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March 19, 2017

Interview with Aiman SAGATOVA, a leatherworker and the owner of the brand `Kazakhsha style`

Writing about web page kazakhshaleatherartstudio.co.uk

Written by Adelbek Japakov and Shensi Wei

Aiman Sagatova

What drove you to start the studio? Before you started have did you plan your business?

Well, I would say it was not a sudden decision and it was linked with my creative ability developed at early ages. I have practiced craft since childhood. At the age of 6, I learnt from my grandmother how to knit socks and blankets. My mother is an architect. By her encouragement, I used to go to the Art Studio, where I acquired basic artistic skills. The environment I grown up was full of aspiration to a fine art. I remember how my artworks had been sold at the age of 10. During the spring holiday, there was an art exhibition. I earned almost a half of Dad`s salary from selling number of paintings. That was a truly exciting and rewarding experience.

I think people are not always sincere in saying that they make art for the sake of art because in order to continue developing yourself as an artist, you have to invest in yourself. Therefore, hand-made artworks should be valued properly; it is not just my hobby it is a lifestyle. I dedicate full time in order to make a living from what I am good at. I previously had a well-paid job in the oil & gas industry as a technical translator. But, when I moved to England, it became obvious that I had to decide either to pursue a career or dedicate my time to bringing up the children. I chose the latter, because life in England is totally different. The first time, I tried to work as a freelance translator, but it did not provide me with a steady income. Then I came up with an idea to apply my artistic skills, and this is one, which brought me money. When I demonstrated the works on the Internet, it was immediately sold out. This was the critical success factor which influenced me to embark on a business that I definitely enjoy.

Work process

Do you do all of this work by yourself or do you employ people?

It is a self-occupied, sole owner business. Therefore, aside doing craft, I have learnt how to do accounting, to address supply of the row materials and to build a customer relationship. It was not plain sailing at the beginning, since you have to be good at multitasking. But, that is the nature of an artisanal business.

Have you tried to get any funding?

I did not rely on funding. Since taking out a loan from a bank, then struggling to pay tax is not an appropriate way to run a small business. Instead, I decided to build my capacity gradually, buying equipment from my first revenue. I, actually, started my business from my personal savings. It was a fixed amount of money, just enough to buy the necessary staff. Then by getting the first orders, I had a chance to drum up my business step by step.

Handbag messanger in Kazakhsha style

How do you advertise and sell your products?

In order to provide consistent flow of overviews, I promote the products in different social media. Except the web-site (kazakhshaleatherartstudio.co.uk), customer buy my product through the various online marketplaces such as an American platform Etsy.com.(www.etsy.com/ru/people/asagatova).

Who are the customers?

Customers are all over the worlds, for example, Australia, America, Russia, Hong Kong, European countries, even from Africa etc. The customers’ geography is an interesting one. Some customers appreciate the handmade products, they want to make statements. Some will ask for special logo or pattern. It is quite customised. I do bespoke leather products according to my customer’s preference. But not all the customers have clear ideas of what the stuff looks like. Different people have different approaches. A customer just showed me a pair of new shoes and wanted to have one. I will produce according to the clients’ budget to and try to meet their requirements.

Ladies Leather belt "Nauryz" tooled and carved in Kazakhsha Style

What makes your products special, and an outstanding Kazakhsha style?

I use leather, the skin is a very versatile material, and from cow, camel or different reptiles. I work with the top layer (full grain), the best part of skin of the animals. And the suppliers are from Italy. It’s plain white material that hasn’t been coloured. I cut, paint and do everything by hand. The material is much more expensive than the normal leather which is not full grain but may be good for sofa and jackets.

`Kazakhsha style` is not just the name. (As it is explained on my web-site profile,) "Kazakhsha" means "to speak Kazakh", but it is also my identity, my very own way to express myself, and being proud of my national heritage. The native elements and the symbols carved on the top of the leather are all reflection of nomadic culture. It reminds me of homeland, and is also the reason why I usually consists the Kazakh pattern in design. Some people have emotional feeling towards Kazakh things and would like to have a Kazakh style element as nostalgia. Some people find it exotic. However, there are many other elements and pattern in my designs, for example, animals and flowers.

Did you have any difficulties when you started your studio?

Sometimes I feel very tired and had no inspiration for my designs.

In terms of business, the biggest difficulty is that it is hard for me to handle all the things. Since I am sometimes overloaded with the orders. Especially during the Christmas deadline. It is important to be on time as I have to provide a good customers’ service.

Future vision for your business?

I will think about hiring someone to help in order to get more customers.

Actually, I had thought about my design or products attracting big brands. However, I suspect it would be incompatible collaboration. Accepting the offer from a big brand means mass producing, whereas, for me, the most important concept is handmaking. It is a professional skill as one of the oldest craftsmanship. It should be emphasised that each of the work is unique. I do understand that my products are not affordable by many people. But, the niche makes it valuable.


February 21, 2015

Interview with a lifestyle cultural entrepreneur

Interviewee: Qi Fu, 33, female

Interviewer: Zhe Tang


Company: ‘秘会’, ‘Secret Date’, a lifestyle space in Beijing, started in January.

Slogan: ‘a light luxury lifestyle’

Business concept: To provide an after-work space for female professionals in Beijing to get rid of the pressure of workplace with an artistic lifestyle.

Target market: female professionals, age between 28-35, month salary between RMB 20,000-30,000 (GBP 2,083-3,125)

Location: located on east third ring of Beijing, in the capital city’s business area. One station by subway to the city’s CBD and Sanlitun Village, a concentrated area with bars and fashion brand shops frequently visited by trendsetters and white-collars.

Value chain: ‘Secret Date’ operates as a promotion platform to sell artists designs online and run lifestyle sessions offline. Artists and class tutors are paid by certain percentage of commission.

Operation mode

Offline: offline sessions include flower arrangement, drawing, vocal music, reading club, beauty makeup class, etc. personalised design, private party…

Online: sell designer products via online shop on Chinese social media ‘Wechat’

Vision: Bridging the gap between artists and consumers to make art a lifestyle for female professionals.

Mission

Creating a private space for female professionals to enrich their life with artistic tastes.

Giving independent designers and artists the access to mass consumers through the platform.

Entrepreneur background: studied vocal music in Germany for eight years. Came back to China at the age of 28 and worked as a voice teacher for three years in Beijing. Expecting to expand social circle and learn management, Fu joined Chinese job-hunting TV show ‘Only You’, where she won the job of president assistant of Eve Group, a Chinese men’s wear company. Fu left the company in January, 2015 to start her own business.

Q&A:

Q: Why do you want to start your own business?

A: I have a lot of ideas, which I can’t realise when working for someone else, I need a space to make my personal ideas come true. I’ve accumulated many resources in media, PR, fashion and cultural industry through my last job. I want to use my network to promote my friends in these industries as an agency. Designer platforms are becoming popular recently.

Q: Where does your idea come from?

A: Professional women in Beijing with monthly salary under 50,000 yuan (5,211 pounds) can only live a decent rather than luxurious life. I hope to make art a kind of lifestyle instead of something distant from the public. Outside work, I want to enrich their lives with artistic tastes and design, meanwhile affordable.

Q: How did you solve the start-up capital?

A: I have some friends with similar ideas, and each of us take some money to start the business. I worked in men’s wear company, thus have a network with designers and production companies. My partner studied design and worked in jewellery company.

Q: Meaning of the name ‘Secret Date’, and the logo.

A: What I create is an artistic lifestyle space, therefore I want to people to associate it with privacy, secrecy and mystery. That’s how I name the brand and why I use ’S’, the first letter of ‘Secret’, in the logo.

Q: Who is your target customer? Why?

A: The major consuming power in China is the after 80s, who are well educated, with certain proportion having overseas background They are at the most uprising period of their career. I hope these people, from 28 to 35 years old, who care about their life quality, will become my customers. I want to attract them with the concept of ‘art as a lifestyle’, and produce service and products from learning their needs.

Q: Your understanding of the industry, e.g. market size, competition, potential and your advantage.

A: These years Chinese people started to be interested in designer brands and art derivatives. The demand for luxury brands is decreasing. Many designers and artists begin to operate independently, but for artists, there is a contradiction between artistic pursuit and public demand. Products with too much abstract concept can hardly be accepted by the mass market. My advantage is I can use what I have learnt to communicate with designers and artists in a rational way to help them create marketable products. Then use my network resources and operating experience to promote their works.

Q: Profit mode.

A: designer product selling: online specialised design B2C, offline mass production B2B

Offline sessions and activities: membership

Q: Communication strategy.

A: I hope to attract target consumers by cross-brand cooperation and creating events our target consumers interested in, then spread it by social media. Word of mouth is the ideal way as it means recognition from our customers.

note: Fu is currently running a public account of her brand on ‘Wechat', the most popular Chinese social media platform. With friends working in media industry, they produce and release exquisite blogs and photos through the platform. They rely on consumers and friends forwarding these blogs to increase the subscription of their public account to reach more potential audiences.

Q: How does the Chines government support cultural and creative businesses?

A: By now, we haven’t applied for national capital or policy support. As far as I know, the Chinese government is very supportive to cultural and creative businesses. Candidates can apply for national fund, project support etc. For example, each district provides startup enterprises with working space support.



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  • Thanks to Olivia and Oscar for posting this some great questions and food for thought here. by Ruth Leary on this entry

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