“Your team is everything. Think of it as a military operation.” With Chic Cartel, Cofounders Olga Gomonova and Victoria Nelson

Victoria & Olga
I had the pleasure of interviewing Olga Gomonova and Victoria Nelson, Co-founders of ChicCartel.com. Right now, Chic Cartel is raising funds to help two sustainable fashion designers. Olga has graduated from Harvard Business School and has been a fortune 500 executive before starting ChicCartel.
Victoria was working as a fashion photographer shooting covers for anything from GQ to Cosmopolitan. She also published a widely acclaimed art book on body images called Curves on www.victoriajanashvili.com.
“Do everything yourself first. If you hire someone to do the job you don’t understand, you won’t get good results.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Somewhere at the beginning of the last year, we realized that even though fashion is definitely a female thing, the absolute majority of fashion companies are owned and run by men. What’s more, in general, the fashion industry doesn’t align with key issues that are important to women in 2018 — women’s rights, health, and environment. We felt that the time was ripe to create a “girl-power” collective/incubator whose sole purpose was to help women stand up their small sustainable fashion businesses. This is how ChicCartel was born.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

Yes! like most entrepreneurs, we had to learn most things from scratch and do everything ourselves. Since we are a fashion brand we had to develop really cute packaging and order in bulk. When the shipment arrived — several thousand boxes — we had to manually re-package everything and try to fit as much of it in our car to drive it to the closest warehouse. So one morning around 7am we met in a parking lot, rolled our sleeves and started opening those huge cargo boxes and stuffing flattened packages into our small car. We worked all morning. At some point, Victoria’s boyfriend took a picture of us from the window above. It looked like a war scene: hundreds of boxes scattered everywhere, tissue paper flying around, pieces of cardboard on the ground and us standing there sweaty, hair messed up, stretched out pants and rolls of scotch tape in our hands. He sent the image to all our friends with a caption “well-oiled machine”.

So what does your company do?

We are an online marketplace for ethical and sustainable female-owned fashion brands. We let you choose from a gorgeous selection of hot and super on-trend fashion that is also well made and sustainable. The bigger mission of the company is to help women succeed in the world of fashion from the business standpoint.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Any purchase on our website starts a domino effect of goodness. When you get your gorgeous dress, jewelry or swim from us, you do both: help elevate small female-owned business and help preserve the environment. We also help make dreams come true: all of our designers took a leap of faith of starting an ethical fashion business — which is harder than starting a regular fashion brand because you don’t get to cut corners. We work to help make them successful and profitable.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Any ladies from the most recent Time’s Person of the Year cover. Their stories were amazing and we owe them our gratitude for moving a super heavy topic into a mainstream discussion. We are an all female company so #metoo and women’s rights issues hit really close to home. Plus our main mission is to help female entrepreneurs so anything that makes the playing field fairer is an excellent news for us.

What are the 5 things that you learned as entrepreneurs?

1) Your team is everything. Think of it as a military operation — if your unit fails you, you won’t make it.

2) Do everything yourself first. If you hire someone to do the job you don’t understand, you won’t get good results.

3) Test everything. There’s sometimes an abyss between what you think your customers will enjoy and what they actually enjoy. Never make assumptions.

4) Patience is key. Sometimes it takes three times longer to get the results you want.

5) Entrepreneurship is really as much fun as they say. There’s a reason all these crazy people keep doing this even though the odds of success are low — it’s so thrilling that all else fades in comparison.