interesting, but sometimes you need to focus more on another things and to change actually the picture because I understood that I become very tired, not because of my job, but because I see the same picture every day.
It's not very inspiring sometimes. - So you are still the only, yeah, I understand what you mean, because the thing is like now the brand is still very mature and you want to give a brand it's own identity and to do that I think you'll have to be to the point where you don't actually know what's going on, like, you don't even control the design anymore. You're just saying, I like this, I don't like this, but then you have people that are starting to creating the brand.
'Cause now the brand is you. You leave, there's no over the sea, right? - Yeah, and during this previous two years, I understood that if I feel bad, brands feel bad and I didn't like this. - It's a lot of responsibilities. - Hm mm. - Did you ever want to quit? - I think yes, I wanted.
- How many times? - Every year I get to say it, that, oh my God, no, no, that's enough. Yes, that's enough of me, I think I will sell it or just close the door and say bye and disappear, I don't know. (Kshusha chuckles) And just will go to some island and turn off my phone and nobody will know where am I at this time.
Every time I want to quit, every year I want to quit this. - Is that always the same month or just like? - Actually it's nice question, I think during the Winter maybe, or after Winter, when I feel lack of vitamins or something like that, I feel like, I think I will quit this job, yes. - So this Winter you wanted to quit? Or you skipped? - I skipped. Probably it's you ask me a bit too early, maybe in one month I will decide to do this yet. No, I didn't want to quit this year. It's only one month past yes, yet.
- But what made you not quit? - Because it's not on the business maybe, because I feel every time I tell my mom, mom, I want to quit this business, she says like, "Kshusha, you did so much for this and look how it looks like now, look at your first pictures from this label and look who buys your items. "Celebrities come to you and buy your items, you become a bit more famous every month. "How can you quit it? "Just the beginning of the way, what shall you do? "You will get bored if you go to another company." And then I decide, "okay, what shall I do if I quit this job?" No, and of course I understand that I have pretty big plans inside of this label and I still didn't achieve them, I didn't achieve my goals.
So I need to move on probably a bit, probably make speed a bit less sometimes. - Yeah, no, I understand. And I think a lot of people quit or they think about quitting because they just think about today and now. And so they're thinking about, I haven't achieved what I wanted to do, I haven't done enough what I wanted to do. And I think it's like they don't look at four or five years ago. - Yeah.
- And how far they've become. You just see like these kind of tiny drops, but you don't actually look at the whole picture. And this is always happening to see where you were five years ago and where you are now. And it seems that you haven't moved that much but when you actually start to see how much you had moved in four of five years, you realize, oh my God, progress so much. You're actually moving forward, you're just not feeling that you're moving forward. - 'Cause you do one step one, step one step.
- It's true. - And you're not looking at the road back to you and this is the journey. You're just looking forward, you're not looking backwards. But sometimes it's important to stop and say, look how far I've gone during this path, during my journey.
- Yeah, I understand. Yeah, it's true. - Yeah, I think it's like hiking, you look at the peak and then it seems that you're never reaching that, and then you look back and you look at the valley and you're like, oh my God, that just went so high. And this is the same as your business. - It's the same, It's true. - You have to sometimes stop and look back.
- And you need to catch this feeling of for satisfaction, when you stop and you want to enjoy what you have already done. - Yeah. - But also sometimes I ask myself, am I so weak that I can't build it further? So am I so weak that I just can't make this art department at all? At this moment, I'm trying to learn how to do it.
Because if art department will become bigger one day, becomes bigger one day, I will have to control it all the time. Like the level of communication will become bigger and bigger, so you need to speak all the time, you need to explain, you need to get into different topics every day. It's not very easy I understand but it's interesting. - My advice to you is like, hire good leads or manager and stuff like that, I call them leaders because a manager is someone that just manages people a leader is someone that inspires people to do more. And I think as a business owner, you should hire leaders instead of managers, because you are a leader as long as people are following. And a lot of mistakes I think that business owners do is that they tend to just hire managers.
When you are a manager, yeah, you hire someone that kind of managers your business, but you still need to be the person that move everyone forward. But as you said, if you're sick or you want to take a break and stuff like this, your business is not gonna move forward and you don't want that. So I think it's like pushing people or pushing the people as you're hiring to having this kind of leadership mentality, and especially we call it like the servant leader.
And the servant leader is someone that, it's a kind of it leads but he kind of serves the people that are responsible for him. Which means that you are as a manager, as a leader, you are there for them. You call them, it's like I'm here to help you, I'm not here to control you I'm not your boss, I'm your tutor, I'm your mentor. You can come to me for any advice. And I think it's important if you hire these people that allow others and empower others to do their job, this is where the time where you're gonna be able to step out as an owner and take your time and live whatever, in Sri Lanka maybe somewhere, and then you just check the numbers once a months.
- Yeah, once a month. (both laughs) Or just get like a nice transaction. (Kshusha laughs) - Yeah, I think that's a big step when your brand is detached to you. I think it's like your brand becomes something that is not dependent on you anymore. And I think as a business owner, that's a big achievement.
- Yeah. - It's scary as well because you it's like your baby, it's like growing a child that you have to let them go when they're 18 and you're just like, "Hey, okay, now you you're free to go into the world." But you can't have that relationship, even as a parent, you can't have that relationship with a child that they're still living at your house when they're 40 years old, you have to let them go eventually.
- Hmm, yeah, it's true. It's true but at this moment I have a big problem, I don't know how to find proper people. - It's not-- - That's a problem that is worst, hiring people is the worst. - Yeah. - The right people, yeah.
- Yeah, because I can't keep distance between my colleagues. When new person comes, I believe in him or in she, okay. I believe in her future, in their achievements, in their possibilities and so and so forth. So I always see people a bit better than probably they are sometimes. And for me, it's very complicated question to fire them if I don't like something, it's I work with this idea sometimes for 3, 4, 5 months, I just can't make this decision.
Just let this person go, for me it's very complicated. Because I think that what if this person will never find next job, I'm scared for this. It's not okay. It's not normal, but I feel ever responsible for this. - I'm very similar, I'm very similar. I had to learn a lot.
And I think it's like, it's changing the mentality from running a family, like a, sorry, running a business like a family - Business like a family. - or running a business, like a sports team. - Yeah. - You're not a family. - Yes. - You're a sports team.
In a families there're unconditional love, in a sports team there is a love and there is a camaraderie team effort, but it's very much, you are here to be part of a team, you're here to be part of a group and you are to perform. If you don't perform, you're gone. - Yeah.
- It doesn't mean that you feel sick or if you break your leg or if you're injured, we're gonna let you go. - Yeah. - We are here for you because that's, - We need to support it each other. - We need to support each other, of course, but you're here to perform. And biggest companies, including Shopify as well, and how did they actually change these from family mentality to sports team mentality and a lot of successful companies that I speak to, they have this.
I think the most important, I mean, my advice is like, you worry about other people, but at the end you have to worry about yourself. And I think the business it's giving work and giving opportunities to a lot of other people. And if there is the wrong person within the team, it's gonna affect everyone else. So it's like you are trying to make someone happy but then without knowing, you're make maybe five, six people bored. It's coming more and more like a democracy, you have to choose what's best for everyone.
And this is where the sports and mentality comes in because you always do what's best for the team and know what's best for one person. - It's true-- - But it's still a problem that a lot of people do and I think it's not bad that you have that because it means you are actually a good human being. It's easier I think to become more, - More strict. - More strict rather than become more human and more empathic and stuff like this, I think it's easier.
- Well, I like in protest of learning how to act like this, but what I understood that I become a bit more strict when I'm get tired. When I have no emotional power to carry someone's problems on me, I become more, I see picture a bit more clear. - Yes. - So yes, no, you can, that's nice, you can't, I'm sorry, bye. So maybe I need to get tired all the time and then I will make nice decisions at all.
- I think for me it was always, we kind of change the way we do business, I think is I hire very quickly, but also fire very quickly at the same time. And I think changing more into like you don't necessarily get a job at the beginning, but you get an opportunity 'cause from my experience in one month, within a month, you see if the person that did the interview with you is actually the person that you expect them to be in the job. - Hmm.
- In one month, you see it straight away. And a lot of times we're like you did an amazing interview and I had so much big expectations and then within the first month you're like, - Oh, oh something's wrong, yeah. - Exactly. So now it's like, they come in and within one month we make a decision and we're very clear at the beginning.
It's like, we are gonna make a decision within one month with you. You get an opportunity to work for this company, but it's not like, oh you got the job and that's it, just it's gonna be like this forever, we're gonna keep you even though you don't perform. - Do you hire yourself now? Or you have HR manager? - Yeah, it's a different process. It's like we have an HR manager because we're hiring a lot, but we have different, we have structure now and interview programs and I suggest you to do the same. We start with the live story and then we do an assignment, and the assignment can be different for different departments.
So if you are like an Engineering department or if you are like in the Marketing department, it's always a different assignments. And an assignment can be like, if you're a copywriter, like I hired a copywriter recently and it was like, can you write for me something about the company and needs to be like a blog post on this topic and two or three social media ads. And I don't really look if they're good or not, because obviously they don't know the company, they don't know much about the brand structure and all that, but I look how they think. So always an assignment. And after the assignment, there is an interview with a third person that is not me, it's not my business partner it's like different, from a different department.
So let's say I'm hiring for Marketing, the first interview is with the HR manager and then there is an assignment. And then there is an interview with me because I'm running the Marketing, but then the last interview it was someone from Engineering or someone from Products. It's like always a kind of a different perspective than it's not marketing. And I see that stuff to kind of we got better at hiring people, first, because the life story interview gives you an idea of what the person is. And I truly believe that skills can be learned, but you cannot really change who someone is.
- Yeah, it's true. - You know, your values as a person, you know your values as a company and you start to understand the people that you hire, they're good, they're always at the same characteristics. So you know now that if someone comes in and there's a kind of a strange life story, or it doesn't have the characteristics that you want, they might have the skills, but they're not the right person. - Yes.
- And then the skills are proved with assignments. So I always do that. So I say it takes a little bit longer, but it's much easier to hire someone than fire someone. - It is. - It is, firing someone I find it harder so I want to make sure that the person that I hire, at least I have 80 to 90% I got it right.
And I think with these steps, it works a little bit better. As the last, last question, what's what is the 2023, 2024 for you? What you hope to see, beside obviously probably the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. - You mean in general or business? - Yeah, I think in your life and in politics and in general and for your business. - Yeah, well-- - Let's say for you personally, what would you like? - So yes, I have only few things in my plans. I want to become a bit more efficient as an entrepreneur.
I want to spend more time with my family and to pay more attention on my life, and I want to learn more new things. Probably that's all I want my life to be interesting and efficient for my business. Very simple and that is it, that's all. - Thank you so much for the time and to meet again and let's go for a drink.
- Oh, sure. (both laughs) (upbeat music) - Thank you so much for watching the first episode of Pop Up TV. To stay up to date with our latest videos, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel by click in the button above this video.