Emerging leaders

They prove it’s possible to build a business and remain friends

Before launching a fashion startup, Alex Tymann and Anna Rauch worked in consulting and banking. Both regularly complained about how uncomfortable and unflattering stockings are, even though they are a part of everyday business wear for women. So the two saw an opportunity in improving the product which women usually hate. This is how Hedoine was created, a company producing stockings, which have no seams and do not run. For W Insight, the founders discuss introducing innovation even in the midst of an old-fashioned industry.

Joanna Socha: How did you come up with the concept of the Hedoine? 

Alex Tymann: Anna and I are best friends and we often discussed potential business ideas. Inspired by the Suits TV series, and one of its main characters, Jessica Pearson, we thought about starting a fashion business for busy women, with high-end, but affordable products. To start lean, we picked a product that everyone hates: if you turn that into something great it’s easier to enter the market. This is how Anna came up with the idea of tights. The idea was brilliant! How many times have we bought stockings for 25 euro or more and have them rip after one wearing. Or how many lunch breaks have we wasted on buying new tights. We made a list of what needed to change. So usually it’s a single-use product that quickly runs, and has the ugly seams in front. When we fell in love with the idea, we did the research, due diligence of the business case, met many producers until we actually found the one who could design the product the way we wanted – and then quit our jobs. Our stockings don’t have the ugly seams in the front, and they don’t run. We also decided to change the packaging: instead of having the super boring paper and plastic, they come in an elegant satin pouch.  

Anna Rauch: Before we started the company, we were ordering tights from all over the world to see the technology and the innovation behind them and what the industry looked like. We were surprised that there are only a few big players in the market, which is highly fragmented and very male-dominated. The CEO of Spanx, Sara Blakely, is actually one of the very few women in this business. When we started talking to producers, we realized, they’ve been selling the same designs for years, there have recently been no real innovation and the producers are still using the old-style machines which can last for many years. I was wondering why people wouldn’t say – hey why don’t we make stockings more resistant and seamless? Finally, we met a producer, who was thinking outside the box and made it happen. Also, we use very special fiber and a technique that prevents them from laddering (runs). We sent 100 samples to testers, along with an online questionnaire. Based on those results, we made the last improvement before the official launch in June 2018.

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Alex Tymann and Anna Rauch, the founders of the Hedoine

Weren’t you afraid you were going to invest a lot of money in a startup that might not work? 

Anna: Before we decided to start this company, we spoke to many women, and they all had the same issues with tights. So we knew, we weren’t the only people in the world complaining. And then every time we talked to women about our idea, we could see their eyes light up „finally!” We’ve never had a doubt that this was going work. 

Alex: We are completely aware of the fact that we’re taking risks here, but we are not afraid. The product is in a completely new league and we work extremely hard to make it work. I was in the managing directors team of a startup before and it failed. Surely, that is not an easy situation, but it is also how you learn and make it better next time. Now, with our own startup, I feel it’s a completely different story. We are doing something that we’re passionate about and completely identifying with this brand. I see that things are going in the right direction and our first investors see that, too. They are now also joining the second round of funding – that’s strong positive feedback.

How important is it to pick the right co-founders for a company?

Anna: I tried two startups before. They never passed the concept phase. In both cases I felt like I was driving everything and that my co-founders weren’t really committed enough. There wasn’t really symbiosis and we weren’t in it together full-time and 100% sure about it. So I realized that if I ever did another startup, I would have to be 100% sure of my co-founder, because you spend so much time together. I mean, with Alex – we finish each other’s sentences, we trust each other and really like each other and we like spending time together and we both believe in this idea.

Alex: We both have a finance background, our families both have Polish and German roots, we’ve been friends forever, people think we’re the same person (laugh).

Anna: Alex enjoys the strategic part, the fundraising, setting up agreements and also, she loves to write the content – and I am so glad she does all this. I am way more into technical operations, programming things, making everything work. There are so many areas where we are similar and love the same things, but at the same time we complement each other. And that’s important. 

So it’s possible to work on a startup and survive as friends? 

Alex: I think our friendship got even stronger, more intense. And we didn’t know that before. Until you start something, you don’t really know.

What advice would you give to your younger selves?

Anna: It will take longer than you think. When we knew we were going to send out the samples, we bought red envelopes, because we thought the first samples would be sent out by Christmas. Then we thought, okay, maybe we can do it on Valentine’s Day, and of course, due to many factors, we also missed that one. I would say: be patient! I know, it’s easier said than done.  

Alex: If I compare this startup to the previous one, I’d say, don’t try to improve the world, if you’re not that passionate about the product. Instead, do something simple, but enjoy the journey. It is such a great feeling when you wake up at 6 am and you are excited to start working and love every single day, even if it was a hard day. If you feel that, you know you found the right thing for yourself. Do what you want, and do it your way.

Joanna Socha is the editor-in-chief of W insight

Editor’s note: The Hedoine is going to be officially launched on 14th June 2018

Edited by: Diana Asatryan, Phyllis Budka

 

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