Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Shanan Campanaro, founder of Brooklyn-based design studio Eskayel. With a background in both fashion and graphic design, Shanan couldn’t deny her interest in interiors and creating spaces that speak to true self-expression and comfort. She launched Eskayel in 2008 and has since created six major collections with more than 200 patterns, and has expanded the line to include custom rugs, pillows, wall coverings, baskets, prints, scarves and more. Today, Shanan shares a bit about the steps she took to launch, build and grow her business. Thanks for giving us this glimpse into your career journey! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I grew up watching my parents build their own business and they always told me that to be really successful you should work for yourself. They really believe in being entrepreneurs. I watched them become quite successful in the early 80s and then go on to lose everything in the late 80s. I watched them work several other businesses and ultimately buy their old business back and become even more successful than ever. I learned a lot from them about what not to do and what types of things exist in owning a business from licensing to retail to wholesale to manufacturing to customer service to partners and breaking up with partners etc etc etc. I worked in all the different departments of their company. And in the end, I always wanted to have my own company and somehow make a decent living by being creative.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
Well, I had many little businesses along the way – just none of them were successful :) I did my own t-shirt line and clothing line for a while to terrible results. I would produce quantities of things and then try and sell them. When I started Eskayel I knew I only wanted to make things to order so I would never be stuck with stock of products that were not selling. I also knew that I wanted my products to be eco-friendly and made locally at fair prices.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
I think it was in terms of PR – one of my first clients was the owner of our PR firm to this day and she visited with me and convinced us to invest in PR early on. Another thing was that one of our best clients (still) advised us to join the showroom Studio Four NYC when they first started and it has been the best, and basically only, trade showroom relationship we could want.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
The hardest part was putting in the time and having any capital. For me this really entailed working a day job and then pouring all my nights and weekends into Eskayel to an eventual exhaustion breakdown. At which point, I had to quit my job, take out loans and live another year entirely on credit and loans. It was a big leap of faith.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
One of the biggest things I have learned is the power of clear communication. Some of the boundaries we have set for ourselves in terms of production are not standard, but we have found a way to work with companies in new ways, by clearly explaining our business and what is important and necessary to us. Always keeping it positive and not being quick to anger are also very helpful.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Yeah, there have been a few times where I was determined to make a new product even though all signs were pointing to it being too expensive to develop and market based on production time and costs. All those things are discontinued now.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
My favorite thing right now is being able to approach collaborators and have them recognize our brand and actually be interested in working with us. A few years ago a lot of people we are working with now probably wouldn’t have thought twice about us.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I recommend yoga after work every day to quiet the mind, take you out of the office and into real life, and to keep your thoughts from racing before bed. And meditation and jappa practice.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Production models – do you make things to order or do you create stock and then sell it? What are your sales outlets? And where will you produce your product? Will it be eco-friendly?
2. Does the world already have enough iterations of your product? I think in our consumer culture there are so many throw-away items and the growth is inevitably going to shrink, so try and make something that lasts and will have a lasting impact on the end user, but not on the earth we live on.
3. Are you willing to work more than everyone you know to make it actually happen?