Innovative manager in the house!
It was a January day, one of those days which turn into grey afternoon or early night very quickly. Weather changes people, people's habits, feelings. So the ground floor of Das Packhaus was already empty. It was just me, Cloed, some radio sound and a cup of tea. At first I called her a sustainable designer, employee of the fashion industry, but quickly I got the very clear picture that her job is "not about fashion", it is much more.
Cloed Priscilla Baumgartner is our new user of Das Packhaus and she is also our first interviewed innovative manager in the industry of entrepreneurship and design. She is a mother, a partner, by education a teacher of German and French language plus she also has a Master of Science. She is an entrepreneur, crowdfunding representative, sustainable fashion designer and a truly motivated person with a huge amount of creativity. As I told her, I truly wish she would take over the guest speaker position at our university and motivate us students, with her wisdom and inspiring perspective of the business world.
P: Since you are one of the first sustainable designers in Vienna, my first question would be; where did the idea of sustainable fashion come from? And what sparked your interest in designing?
C: First, I wouldn't call myself a designer, I prefer the word innovation manager as I notice an opportunity and I take it, use it, make something from it. So that was the same with sustainable fashion. I moved to Vienna in 1999 and at that time people, fashion lovers, eco-friendly citizens started to show interest in this field of design. So basically, the trend was just "born", and I somehow grabbed an opportunity. At first I didn't have that "red line" what I should be focused on. I went with the flow, with a very open mind of what I can do and how I can handle any given situation. It didn't take much time until the opening of my first mobile boutique. I was also really lucky to be one of the very first innovators in this field, so there wasn't a lot of competition around. Consequently, we organized fairs, where a lot of diverse designers and artists gathered and worked and so more knowledge was successfully shared.
Your biggest obligation, when you move to another city or state, is to hang out, to mingle and to socialize. And that's how we create this network where local fashion grows. I always try to think and organise my life to the point where I am satisfied and I basically have a cool life. I prefer to have life life balance, than work life balance. I generally consider myself to be a creative person with a desire to build different business projects.
P: On your website, I read that you learned to sew by yourself. When did the passion for sewing and designing started? Any story behind that?
C: I was and still am interested in different things and they really vary. My mother had a sewing machine at home, so I thought it would be a cool idea to sew something from what there was: bed sheets. After a while, when I got bored of white and grey colour I started with dying fabric, any kind of colour! It's just the way you look at things, you should always look at things from different perspectives. So did I, and I saw buttons on a bed sheet and a big piece of fabric and in the end I created a shirt from that bed sheet. I know how to sew, but I'm not a professional, so if there is something, some part that I don't know how to sew, I ask for help. This is how entrepreneurs work; they ask for help and they offer help. Sharing knowledge is extremely important for a successful business.
P: Do you also use eco-friendly products that are needed for completing some dress, for example glue? Perhaps iron zip instead of plastic zip?
C: I try to make a pattern without glue, plastic bottoms or zipper. Eco-friendly materials can be really expensive, so I try to avoid the extra costs. Fashion has its own impact on people, so all we can do is make the best out of it.
P: I visited your website, where you're presenting and selling your work, products. To design, you also have to have a good knowledge of entrepreneurship. And since you're also selling your truly beautiful work online, what do you think about online sales? Or is the face to face selling still better?
C: Nowadays it is extremely important to be "online", this is a big chance to communicate with people, your consumers, business partners, competitors etc. Even if you just sit at home, you can be informed about what is going on and you can build your network even if it's just online. The good side of being online is that you can also be "offline".
P: What sort of advice could you have used as a young woman to help you along your path?
C: Always look what's good and convenient for you. Change the world around you in little steps. Perhaps it's not a very profitable advice, but still. I am rich in time, unfortunately not in money, but I'm satisfied with what I do, who I am. There are so many people in the world who are just like me with the same needs. If something is good and convenient for me, it is surely for others around me too, so we start to create a network and share ideas and goods.
P: Do you think that entrepreneurship is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
C: It can be learned, it has to be learned. As a person it is very important that you can take care of yourself, be responsible for yourself and think of the consequences of every action you take. As a kid, you have to learn how to be responsible and what responsibilities means.
P: If you could give a young start-up entrepreneur a good advice for their future business, what would it be?
C: Quick prototyping. Make a platform for something that you think is a good idea and get feedback for it as soon as possible. Then you can adapt to the environment.
P: Tell me about a project you've completed that has made you the proudest?
C: Hmm, there's actually a few projects that I'm super proud of Milch, which present me the most, it is me. It started small, now it's quite professional. We've done some changes since the beginning, but we have what we desired. We successfully carried out only because we were focused on all elements of a good business; from PR, marketing, to good finance. It's a company that does not focus on fashion; it's not about fashion at all. It about creating something new, networking and participating in the local community...
P: If I compare your job as a designer or shall I say now innovation manager with a job of an insurance agent, it's probably (not necessarily) a bit harder to find your clients. Everyone needs an insurance, but not everyone needs designer clothes. How do you find your customers? Or do most of the time customers contact you directly?
C: At some point it's the same. You always have to talk about your ideas and project, you need to communicate and be determined that your idea is the best. People talk, people network and this is the key of how to sell your product.
P: From your website I noticed that you're also offering some crowdfunding service and assistance. Could you explain something more about what crowdfunding is and how it works?
Crowdfunding is a very simple way to get a valid reaction of your friends, customers and audience, if you want to start a project. Your crowd will help you to finance your ideas. This is also a smart proof of concept. I'm happy to work for the best reward-based platform Startnext a few hours a week. Every Monday from 4-6 pm I provide all interested starters a 30 minute feedback on their ideas and how to crowdfund them. The mentoring takes place in DAS PACKHAUS! Everybody can book a free 30 minutes guidance on this link.
P: What is the biggest lesson that you learned since you started your company?
C: My best friend once gave me a truly good advice. I used to tell her all my ideas about the projects that I would do and changes that I would make. She told me: "Relax. You can do one project after the other. Focus on one, finish that and then start with another one.."