Our inspiring female entrepreneur today is Stephanie Srikandi, the founder and CEO of Tials Studio and a mentor of online course Start Your Fashion Business. Stephanie helps entrepreneurs launch sustainable fashion brands or scale their existing fashion businesses to success. She is an incredibly driven and inspiring female entrepreneur who has achieved a lot.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to a Dutch Father and Indonesian mother who were both entrepreneurs. We were a middle-class expat family and both my parents were very hard working in their furniture import business. However, there was a monetary crisis in Indonesia and through their divorce we hit a financial rock bottom. I was lucky that my parents always prioritized my education so I was able to continue my school and have enough, albeit not in the best position compared to my friends. I always had to count my money and I knew that my future would depend on the skills I cultivate as I did not have any financial security from my parents to fall back to.
After I graduated high school, I got accepted to universities in Europe but my parents were unable to come up with the tuition fees so I stayed back in Jakarta to continue my Fashion Business studies in La Salle College which had a branch from their Canadian institute. I always loved fashion growing up but I wanted to learn the business side of it, instead of being a fashion designer so that I could start a business and work for myself.
I always had that entrepreneurial spirit in me and my first foray into fashion happened soon after I studied Jewelry Business in Central Saint Martins in London. I came back to Bali after the studies, and launched a jewelry business on the side as I was working full time as a visual merchandiser for a company. The jewelry business eventually faded out when my fashion brand, THIS IS A LOVE SONG took off in 2010.
Through a successful wholesale business model where I was supplying US Stores such as Urban Outfitters, Dolls Kill, and Revolve Clothing, we started to produce our own garments. In 2013, I launched TIALS Studio, which is my sampling & manufacturing company with ethical production that supports the local community in Bali, Indonesia. We have also extended our services as a design and consulting agency.
In 2015 I relocated to Los Angeles to expand the brand in California and under close mentoring by Virgil Abloh, I was selected as one of the 200 designers worldwide to join the Streetwear Mastered program.
Now I reside between Bali and Los Angeles and my fashion consulting projects range from creative direction, content production, art directing and styling, branding and designing for various clients all over the world.
I also work closely with my TIALS Studio team to oversee all sampling & production projects for our clients. I am currently working on my online education program called START YOUR FASHION BUSINESS to help young entrepreneurs in starting and scaling their fashion business.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?
I wake up at 6:30am and I start my day with a cup of coffee while enjoying the sounds of nature and the beautiful morning glow here in Bali – it’s really meditative to me. I jump into my messages and emails and make sure to check my google calendar so I don’t miss any appointments for the day. My team here starts at 9am but I love starting my work day at 7am so I have 2 undisturbed hours to get myself ahead, and this really increases my productivity.
Since most of our clients are overseas, this time window is perfect for my west coast clients. I take this time to reply to my clients, get prepared for my consultation calls, catch up on any work and since I juggle priorities between my ethical production company, my fashion brand and my online fashion course I take any moment I can to check up on all these projects and to make sure we are on schedule. I create a to-do list of each day at the start of the week which helps me to stay productive and I stick to a routine in order to maximize my time and run all my business efficiently.
Mondays and Fridays are blocked for my production company and we have our production team meetings to track our progress on sampling and production of both our clients projects and the brand. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dedicated for START YOUR FASHION BUSINESS, which is my online course and these are my undisturbed days where my main focus is launching the course, content creation, community building, marketing strategies and outreach. I keep Thursdays flexible for any appointments in or out of the office.
I used to go to the gym 5 days a week but since the pandemic I have had to switch to home workouts and yoga which I try to squeeze on 2-3 days a week to keep me in balance.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.
I started my garment business so I could produce our own clothes since I was fed up working with clothing manufacturers that kept increasing their prices, missing delivery deadlines, and most importantly, weren’t treating their workers right.
After I sold two seasons of my brand collection successfully through wholesale I was able to take the $15,000 of the profits to reinvest it in creating a small studio where we could create our own samples and production line. We rented an old house (in Bali it cost me at the time around $4,000/year), bought a few sewing machines, a cutting machine and started producing ‘in-house.’
Since the brand is called THIS IS A LOVE SONG, I created the acronym TIALS Studio to name the ethical production company and we hired one production manager, one cutter, two seamstresses and one pattern maker and as the orders grew, so did the size of the team. Although TIALS Studio was primarily set up to produce the brand, we started gaining enquiry and interest from other brands – mainly friends and family at the time who wanted to create their own fashion label. In 2013 we started offering this service on a very small scale and we kept it relatively selective until 2018 since I was away in Los Angeles, focusing on growing the brand in North America. During those years, we focused on creating merch and exclusive private label collections for stores, artist and musicians such as Major Lazer, Forever21 and Karrueche Tran.
In the mean time, I saw an increasing demand for sustainable fashion and I had access to tons of eco-friendly material options in Bali which I used for THIS IS A LOVE SONG and offered to my clients as well. More clients wanted to make their fashion brand sustainable and new clients wanted to create a sustainable fashion brand, so we became one of the manufacturers that were able to make this happen for them. Besides offering them sampling and production service, we also have a design and marketing team that is able to help them with branding, product development and digital marketing strategies. I started offering these services on a consulting basis too as our goal is to help fashion entrepreneurs in any area of their business that they struggle with.
Since our niche is helping small fashion brands, often times these are entrepreneurs with amazing ideas but no fashion business/design background, and although they are unique, they encounter the same set of challenges and ask the same questions in their journey of setting up their business.
Through my years of experience in helping and consulting multiple clients I have gathered a sound data set of their pain points and converted them into an 8 week comprehensive online course with actionable steps so that anyone with no prior background in fashion, can launch their successful fashion brand. The idea of this course came at the face of the pandemic since I started sharing fashion business tips on TikTok which inspired me to create the course due to all the positive feedback. We are now set to launch the START YOUR FASHION BUSINESS course in September 2020 but I have opened a waiting list last week and 104 people have signed up, so I am very excited about this new venture in fashion education.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
My biggest achievement is having my work featured in Forbes as that was an accomplishment I wanted under my belt as an entrepreneur. I was extremely proud of that moment and being able to share my personal story and the work we do at THIS IS A LOVE SONG.
The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is to keep staying creative and true to yourself. Sometimes you get offered a financially enticing project but if it doesn’t align with your values, then you should stay true to yourself and decline the opportunity to make room for another one.
WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?
For TIALS Studio our main strategy is offering something new to the market through amazing customer service. We knew what our customers are looking for in a manufacturing partner and how we can exactly meet their needs. As someone who was dealing with manufacturers for my own brand at the beginning, I knew the exact pain points that one goes through when starting your own fashion brand and how hard it can be. I wanted to be able to offer something accessible to everyone interested in starting their fashion business. Traditional manufacturers operate slow and unresponsive and our goal is to be the opposite and implement technology to be able to streamline the process and make it transparent and direct for our clients.
At THIS IS A LOVE SONG our strategy is different as we primarily focus on influencer marketing strategies and brand building for the exposure and longevity of the brand. As a slow fashion brand, our goal is to create seasonless products that are loved and worn for a long time and to educate our customers about sustainable fashion so that they can make an informed buying decision.
For the SYFB online course, we are also implementing an effective marketing strategy especially since we are currently working on our official launch so with this I have decided to start a Youtube Channel to start pushing out valuable content for our audience.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?
Our business has not slowed down since the pandemic, despite having to shut down for a month we reopened following health protocols and safety measures. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was worried about losing orders and having to close down the manufacturing studio and let go of my staff but in fact the opposite happened and we had to hire more people. Our inquiries for TIALS Studio have tripled during this time and I see this being a trend since the lockdown and remote working has inspired people to start their business and pursue their passion. Our roster has doubled and we have more start up brands working with us to launch their fashion collections.
The next step now is to launch the online program, so we can also capture a wider audience that may not have the confidence yet to launch their fashion business and provide them the tools and resources to be able to do so, whether that will be with another manufacturer or with us.
My plans for the future is to cultivate my successful students, build my SYFB community and become an expert in the sustainable fashion business.
RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS
ARE THERE ANY RESOURCES OR TOOLS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS?
We use simple but effective communication tools such as Slack and Airtable for each client since emails can get lost. If you are an entrepreneur offering consultation services, I suggest using Acuity Scheduling and I use it for my clients to book in a call with me which I sync to my google calendar. For social media, we use Later.com to manage all of our social media accounts for the business so that our content is scheduled and organized.
I also listen to podcasts about female entrepreneurship as they keep me motivated and inspired. I am currently reading a book called UNSTOPPABLE: a 90-day plan to biohack your mind and body for success and I highly recommend it!
WHAT OR WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE IN BUSINESS AND WHY?
My greatest influence has been my parents as they were both entrepreneurs and I want to make them proud and to succeed in the areas that they didn’t. My upbringing is also a major influence as I want to be able to provide the stability and financial security that I didn’t have in abundance growing up, so that my future kids will be in a better position.
At the moment, my audience is also a driving force and my source of inspiration that influences the online course and the community that I am building.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
My advice is to start as financially lean as you can and to test out your product before so that you can iterate and perfect it. Use social media to connect with your potential customers and find your audience, even when you don’t have your product yet! Remember that people love stories and they want to know why you started your business and what problem you are trying to solve.
WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
I had an idea of integrating blockchain technology into my fashion brand, where customers could make a direct tip to the seamstress when purchasing products. I still hope to make this idea happen in the future.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
If you have a fashion brand and are interested in ethical garment production, I would love to hear from you! I also offer free consultation calls for anyone that is interested to start a fashion brand or needs expert advice in that field.
In the meantime, I have opened up a waiting list for my online course for anyone interested in an actual blueprint to start your fashion business through my 8 week program where we cover branding & strategy, company set up, product development, designing & sourcing, sampling & production, costing & logistics, sales and marketing strategies.
You can sign up here: https://startyourfashionbusiness.com/waitinglist/
Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!
If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.
By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.
If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!