For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Stephania Stefanakou, Co-Founder and CEO of House of Anesi, and Founder of STEFANAKOU.
House of Anesi is a startup business founded by two Fashion students and two Engineering students. They are creating a smart bra that will give women a perfect fit, automatically adjust to breast size changes, and give extra support and comfort.
STEFANAKOU is an interdisciplinary studio that connects emerging technologies with fashion through projects. The startup’s first project is to 3D print highly-detailed embellishments to create one-of-a-kind garments. The company leverages 3D printing for product designs that meet the individual needs of consumers.
Paolina: You just completed your first ever Kickstarter campaign and surpassed your funding goal, what were the biggest lessons you learned from that experience?
The bigger your network, the more money you will get! It was so crucial to reach at least 30% of our funding goal in the first 72 hours so we could increase our presence within the Kickstarter community. Our family, friends and everyone we met in the last year at events helped us make that happen. For at least 6 months before Kickstarter, I made sure I attended at least 1 event a week in order to meet people and talk to them about House of Anesi.
I don’t think we would have made it if we didn’t receive that initial push in the first two days from them.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance/money and what did you learn, or are you currently learning?
We have won a lot of awards over the course of the last 3 years which helped us do market research and prototyping. The hardest thing though is forecasting what you will need the money for in the future as a start-up. There are so many things we are unaware of still as a start-up, things we won’t know we will need in the future until they actually show up and we have to figure out how to budget for them! For example, we thought we would need a lingerie designer to make the bra prettier for only two months; it has been 6 months since we hired her because we didn’t know traditional factories couldn’t assemble our design. We didn’t know we needed specific accessories in order to make the bra work better and have a better fit or that we need to test each bra 4 to 6 times on a model to perfect the fitment since it is the first bra that can adapt to breast size changes. We had to spend extra money on grading the patterns and test those on models as well. All of these things were crucial for our product but we did not know that it would cost us so much 6 months ago.
Now we learned!
Paolina: If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering starting their own business, related to money/finance, what would it be?
First of all, always raise more than you think you need! Unexpected situations will occur! If this is your first start-up there is no way you will know everything and that’s ok!
Secondly, proving that we can sell over 800 bras in 35 days as a new company has helped us significantly when we talk to angel investors and when we apply to accelerators. If you have a product-based start-up and the product is truly innovative then I believe crowd funding is a great choice for a go-to-market strategy and will help a lot with trying to raise money. Of course this doesn’t apply to all start-up companies and if you do decide to have a crowd funding campaign you need to make sure you can devote up to 3 to 6 months to prepare for it.
Lastly, you can find capital in many places! Yes it is a hard and tedious job writing one application letter after the other but what else will you do? Have one business partner writing grant and loan applications, another partner on accelerator applications and pitch decks, and someone helping with product sales. If you currently have the ability! Go pitch at competitions, apply for micro-loans, enter incubators, and apply to pitch at angel networks, check out awards that your city may have to help their small business owners, anything to get this start-up up and going! If you don’t want to “waste your time” applying for awards and competitions then invest into hiring a Growth Strategist and increase your sales by a lot! There are so many ways to enter the market; there are no right or wrong ways.