Isabella and Benson
Markovina Vineyard Estate, Auckland, NZ
Isabella is a proud NZ born Sāmoan model and opera singer living in London who…Read More
What was your first job out of university and how did you land that?
Believe it or not, I was a Property Consultant at a Commercial Real Estate Firm working with commercial developers, business owners and property valuers. I studied Property and Marketing.
What inspired you to start your business?
Coming from a small family business, I always loved the idea of owning my own company, it feels very at home and fills my soul with a purpose. I grew up sewing with Mum and learning how to construct garments for her retail customers. She specialises in the creation of bespoke garments for one-on-one clients. This, combined with years of my own designing and selling at markets, meant the fashion industry was a natural fit for me.
Take us through a day in the life of your business?
My days are split between every facet of the business. During consultations, I talk to brides about their dream gown inspirations and how it can be achieved. With ready to wear brides, we discuss styling, silhouettes and life, to find the perfect dress to suit their personality.
Designing collections is always fun. I love the whole process, from gathering inspiration, to cutting and sewing, tailoring for some of the more challenging body shapes and selecting fabrics which fit perfectly on our clients. We source fabrics and accessories internationally and experiment on our team with any new collections.
To make sure everything runs smoothly we are constantly engaging with our worldwide stockists, collaborators, magazines, photographers and other creatives in the industry. This is a big part of the process which means meetings, meetings, meetings! Luckily I work with really great people.
Has anything surprised you about the journey to create your business?
How important it is to have good people, systems and clear processes. As the business grows, the number of people that are part of the team grows with us. To ensure consistency, a high level of quality and happy brides, strict processes need to be in place along with clear communication.
Obviously, your business has grown! So, let’s talk money. Tell us about the intimidating process of funding for your business.
This is indeed very intimidating. Luckily because we have grown significantly so quickly, our need for external funding has been limited. Even so, we must keep a very close eye on our cashflow and make sure we don’t over-invest in areas that don’t provide the right levels of return for us.
Any advice for women who need to find funding for their own startups?
There is nothing wrong with starting your own business while having a full time job at the same time. This is what evenings and weekends are for!
Build your business by creating something you are passionate about. Something that you dream and think about it ALL the time, to the point that it bothers you not to do it. Don’t be afraid to take risks or be shy, become a salesperson and find cheap ways to test the market. You don’t need a brand-new showroom with designer lights to test your idea, product or service. I started my designs in smaller retail stores who were willing to give my aesthetic a go. Local flea markets and small boutique fairs are also great starting points and easy ways to access your target market.
Most importantly however, is to have good business plans and budgets that you continually monitor. You need to understand the economics of your business and you need to be able to demonstrate this understanding in order to secure funding (or even to convince yourself that it’ll work!)
Your business has developed quite a following. Can you tell us a little bit about marketing your business?
I think we have a lot of work to do in this area and we are nowhere near where we want to be yet. However, I highly recommend engaging and investing in marketing professionals in all areas, people who are experts in their field. Just make sure what you invest is measurable in numbers. For us, our results have been pretty amazing so far.
How did you spread the word?
Our clients spread the word for us. When you create something you are passionate about, you have pride for your product and service, and respect and kindness for your clients. Our motto is to provide the best, treat as you would like to be treated, and be considerate about each and every individual – this includes all vendors, B2B clients and retail clients. Give before you take and the numbers will follow.
What do you think is the key to the success of your business?
Passion, love, kindness and adhering to exceptionally high standards of quality.
What has been the biggest milestone for you and your brand?
Expanding internationally, moving into our new custom designed showroom in Auckland, and creating two distinctive brands that our clients adore.
Your favourite bridal trend at the moment?
I’m loving clean feminine lines and soft and whimsical fabrics that accentuate a woman’s figure. I’m also loving minimal but beautifully handcrafted details.
Tell us about your current collection?
Simple, modern silhouettes with beautiful detailing and workmanship. Wearable art which enriches and accentuates the elegance of a woman’s contour – achieved with clean lines and a hint of sex appeal.
Best advice you ever received? Hire great minds, don’t try to do everything yourself.
I wish I knew how to … Speak all different languages in the world and merge into each ethnicity’s identity.
What is your coffee order? Hot chocolate for now because I’m pregnant with number two. I’m trying to keep all caffeine away from baby… usually I’m a mocha or a flat white girl, no sugar.
What TV show do you wish was still on the air? I don’t watch much TV, however I remember enjoying ‘Friends’ when I was younger and had a lot more free time on the couch.
Next travel destination? New York
What advice would you give your 23 year old self?
Think long term and about what you want to achieve by the time you turn 33. Focus by getting very, very, good in your chosen field before diversifying into others. Build your dream team, train people and get professional advice now. Stop spending so much money on useless material things – they are pointless!
Original words via Love Find Co.