Entrepreneur Profile: Andrea Kolb, Founder of ABURY
ABURY is an online ecommerce platform that is pioneering fashion by combining traditional, old world crafts with avant garde design to create a new luxury style that fosters intercultural exchange and preserves world crafts. ABURY brings together exciting designers with traditional artisans from remote and inspiring cultures. This exchange of knowledge between the old world and the cutting edge allows for a new context to emerge, leasing crafts a new life and lending design an emotional component which has been missing in recent times. I spoke to ABURY founder, Andrea Kolb to hear about her background, and her views on the rapidly transforming retail industry.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you became an entrepreneur?
I grew up with a dad working for the same company for almost 30 years. So when I was young becoming an entrepreneur wasn't an obvious option. I studied economics and cultural management and started in a sponsoring agency as I did my thesis about cultural sponsoring. But then – in the working environment it didn't take long until I thought about starting my own business. I was fascinated by the opportunities and also the freedom you have in your thinking when you start something new by yourself. So after about two years working experience I started with a small consultancy for marketing and communication projects. And then – when I had started – I knew there is no way back. And finally with ABURY I have found my mission.
Describe ABURY in three words
Sharing. Handmade. Luxury.
Where did your inspiration come from for ABURY?
In 2008 I went to Marrakesh to renovate an old house in the Medina. On the site and while working with the craftsmen I found myself captivated by the immense handicraft heritage of the Moroccan people. These men and women passionately and skillfully carved, tinkered, blew, sewed and embroidered their way into, frankly, what can only be described as magic. Sadly though, some of these skills are vanishing. With them, the beauty, wisdom, identity and stories were also at risk of being lost to the past. I thought that these cultural gems should be revived – by infusing the old world appeal of handicrafts with a spunky twenty first century spirit. And with a fair business model behind that would allow the artisans to shape their future with their own hands – and also allows us to make profit.
What makes your platform unique compared to other fashion sites?
ABURY is about the art of making and the people behind. ABURY is a fashion brand, but at the same time also a content platform for the stories behind the products. The stories of the people who designed them: young international design talent that we carefully select through an international contest. And the stories of the people who make them: the artisans, the people, their fascinating cultures and their crafts – you can really dive into them – and also shop by culture or by designer. And finally – the giving back factor – with each product you give back the hours of production in education time to the community (through the ABURY Foundation). As we are living and working with the people we can tell stories that matter and these unique stories come with each product you buy – this is the real luxury.
How do you think technology is going to affect the retail industry over the next five years?
I think we are in a big movement of change at the moment. If you look back the last 5 years – so many new services have been created, like renting dresses, private online fashion consultancy, etc. – it is amazing and just at the beginning. I don't think that traditional retail will disappear as people love tangible shopping too much – but it will change a lot and retailers have to adapt to the needs and changes of the customer. Data collection of the customer will play a huge role – the better you know your customer the better you can serve him / her. Lots of apps and platforms that connect the on- and offline shopping experience will pop up and we will see what really moves the masses.
Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
If you define a social entrepreneur as someone who is making business with the aim to solve a social problem and effect social change – yes.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
'You walk into the images you paint'. Meaning – if you don't believe passionately in your idea 150% and do everything for it – why should anybody else? You have to paint the future for yourself and for the people you want to convince who should work with you, invest in you, etc. Celebrate and share the little successes with your team and the people who supported you - these are moments of bonding you will always remember.
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