‘Believe in your vision and what you want to build, it’s just about not giving up’
Starting your own company is a brave decision, and the road to success is fraught with difficulty. So, why do business leaders start their own companies and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Julia Vendramin, CEO of LABELL-D, about their journey in business.
When did you establish your first business and what inspired you to set it up?
I established my first business in 2011 – called Swishmode. I was travelling a lot across Asia and Europe as part of my first role (for HUGO BOSS) – I kept seeing extremely beautiful and very local fashion trends and I wanted to bring the local experience you get on holiday to a global audience. We worked with 35 different boutiques and stores and had outlets in London, Milan, Barcelona and Berlin – all bringing a ‘local’ fashion experience to a wider audience.
We built the tech for a totally customised platform to manage inventory – at that time this was unique – before e-commerce. In the end, we sold our stake to our tech partner and the technology was sold on to Trouva.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or did the desire develop over time?
Yes! I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to set up a shop after high school – not what my parents wanted for me. As for entrepreneurship, I know I’ve always had it in me. I was never sure I wanted to work for a big corporate, although HUGO BOSS did give me the perfect start in my career. I’ve always felt I wanted to change something, to make a positive change for the world. And, it never felt possible within a corporate structure.
Whilst Swissmode was the biggest, it wasn’t the only business – I’ve had a bunch of side projects including a handcrafted shoe brand, which continues through a friend.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge of my entrepreneurial journey was to let go – especially when it came to Swishmode.
In reality, day to day, working in the corporate world and not feeling like I properly fitted in was my daily challenge. On paper, I was successful but I never felt truly happy. Starting again comes with its challenges, of course – throwing out the security of a salary, especially with a family of four.
The tipping point came for me whilst at a smaller business, I reached the pinnacle of what I knew I could achieve there. And, what I wanted to do was to reinvent sustainability for the fashion industry. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. I was at home, employed but with more time on my hands to reflect and rethink. I thought: there is nothing secure in the world – let’s go for it!
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
Oh yes, it would have been amazing to know the ins and outs of how to fundraise – what is resonating the most with the market. But, we learn, we evolve – we can feel what we’ve created is sticking with people – and I know it’s the right thing. But it takes time – if I’d known exactly what exactly would resonate from the beginning that would have helped.
What is your top tip for other entrepreneurs?
Believe in your vision and what you want to build. It’s just about not giving up. Being so determined, whatever hurdles come way. It will happen.
What are your plans for the future?
To build LABELL-D across the luxury industry – we believe the infrastructure of LABELL-D and its technology will significantly change the sector. We want to become a significant player in the market to help brands, retailers and consumers alike to transition to the circular economy.
Our Digital Label software is seamlessly connecting customers to brands and retailers, crystallising purchases into wearable liquid assets. We will be building on the 35 brands already signed up to our platform – reframing retail for smarter consumption which is more circular and more climate-friendly.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I would love for the company we are building to be recognised as a company that has made our industry truly circular.
Personally; it’s important for me to build a company that is based on values – inclusive, regenerative, female-empowering, driven on innovation – shaking up some of the old paradigms.
One day I would love to support young founders from diverse backgrounds. Empowering people who don’t come from a financially comfortable background.
I used to fight endlessly with an early boss of mine – he told me ‘one day you will be a CEO but you’re such a pain in the ass.’ He challenged me for almost three years – he really supported the growth of me as a professional.