Sisters, female business partners, best friends, fighting cats
- a personal report.
A little more than four years ago Carlotta asked me if we wanted to build up HIITU together as a sister business. Originally the brand had been her baby, set up as a side project at university. Coming up with small business ideas is not so difficult but finding the courage to turn them into a reality all alone is – and it was for her too. However, finding the right partner with a matching entrepreneurial spirit and starting a business together is no walk in the park either...
Where it all began.
Carlotta and I complement each other pretty perfectly. She is the chaotic yet euphoric creative that is full of ideas, I am structured with an eagle’s view and I like to find solutions. All together we form a very symbiotic dichotomy, perfect for developing creative business ideas together such as this little accessory label, we thought. A "dream team", everyone around us confirmed - although an explosive one: anyone who knows us, knows that our loving sisterhood is also shaped by a healthy culture of conflict.
What an enormous influence the founding of HIITU would have on our sisterly relationship, as well as on our respective personal development, was not the slightest tangible at the time when our small female business took off. Quite naively we wrote the business plan, quit our jobs and in autumn 2015 we started our sibling partnership as young entrepreneurs.
Our first trip to Portugal to find our leather production.
Our first founding year consisted of numerous production trips to Morocco, Portugal and Kenya - Carlotta and I went on our very personal adventure trip, often together for weeks and 24 hours a day. We slept and ate together, doing what we loved the most: being creative, interacting with people and travelling far away, to the most beautiful places in the world. And what really made it special was the fact that we could share this with each other as sisters, best friends and partners in crime. During this time our key sentence "made with good vibes" was born and it brought us, our products as well as our collaborations with all our great craftsmen perfectly to the point. We would not have wanted to share this intensive phase with any other person nor could we have. Even when a tear or two were shed at times, it felt right. While we had associated “working” with a run on a hamster wheel in the past, we were now filled with a feeling of freedom and self-realisation in our everyday work.
Sourcing in Morocco.
The next phase of our young founders’ existence did not continue like the “honeymoon” it had started out as. The journeys became less, everyday life of our small business grew harder, the stress increased. We took care of everything, between the two of us: design, product development, production trips, import and customs clearance, building the homepage, customer service, press, marketing, sales, pop ups – you name it. The demand increased, and we dared to order higher quantities. Suddenly there was a lot of money invested in our stock, which in turn increased the burden and pressure to sell more. The initial feeling of freedom slowly but surely began to fade out…
This increased stress level was not good for our sisterly relationship. Carlotta and I are a good four years apart and due to my role as the older sister as well as my organisational skills that I mentioned above, I quickly fell into a leadership role. Talking to successful entrepreneurs within our circle of friends, we were reassured that it was normal for one partner to take the lead and that this was also important to move things along. However, in our case my leadership led to conflicts characterised by our sister dynamics. Carlotta felt patronised but was also happy to know that I had an overview of everything. I felt the need to control all areas, but at the same time I felt overwhelmed and not sufficiently supported by my partner. I worked like a machine and found it difficult to take a break without having a bad conscience. Carlotta followed my pace but was not happy, trying to convince me that we needed a better work-life balance but I did not want to listen. Finding a common rhythm was difficult. Especially during the high season before Christmas, when we were having one sale after the next, our relationship was brought to a real breaking test. Eventually I had to take a time out in January two years in a row to avoid a proper burnout... at this point things between us weren’t really "made with good vibes" any longer….
One thing that has always come relatively easy to us - thank God - was to communicate with each other. When we saw our problems growing, we stuck together trying to find solutions. Carlotta pushed us to try out holistic ways to collaborate more harmoniously and we tried a lot to defuse the situation: Meditation, yoga, ayahuasca, partner therapy, a partner horoscope, common quality time, time-out away from each other, moving to different cities.
Of course, our relationship was more important to both of us than the success of our joint business, but we had also invested a lot of time, effort and money into HIITU. Business was getting better and better, but at a high price. Things were going up and down between us, always closely linked to the level of stress we were in, stress that we, or I, mostly created for ourselves.
Sourcing in Kenya...while things were still running smoothly ;)
In the summer of 2018, we unfortunately reached our low point – for the first time we didn't want to hang out together in our spare time anymore. All we talked about was work and every dialogue ended in conflict. We slammed on the brakes. We agreed to bring the year to an end, working as independently as possible and focusing on our respective tasks to avoid further conflict. In January, we wanted to take a longer break and think about a possible solution for the future.
Surprisingly, allowing the option of seriously ending HIITU was an enormous relief for both of us. For a long time, this would have felt like giving up, but it did not anymore. We had clearly defined our priority: sisters above all - even if in the worst case, this would mean the end of HIITU. And with the change of our inner attitude towards our situation everything suddenly began to flow, and we finally enjoyed ourselves again. The business ran like never before and for the first time we were running at a profit at the end of 2018.
As initially agreed, we still took the time at the beginning of the year to reflect on us as individuals and spend some quality time with ourselves. Carlotta painted and drew for her own projects, and I went to meditate intensively. After two months we met again, and a significant change has occurred: We have defined ourselves as individuals again more clearly and have successfully distanced ourselves from HIITU in a healthy way. Not in such a way that we want to stop it, but in a way that we have understood what is really important to us. Doing business with someone, your sister or anyone else, requires continuous commitment and understanding. We are now working a lot more consciously to create the space for each other in which we can both give our best - we are both very different and that is a good thing. Since our comeback we have been restructuring and specializing things in HIITU-land and continuously work on building up our baby. But we won't wear ourselves out anymore - the price isn't worth it. And guess what, it works: HIITU is "made with good vibes" again - with only occasional but healthy mini discussions every now and then.
In celebration of our sister business we want to treat you to a sweet little discount, so you can spoil yourself and your sister, best friend, work partner, or whoever else you can relate this too!
Buy one sunglass strap and get the second one at half price with this code:
☺ sisterlove ☺
Keep enjoying the sunshine together and look for the bright things in life!