“When you love what you do, it will never feel like you work. But you mind is still working at full speed, so you need to give you mind some time to do something completely different.” – Josefin Liljeqvist
1) Why and when did you start your business?
I started the business in late 2015.
While I was working as a fundraiser for the WWF, more than one time a day a random person would come up to me on the streets and say, “You know you are an awful person, right?”
Obviously, the first time this happened I was shocked. But after that, I started asking them, “So, why am I such an awful person?”
The response was always the same, “It is because humans are meant to work for humans. Humans should not work for animals. They are not important for the world.”
I then tried to explain how ecosystems work and how we all need each other in order to have a functional world. But I could not get through. I read the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and realized that zero of the goals focused on animal protection and animal welfare.
That’s when I decided to use the fashion industry to create a better planet for our animals. And that’s why I have created the world’s first traceable leather shoes – where all the leather parts are uniquely coded and traced back to the exact animals involved. I am inviting the consumer into the stories being told – before they got the leather goods in their hands.
2) What does the Josefin Liljeqvist company do?
The Josefin Liljeqvist brand focuses on improving global animal protection and does so by nudging the world to buy less leather but with a better quality of life for the animal. The brand works exclusively with animals above the age of 12 months.
The traceability occurs by the combination of fashion, art and technology, and we have a software system where the final leather product is uniquely coded and can then be connected back to the exact animals involved.
Upon delivery, the customer is invited to a story back in time to meet the farmers and the farm where the animal was raised.
3) What has been your biggest success since you’ve started?
One of the proudest moments in the brand life was when we were invited to give a talk at the Swedish Parliament about our brand. In the same month, we received an award recognizing us as a brand that improves and inspires animal protection globally.
4) What was your biggest challenge when you started your business? How have you dealt with this challenge?
I have a tendency to forget challenges since they steal energy. But we have had struggles with production and sourcing. Since we are re-thinking how production is done, it took us over two years to have all partners in place and three years to be 100% traceable.
For a young brand, that is quite a long time. But now I can honestly and proudly say that we work with some of the best in the world, in all the stages of our supply chains.
I dealt with this R&D challenge by pre-selling products so we could afford to continue the development. We wanted to focus on the long-term goal and how to get us there instead of focusing only a few months into the future.
5) Do you have any tips for successful work habits you have developed since starting your business?
Take a break, take a pause, don’t work for one day a week. This may sound so simple, but it is the hardest thing ever and something I still struggle with.
When you love what you do, it will never feel like you work. But your mind is still working at full speed, so you need to give your mind some time to do something completely different. And this is especially important when you feel like there is no time, when you are trying to squeeze out good design ideas, operations ideas and so on.
Go offline or do something that might feel like a complete waste of time one day a week and don’t cheat. It is super hard, but your mind and body will thank you. You might even reach the end-goal quicker by giving your mind some free-time to come up with strange unimportant things.
6) What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs or startup founders?
Before you start anything, know why you do what you do and the end goal. And if you are not obsessed with the end goal, go do something else, find your obsession.
Be very clear about what you expect from yourself; have a budget so you don’t need to take out money from your business for the first year minimum.
Also, plan backwards. For example, if you have a ten-year goal, you still need a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily plan. But set the long-term goal first and then break it down into pieces so you don’t lose track.
When you have your plan in place, that big goal won’t feel so unrealistic because you know how to get there and what is required from and by you.
Keep in mind that there will always be haters and non-believers and that is part of the journey. When you get critique from someone you look up to or someone who has been on a similar journey, take it in. Otherwise never think of it again.
In the end, it is your journey and your dream, not theirs.
Best of luck in your new adventure! I will be cheering you on!