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Child and career: Why a tough founder from Austria advises mothers to be self-employed

After 10 years with a well-known premium label, it was time for designer Sandra Cornelia Milacher to do her own thing: With the luxury loungewear brand youlookperfect, she dared to take the step of self-employment - straight out of parental leave.

High-quality sweaters that snuggle up casually and softly, beige and light brown trousers made from a cashmere mix and scarves that transform even the coldest wind into a pleasant breeze: this is the material Sandra's business dreams are made of. With her fashion, she wants to give women the comforting feeling that favorite items can also be comfortable. “I had the idea of ​​loungewear in my head since my studies, where I worked a lot at home. And when someone rang the doorbell, it was more than embarrassing how you looked - and that as a fashion student. So I thought: It must be easier to solve somehow, ”says founder Sandra.

After ten years as a permanent designer, she decided to finally do something of her own - in the middle of her baby break. Sandra wrote a business plan, drew up the first designs and looked for suppliers. Little by little she built up her business, between diaper and bottle. It was the right moment for her.

Sandra Milacher, founder of youlookperfect

Why self-employment is a good option for mothers

"I've seen before what a balancing act mothers have to do in order to do justice to everyone," explains Sandra. “Many people squeeze a 40-hour week into 25 hours - and are still not taken so seriously as part-time workers. I thought that was off-putting. ”And since she had wanted to be self-employed for a long time anyway, she dared to jump into her own company. Especially with a child.

Free time is shrinking to zero, but there are other times as well.

Sandra feels that working from home is a great advantage: between e-mails and orders, she turns on a washing machine, goes shopping or takes care of her son when he is sick. As soon as her child is in daycare or with the grandparents, Sandra turns into a thoroughbred entrepreneur and starts: "Then I am super concentrated and forget the time."

If she were still working in an office, the psychological hurdle would be too big to go back to work - today she also helps her business advance in the evenings when the little one is asleep and on the weekend. For them it is the ideal combination of career and family.

Sandra points out that the childcare network in Austria, where the native German lives, is not yet as developed as in Germany. But thanks to the support of her grandparents, she says, she is able to spend a lot of intensive and wonderful mummy-child time with her little one and at the same time professionally raise and grow her dream of her own label. Because where there is a will, a business mom will always find a way.

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The dream of creative flight

Even during her permanent position, she repeatedly dreamed of becoming self-employed. “As a designer, your wings are always clipped,” explains Sandra. Since big and established brands tend to be on the safe side, as a designer she can only be really creative when she has a free hand and is her own boss. In her creations, she can leave her own signature and implement values ​​that are important to her: Sandra wants to design favorite pieces that not only look and feel good, but that can also be worn with a clear conscience: the collection is produced and also fairly Sustainable use of raw materials is important to her.

"But how it is when a stone rolls and life changes, then sometimes everything changes," says Sandra. The idea for her loungewear got everything rolling: And ten years later, a classy fashion brand emerged from the idea of ​​a student working at home. At the same time, she can be there for her son at any time. Today she is happy that she does not have to tear herself apart between child, work and household like many other mothers, but can relax and take care of her son in addition to her business.

Comfortable clothing every day - youlookperfect

How retail makes it difficult for startups

Before going on the market with her fair and sustainably produced feel-good clothing in September 2018, she found out about the industry, took marketing and start-up courses, and looked for suppliers. For a year and a half. Then everything slowly took shape - especially her loungewear: Sandra made her first collection into samples, looked for models, did a photo shoot of her designer pieces and then it should go on the market.

But every beginning is difficult: Many boutiques, dealers and suppliers refused to work together - you just don't work with start-ups. But Sandra continued to believe in her idea: “I'm going into production now - full risk.” And her courage was rewarded: Her first customers were some luxury hotels: “That's where my customer is at home,” says Sandra. In the hotel's own boutique, customers can indulge in their shopping mood and put together a cozy outfit.

Reading tip: You can read here how a Munich online shop for sustainable children's products won the Shop Usability Prize.

Why a niche business thrives best

Sandra contacted the hotels directly and was able to prevail against major competitors several times. At the moment all the threads of the knitting brand come together: “Actually, I do everything: CEO, design, sales and marketing activities are part of my duties. I am also the warehouse worker who sends the parcels. ”But she hopes to be able to hire staff soon.

To ensure that Sandra's values ​​are also borne by the suppliers, on the one hand she resorted to those she already knew from her time as a designer, and on the other hand to those that were recommended to her by other friends in the industry - or she used the classic Google -Research. “That was a bit of a hassle, but if you invest time and effort, then it works,” she explains.

But many suppliers also rejected it, in some cases because it was “just” a start-up. In Italy and Hungary she then came across exactly the right manufacturers who share their ecological and fair ideals. The first products were stored in her apartment. Sandra finds it valuable to have her camp on site, especially when she is a child.
Sandra Milacher between work and children's room

The woman is herself - without any investors

She doesn't want to get investors on board for the time being: “I'm just afraid that my values ​​will then be called into question. That's why I want to leave it at that, that 100 percent is with me. ”Her first collection was completely self-directed. Sandra quickly got to the point where she said to herself: "Either you stop now because the retail trade is not open to new things or you are trying to start the whole thing online yourself." When this idea occurred to her, she built hers Portfolio homepage completely and after a few unsuccessful attempts by Eshop Guide, Eshop Guide set up a well-running inventory management system with Shopify: "I'm very happy with that."

You can find reputable Shopify experts from Germany, Austria and Switzerland in our English expert search.

From Wix to Shopify: an online shop with pitfalls

Sandra is happy that she has decided to hand over the construction of her web shop. Her own attempts with Wix were hardly successful: She was more than dissatisfied with the user experience and performance. And in the end, some of the customers even called and ordered by phone because the shop wasn't doing what it was supposed to. But one thing seemed clear the whole time: your products were convincing - and the customers ordered, even when the shop came to a standstill.

Since I've been working with Shopify, the bounce rate has halved.

“It was a disaster in terms of SEO,” recalls Sandra. "There have been so many problems with it that a marketing agency has taken everything under the microscope and advised me to set up a completely new shop right away." And that is rather unusual, since agencies usually advise to expand an existing shop and overhaul than tear it down and build a new one.

In order to make her brand better known, she therefore places ads on the Internet: currently 50 percent on Facebook and 25 percent each on Instagram and Google. On the other hand, she uses her blog less for advertising and more to convey a lifestyle. Their goods hardly ever sell on Amazon. Sandra's customers are looking for a digital experience - Amazon cannot offer that.

Reading tip: Amazon, Ebay or your own shop? Here is where online retailers should sell.

The simple product photos against a white background that Amazon demands by default do not do justice to their feel-good label. "Customers have to be able to imagine how they look when they are dressed and be able to buy the whole outfit without any problems," says Sandra. For that, Sandra's brand always needs models and the right ambience.

A cozy corner has been set up in the luxury hotels for Sandra's fashion. In addition to scented candles and warm socks, customers in the hotel shops will find Sandra's collection: soft scarves in subtle colors, casual lounge pants and oversize tops. Everything so that women can make themselves really comfortable - and look good at the same time.
Always look good with loungewear from youlookperfect

Reading tip: You can find all the tips on how to start an online shop here.

No new bike, just a different one

You just have to do it differently from the others.

There is no comparable loungewear label in Europe. Sandra feels at home in her niche in the market. With her own brand, she not only showed it to all those who did not believe in her start-up, but also realized herself twice: as a founder - and as a mother.

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About the author: Inara Muradowa is a Shopify Partner, SEO Expert and Corporate Blogger. In addition to technical search engine optimization and SEO consulting, she actively supports companies with the conception and writing of professional blog posts.

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