Pouya had a great talk during the E-commerce Warsaw Expo about international expansion, the rules for e-commerce success across the globe and how to expand to more markets quickly. Pouya agreed to share his insights with our readers, and we were thrilled to ask him a few questions!
“Leading up a company from 0 to 100 MIL SEK without any financial invests or backups.” This is how you describe your CEO role at Chiquelle. Let’s do the maths first: 100 MIL SEK equals to 10 MIL Euro, doesn’t it? When has Chiquelle become profitable? How many months did it take since its launch?
Very correct. We established the company early 2012 and have launched the brand officially during the summer of 2012. As we have passed 6 years now, we are close to reach the 100MSEK / 10 MIL EUR turnover in the near future. Chiquelle has also been on profit from the second year already.
And most importantly, where did the idea for Chiquelle come from?
We wanted to do something extra ordinary in the fashion and e-commerce world. The world and environment changing from physical stores to e-commerce pure brands was something we were and are fascinated with.
We wanted to create an exclusive fast-fashion brand (based on good quality and speed) focused through digital channels and ways. There are many marketplaces, resellers of other brands, but not many exclusive brands, which we wanted to fill in.
We started Chiquelle in 2012 and within 6 years we’ve reached sales over 40MSEK (last year), without investments, external capital or loans. All by fueling the growth with our fully 100% profits.
Won 6 awards, whereof the largest e-commerce award in Barcelona 2017, (previous winners of the award were Adidas, Asos and Zalando). Opened several pop-up stores with more than thousands of visitors and hundreds of fans waiting in line hours before the opening.
We wanted to create a new exclusive brand, offer new products based on quality, speed and the latest trends, instead of offering the same products like many other e-commerce stores do. We started to handpick products and moved over to own designs, productions and collections.
No investors, no financial backing. Was it your conscious decision – or you had some nasty experiences pitching to investors and therefore you resigned?
We have been having a roadmap and strategy to bring the company and brand to a certain big level before taking in any investments. We have the strategy, the way the company and brand should go forward, and due to the profits we have been making yearly, we have been doing it all on our own, so far. The goal is to reach the 1 billion SEK / 100 million Euro company within 5 years from now.
Chiquelle is one of the fastest-growing online fashion retailers in Sweden. Who are your competitors?
We don’t see anyone as our competitors, as we’re having our own way of operating within the market. Fast-fashion, launching weekly collections, based on the latest trends coming out of social media, live catwalks and the demand of the customers. We don’t look at others, we have our own path and just sell exclusively our own brand at Chiquelle. We do not resell any other brands. There aren’t many exclusive (new) brands out there, selling exclusively their own brand, productions and collections. Many e-commerce companies and retailers are selling other brands, making them all be the same at the end of the day.
What makes you different (and better) from your competition?
We are digital-driven, close to our customers where we engage and interact with them. We have a lead-time of 2 weeks, from an idea, to design, sampling, producing and having it online. We launch weekly, but limited collections which makes us interesting and unique. It’s all based on speed. Speed and quality, are the 2 core basics within Chiquelle.
What is Swedish ecommerce like? How would you describe a typical Swedish online customer? What do they love – and hate?
The Swedish online customer, has a relatively high budget to spend, especially on clothing. It’s a customer who typically cares about quality and service. That what we offer, with connection to speed and loyalty.
…And with marketing and sales activities in more than 20 countries across the world, Chiquelle is also highly successful internationally. What’s Chiquelle’s “Let’s go global” story?
Nowadays, there aren’t real borders anymore. We don’t see borders, countries, languages, deliveries or payments as an obstacle or problem. We easily enter counties with our social media and marketing strategies, in a couple of months. Where we then, are a ‘’new’’ and interesting brand, in their market, offering weekly collections and the latest trends. People want new things all the time.
Cross-border expansion is typically the most difficult part of running an ecommerce business – especially for European brands. What problems did you have and how did you solve them?
The ‘’problem’’ is in setting up the standards, having the right contacts and network and know where and how to start. Once that is all solved, you’re easy to go. We’re currently having 7 languages at Chiquelle with 8 dedicated websites into their markets. Local languages, set-up, payments and deliveries.
Exclusive Swedish Fashion Brand – this is Chiquelle’s Instagram tagline. Do “exclusive” and “Swedish” help sell?
It’s not our intention to sell with specific words, we rather show the customers our unique products, the personalized service we’re having and the latest trends based on quality on speed. That is what the customer cares on. We are an exclusive brand, as we’re the only ones who’re selling our own brand. We don’t resell it elsewhere, and don’t sell any other brands or products. We like to keep the brand exclusive, especially when launching weekly and limited collections.
Let’s stay on Instagram. Chiquelle has really impressive following of 330K fans there. Does Instagram help you sell or is it just for the “inspiration” part of the customer’s journey to your cart?
Combined at our three Instagram accounts (Chiquelle, Chiquelle x Swimwear & Chiquelle pop-ups) we nearly have 500.000 active followers. It is absolutely the inspiration part of the customers journey, the place where they see a value from the brand. Where we engage, interact and involve them in our daily operations, showing behind the scenes at productions, at photoshoots and at our events and headquarters. At the same time, it absolutely brings sales as well.
Time to talk about you – being a CEO is a 24/7 job. But you still find time to speak at many ecommerce events! Why is it important to you? How do you find time for this additional effort?
Correct. I love to do something back, to inform, to inspire and to be a leader in innovating, motivating and bringing people and companies to the next level. We often get 5-10 speaker requests a month, but unfortunately can’t due to my responsibilities at the CEO of the company, I try to do 1 or maximum 2 a month. I spoke several times in the States, the largest e-commerce and commerce conference in Las Vegas, as well as all-around Europe.
And how did you land in ecommerce? Why did you choose this industry?
I have always been fascinated by e-commerce, tech and marketing. Building up a company in these fields, connected to fashion, is a dream coming out.
As an expert in developing marketing strategies, what are the most common mistakes ecommerce businesses make in this field?
Willing to do too much at the same time. Even though you are good prepared, you are always depending on third parties and partners, which unfortunately can’t keep up with the speed you’re having in mind.
What is the most powerful advice on running an online business you could give our readers?
Plan a long-term strategy. Make a monthly, 1-year, 5-years and 10-years plan. And tell yourself, this is what I need to do to reach it. Look at the plan and time-schedule every day. We did this when we started Chiquelle. Besides having talents, or being expert in anything, the right mind-set is very important. Sacrificing is the number 1 rule within reaching new levels and going to your dream goal. Besides this, nothing should be an obstacle or limitation. Literally everything is possible If you believe in it.
Pouya Boland – CEO and CO-FOUNDER of CHIQUELLE.COM, A Swedish fashion clothing brand and e-commerce company. Chiquelle is officially one of the fastest growing companies in Sweden and the Nordics. Pouya is besides being an entrepreneur and inspirator, a public speaker, column writer, and 6-times awards winner.