All great things start with small steps, and steps begin from the idea. In 2004, the young married couple Grinyovs, helping parents to sell Polish children's goods on the market, decided to diversify their assortment: they tailored fashionable children's skirts according to their own sketch. And hit the target. And already in 2006, their models were selling at the Khmelnitsky market with the name "Suzie".
Today it is a brand of stylish exclusive clothes for girls from 5 to 14 years old, which has become an indisputable favorite of children's fashion in Ukraine and abroad.
Our interviewers are the founders of Suzie: General Director Oleg Grinov and art director, designer Olga Grinova.
Baby Expo: Your business started partially from the already defined direction: the sale of children's clothes was done by parents. Is this a coincidence of interests or regularity? Would you engage in work if they had a different business direction?
Oleg: Deeply, I do not analyze why this happened. I just love what I do. And when I love - it goes, if not - closes. By the way, I tried to parallel myself in other hypostases — sale beer, dried fruits, but it all went by itself. To know whether this is yours, and even know if you love it, you need to try. We tried and what is not up to the point fell off by itself. Two things stayed because they bring not only money but for fun also. They are fashion industry and real estate.
Olga: The sewing of the children's clothes was reinforced and intensified by the fact that at the start we had a daughter Louise and tried to dress her beautifully. Then Susanna was born. And our enthusiasm for creating elegant girls' models has doubled.
Baby Expo: What was the most difficult at the start?
Oleg: Communication with people. By the way, this is the number one problem, or not in the whole world business. Everything else was thought up to us. But communication requires their own skills and experience.
Baby Expo: You saying you are a friendly team that works as a whole. How many people had to "squeeze out" before you became like-minded people?
Oleg: Today our team is 50 people, among whom there are constantly two or three people who are staying at our internship. Not all of them undergo these three-month trials. We have such a tendency that we educate ourselves people who have only a desire to work. We will teach, show and help. We have our own schemes on how to grow rapidly in sales. When our views with the newcomer are the same - we work, if no then we say "goodbye" to each other. With no hard feelings. And in common, these people find themselves and successfully work in other directions and companies.
Baby Expo: To keep up with everywhere, holding hands on the pulse of fashion trends, you need to have a good team or do you have to control each step yourself?
Oleg: Coordinate, not control. For example, we go somewhere for the weekend. By the way, our weekends are a sacred thing. We rest together, almost all members of the team. It so happened and we are comfortable with that.
Whether we want it or not at the grill or at the table, but our dialogues are spinning around the work. And it's interesting to us conversations that carry a positive charge. We boast of each other, to whom we succeeded. And we are glad that they achieved something.
I am interested in communicating with my colleagues, especially 10-15 years younger than me. They bring fresh feelings and new energy. This is the trend today, and for tomorrow it's something else. Wow! So that's positive! This is life. Such casual communication is most valuable.
Baby Expo: Collaboration with Suzie is a real pleasure: the sales team online 24\7, managers work on the weekends, a great site that has feedback, a willingness to advise partners on sales development, etc. Are these unconditional business components familiar to you?
Oleg: Yes, of course. And at the same time, I do not think that they work 100%. We are coming to this. I understand that motivation is needed because a manager with a bad mood will not sell anything. The seller is cool, if he is in his place, and he does not need to be controlled. He will answer at any time. Yes, it's happiness.
As for helping partners in the development of sales... We launched a pilot project in Lviv and adjust the positioning of the store and advise on the development of marketing. Due to this, in 2018 the store increased its purchases from us 4 times compared to 2017. We realized that these sales is most successful. And in the future, we plan not to sell it personally, but to leave, as they say, in the field and to help sell it to our customers.
Baby Expo: Your own successful business is a whole range of risks. Can you beat them? Do you often have to be disappointed, and how fleeting are such disappointments?
Oleg: I'm not disappointed, but there are a lot of risks. In this sense, it is appropriate to draw a parallel with my first attempts in 2000 to ski and learn how to ride well. Ironically, Bukovel then also did only the first steps in servicing tourists. The lifts then were quite conditional. I fell, got up and was very disappointed. Having noticed this, one intelligent man noticed me: to learn to stand well, you need to fall a hundred times. No matter - one day or a year. But you need to fall! 100 times!
So in business. It’s the same thing. Before 5 years of development, I do not consider at all that it is a full-fledged company that can declare itself in full voice. Necessary stages of formation, which are not to be avoided and without which there is no progress forward. And in order to declare myself at the international level, I believe it takes at least 15 years, and this only to get into any analyst of the local or international level. We are only 15 this year.
Baby Expo: Are you are a fortunate type of people or every kind of work there has a deep work base?
Oleg: Oh! I have to hear this almost every day. Especially often my colleagues say about my real estate sales. In fact, my luck and victory are, perhaps not all, visible, skills and knowledge. Well, plus the risks. And the risk is ignorance. If you, as a chess player, can think of a few moves forward, then the risks will be minimal. If you can not, then you will have the result. I'm constantly talking about it. Perhaps someone has such kind of luck and there is, I will not deny. But mine luck is my constant job.
Baby Expo: Where do you get ideas for creating your own models, and what role does this have on the designer? Judging by the presented works, do you have a dozen of them?
Oleg: We have three designers today. Previously, everything was made by my wife. Now, we have decided to expand them, to complement other visions, developed by other people. But, of course, for a boat to flow, it is necessary to steer it constantly in the right direction. Because experience is a sacred thing. We do not have a finished model. Moving forward, in any case, is a partly blind method. But it is controlled.
Olga: Although we position ourselves as manufacturers of children's clothing, in essence, we make adult clothes. We adapt some of the adult models and transform them into children’s auditory. Now among our designers, someone is responsible for the model itself, someone for accessories. Then we make common decisions, even sometimes speaking in a language understood by us only. I'm not a professional fashion designer, and eventually, I felt a lack of academic knowledge. So we have new young specialists.
Baby Expo: Is it difficult to find a good designer?
Oleg: Yes. If you sit on the couch and think about it. But if you clearly understand what you need, then it’s not that hard. One of the designers did not want to go to us on a permanent basis and wanted to work as a freelancer. But she liked the atmosphere in the team, and so she stayed. The general working mood is half the success in the work.
Baby Expo: Judging by the models, the designers are doing well?
Oleg: Well, it depends on how to look at it, because all this is relative.
Baby Expo: You are a strict critic!
Oleg: Today it is one of the components of success. If everything is good, then why develop? There’s nothing much you can do in your business. I learned from my grandmother: bad grain (I remember, it was about wheat, and about the potatoes) will give a bad harvest. So, the phrase I know since childhood "you reap what you sow" works all my life.
Baby Expo: How do you monitor the quality of the product?
Oleg: We have a quality assurance department, which first checks the quality of fabrics, and then the quality of sewing the product. We have a system of motivations based on bonuses. If an employee of this department or a technologist finds some kind of inaccuracy in sewing the model, he will receive a bonus. Accordingly, the money is written off from the person who made this mistake. And interestingly, not from the rate, but from bonus charges. From one was taken away - and gave to another. This is an honest thing. Some people get the motivation to keep a close eye on even the slightest inaccuracies and the others must not admit it.
Baby Expo: The history of the brand is the generic dynasty of seamstresses and designers. Do you use any details, images from the great-grandfather's trunk? After all, modern fashion is increasingly appealing to feelings, memories, combining old and modern.
Oleg: Yes, my great-grandmother Lukeria was known for the whole of her village as a great seamstress, Grandma Olena worked all his life in a garment shop. My mother Tatiana was already a technologist of sewing products and got her knowledge at the university. There I and Olya met each other. I studied at the Department of Machinery and Apparatus, she has mastered production management. So, as they say, God, himself ordered us to develop sewing production. Do we use parts from the great-grandfather chest? No. If that were city models, it is possible. But in the village people survived. Almost all my relatives were tangled up to the famine. Therefore, first of all, we thought about how to minimize costs so that it was just something to cover the shoulders. Their models of dresses were rather modest.
But see what I brought from my grandmother Elena from the village, visiting her for Christmas - her old, say rare, sewing scissors. Here I hang here on the wall, let me warm my soul, reminding me who, where and from what kind.
Olga: I grew up in the collapse of the Soviet Union when it was almost impossible to buy something, and sewing is expensive. I was raised by one mother. I wanted to dress nice, especially since I had good taste. We had to look for cheap fabric and "revive" at the expense of design. Or remake old things. Together, with my neighbor, we made a good tandem of designer and a seamstress. I taught myself and my friends to make simple thing thanks to "Burda" magazine. Same as Oleg I also have my seamstress roots. My grandmother sewed for the rich people of the village, and from the remaining bits, with the permission of the owners she combined and slipping clothes for her children. As a result, she made very pretty things that only we have. And the children from a large family were dressed brand new.
Baby Expo: When you meet your clothing models on the street, which feelings overwhelm you?
Oleg: Unsurprising. It's very cool. I want to live and work even better, I want to move forward and be happy. Constantly. This is an incredible pleasure.
Baby Expo: You have two assists — your own models. Do daughters act as critics, or do they suggest something?
Olga: Younger Susannah is our litmus test: when she suddenly throws something up, she presses, pushes, and be sure she will not tolerate it. And we quickly fix it. We are listening to her thoughts, how else can we test the model? There are such moments when we, as adults, can not analyze ourselves. From it, we immediately hear a thousand remarks: what is it so wide, and why it is narrow, etc. The discomfort of the model is a problem that needs to be corrected immediately. But I know for sure: from all the brands Suzanne will choose the number one. And that’s Suzie.
Baby Expo: The "girl clothes production" direction (and not for boys) was chosen because you had a daughter at that time, or for the more creative field: rushes, folds, flaps, nets, braids, appliques, etc.?
Oleg: Believe it or not, but we tried to run it a couple of times the boys line, and every time it does not work out. I just can’t explain why it’s happening.
Baby Expo: You sell 20% of your products abroad. Where exactly? What attracts the demanding consumer of Ukrainian brand «Suzie»?
Oleg: The last one was Latvia. They really liked our design. We are currently working with Kazakhstan. They position Ukraine as a part of Europe. This is so nice. They are also delighted with the design. It should be noted that our talks on quality are not even discussed. This is a self-evident aspect. But design, service - this is what we are discussing.
Baby Expo: For these countries, did you develop individual models design?
Oleg: Not yet. Subsequently, we may change somewhat, but now there is no need. Recently, they sent a parcel to Kazakhstan and suddenly had a callback: "We unpack the parcel and everyone is delighted. Your designers had an outstanding fantasy. I have 20 years of work with children's clothes, and I never received so many positive emotions before. This is something incredible. " So nice.
Baby Expo: If your product had the label "Made in Italy", even in Poland or Turkey, would it be even more in demand?
Oleg: Yes, because about 80% of Ukrainians would prefer Italian. Unfortunately. Probably, it takes years to believe in our quality. Probably partly triggers both mentality and stereotypes. World trends are changing. The Americans are already indifferent to what the producer country is, and the Ukrainians do not. The country adds regalia products. Although on a global scale, "Made in Ukraine" is gaining momentum.
Baby Expo: Your feedback about Baby Expo is always life-affirming, full of extraordinary emotions: "We are back home with a lot of new, creative ideas." What new achievements are inspired by competitors, partners?
Oleg: They make us do an analysis. Now there is no such tendency that you have the taste and you can put it on the zero, like in roulette. Now your work is directed through an analyst. We can intuitively understand what is cool, but not the fact that it gives sales. The fact that most manufacturers do this does not mean that it's cool. It is necessary to analyze the market, to place their goods where the river flow.
Baby Expo: It seems that you are not only successful businessmen, but also a happy family. How are these concepts interrelated? And is it important in general that they are interrelated?
Oleg: Obviously interconnected. First and foremost, a happy family should do their favorite thing. Everything here is in business. A family is a job. A friendly, happy family is an incredible work. We are interested in being together with our wife and our children. We are not looking for a company to relax. At the end of the day, we can call and meet in the restaurant to have dinner together. Of course, we gladly welcome guests at home.
Baby Expo: Is it hard to keep family moral values in the modern world?
Oleg: It's hard. Today there are many temptations, everything in the open access. Frames are eroded, stereotypes disappear. I would not say that it is difficult for me, because my wife and I have been a lot together. We are more than a husband and wife; we are partners, friends, like-minded people, parents. But from my own observations, I see how people, especially younger ones, relentlessly relate to marriage. Unfortunately.
Baby Expo: What are your plans?
Oleg: Using deep analytics, we see that today we have three roads ahead. Now we have to decide which of them to go. Globally it's education and service. We need to learn ourselves and teach our team. It will not be trend education, but uncomfortable, which now people do not like. Professional-technical: technologists, designers, management. Perhaps even relatively boring lessons. But without them, there is no progress.
One of my projects is teaching children. I bought a franchise for opening a ThinkGlobal private school in Khmelnitsky, which actually has been working for a year, and since September this year met its first 15 students. When we complete the appropriate premises, we plan to accept 54 students. Next year will be 8 classes. Facilities include a library, dining room, play area, and seating area. And parents can monitor their children through the video surveillance system. ThinkGlobal is a network of innovative schools with a democratic learning culture. Such schools work successfully in Kyiv, Ternopil, Lviv, Dnipro, and Rivne. Well, now in Khmelnitsky.
Baby Expo: What prompted you for this decision?
Oleg: Our daughters. I wanted them to go to school with pleasure.
Baby Expo: Do you have a girlfriend interest in genetic predisposition to a family business, in particular, the martial, designer's direction?
Olya: I call Louise a cosmic baby. She is not like everyone else, she has an art inclination, her creative world in which she lives. She attends art school and spills all her feelings on paper. In what it will grow up later, only the time will tell.
The younger one is a creative person. But more for artistic direction. They are different. When we dressed the eldest one, anything fitted her perfectly: both the fabric, the style, and the quality of sewing. I bought it - ok, she will dress it with no problem. But Susan's eight-year-old ... Oh, that's another critic and seeker of improvements. She has a friend in school who tends to design women's clothing. They take Barbie, pieces of cloth and design something. They say: we are a team. But in what direction it will go further - the life will show.
Oleg: The last thing I want is for the daughters to imitate our lives. I would like to have their own.
Baby Expo: What is your dream about Suzie?
Olya: To be a well-known company outside Ukraine. So our brand is popular, demanded and recognizable.
Baby Expo: Then - advice from the owners of the brand "Suzie" partners. What needs to be done to not only stay afloat but also to build a successful business in modern conditions?
Oleg: Continuing to study. Education is now an integral part of all business work. Of course, it's easier to work when there is a mentor (mentor). It’s perfect when you can consult with a successful person. A clear part of the success is the team and business openness to everything new.
However, all this is just tools. The main thing should be your own work. You need to pump the sleeves and work. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. Today, young people do the same. And I need to either surrender or be like them. Of course, I do not intend to give myself up.
Olga: Remember, what the main character from "Alice in Wonderland" said? We have to run from all the legs so that only to stay in place, and to get somewhere, we must run at least twice as fast! We live like that.
The material is prepared by the Baby Expo team