Lately, I’ve been tormented by this idea that if I were doing this from any other country in the world, the results would have been a whole lot different. They say slow and steady wins the race, but lately I’ve been feeling like this race is rigged and all I do is just put out small fires everywhere. Running a business is tough, but running one from a country with zero business infrastructure can sometimes feel quite exhausting to be honest. With no support system, no mentors, no community to rely on, a small market with low purchasing power, and no organizations to lend a helping hand, a small business owner here is left in the dark to power through completely alone and that at times does not only feel discouraging, but oftentimes can get pretty lonely. Half of the time, you’re wondering what you’re doing, as your mind wanders overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done and the other half you’re just running around spending time on chores that keep you away from the thing you should be focusing on. It makes me dizzy, just thinking about all the things I have to juggle each and every day as a small business owner in this country. So if you’re a small business owner in North Macedonia, especially if you’re a woman, I applaud you. You deserve all the praise in the world.
Honestly, up until this moment, I haven’t had the time to actually sit down, reflect and process it all, as this year has been quite the messy haze of happenings. What I’ve learnt though is that the thing that keeps me holding up in times when these thoughts fly across my mind, piercing through whatever sanity I have left is the impact the small community of women single parents I’ve built has had on me and my personal growth. You know, up until this year it was my belief that my small label has made a difference in these women’s lives, when the truth of the matter is they have helped me personally just as much as Bastet Noir has helped them. Hearing their stories of struggle, how they used to make ends meet, living on a salary of 100$ per month, how some of them escaped the vicious circle of domestic violence, only to find themselves shackled back in it not by choice, but by the lack of it, because this rotten society doesn’t lift a finger to help them, in fact it pushes them back in by constantly reminding them that they are not good enough and they will never amount to anything on their own, it’s both as frustrating as it is eye opening. But hearing how they overcame all this and has come on the other side of it as winners is just so inspiring and reminds me why I so desperately seek to craft a corner of this society where these women feel safe, heard and supported. Or perhaps it’s for my own selfish reasons, knowing that I’ve built something that gives them hope for a second chance in life it feels so fulfilling. Whatever the reason behind my drive, the surprising thing is that I keep pushing forward despite the frustration and the setbacks. Insane person here, I know.
Now that I got that off my chest, the time to brag shamelessly has come. So despite these occasional deep thoughts clouding over me, this year has been quite the shitstorm of frantic laughter, extremely happy bits and moments of deep, over consuming sadness. Business wise, it was awesome, as we managed to triple the profit of the previous year as well as double the funds we’ve gathered for our Women Fund that we launched at the end of last year. Below you will find a map of all the countries we shipped our pieces to. Looking at this map feels seriously satisfying, knowing that a piece of me and my country is scattered across the world. A refreshing surprise this year was the fact that we’ve had quite a few sales coming from EU countries. As you know, we’ve been pretty strong in the US and UK, but EU was just not a market we were targeting up until this year. To all of our customers worldwide, I would like to say a big THANK YOU, for not only keeping our small team of misfits afloat this year, but giving us your unselfish support and strength to excel.
This year we’ve worked with even more impressive women, among which Aditi Mayer a sustainable fashion advocate, Amanda Randone, whose words has graced powerhouse magazines like British Vogue, Porter Magazine and Elle USA to name a few, Alina Bock who has been our go-to comedian every day, Sophie Benson and Megan Doyle writers who educate us constantly on sustainability issues in the fashion industry, Youtuber Lydia Tomlinson who has single handedly helped our label be seen and our women’s voices be heard and last but not least the gorgeous Katarina Ivanovska a worldwide renowned top model who was kind enough to support us by modeling for our last collection, made in collaboration with the stylist Pupi Milena. We’ve been shortlisted for Tommy Hilfiger’s 200 businesses , sadly we didn’t make it to the final round, but hey being among the 200 companies they want to support for their social fund is also a win, so I’ll take it. GoodOnYou, the world’s leading source for sustainability in fashion, supported by Emma Watson, has ranked our label as GOOD on their platform, so we’ve had some pretty awesome feedback coming from their amazing community whose appreciation of the work we do is just beyond words. On that note, being listed in their directory has also attracted so much good press for us. Since then, we’ve been featured in WhoWhatWear, thanks to their amazing editor Jasmine Fox-Suliaman and in Brides, thanks to the incredible Mel Forcier. In October we were thrilled to welcome another intern to our team which personally for me it was a very satisfying moment seeing our team grow and expand. We started doing livestream shopping on ShopShops, which to be honest was a super fun experience, so expect us to do this more often next year. We’ve also been accepted to sell our label on Zalando, which is a big deal for us. We’re currently working on getting our products ready to sell there. It’s going to be a long process for sure, but we’re hopeful we can launch on there by the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023. Keep your fingers crossed. Another big win for our label was the fact that pieces of our collections were sold in not 1, but 3 physical stores in the USA this year, Houston(Texas), Newton (Massachusetts) and Madison (Washington). This was an actual goal for 2021, so I’m super proud of this achievement. Humble, I know.
Despite all of this, the thing that’s the most fulfilling for me personally is the area of forest we managed to protect, thanks to our carbon emission offset program. The fact that our initiative has helped plant 1.151 seedlings makes my heart so happy, knowing that in a small way we’ve contributed to making this Earth a little bit greener.
As far as goals for 2022 go, expanding our current community of women single parents is going to be our top priority in the first few months. As our orders increase and your support just keeps pouring in, what I hope to do is to have at least 2 new women join our team by the end of the year. Speaking of expanding the team, we also hope to find another intern somewhere at the beginning of January. As we receive more and more made to measure orders, 2022 will also be a year where we focus more on improving customers’ experience by hopefully changing the layout of our website to make it easier for you to shop custom. Social media is also going to be a big part of 2022 and we’ll be putting our focus on being more physically present by not just posting photos and behind the scenes moments, but interacting with you as well. So come next year, you’ll be seeing our faces more, whether you like it or not.
Another good thing about this year was that I finally got rid of my imposter syndrome. Well maybe not entirely, but I started feeling like I was finally ready to share the knowledge I gathered throughout the years with aspiring entrepreneurs around the world, so I’ve decided to start offering consulting services and has worked with WiseHer to mentor their thriving community of women entrepreneurs. That led me to yet another interesting project, as I was commissioned to start writing articles on all things small business for Zapier. I hope you found them helpful.
My article on branding for Zapier
As yet another year comes to its end, I think it’s safe to assume that 2021 would go down in history as one of humanity’s most dreadful years. There hasn’t been a corner of the world that hasn’t been impacted in one way or another by the wrecking ball, also known as COVID-19. As probably almost anyone else out there, my family too was infected with the virus somewhere around the beginning of March and it went horribly, with my dad ending up on a breathing machine, fighting for dear life. Luckly, it all ended well, but the stress that came with the notion of losing him has got me thinking of just how much we take for granted the simple moments like those lunch gatherings you avoid because you’re so busy wrapped up in your own pile of bullshit. You think there will always be another one of those family reunions, until you’re suddenly hit with the harsh reality of existence and realize that your life is forever altered by the simple truth that you may never get back those seemingly insignificant night chatter gatherings in your living room.
So, if there’s one thing I learnt this year is that time is fleeting and should always be treated like the fragile gift it is. Tomorrow is not given, as in the wink of an eye, you can wake up to face an entirely different world from the one you left behind yesterday. Learn to live in the moment, and not duel in the past, cherish simple fragments of shared laughter with those closest to you, capture inches of blissful happiness and keep those memories alive so when those dreadful days to part ways inevitably come, you’ll feel at peace knowing that they left this world feeling loved and appreciated.
Well there are my two cents for the year. Here’s to another year filled with uncertainty, but also indescribably happy moments shared with your family.
Happy holidays everyone.