The evolution of KRAFT Lifestyle Products
By Anna, Founder and CEO
As kids, we are always asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. I went through phases of wanting to be the manager of a German football club and earning millions, to being the first female F1 race car driver that is as successful as Michael Schumacher, to changing the world as the first female chancellor of Germany. Unfortunately, Angela Merkel destroyed that dream of mine.
Looking back at the evolution of my aspirations, I can see two trends: I went from a focus on money to a focus on impact, and I became increasingly concerned with the empowerment of women. In that sense, it is not surprising that nowadays I would answer the question with: “I want to be a social entrepreneur and digital nomad.”
Many people want to be entrepreneurs and start their own business, but often encounter difficulties in coming up with a compelling idea. I also went through stages where I was desperate to come up with that one idea that would make a good business. For me, it wasn’t love at first sight – I did not wake up one night with a brilliant business proposal.
The premise of KRAFT Lifestyle Products developed over a span of a couple of weeks and has changed throughout different stages. It is still changing in response to market demand and available resources. However, there are three main ingredients I have identified that helped me develop a solid business idea.
1] Be inspired.
When you start your own business, and you are dead-set on making it work, you will have to commit to it 100 per cent. In order to make this commitment and stay with your business – for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – it needs to inspire you. Whether it is the product, the service, or the impact your business is having, you have to believe in it completely.
For me, the inspiration comes from the concept of social entrepreneurship, and seeing it work all over the world. Over the past year and a half I realised for myself that social entrepreneurship is an effective tool to make a change in the world.
Finding inspiration in the Old Town of Hyderabad
I wandered through the narrow side streets of Hyderabad’s Old Town, watching craftsmen and shop owners proclaim their skills in promoting their products; my senses overflowing with vibrant visuals, shrieking noises and unfamiliar smells. The colourful sarees of Indian women caught my eye wherever I went – left in awe by intricate designs, original patterns and luscious colours. Hackling and bargaining for the best price, I came home with four eye-catching sarees from the market to be dropped off at the tailor, cut in half and worn as scarfs.
Being immensely pleased the end results, I wondered why not everyone would want such colourful scarfs to brighten their day, and whether people back in London would pay for one. My heart raced at the idea that I found a great way to adapt the Indian traditional dress to be worn in a Western style.
Combining inspiration with passion
Selling beautiful scarfs wasn’t enough for me. I had to ask myself: How can I combine my business idea with a cause I really care about? And which cause do I care about?
I realised that I often started discussions about the refugee crisis, and couldn’t keep my opinion about policy, integration and the social aspect of the crisis to myself. It was therefore clear – I want to tackle refugee integration with my business, as I have identified it as the single most important factor in turning the refugee crisis into an opportunity.
With the assumption that some refugees and migrants possess traditional tailoring skills, I developed a business model in which refugee and migrant tailors would craft ethical fashion and lifestyle items from Indian textiles.
Once I was set on that idea, I went to a weaving shop and bought too many beautiful scarfs that would act as my test objects to see whether there is a demand for the product I want to make. The over-excitement might not have been my greatest financial decision, but it showed that I was on to something. I was serious about my business idea because I felt inspired.
It is this feeling of belonging, excitement and commitment that you want to feel when thinking about your business. In order to have an idea that evokes all these feelings, you need to be inspired. Explore your passions, explore your values, open your eyes to the world around you, and find what gets you excited – and then stick with it.
That’s how I feel about KRAFT.
Whilst trusting your own intuition and ability is key, you never want to shut off to outside ideas and opinions. Discussing your idea with your friends and mentors can be incredibly beneficial:
- having someone play devil’s advocate quickly shows you the holes and weak points in your idea, which are important to think about from the get-go
- having your oh-so-clever dad ask you oh-so-annoying questions might spark a new idea or expansion of the idea that you haven’t considered yet
- mentioning your idea to your colleagues or acquaintances might lead to new connections or partnerships.
Don’t close yourself off because you are scared that other people will judge or make fun of you. At times it might feel like the people around you do not believe in your idea as much as you do – and that is normal as an entrepreneur. Otherwise everyone would start a business. You as the entrepreneur always have to be a bit more optimistic in order to take the risk. However, that is not a good reason to close yourself off to outside opinions, as they are a valuable form of criticism that helps you grow your business idea.
One Saree, Two Scarfs
KRAFT started out as the simple idea of cutting Indian sarees into half and making scarfs out of them. It was only later, after I shared my idea with the people around me, that the concept developed into what it is now; and it is still growing and evolving. The first business name that stuck was “One Saree, Two Scarfs”, which all-too-quickly turned into “One Bra, two Cups”. Discussing my idea and it’s possibilities with my friends, my boss, my parents and my boyfriend gave me the right soundboard and feedback to confidently develop the mission and vision of the idea as it is now:
KRAFT Lifestyle Products is on a mission to make sustainable fashion more accessible to everyone. Ikat material from India makes for a timeless and elegant design, whilst still standing out form the crowd; made to measure avoids the confusion of different sizes, and ensures satisfaction with the individual fit, no matter their size or shape; and a transparent approach towards costs and production enables shoppers to understand where their money is going – all this whilst weavers and tailors enjoy fair wages and comfortable working conditions. The Indian artisans weave the textiles in Hyderabad, and all garments and household items are then handmade in London by refugee and migrant tailors. KRAFT Lifestyle Products brings communities together, fosters dignity and self-worth through employment, and ultimately works towards the celebration of integration, diversity and harmony.
It is tough to share your idea with the outside world: there is judgement, disbelief and even jealousy. Once you found the right people, share your idea and listen. Do not get defensive or try to prove a point. Receive the feedback and regard it as valuable learning.
Once you have formulated an idea in your head, you want to make sure you gain insight into the topic and industry. Even if you are not the person making the product or providing the service, it is important to understand these aspects of your business in order to make sustainable and sound decisions.
Learning the Trade: Weaving in Hyderabad, Sewing in Bali
Whilst I was pondering the idea of combining fashion with refugee integration, my very handsome partner in crime decided to take me to a traditional weaving workshop in Hyderabad, because he knew that their responsible practices and social focus would impress me. And at this time, he was still trying to impress me.
The shop manager took me in like an intern, and I spent a week learning all about weaving and hand looms, irate and silk, dyes and thread counts. After looking at the poor work that was my first attempt at sewing a pillow case, the lady from the shop even took pity on me and taught me the simplest way of making a pillow case.
The sewing continued as I travelled on. Finding myself in Bali, I joined two hilarious ladies at a local sewing workshop, where one of them would sit with me to make different items – from a bag to a dress to a top to a shirt. They patiently supervised me for three hours every second day; corrected my mistakes, fed me traditional Balinese food and laughed at themselves as they mixed up the words for “noodle” and “needle”.
At the end of this learning phase I by no means identify myself as an expert in textiles nor sewing, but have enough insight to be able to manage a sewing workshop to create and design ethical fashion from ikat. KRAFT Lifestyle emerged as a fully-fledged idea, ready to be tested.
Take advantage of, and value each and every learning opportunity that presents itself to you. You might think that you will never have to know about a topic or aspect, or that a certain skill is simply useless. However, all knowledge has the potential to be useful in the future, open new ways to think outside the box, and provide inspiration for a great idea.
Last words on finding a great business idea
In the end finding a great business idea is not a simple three step process. There is a lot more back and forth, changing your mind, doubting yourself and giving up. However, if you follow the three actions of finding inspiration, listening to feedback and seizing learning opportunities, you are on the right way towards creating a great business idea that you can then test on the market.