Olga Gomonova graduated from Harvard Business School and was a Fortune 500 executive before starting ChicCartel.
Victoria Janashvili was working as a fashion photographer shooting covers for anything from GQ to Cosmopolitan. She also published a widely acclaimed art book on body images called Curves.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
We were both always excited by the idea of having a mission rather than a job. We come from vastly different backgrounds—business and arts—but no matter the field, as long as you work for someone else and simply focus on making money, you will never reach the same level of excitement and satisfaction as when you do what inspires you. Entrepreneurship inspires both of us, and that was the best motivation.
Tell us about your business.
We solve the problem of bringing sexy to sustainable purchasing. It’s clear that the consumer market is shifting in the sustainability direction, but we found that there wasn’t a sexy multi-brand, sustainability-oriented online platform that offered the product that is competitive with non-sustainable fast fashion and fast production market. Now there’s ChicCartel!
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
We had to build the right partnership first. At a start-up, the most important thing is your team so having the right relationship with your co-founder has always been at the top of our agenda.
Because we didn’t know each other well before founding ChicCartel, we took some time to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what makes us crazy. We would recommend that to all co-founders, because team issues are the top reason why young companies fail.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
We have an in-house creative team, so running beautiful ads helps us a lot!
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
We face challenges on a daily basis. Sometimes those challenges include finding the right person for the job or figuring out the best strategy. The greatest challenge, however, is to keep pushing forward during the times of doubt.
How did you overcome these challenges?
The issue of doubt and emotional volatility can be solved by having the right mindset and mental focus. If you really believe in your team and your business, then all you need to do is focus on the task at hand and not ponder too much about “where this is going.” And meditation helps!
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
As a team, we inspire each other. When one of us has a low moment, the other one is there to support. It’s a seesaw for us, and that is why it really works.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We are all about the right designer selection and the right production. We want to make fashion more sustainable by supporting the designers who produce in a responsible manner.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Time and time again we hear that we should never be afraid to change. Especially in a startup world, constantly figuring out what works and what doesn’t is key to surviving and succeeding.
You need to have a level of certain ruthlessness in terms of ending projects that don’t work. Change is an integral part of life, and one needs to master being okay with change.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Who doesn’t risk, doesn’t drink champagne. We live only once… we could go on all day on these sayings! Basically, go for it and figure it out. And if you don’t—all the better.
Almost all books we are reading about super successful people start with “…and then my first business failed, I lost all my savings and my wife left me”… and finish with “…and now I’m running a 100M company and am in love.” So yeah, go ahead and have a blast failing so you can succeed at the end.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
We hire a lot of contractors, so websites that offer short-term professionals in various fields have been great for us—Freelancer, Fiverr, etc.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams is an amazing book about failing forward and learning in the process. It’s also hilarious and is written from the perspective of a true entrepreneur. It’s amazing.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We are learning lessons about scaling up. It’s a new challenge for us and a new milestone.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We are learning more and more about the consumer market and what makes people tick. Our goal is to figure out the best angles to share our message in a way that resonates.
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