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OKIKA Original Lifestyl, by Esther Wassenaar

What is Okika?

OKIKA Original Lifestyle is a webshop where you can buy custom curtains, wallpaper and folding curtains. A configurator in the shop displays the curtains exactly with the right patterns and proportions. We put a lot of energy into photographing the fabrics in detail to give a good picture. We also sell posters and puzzles from the Vissevasse brand. These are funny and beautifully designed. They fit the Okika feeling. Because Okika works with a small stock, we can include fabrics in our collection that are special. After all, we have no stock to “get rid” of. This is especially important for children’s rooms. Here we want to offer fabrics that are cheerful for children, but absolutely not hysterical. Certainly no princesses, cars, superman or footballs. We go for beautiful prints, usually quite quiet in color and pattern. This is a conscious choice to match the taste of our customer group to the design of the children’s room. In addition to children’s rooms, we now also focus on the rest of the home. You can come to Okika for the complete house. Again, we do not choose the standard fabrics. Creativity plays a big role in our plans and vision. Creativity is also the basis of Okika where it started.

Why this way of doing business?

As mentioned, creativity is important at Okika. By not having large inventories, Okika is free to experiment with the collection. What appeals to us? What is on trend? And what is different from the big brands? You want to give customers a different choice and not compete with the cheap Ikea curtains or with the linen specialists. There are already plenty of those and it doesn’t add anything. Not being stuck with collections and stocks keeps you sharp and interested in your own products. Moreover, quality is very important. Okika works with several curtain ateliers who all have long experience with fabrics and confection. They know exactly how to make the curtains so that they are solid and long-lasting. Another thing that sets Okika apart is service. Being reachable and being honest with the customer. Especially being honest really pays off. Sometimes things go wrong, but by being honest and clear, the appreciation increases and the contact with customers becomes more pleasant. A bad contact with a customer is really unpleasant and we try to avoid it as much as possible. I think much more than the customers realize.

Who is behind Okika?

Okika is about “us,” never about “me”. The founder and owner is Esther Wassenaar, but the cooperation with the studios and fabric suppliers is very important and they certainly participate in the process. Still, Okika is a one-man business.Esther Wassenaar was born July 19, 1980 and graduated as an interior architect in 2002. After several positions as a designer and product developer, she started Okika after the arrival of her children. It gives a lot of freedom to be an entrepreneur and especially with a webshop set up this way. The freedom was the reason for making that choice. The choice for curtains came about by decorating her own children’s rooms. The princess fabrics for girls and soccer fabrics for boys are often the only ones for sale, besides uni colors. And that is a shame when you have carefully decorated your home. There began the search for beautiful fabrics for the children’s room that are suitable for the children and their parents. Once these fabrics were found, Okika expanded to fabrics for the whole house. Today it is 50% children’s fabrics and 50% home fabrics. Because Okika has several blackout fabrics, many curtains are sold for bedroom. Especially now that gas prices are high this has only increased, after all these linings also provide good insulation.

Challenges in business

The last few years the market has been very unpredictable. There have been so many factors affecting the economy: the Corona, the extremely low interest rates, but now again high inflation and energy prices. As a result, it is almost impossible to predict how business will run. People are cautious because of high inflation, but are insulating the home against high gas prices. This can also be done by good curtains and we noticed that in the last winter months. Everything is getting more expensive, especially groceries have gone up tremendously. Still, we try to keep prices such that it is feasible for the largest group to buy nice curtains. That means watching margins carefully and keeping a close eye on purchasing prices.Another challenge is delivery time. Okika is focused on originality, quality and service. More and more customers also want it delivered quickly. There are several links in the process: the fabric has to be ordered, transported, made up and then the curtains transported again. If each link takes a day longer, we may not meet the predetermined delivery time. This creates a friction that you want to avoid. These are challenges that require constant improvement and a lot of control.

New opportunities

Because Corona no longer has such a strong presence, we have been able to visit trade fairs again. Very interesting, because there you meet companies from all over the world. There are certainly new opportunities here for Okika. There are collections that we can buy larger and stock. That would be very beneficial for the consumer, because then we can keep the prices we had instead of going along with the price increases. And by buying from the manufacturers ourselves, we are even less dependent on other fabric suppliers or workshops.

To pass on to others

Entrepreneurship goes in waves. Good times are relieved by not so good times. Don’t get discouraged when times are slow, but use this time to get inspired. Go talk to other entrepreneurs, look for new products. Or look within your business to see what you can do: get your inventory or administration in order. Keep busy and keep seeing opportunities. And as a startup, you need time. There is so much to buy and available in the world. It really takes time for people to know you’re there.Furthermore, there is an awful lot of knowledge available on the Internet. Use your time to become wiser. With a webshop, it is not only important that you know a lot about the product you are selling, but just as important that you know how people are going to find you. Will you focus your arrows on social media, SEO, SEA, google ads, Pinterest, organic findability or will you become THE expert in your field by sharing your knowledge everywhere? There are so many ways to play yourself in-the-picture and you need to stay on top of that. I would also advise entrepreneurs to always be aware of your bookkeeping and do it themselves if possible. When you have it set up smartly, it doesn’t take a lot of time, but it gives a lot of insight. What are all the expenses? Where does most of your revenue go? And when you’re not good at this yourself, get educated so you do understand the numbers.

What lessons have I learned as an entrepreneur?

So many!!I myself have attended many webinars and seminars on the topics I still knew too little about. I still do a lot myself to maintain control and outsource little that directly relates to my own business. I don’t believe in companies doing the marketing or posting social media for me. They miss the feeling I have with my business. Besides, that requires a creativity that I am stronger at myself. And the knowledge of how to do such a thing can be found on the Internet. It takes a lot of time to learn all that, but it also brings you a lot. Entrepreneurship has caused me to always be with my business to see opportunities and make connections. It has caused me to teach myself skills; such as SEO, advertising, photography, marketing and accounting. In addition, it has given me freedom to be home when my children come home. I organize my work around my personal life more than the other way around. And that is priceless.

Julia Davis