East Village: Karmin Kenny
Karmin Kenny tells us about her fashion start-up, which features clothes made with hand embroidered fabrics from all over the world
Company name: East Village
Website: www.east-village.co.ukFounders: Karmin Kenny
Staff Numbers: 1
Date started: February 2009
Tell us what your business does East Village produces East-inspired clothing for women, featuring embroidery and textiles that I’ve personally hand-sourced from around the world. We only produce in small batches and each piece is feminine and flattering.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I spent a lot of time travelling and kept finding beautiful textiles and traditional costumes that I knew would look beautiful when made into clothing for western tastes.
How did you know there was a market for it?
When I had the first collection made, and wore a piece, people on the street kept asking me where I got them from (and they still do!).
What were you doing before starting up?
I was (and still am) working full time for a large corporation. It’s a great job and it provides me the capital to grow EastVillage. However, it also means I have to be very careful with my time and make hours count.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business because I wanted to follow my dream and do something I’m passionate about. I also wanted to challenge myself.
What planning did you do before you started up?
Startups.co.uk has been great for learning how other entrepreneurs have started, and a good source of practical advice. I can also recommend the Portobello Business Centre for courses and business mentoring.
How did you raise the money?
I didn’t borrow money because I didn’t want to start up in debt. So I kept my full-time job, and relied on product sales. It makes achieving growth that little bit more challenging, but especially in these financial times, it’s been a good decision.
How did you find suppliers?
I attended some courses at Portobello Business Centre and learned a lot from the business mentors there, who specialise in the fashion industry. I’ve found that courses can be a good way of meeting people and finding new contacts.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
Cashflow has been a challenge, especially in this industry where it’s standard to produce the product (out of your own funds) before you get paid for it. I’ve also had customers who’ve been unable to pay for their order after I’ve produced it.
How have you promoted your business?
So far, it’s mostly been through word-of-mouth. But I see PR and online as huge opportunities.
What has your growth been like?
In the first twelve months, my sales have doubled and I’ve secured some great high-profile retail customers and secured good repeat business. Now I’m looking at signing on with some online retail partners and have just signed on a sales agent that will help reach more customers the country.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
The greatest difficulty was getting through the first year and dealing with disappointments and knock-backs. I had to do a lot of knocking-on-doors. Now that I know there is great demand for the product and that sales are good, it makes everything else easier. But at the start, I was more sensitive to rejection, so it was tough pushing on after disappointments.
What was your first big breakthrough?
After a some ‘no thanks’ from a few small stores, I got a very good first order with a chain of lifestyle stores – I opened a bottle of champagne that night!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
‘Anything is possible’
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In five years time I plan to have EastVillage carried by stockists in Europe, the US and Australia and be generating a strong turnover from online sales.