This week Girls Perspective caught up with Elsina Mensah the founder of the vibrant fashion brand Crazy Haute. She told us about her inspiration behind the brand, as well as how she juggles motherhood and what advice she would give to her daughters and anybody about starting their own business.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Yes I have. I love fashion, in fact when I was in secondary school I actually wanted to be an interior designer and I had that dream for a while, however when I got older and went to University my true love for fashion transpired more. I thought I was quite stylish and I always got compliments on my style and how I would put my outfits together, it just sort of came naturally to me. So, I extended that into a fashion blog that I started in 2010 which wasn’t necessarily focused on my style, but more so the style of other fashion bloggers.
Who was your style inspiration growing up?
I would say I was inspired by people that I was watching on TV, girl groups such as Destiny’s Child and TLC. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a follower of fashion, I think it was more I would see something and it would inspire me, but I wouldn’t necessarily dress like a certain person. I think as a whole they inspired me to a certain degree.
So did you know when you started where you wanted your business to go?
It wasn’t planned and I didn’t plan to start in any particular way. It was just me putting something out into the world and not expecting it to take off. Initially, when I started the business I didn’t even start with makeup bags, I probably did one or two as my product line was changing bags which came from me being a mum, as well as pencil cases, my focus was not to do makeup bags.
What inspired you to start Crazy Haute?
I saw what was out there, I was looking on Instagram scrolling through and I noticed that some girls were doing makeup bags kind of like the ones that I do but they weren’t particularly stylish. I had already done other things like printing personalised cushions so I had the equipment and I realised that personalised makeup bags were becoming a new thing. So I thought to myself I could do something much better than what was already out there.
As I mentioned earlier this was not planned, I consider it to be a random project that just took off. Having started a lot of businesses before, Crazy Haute was like the 10th one, none of them took off as quickly. The makeup industry came to me, loads of makeup artists started reaching out asking for customised makeup bags, it was sort of this movement that happened. I just hit the ground running and continued with it as there seemed to be a big demand.
What would you say is the biggest mistake people who are starting their own businesses make?
I believe that there are 3 things that people tend to do when it comes to starting a business. The biggest mistake I believe is procrastination, a lot of people that I have spoken to and in general when starting their own businesses are working full time and say that one day they are going to start their own business and quite often it never happens.
Secondly, a lot of people often think you must start perfectly. So if they are not procrastinating, then they are delaying because they are trying to get everything perfect, their logo, their website etc. However, I think that if you have a product and it’s good then the rest is irrelevant, because at the end of the day that is what people are buying, you can always sort the rest out as you go. Trying to make it perfect shouldn’t stop you from making it happen.
Lastly, I think it’s the fear of starting as well as the fear of commitment, it is such a big commitment to start your own business! People have a fear of failure, that it might not work out.
So in terms of you and your business, what has been your biggest learning experience?
I think the main thing I’ve learned and understand from business is that no matter what industry or profession you’re in people buy from people. At the end of the day we are all people and we buy from each other. Even with Crazy Haute being carried by ASOS I’ve never thought of it as this giant company because I have always thought of it as one person that works for ASOS and I’ve dealt with that person. Although it is a big company, it was one person who saw my products, liked it and said we would like to stock it. So I think that you have to be a people’s person, you have to be warm, kind, articulate yourself well and also cater to their needs, because once you win them over as a friend,then it’s all go from there.
You have collaborated with some big brands such as Urban Decay, Ricky’s, L’Oreal, Kiehl’s and your products are stocked at ASOS. What was your approach to collaborating with those companies?
The tricky answer to that question is that apart from ASOS most of the others I have collaborated with contacted me. My first big break came from Ricky’s in New York (they have 28 stores in New York and 3 in Miami) they saw my products on Instagram contacted me and was like “hey, we would love you to produce 500 bags for us.” This was when I did not have a full website or spectacular images or anything, they just liked my products and they knew I could customise them so they just put in an order straight away. Then in terms of ASOS I just simply emailed them a picture of my product, I believed that my product was good enough to be sold on ASOS! I didn’t have a strategy behind it, I just believed in my product.
You are also a mother, so how do you juggle that with being a successful business woman?
I always say that my kids are perfect, I feel like God blessed me with the children that I have. I don’t think I would make it as a business woman if I didn’t have the kids that I have. In order for me to be the next Oprah or the next Diddy, I would need to have children that are just well behaved and I do. They allow me to work and even though I would describe myself in this past year a bit of a workaholic, I understand that as a mother that cannot always be the case and it is a balance. So with my two daughters now we do a thing where every Friday we explore a new place in London and just spend time as a family and so now I feel like I am giving back to them.
What have been some of the challenges that have come from trying to juggle motherhood and grow your business?
I can remember in 2015 the summer after I launched Crazy Haute was possibly the lowest point in my life, something happened and I was just sad, I remember feeling low, this lasted for about 3 months.Coming out of it, I asked myself what do I like to do? What would help me get out of this dip? The answer was that I love to travel. So I had a bit of money from Crazy Haute and I decided to book a holiday for me and my children to go to Miami. I did that and it was something to look forward to and it helped me get out from my dip. I have this insane confidence in my abilities and the businesses that I start and so I felt like a big break was coming! So a few months later I got my big deal and it paid for the most amazing trip that my family has ever been on.
With all that you do and all that you have been through, where do you get your motivation from to keep going?
My biggest motivation is life itself. I love life, I believe it is an amazing gift that God has given us and as people we only have one chance, so I feel like I have to do it big because I’m not going to get another chance. At the moment, I am listening to an amazing book called You Are A Badass At Making Money by Jen Sincero It touches on that and other things like in order to succeed you need to have a sense of urgency and seriousness. I personally have never doubted the fact that I was not going to have my own business. I’ve made sacrifices based on the fact that I knew one day I was going to have my own business. All the opportunities that are out there and available to grab that motivates me.
What lessons would you want to teach your children from running a business?
I always say that the most important thing about running your own business is to make sure that you are having fun. It should always come naturally to you. The best businesses and successful business are set up by people who are doing what they love and so when your doing what you love, you’re naturally going to be the best at it and you’ll want to make sure that it is the best it can be. So just make sure you are having fun, make sure your happy and everything else is just a bonus.
Any last parting words for people who might be in that stage of procrastination / delay and might just need some words of encouragement?
Just get something out there, don’t delay, using myself as an example. There are so many things that I started that didn’t work out because it just didn’t gel or the timing wasn’t right. Don’t be scared to fail!! If you start a business and it doesn’t work so what, you will get so much more recognition for trying then the person who was too scared to do it. Even if you step away and acknowledge that it might have failed you can always start again and you can always learn from your mistakes for the next time. So I’d say ,just do it !! As soon as you get that first yes, you will be on a high and everything else will just fall into place. Read the book I mentioned earlier You Are A Badass At Making Money by Jen Sincero it is amazing and it will definitely help you to start your business.