13. July 2012–
Maru Winnacker, a German entrepreneur of six years, has recently joined the sweeping customisation movement with Project OONA – an upcoming platform for men and women to design their own handbags. With the website's blog up and running, and the service – expected to go online this Autumn, we spoke to Winnacker about her upcoming launch within a booming sector.
When e-commerce met individualism, online customisation was born. Today, it’s as much a movement as a shopping trend, with empowered consumers hungry to get anything the way they so uniquely desire. And, why not? Given the way customisation is charging full-steam ahead, shoppers have more reason to be fussy, scrupulous, and individually expressive. Want to design your own jewellery? No problem! How about customisable sneakers? Consider it done.
Maru, tell us about Project OONA ..
On our site you will be able to customise your handbag by using a design from our collection. Then it is up to you to individually personalise your OONA handbag by choosing from different types of materials, colours, lining, etc.
What made you come up with the idea in the first place?
Well, mass customisation and customised handbags are not a brand new idea. There are sites out there, but I didn't find the products appealing. Exactly a year ago, I met with friends at the Berlin Soho House during Fashion Week to talk about new e-commerce trends and business models and the subject of mass customisation and handbags came up. I felt that there was something missing – and now I am realising it myself.
Who are the founders, what have you done before and how did you find each other?
I founded the company. From the start I had the support of a great Angel Investor, who's helping me in build up my tech-team. I studied economics at the European Business School in Oestrich-Winkel, and resided in the US and Argentina. Shortly after, I graduated and started my job at a large company for spirituous beverages. I really learned how to negotiate there. Two years later I launched “Seasons Tea”, Germany’s first luxury brand for tea. I also have the support of my future Co-CEO in operating the business. She'll be on board by the end of the year. Currently I really can’t spill more details, but - she knows how to scale online!
What will make you stand-out from competitors?
We're developing a beautiful and memorable brand online which our customers will want to come back to. Of course, we scanned other platforms that are in mass customisation. For many, the name alone is already too difficult to place itself in the heads of their customers. A good brand is better to internationalise. What also sets us apart from others is, that we are not your typical university startup. We are a management team, each with an entrepreneurial background and 10 years of professional experience.
What is your business model? And how big is the market potential?
Clearly, we will earn from the margin through our direct sales via our platform to our customers. The market potential is huge for handbags. Every woman carries a handbag, when she steps outside and owns more at home. And men love good leather accessories – we have something nice planned here.
Who is financing you?
I started by financing the platform myself. Currently, I'm supported by a great setup of Angel Investors. They are all invested and come from the online world as well as from the leather goods industry. More news to come!
Who would you like to have a lunch with and what would you talk about?
Ida Liu! I briefly met her in New York this May and I just can’t get her out of my head. What she has accomplished is very impressive and inspiring!
As an experienced entrepreneur, is there any advice you'd give for fellow startups?
Learn to have fun at selling! Stay focused. Choose your investors wisely - it has to be a perfect fit, from your side as well.
Where will you be in a year from now?
Hopefully I’ll be on a short vacation during summer. As for Project OONA: Hopefully available in two more languages and countries.
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