2. October 2012–
Leaving a successful career as a banker to pursue a passion is a move that not many people are brave enough to take. Not so for Karolina Kukielka, founder of internet site Evencki, who is pouring her energy into creating custom made bed linen with a difference. Just don’t ask her about getting VC funding…
Hi Karolina, who are you and what are you doing?
Hi, I'm Karolina, the founder of custom bed linen website Evencki. I wanted to create a company that will bring some form of an experience to people when they go shopping, instead of just making generic products. I decided to focus on bed linen because when I was working in banking I was living in so many different countries that I had problems with linen not fitting the different sized mattresses and duvets. I decided to do something that would meet my requirements and my needs.
What were you doing before and why did you decide to start Evencki?
I was a banker working at Commerzbank in Frankfurt before I decided to quit and focus my energy on Evencki. At first I was working two jobs, banking during the day and Evencki at night, until I took the plunge. I decided to quit due to the banking crisis, it just wasn’t the same any more. The businesses are shrinking and it wasn’t as exciting anymore. I was looking for something different and at some point when you work for a really big company you want something small.
Evencki was about having this idea and having fun with it. So even though I’m sometimes really tired, I’m having the best time of my life right now. Friday night comes and at 8pm I’m in bed asleep. But I can create whatever I want, I decide about the brand, I decide how it’s going to be, how people are going to see me. It’s all in my own hands.
What is your USP and what makes you different from everyone else?
Custom bed linen from shops is very expensive and it takes a very long time. For me it took months until it was organized. And in the end I got the bed linen cut up in separate pieces – I paid 500 euros and they didn’t tell me it was going to be in multiple pieces.
With Evencki people have a really clear idea about what they're getting so they won't be disappointed; they can choose the material. I think it’s the experience people have on the website that separates me. I know I'm not quite there yet, but I’ve hired a specialist to get me to where I want to be. It's also the quality and the brand of Evencki. I want people to put a face behind the company and make it personalised.
What's your market potential?
Because it’s online, I don’t expect older people to shop at Evencki. I think it will be young, busy people who are after convenience. People who appreciate things that are made with really good quality.
Who is financing you?
At the moment I’m financing Evencki with my own money, so that’s why it’s going so slowly. But I believe that money should come from sales, not from investors. Someone told me it’s really addictive to take VCs on board as there are lots of demands that you have to grow.
And then if you grow really quickly you always need more funding injections. So I want to grow based on my sales. If I want to do something beyond my budget then maybe I'll look for funding then, but not for now. I've decided to build very good products instead. Maybe that’s a longer way to start a company, but then you establish yourself much better on the market.
Is there something that you missing?
I am looking for a partner because I can't really employ anyone at the moment - it's a matter of finances.
Warren Buffet, he’s such an icon for me, maybe because I'm coming from banking. He invested in so many different companies, he made really good investment decisions.
Any advice you'd give fellow startups?
You should always do what you are interested in, but if you don’t have anyone to support you it’s very difficult. I’d always advise people to team up. In that sense, I’ve already failed because I'm doing it on my own as I can’t find people to work with. But hopefully I will eventually find somebody.
Where will you be in a years' time?
I want to be associated with a certain standard. So I'll set up the bed products and then also build up to other products in the bedroom. I’d also like to do curated things, I want to create a found district so people can find different small products. Like breakfast in bed, where they can get the products to make breakfast in bed nicer. The unique little things.
What does your dream set of bed linen look like?
Definitely white. I know it’s not that popular here but I like it when my bedroom is really clean and with a clean design. Plus with monograms – I think that’s very stylish.
I’m writing a lot of articles on my blog. I said people should change their bed linen more often. I think I need to educate people as well, because bed linen isn’t something that people think about.
I didn’t! I just tried things out. I think you shouldn’t spend too much time thinking and planning, you should just do it. I had no idea about fabrics for example but just found out stuff about it. My learning curve has been really steep.
What do you think of the Berlin startup scene?
There is a lot of pressure in Berlin that you have to be successful. Because there’s companies like Rocket Internet with a new business every month. But all these companies have lots of good people on board. You have days where you compare yourself to them, which is stressful.
Image credit: Flickr user Fortune Live Media