I am very excited to introduce the third #girlboss in my interview series into the lives and drives of up and coming entrepreneurs. Each month I talk to people who are carving out their own paths in life, boss of their own business or creative venture. While I’m digging the #girlpower, boys are absolutely welcome and I have a few I’m lining up for the coming months.
Month of May: Love From Cyprus
Anastasia Gerali is an unstoppable Greek goddess who founded her brand Love From Cyprus in 2012. Born to Greek parents, she grew up in South Africa and spent some time living and working in London before settling down on the island of Cyprus.
I’ve watched her brand grow since it was created into the only brand you need for Greek island style. Her Grecian sandals and beach-ready totes is literally half the wardrobe you need for your Mediterranean holiday. On the Greek islands, less really is more, slipping in and out of sandals and beach dresses as easily as possible before running into the sea.
I really love the design ethos of the brand, which is products made to last, also known as slow fashion. This means using the best leathers and materials sourced from Greece and Italy as well as employing local businesses and artisans throughout the product value chain. Everything is Made in Cyprus and made to order. It’s through discovering brands like this that we can all become more conscious consumers!
As of this year, Anastasia has introduced an exciting new customisation option, where you can choose any sandal style in any colour for just €10 extra. For Miss Portmanteau readers, Anastasia is giving 10% off all purchases made online, simply click here and enter the exclusive code MISSP.
I recently caught up with Anastasia on her last visit to London, while we were still having those warm Spring days perfect for wearing my denim blue Rhea buckled slides. I love the authenticity and quality of the brand and have also bought a pair of Kamares slides in black to wear next month in Mykonos.
Anastasia, thanks again for participating in this interview series and letting us peek inside your life!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It’s finally summer and I am super excited to share my new collection! Summer is my busiest season. I’ve also been working on a new sub brand called Neo Love, which is finally available exclusively on my webshop.
Neoprene is a great material for bags and sandals because it’s machine washable and lightweight. The totes are cool for the summer and available in popping fresh colours.
It’s been five years since you started, what can you tell us about your journey so far?
I originally started my brand in 2012 as a hobby while I was working as a graphic designer, like many independent designers starting out. I officially quit my day job just over a year later when I realised that my brand was never going to grow if I didn’t completely dedicate myself to it.
As you can imagine, everyone advised me against quitting, but still I took the chance. It hasn’t been a walk in the park but I would do it all again. I have my ups and downs, but it’s all part of my journey and my growth as an individual and entrepreneur.
I studied graphic design, so I have no formal business training. As a result the brand has grown very organically and I learn as I go along. I’m very much a school of life person anyway. I am completely self-funded and used my savings earned from my old job to get started. My mum is my biggest cheerleader and if it wasn’t for her, there were many moments where I probably would have thrown in the towel.
Having the courage to start something of my own is both my biggest success and challenge. If you don’t have any business advice or knowledge, be prepared to stumble as you learn. Being your own boss is not for the faint of heart! It really does challenge you and make you question everything when things are tough and you feel like you are hitting a brick wall.
It’s survival of the fittest. But the challenges also teach you to be quick on your feet and problem solve or change direction quickly. There is no cushion for trial and error. No safety net. The best advice I got, believe it or not, is from the book ‘How to get rich’ by Felix Dennis who advocates remaining self funded and to never give away equity. Something that young startups and entrepreneurs do all too quickly nowadays.
I love that book! You’re an online business, which is also the trend for smaller businesses, especially in the world of fashion. How do you feel that helps or hinders you?
Selling online is a fantastic opportunity for a business like mine, as you are no longer limited to the people who come to your store. The whole world is a potential buyer and your online store or social media account is your vitrine. It’s interesting to see how certain countries and communities are more tech-savvy and comfortable buying online than others. It’s taking some time for consumers everywhere to gain the confidence to shop online, while shipping fees and ease of ordering also go some way towards building that confidence.
There is definitely a positive trend towards buying from smaller brands, as we are looking for products which are unique and better quality than what you can get on the high street. It’s getting more and more difficult for big brands to pull the wool over our eyes, and if something is too cheap or expensive, it makes the consumer question why. I think once you find a brand and you love their products, you become loyal and continue to buy from them. Especially if you support what they stand for.
Our made-to-order ethos is based on minimising waste, which is something we stick to. Even if I had a store, my leather sandals are made on demand so I would only have limited stock to try and buy. Although this can be a turn off for the type of customer who wants to try before they buy, our solution is to offer exchanges over refunds to make sure that the customer is happy and at the same time the artisans who crafted the product still get paid and can make their living.
You focus a lot on sandals and handbags, was this always the case or did you narrow down to this over time?
In recent years I’ve focused a lot on leather sandals as it coincided with a huge rise in demand for Greek style sandals around the world. All of a sudden the product I was offering became this huge trend and ever since Love From Cyprus has been best known for its sandals… despite the fact that I started out with bags!
It definitely helped put my brand in the spotlight, although I’m hoping to show more versatility going forward. I’ve returned to bags with my new neoprene range and my aim for now and the future is to establish Love From Cyprus as a lifestyle brand founded in my values.
I believe that everything you buy should be an investment, something you plan to use for years to come and not just a passing fad which will quickly become ‘last season’. I’m not even trying to compete with high street brands because my products are not mass-produced. The rising interest in brands like mine feels more like my community than my competitors.
What should we expect from you in the future?
I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing while expanding the brand to include more lifestyle products. The big goal is to be able to employ people, to grow a team and have a kick-ass studio full of these enthusiastic hard-working people.
That’s a big part of why I started this. In my former job I wasn’t working in an environment I loved, which is something I want to create for myself and others. To offer a space for like-minded people who are as excited to come into work as I am, to bounce ideas off and share my success with.
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You can follow Anastasia’s brands Love From Cyprus and Neo Love on Instagram as well as Facebook for latest news, trends and offers.
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