First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sol Parga: Although the pandemic has hit Spain really hard, luckily, my family and I are doing well – thank you for asking! Workwise, not so much has changed for me personally as I was already working from home prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Soleil.
Sol Parga: I am Spanish but did my entire schooling in English and international schools. Once I was done with that, I moved to London to study Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni and then went back home in search of professional opportunities. I always wanted to have my own business and work for myself, but I thought that I had to gain some experience in the real business world before going ahead with the plan. So I worked for two years in a Spanish fashion brand as a designer in Madrid. I founded Soleil during my free time while I had this job, and at some point, when my business was growing and demanded more of my time, and I felt confident enough, I decided to leave my job. I remember being both scared and excited at the time, but looking back, it was clearly the right move for me to do!
How does Soleil innovate?
Sol Parga: My brand uses a pre-order business model, which allows us to minimize waste and determine optimal production levels. We believe in offering high-quality accessories that are made both sustainably and ethically. Our bags also offer multiple personalization options, which gives the customer a unique experience and product. We aim to have as little impact on the environment as possible. Soleil is also handmade in Spain by our in house artisans, and we aim to convey our slow fashion Mediterranean ethos.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Sol Parga: In July, we had to stop taking pre-orders for around three weeks because we had a big unexpected increase in demand, and due to COVID-19, our studio was working with restrictions, and we could not keep up. Part of the team was working from home, and we had to limit work hours in the studio. We even had to close it for two weeks at the beginning of the lockdown. We have also experienced delays and an increase in prices from parcel delivery companies and fabric suppliers, but overall we have been lucky to have continued to grow. Because Soleil is online-based, we have been able to branch to other countries, which has helped a lot. Our biggest market right now is the Middle East.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sol Parga: We had to cancel our summer campaign shoot in Ibiza due to travel restrictions at the time and find other ways of showcasing the products on our website and social media. We also stopped accepting orders for three weeks when demand was high in order to continue to ensure adequate customer service. I was a bit hesitant to take this step at the time since startups, and small businesses rely heavily on liquidity and monthly revenue. However, I knew it was the right thing to do – reputations are hard to build and easy to lose, and this applies to branding as well. So I tried to find the silver lining and used this time to do things for my business, which I had been putting off for some time, such as focusing on PR and influencers. Overall, this experience has taught me to be resolutive and creative when facing issues and content creation for our social media. I also realized that there were factors affecting my business that were fully outside my control and which I could not influence, and I understood that I needed to learn to cope with them.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Soleil in the future?
Sol Parga: Evidently, the pandemic has been a significant source of stress, at both the personal and professional level. But I am happy to say that I have coped well so far. I try to have a healthy sleeping schedule (I don’t function well with little sleep) and take time to work out and meditate every day. I also have a daily to-do list, which helps me stay on top of things and prioritize my tasks. I listen to podcasts while I work to keep me motivated and inspired when I feel overwhelmed. Looking ahead, I hope that my company will continue expanding into new markets in the future and launching new product categories.
Your final thoughts?
Sol Parga: The pandemic has affected all of us significantly, and we are all trying to adjust to the new normal. As a business owner, I think what has helped me the most is to stay consistent with my routine in order to feel more grounded. An entrepreneur’s journey has so many ups and downs, and I believe many companies have had to find new ways to face the challenges and offer new solutions by becoming more customer conscious. It has been tough also for me on this front, but I try to think of it as a learning experience that will only make me stronger.
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