Petra Brlayova – Entrepreneur
Petra, you are the founder of Corkit.sk – the very first e-shop and show room with cork fashion? Is that correct? Could you tell us little bit more about your startup and yourself?
It’s correct – the showroom located in the Old Town of Bratislava is so far the only one related to cork fashion. There was another cork e-shop in the time I launched mine, but it seemed a bit dormant. And there are some talented ladies who sew from cork leather. It’s a fascinating material, so no wonder more and more people deal with cork. When it comes to my story, I saw the first cork fashion items in the “Mekka of cork” – in Portugal. But it took me years to start wearing a cork bag. I ordered it from one small manufacturer and fell in love with this bag immediately?I tested the bag quite heavily, spilled coffee or beer on it, walked in the rain and snow, scratched it with nails.The cork bag survived, so I said to myself that this piece of nature and sustainable quality is something that Slovaks should wear as well. I launched my eshop in March 2017. Prior to the official launch I ordered several cork bags, wallets and other stuff to have sufficient amount in the stock. In February 2018 I opened showroom as well, since many people kept asking me where they can touch and see cork products and I didn’t have a nice place to invite them.
What lead you or inspired you to start your own business and why did you choose products made of cork?
It was a combination of several things – I love nature, wood and cork specifically. I am keen on products made of or inspired by nature. I adore Portugal. The topic of sustainability is very close to me. And I like stories. Cork connects all these “likes”.
It’ s a natural, eco, cruelty free, vegan material. Only after 25 years, the bark from a cork tree can be harvested for the first time and then every 7 years the harvest can take place again. The whole process of creating cork leather or cork skin (that’s the name of cork material used for bags or wallets) takes months. As a result, you wear a pretty long story alongside your cork bag.
Did you always wanted to start your own business?
It’s not that I’ve always wanted to start my own business or project, but there’s been this small idea somewhere back in my head that it would be nice to at least try something on my own. And this idea has been gradually growing and growing until I found myself speaking of creating cork eshop and suddenly, there it was. ? But I am pretty sure that I’m not ending here, ideas for business keep flowing in my head so who knows, maybe one day I will add some new feature into my cork project or I will launch something new. The thing is that to want to start something is easy, to start something is quite easy as well, but to continue is a bit harder?
What are the daily struggles you face as a business owner?
One of the daily struggles is related to my capacity as a human being, most of the daily operations I am doing on my own and it requires time and energy.
Then, procrastination is another of the top struggles. There are so many things I need to do on a daily basis also in other areas of my life and sometimes it’s just too hard to come back from work and to work again on my own stuff. I am sure I am not the only one with this problem?
Another struggle has been the lack of capital. Because of the nature of cork business, I need to buy many things to my stock and then expect that the products will be sold. Dropshipping strategy (*when you don’t need to have products in stock since your clients’ orders are processed in your supplier’s store directly) is not applicable here. And to fill the stock in the first place, you must have some money.
Despite these so called struggles, I don’t regret my decision to try this cork project. I have learnt a lot, not only about business, but also about myself and people around. And maybe it sounds a bit masochistic, but I enjoy those daily struggles a lot.
Do you feel support from your surroundings? How people react when they find out you have a full time job and your own business?
I think that to feel support is one of the highest needs in the “Maslow pyramid” of every entrepreneur-to-be. I am very happy that the closest people around me understand that to combine full time job and startup and other activities is not easy, but it was my choice and part of my personality that they accept. Many people are shocked when I tell them I work full time and run a business. People tend to think that when you start your business, you must be rich, and you don’t need to work because your profits are immediately staggering. But it’s not true, you need some money to finance your dreams in the beginning of your journey and you need time?
Who has been the biggest support on your journey?
I am happy to be surrounded by people giving me not only verbal support but also advice. Special thanks goes to Monika, my personal marketing consultant. My family, boyfriend, his family has been incredibly supportive. There are days when I attend fairs and events to promote my project. There is no time to eat and to rest, so my mum and my boyfriend come to help, they bring me some refreshments and assist with everything needed. My boyfriend has gradually learnt to accept the fact that during the week there are days when I wake up earlier and come back home later than him, so he started to take charge of dinners.?
If you could motivate and inspire at least one girl or woman to start her own business, what would be your advice?
To just start and continue. Normally, it takes years, not weeks. If you already have the dream to start some project, it means that it has some potential and to test this potential, you simply must do something. Do small things first and consistently. And don’t be sad if things will not go as you wanted, you are learning and the only thing you can lose is just money.
Do you think there are enough business female owners at Slovakia?
No, I don’t think so and it’s a pity. I observed one thing. When there is a woman trying to establish her startup, to open a restaurant, or a woman already having a company, most of the time her project has some nice story, emotions, life. The female way of doing business involves heart, intuition and creativity. I think that the world of entrepreneurship needs more women.
What would you change, so the business owners have it easier at Slovakia?
It would be great if people had a chance to try to do business firstly during the first months without the obligation to establish a legal company (s.r.o.) or status of sole proprietary. If you want to start with something, you need to pay to create a company or change your status to sole proprietary, but how can you know that this is what you really want? Luckily, some universities started to run courses on business for students, e.g. you establish and run a pilot version of a start-up, you get a mentor etc.
And of course, I am not going into the debate of easiness of doing business in Slovakia, that would be a long topic to discuss:)
Can you imagine yourself as a full-time entrepreneur?
Sure, that would be great and hopefully I will get there one day. I am still not sure if I have the right skillset, but without trying several times, you will never find out. Who knows, maybe I will find out I am working better as an employee or that I totally thrive as a full-time entrepreneur.