For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the startup world.
Today’s WE in Focus is about Marianne Tochtermann & Jutta Schweiger, two women who turned their passion for fashion into profits. They started 7 Chic Avenue in the summer of 2013 in Hamburg, where they design “tops for everyday luxury”. They claim their brand 7 Chic Avenue stands for chic, exclusive and affordable silk blouses. The 7 Chic Avenue design is feminine. Pure. Timeless and reliable. With delicate details and flattering silhouettes. They work with exquisite silk fabrics only.
7 Chic Avenue is a unique name. What is the story behind it?
Jutta: 7 Chic Avenue is a story about seven friends – me, Marianne, Anna, Helen, Sabrina, June and Yves, and how we named our humble London student residence where we all first met. Years later, when Marianne and I decided to build our fashion startup we felt the name will be quite symbolic of our partnership.
So,how did you guys come up with the idea of founding this company?
Marianne : We wanted to create our own fashion, and serve women better than with the offer that was available. We really wanted to do blouses and tops that work for every type of women and occasion independent of season, and we want to provide them with styling-input through our blog. There are very few styling blogs for women 35+.
Jutta : We make a good team – together we did what each one of us does best and loves most. Like beautiful designs, craftsmanship and visuals come from me based on my 12 years’ experience in Fashion. And Marianne delivers reliable numbers and performance based on 14 years in Strategy and management.
Wow, sounds like strong team to create a beautiful product and come up with good sales numbers. But knowing that the fashion industry being filled up with tricky choices on incorporation, finance, and protecting your brand, what kind of challenges did you specifically face as a fashion startup?
Jutta: The biggest challenge for any fashion startup is probably to find the right partners in production and sourcing. To find a company that delivers the fabrics in the desired quality was essential for us because at the end of the day that is what our final product is based on. Being patient was toughest – A lot of things just don’t happen fast as you want it to. And then when it goes fast, you are always running behind because you have too little leverage.
Marianne: Another big challenge that we face regularly is budgeting. If you are having a business loan or using your own savings, like we did for founding our business, you have to plan wisely when and for what to spend money on.
So what helped you overcome these challenges?
Jutta: For us the experiences and contacts we both made in fashion industry over the years before starting our business were very helpful. Networking was and still is an important key for us to build up our label successfully. And as we said before, budgeting is the most important thing.
As a team, what were the best moments in running your business so far?
Marianne: We are happy about being able to make quick decisions. It’s super easy to realize new ideas or improvements which is great because it lets us see our business grow every day.
For picking up such speed in business, did you acquire some extra skills beyond your professional experience?
Jutta: Luckily for us, we complement each other perfectly, and that is needed in a small start-up. It does not work when everyone wants to do Design or Sales. The skills like programming or accounting that we don’t have or don´t have time for, we outsource.
Would you recommend the same to another aspiring entrepreneur?
Jutta: Neither of us would have founded our start-up alone. It is very nice to be a team of two. So find a partner!!! Plan your finances. If you have a private partner and potentially kids, make sure that he is approving of your plans.
But coming back to skills, do you think a woman entrepreneur in general needs to have certain set of skills to start and run her business successfully?
Jutta: Every women can start their own business. But there are some things you should beware of. First – You have to be willing to work 24/7 and that means not only in the office or at your computer but your thoughts will always be with your business. Second – Know what you are good at but also where your weaknesses are and then find someone who complements your skills. And Third – Do you really love what you are planning to do? Because beneath a lot of great moments it’s the tough days that will challenge your focus.
‘Doing what we really love’ seems like a tough call for many women since we have so less female founders. Why do you think this happens?
Marianne: We are not sure that there are more male founders than female. There are many self-employed women, would you call them entrepreneurs? The statistics shows that the companies founded by men generally are or become bigger than the ones founded by women. We don’t think there are big differences between ambitious men and women. If any, it may be that financial success is more important to men and freedom more important for women.
A sense of freedom and what else will encourage more women to be entrepreneurs?
Jutta: Give them everyday role models. Yes, women may get inspired from famous and successful international entrepreneurs. But we think, what really inspires and makes it realistic is when a girlfriend or at least somebody you know can make it happen and work.
Any word of advice for the aspiring founders attending SWWHH.
Jutta: Find the right co-founder.
Thank you Jutta and Marianne for this interview. We hope entrepreneurial fashionistas like you guys are able to find the right teammates and inspiration to build their own startups.
You want to build your own startup? Build a startup in one weekend and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. Guys are welcome, too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facbook Page.