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Luna Journal spoke with the Minividuals founder Elena Schimmel about her path to independence and which success factors play a decisive role. In an interview, she reports on sustainable manufacturing, the role of social media and the compatibility of family and career.
The Hamburg company Minividuals produces handmade, environmentally friendly carpets and cushions for children’s rooms. The sustainably produced cotton carpets were first launched on the market in 2018 and bear names such as “The Diver”, “The Indians”, “The Bikers” and “The Influencer”. The third and fourth collections are already in progress and confirm the brand’s success.
Two-time mother and communication designer Elena Schimmel began her career in various e-commerce companies such as brands4friends and eBay. Out of necessity she decided to start her own business and founded her own label.
Mrs. Schimmel, how did “I would like more comfortable motifs” turn into “I just do it myself”?
Elena Schimmel, CEO & Founder: Nice question I never asked myself.
I originally studied communication design and was able to work very creatively for many years. However, I didn’t manage online shops as the operational tasks were distributed among my teams. With the birth of my children, I again longed for colour, materials and creativity. I think this was the intrinsic motivation to look for productions that could realize my ideas.
Have you always wanted to start your own business?
As a designer, I had the opportunity to work freely while I was still studying. But I found it a bit lonely and lacked the learning aspect.
Therefore, independence was not always my wish. I believe that with family the view of things changes. I found the opportunity to work more flexibly, earn money for my family and build something under my brand incredibly attractive… and above all to work on everything from scratch.
What is particularly important to successfully start your own business?
In the beginning a big portion of naivety and afterwards twice the amount of courage.
I think a good business plan with the prospect of financial success is very important. Of course, there should also be enough starting capital available, because in addition to the planned costs, there are also hidden costs lurking somewhere. A very good market analysis is essential – for me it was important to have visited many children’s fairs, because there you can see a lot of what there is already! You should also create a product with your own handwriting in every respect and keep it, because otherwise the brand loses recognition value. Last but not least, it is important to plan and establish a good sales and communication structure.
What does your typical working day look like?
My working day usually starts at 9 am when my children are in the day care centre.
Then I answer e-mails, make design corrections that require the further development of my collection, process orders from shops and take care of the internationalisation of my brand or devote myself to PR topics or cooperation enquiries. At around 16/17 I am back with my children and spend the afternoon with them. In between I still have to answer some mails or do something professional on an ad hoc basis, but usually I do justice to everyone quite well.
How can you reconcile your working day with two children?
I think it’s very good. With the help of an au pair, I have the opportunity to get the freedom I need outside the typical working day.
In general, however, I am very organised and get my job and children off to a good start. Unfortunately, the empty fridge is my problem, because I don’t like to spend the afternoons with the kids in the supermarket.
What do you like most about your job?
The freedom and the chance to get used to something new every day. It never gets boring!
I learn to be a businesswoman, I continue my technical education and I can also be creative. This is probably my greatest professional happiness.
The first collection was launched in June 2018, now the fourth collection is in progress. What is your recipe for success?
I think the demand for quality and functionality has increased when buying products for children. The fact that my carpets are not only attractive in their designs, but also washable and free of any harmful substances convinces many parents.
What role do social media and influencers play in the marketing of your products?
Influencer marketing has played a minor role for me so far, as I gain reach and brand awareness through cooperation, but generate little sales. A carpet is not a spontaneous take-away item. However, social media in general plays a very important role in brand building. The visibility that used to make trade fairs possible is now created by social media channels and social media ads.
Which marketing and sales channels are most important to you?
Here are several points for a small label like me:
Especially important is a good distribution with a personal connection to the stores. Only if retailers have confidence in the products will they be able to present them well, promote them and ultimately sell them. This applies to the stationary and online trade at home and abroad.
The own brand presentation through a website and an online shop is of course important.
As already mentioned, social media also plays an important role for brand development and the respective target group.
Press clippings, PR cooperations and events help to strengthen trust in the brand.
Minividuals products are produced in India. Why did you choose this location?
The decision was quickly clear, because there are only a few locations worldwide with people who master the craft of tufting carpets. In addition, my requirements were very high, because I wanted to see the carpets made from 100% natural raw materials, free of any harmful substances and with no toxic colouring, for the environment and children. The audit reports, which were created about the production sites, had to show that everything is environmentally and human friendly. Quality management had to comply with standards such as ISO 9001 and Sedex or achieve certifications such as OEKO-TEX.
How is sustainable production guaranteed?
The production is subject to the strictest production conditions, which are always checked by external institutes. All suppliers must also meet the required requirements, so that no needle, yarn or other auxiliary means violates the certifications, such as STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX. For my production I always have external testers visit the production and check, wash and test the designs. For this, there are many institutes that have locations close to the production facilities and are on site unannounced upon request.
Your products are currently available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Turkey. Are there any further expansion plans?
Yes, absolutely. A sales representative in Barcelona is currently working for Spain. The Netherlands, Scandinavia and the UK are the next steps.
Which novelties can we expect in your assortment in the future?
I see a lot of need for optimisation in children’s rooms, so there is still a lot to discover there. In September, at Maison et Objet, the new designs will be on display, which I will of course share with you. So you can be curious.
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Link: Individual and natural, washable nursery styles from Minividuals