Katarzyna has been running an unusual business, a rock clothing brand for children called Mia Rock. The clothes are all designed by her and sewn 100% in Poland, mainly from Polish materials.
In this article “How to run a small business online – Children rock cloth” Kasia describes how to produce and to sell extraordinary children wear online.
Can you tell me how did you start running a small business online?
The idea appeared after my daughter’s birth. I realized that I was not able to find black clothes for my kid on the market. Getting a black jacket was almost a miracle. I didn’t even mention a leather biker jacket. So I decided to produce it for my daughter.
Did you have any worries that it would not work?
Of course. I had absolutely no experience in producing clothes or selling them online. I didn’t even have an Instagram account! When this idea appeared in my head it was so abstract for me at first that I didn’t believe that I could implement it. But I run a small online business now. It is the MiaRock store.
Did you think that you could fail because of the competition in this field?
Not completely. I saw there was a huge gap in the market on children’s rock clothes. The ideas that popped up were completely new. Nobody has ever made and sold online children leather biker jackets with skulls embroidered on them. But I was afraid that the idea would not catch on because there were not enough parents who wanted to dress their children with such alternative products.
How did you test the idea and realized it would go?
I did not try to test it. But every person I told about my idea was thrilled with it. I decided that I had to do it. And if I didn’t try it I would never know if I could run a small business online. And would it be successful or not.
Are you a risk-taker?
There is no success without risk. I do not know if I am a risk-taker, because people are always afraid of it. But I try my best and it usually works for me.
Did you need any connections to get started?
I had absolutely no connections. I was learning everything by myself. I found a sewing room, I designed clothes, I got everything necessary for the online startup and there was a lot of work to do.
Did you have entrepreneurial skills?
I do not know. It was my first time setting up a startup, but looking back, I think so. I was quite familiar with how does the online business work, but I had to learn how to run it.
How old were you when you started the business?
The very idea of starting a rock clothing brand for children arose more or less when my daughter was one year old and I was more and more overwhelmed by the lack of such clothes. It was around fall 2017. Another year passed from the idea to the brand’s launch. The company was launched in November 2018. I was 30 then, now I’m 32.
Where did you learn it?
Apart from the fact that I did a course on establishing clothing brands, I also learned everything by myself. Step by step. I took small steps to avoid a clutter, because the more things you do, the more new things appear.
Did you have a business plan?
I created the business plan by myself. It was hard to say it was a professional business plan, but you could assume I did.
How did you decide on prices for your products?
The first collection I created was not large, but it was large for a first collection. I didn’t want to over-invest in a production so I sewed off too many items. I admit that I made some mistakes along the way and I would have done a few things differently, but as you know, I’m smarter and I have two years of experience now.
Did you involve any investment?
I had my own savings. I’ve been working since 2011 so I managed to put some money back.
Did you use lawyers’ services when you started?
I am a legal advisor so I handle all legal matters in my company.
How did you advertise your business?
I started running Facebook and Instagram. In addition I ordered an online store. Then I launched paid advertisements on Google and Facebook. I also advertised myself to business groups. In addition, the business I run was very often mentioned in articles on various blogs. Last year I even succeeded to take second place in the nationwide “M as Mom – Mom has a business”, for the most interesting business inspired by motherhood. Then there was an article about my brand in a newspaper. Advertisements on Facebook and Instagram are constantly launched and modified from time to time.
Which promotional campaign do you consider the most successful?
It depends on what extent. Whether it’s sales, followers growth or website traffic. However, well-targeted Facebook advertisements work best.
How did you get your first client?
The first clients were my friends who have children and were cheering me on in my business development. The first client from outside the circle of friends had just spotted my company on Facebook. And then it started spinning.
Have you compared how other companies in your industry do business?
My industry itself is enormously broad. There are tons of companies that make baby clothes. However, when it comes to rock clothes, there was practically no competition. There were some companies that, apart from clothes for adults, also offered black boots for children, but that was mostly it, they didn’t have more options. Of course, there are brands with baby clothes that inspire me and I learn from them.
What difficulties did you face at the beginning?
There were tons of them. It was a huge leap into the deep end for me. At that time, I probably did not have full awareness of what I was setting up for and how many things I would still have to learn. The shop didn’t work well, then it turned out to be badly made at all. I invested too much in the first collection and sewed off too many items. I started working with influencers who completely failed to meet the arrangements. Now I would do many things differently, but at the start in a new industry, probably everyone has to make their own mistakes.
How long did a break-even take?
Pretty soon. I think after about 3 months.
How is the product being built?
I design all the clothes by myself and I make sketches of graphics that I want to be on the clothes. Then together with the sewing room we visualize the collection and apply corrections to them. Later, we sew prototypes that my daughter tests. After that, we sew the right collection right away and sell it online. Working on projects usually takes longer, a month, sometimes two. The sewing itself takes 2-3 weeks. Currently, due to the pandemic, the collection that was supposed to appear in March is still not finished, but everything has its own rules now (this interview was taken in June 2020).
What inspires you the most?
My daughter Mia is my biggest inspiration. I know what I would like her to wear and then I create such things.
What do you do when you are not happy with the result?
This rarely happens. Because, first we create visualizations, then we sew prototypes so that everything matches and they look exactly as I dreamed it.
Do you manage everything by yourself?
Yes. I run the company by myself. Social media, design collections, online stores, advertisements and packages. Sewing is outsourced to the sewing room. Photos to the photographer. The accounting firm keeps my accounts. All the rest is my job.
What are the benefits of running your business online?
The benefits of running your own business are huge. There is no less work than full-time, but I work when it suits me. I have a break when I need it. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission about a day off or coming to work later. However, you also need a great deal of self-discipline and good organization to get everything done on time.
What are the main difficulties?
They are the same as in any company. Sometimes things don’t work out, and then everything falls on me. Sometimes the collection is delayed or something happens in the store and you need to act.
What determines the number of your earnings?
Of course, the amount of sales and additional costs, such as sewing a new collection. Then more items we sell the higher income we gain.
Do you know your client well?
Contrary to appearances, my clients are very diverse. These aren’t just parents with tattoos or rock lovers. At clothing fairs, I often hear the delight of people who have nothing to do with such a style, who say that something new has finally been created. That they are fed up with pastels, teddy bears and bows. And they buy it.
What are the needs of your customers?
I let them stand out from the crowd. By buying an unusual and eye-catching item, it is very good quality made in Poland.
Do you maintain relationships with customers?
I try to keep in touch via social media and by sending a newsletter. I run the business online so all the information must be available online too.
What percentage of profits are you investing in the business?
How has quarantine affected your business?
It influenced it a lot. Online sales dropped because people stopped buying clothes for children without knowing when they would be allowed to leave the house. All the spring fairs I had planned were canceled. The collection, which was supposed to premiere in March, still hasn’t hit the store.
What new situations did you have to adjust to?
I run my business online, so the biggest part of the processes worked perfectly. I certainly had to adjust for live recording and performances in front of the camera. I recorded my first live performance at an online fair, which was created as a replacement for a stationary fair. I also had to adjust the place where I record, where there are roll-ups and hangers with clothes.
What does your brand’s reputation mean to you?
Mia Rock’s reputation is extremely important to me. That’s why I take care of every detail. From communication with customers, the availability of contact, a very good quality product, to details such as shipment in shaped boxes or small magnets in packages. I am always ready to replace the product or its return so that the customer is fully satisfied. I take care of each client individually. My products, apart from high quality, are unusual and unique. That’s why I come up with graphics and typefaces myself. I never download patterns from available bases. I want each client to feel special.
What programs or planners do you use?
I use a calendar where I keep track of all my events and tasks. I also use an Instagram and Facebook post scheduler.
Do you plan your working day/week/month?
Yes. I plan specific tasks for the day. I also have planned activities that I must perform in a given month.
What goal do you want to achieve?
I would also like to start selling online abroad. I would like Mia Rock to become a thriving and developing brand.
What can you not do in your company, even for big money?
I am definitely not going to start sewing cheap things from the East to earn more money on them. Quality is the most important thing to me.
Do you have time to rest?
It depends on the amount of work. But I take the weekends off. I also go on a longer vacation twice a year and then I hang up the shop.
Does your family support you in running a business online and being a businesswoman?
Yes, my family has been supporting me from the very beginning. My mother helps me a lot by staying with my daughter when I am leaving, packing parcels, and handling orders when I’m away. However, I realize that I will have to hire someone soon.