Another super interesting reading for all women that work so hard to nail their startup. This blog is about Andrea, she likes it when people call her Dre but never introduces herself as Dre, ha! She was born in the former Yugoslavia, in Sarajevo. Dre is the proud founder of the startup sisu socks. An interesting fact about her? She is an excellent gift-giver and gift idea engineer, she thinks that’ll be her next job title. Read along to find out how our events have helped her build the confidence to start her social business that empowers women.
How did you end up as an entrepreneur?
Sarajevo is my birthplace but my family and I immigrated to Canada in the winter of 1994. I grew up in rural Alberta and I’ve survived -47°C weather. I grew up in a place with a very different culture from mine. My friends from there still call me their “immigrant friend”. It makes me laugh because my friends from back home (Bosnia) also refer to me as their foreign friend.
When I found Berlin, I felt finally at peace and at home and like I belonged. I studied Advertising and Marketing Communications and for a long time I thought that THAT was it, to work in that industry was going to be my dream job. Until I really got into that world and realized I wasn’t about it, it didn’t excite me. I guess I just enjoyed learning about it more than the reality of it. I worked in startups and agencies and spent a long time trying to be happy at those jobs. However, I never found what I was looking for.
Women should feel empowered to just shine and be who they have always dreamed of being!
Could you explain more about the company that you founded?
I started sisu socks on International Women’s Day (March 8th) 2019. It’s an homage to all the women in the world who don’t see their own light often enough. The sock designs are inspired by the stories of badass women and with every pair purchased on our online shop – we make a donation to a women’s empowerment organization. I want to continue to tell more stories, to produce more sock designs so that more amazing women from history can be brought into the spotlight. I want my feminist socks to be a subtle way for all feminists to express that side of them – without necessarily screaming out to the world what they believe in. Eventually, I want to introduce other products into the mix as well but for now – we start with socks.
At which point in your story did you know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Good question. I’m not sure if there was every one specific moment. I think I just got sick and tired of being unhappy at work. Also, I didn’t want to accept that it was my fate. I wanted to try something new, I wanted flexibility, I wanted to redefine “work”, I wanted to have my own business baby and I wanted to fully commit to something. As a kid, I always started something new so easily but then gave up much too soon, I didn’t want to be that way anymore. I went into it not being afraid of failure. Because I’m not.
What’s the worst that could happen to me if it doesn’t work out in the end? I learn from it, I had fun, I had hard times and then I try something new. Nothing wrong in that. If anything, I will learn what I loved about it and what I didn’t and try to adjust for the next time.
How have your experiences of living in several countries, helped with your professional development?
Not only is my network spread across the world, but the uniqueness of cultures, diversity in experiences and backgrounds is also immense. It’s an absolute pleasure knowing all of the people around the world that I know. Because you are not always keeping in touch with people, it gives people a chance to miss each other – which creates an even stronger bond.
Opportunities for reconnection are vast. I know wherever I am in the world, I have someone to reach out to, to ask for help from and to exchange experiences with. Being in touch with so many different perspectives has allowed me to learn from each of them. Not only about how the world works in different places but also how I can be more open, understanding and respectful. It has opened my mind and my way of thinking.
On your website, you quoted Emma Watson saying, “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.” How does this align with empowering women, your mission statement?
Empowering women isn’t just about focusing on women. It’s about balance. It’s about reminding men that it’s okay to be sensitive, it’s okay to share your emotions, it’s okay to feel things out and talk about what you’re going through. It’s okay to stand up for the women in your life and show them the same amount of respect. The inequality we face today isn’t just one-sided – toxic masculinity is a very real thing.
We also need to remind women that they are worthy of anything they want. To remind women that they can be the powerhouse CEO who is slaying all day at work. Then taking care of her employees and showing them empathy and sweetness if she wants. It’s about all the sides of masculinity and femininity being available to anyone. Not just focusing on the aspects that were assigned to us based on our gender. Pick and choose what works for you!
There is so much freedom in just being who you are. If you believe in the idea of equality, I think the best place you can start is by empowering women. Tell a woman how amazing she is and lift her up, support her in her dreams because that will come back to you in floods of joy and satisfaction. When a woman is empowered, the community around her GLOWS. A strong man supports a woman because he is not afraid of her success. Because he knows that her success will also mean success for everyone.
You have attended several events of ours and ended up speaking at one of our events. How did these experiences help in your development of becoming a successful Entrepreneur?
Seeing other women shine up on those stages lit a fire inside of me. In 2018, I went to the Rising Stars event and watched incredibly confident and very real women share their stories, I wanted to be like them. I promised myself that next year (in 2019) I would find a way to be on that stage. And I did it. Thanks to Val and her team for accepting me and for inviting me to share the stage with some brilliant women this year. Getting myself out of my comfort zone and attending these events, especially that speaking event gave me a newfound confidence. Getting feedback from people after the event really lifted me up and just made me want to fight even stronger to go after the things I believed in and to fight for my business even harder.
I guess just seeing other women and hearing their stories – that they didn’t just wake up in those roles – because we idolize those people when we aren’t ourselves quite yet there. We think so often that we can’t and we are too weak or we don’t know enough or we aren’t prepared enough but honey, we are all the same on so many levels, we were all thinking that at some point. The question is, how bad do you want this? If you want this bad enough, you will sacrifice for it and you will force those evil voices in your head to shut the f*** up for second and go for it. Reach out, ask for help, none of us did this on our own. None of us woke up and ended up here, we all worked so damn hard for it.
Lastly, do you have any tips for Female Entrepreneurs that are thinking about starting an online business in specific?
There is no such thing as perfect enough. There is no such thing as ready-enough. It’s like having a kid (I assume) – it’s never the best timing. You have to just do it and make it work along the way. I remember hustling to get things ready for my launch. In those months leading up to it I was like “okay, I’m going to prepare all this for the launch”. However, in the stress of it all I forgot that “wow, this is the rest of my life, it doesn’t just end on launch day, every day I will learn something new and every day I will most likely feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.” But that’s the special thing about being an entrepreneur – you can challenge yourself every single day and learn something new every single day.
For an online business specifically, don’t assume you’re going to be able to survive off of this instantly (financially), and don’t automatically assume you’re a failure because of it. Be ready for this, financially. Whether that means to save some money, or take on a part-time job – be ready. If you have financial support like me, you’re lucky – don’t take it for granted. When you don’t, then you need to be able to readjust your life (just like I did, just like many of us did) and remember that a life of financial security will be a thing of the past for a little while. If you can find something to start a business together with, do it.
Go to events that are related to online businesses, to female entrepreneurship – you will meet other like-minded women and most of all – don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if it makes your stomach turn. Get over yourself. You cannot do this on your own, asking for help is the new black.