I launched my eponymous footwear brand, Jennifer Chamandi, just over two years ago – I am the founder and creative director, which means I run the business as well as the creative side of my brand. My role is to ensure that the creation, production and operation run smoothly.
Starting a footwear brand in such a competitive market is not easy and finding the right manufacturer is like finding your “sole mate” (pun intended!). ‘Made in Italy’ is the founding principle of my brand, so having my shoes manufactured there was the sine qua non-condition for launch. At the time, I reached out to my (current) manufacturer in English but firstly received no response, then was told he was too busy. I knew that to earn his respect I needed to speak in Italian – so that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what I’ve learnt as a result…
Define your objective and identify the challenge.
I knew that to even think about launching my footwear brand I needed to manufacture my shoes in Italy – that was my clear objective. After my emails and phone calls got ignored, I instantly recognised the language barrier as my challenge.
Stay positive and don’t let the challenge bring you down or deviate from your objective.
Giving up is the easy way out. After being ignored a couple of times, I could have easily not pursued this avenue, but instead I kept reminding myself that there is a solution to every problem.
Identify the solution.
The way forward for me was easy to identify: learn Italian! So, I googled Italian classes in London and found an amazing school called Vivere l’Italiano. That’s how I started learning the language.
Work hard and stay focused on your objective.
I took intensive lessons for four months until I got to a level I felt comfortable conversing in. I translated my business plan into Italian and made sure my presentation was crisp and clear.
Face the obstacle again, this time fuelled with confidence.
I called my manufacturer (again) and spoke to him in what was at the time a not-so-polished Italian. I asked him to give me 30 minutes to present my business plan to him in his own language. He understood how serious, committed, tenacious and persistent I was and gave me a chance. Half an hour turned into a whole day at the factory, and this is how my beautiful journey began.