(The following article is property of Avenue Code, LLC, and was originally published with permission at Total Retail on May 22, 2019.)
Pouya Boland, CEO and co-founder of Chiquelle, explains how this Swedish-based clothing brand grew its sales from zero to millions in just a few years without investors or external capital.
Avenue Code: Tell us about your personal career path. What brought you to where you are today?
Pouya Boland: I’ve always had a desire to learn about technology and the internet, which eventually led me to start my own e-commerce business. I actually began building websites and creating content for them when I was just 14. Later, I studied international law and spent time in Washington D.C. before returning home to the Netherlands and realizing I wanted to start a clothing brand in Sweden and the Nordics. It was the idea of creating a business on the internet based on social media, technology, and a fresh, young perspective that inspired me to launch Chiquelle.
AC: As the CEO and one of the founders of Chiquelle, what would you say is the key to success in today’s retail environment?
PB: If you look at the six awards Chiquelle has received, you can attribute our success to three practices we’ve implemented from the beginning:
- Fast fashion: We have a very speedy supply chain, and we prioritize speed in every aspect of our company.
- Social media: Social media is our primary tool for engaging our customers, and it allows us to create a sense of brand exclusivity.
- Uniqueness: Everything we do is unique, from our products to the way we present and design them to our communication style.
Beyond these practices, our team’s dedication and commitment from the outset is a huge part of our success.
AC: How were you able to grow Chiquelle from zero to where it is today without any investors or external capital?
PB: We literally re-invested every profit we received back into the company. As founders and owners, we didn’t take any salaries during our first four years of business. We also tried to keep costs low but working in an efficient manner. Since we were profitable the whole way, we managed to build Chiquelle all on our own, and we're still 100 percent privately owned. We wanted ourselves to bring the company’s value and size to a certain level before looking for investors and external capital. As of today, we don't have loans, credits or debts anywhere, which puts us in a very strong position.
AC: As a brand that launched in Sweden, how has Chiquelle grown to become an international business?
PB: From the very beginning, we've focused on not looking at borders. Launching our online stores in multiple languages and using social media and marketing strategies applicable to all of Europe resulted in Chiquelle products selling in tens of countries. We believe that being on social media means we’re not bound by borders or restrictions, and that allows us to engage customers internationally.
AC: What goes into building customer loyalty for Chiquelle? How is Chiquelle transforming the retail industry?
PB: Our No. 1 rule is think long term. We think long term with every decision we make. For instance, rather than just trying to sell a product, we look at how we want to surprise our customers and give them a unique experience through our five-time wow effect.
The first wow effect is when they visit our website and experience the perfect simplicity of the presentation, content and pictures. The second wow effect comes from the unique designs and products we offer. The third is the speedy processing of orders and deliveries. The fourth is our well-packaged orders. The fifth is our excellent customer care. Prioritizing these wow effects has transformed our followers into customers and our customers into fans.
Chiquelle is transforming the retail industry through its fast-fashion concept. From idea to design and production to advertising a new product online, our lead time is just two weeks to three weeks. The wider retail industry struggles to make supply chains match the time-sensitive demands of customers while keeping up with ever-evolving fashion trends. We’re producing just a few weeks ahead and avoiding seasonal and financial risks.
AC: You were at Shoptalk in Las Vegas as one of the key presenters; what was your message?
PB: My talk was focused on the rapid change in social media and customer behavior, which has created a new era. The businesses that will thrive will be those that will meet these new consumer requirements with speed, simplicity, solid content, and a faster supply chain.
AC: What does Chiquelle do to stay ahead of innovations in tools and technologies?
PB: We’re always looking at the latest tech trends, but more importantly, we’re looking at what our customers want and require. We listen to society and its needs. Lately, we’ve been working with a partner company on an augmented reality (AR) project, which we’ll announce and launch soon. Through this AR app, our customers will be able to create an avatar look-alike, project it anywhere they want, live, and see how our clothing fits them. We're always testing ideas and looking at what the market is bringing forward.
AC: What do you and your company look for in strategic partnerships?
PB: In everything we do, we look for innovation and for opportunities that will help us create the best long-term strategy. Above all, we consider which partnerships will enable us to best serve our customers.
AC: What are you proudest of having accomplished?
PB: Two things: First, I’m proud of setting up a company, without investors or external capital, and growing it from zero to millions in sales in just a couple of years. Second, I’m proud of growing from zero followers to half a million and winning six awards. We’re very thankful for this recognition.
AC: What are your future plans for Chiquelle?
PB: Creating an even bigger global brand. We’ve just started. This is just the beginning.
AC: Thanks for the insight into Chiquelle's innovative practices and strategies, Pouya! It's fascinating to hear about such a fresh approach to the clothing industry.
Anna Vander Wall
Anna Vander Wall is a freelance senior editor and writer in the tech industry and beyond. She particularly enjoys collaborating with Avenue Code’s talented Snippets contributors and whitepaper authors.