This month we wanted to introduce you to our wonderful Factory Owner, Sahika. We have been working with Sahika and her team in Turkey for the past 5 years and we couldn't be happier. We thought you should get to know the woman behind all of our collections for yourself.
When I was a young girl, I always wanted to be a stewardess, but I was too short. In the end I realised I am flying way more than the average person, so I am practically living my dream job.What got you interested in working in the textile/fashion industry?
It comes from my father. He was owned a yarn factory in İzmir when I was in High School. It was one of the first yarn factories in İzmir where yarn was produced for exporting. Apart from that, I always liked to dress up in beautiful clothes and would love to touch all kinds of fabrics and garments in the shops. So, it was a choice that I made with an instinct.Tell us a little but about Turkey and what it was like starting a business as a woman.
İzmir, the city where I am from, is the most modern city in Turkey. İzmir has always been a city with strong, powerful women. It has the most intellectual, educated, liberal, artistic and modern women in its population, in comparison with the Turkish women living in other parts of Turkey. Many famous Turkish singers, beauty queens, actresses, writers and female leaders were born and grew up in Izmir. Consequently, it wasn’t difficult for me to become an entrepreneur in this city as I always had lot of inspiration around me. But of course, not all Turkish women are as lucky as me.
There have been many difficult aspects of my career, but one of the most important is to work with time pressure at your back without making any mistakes. We have to produce the best quality item in the requested time, at a good price, overcoming thousands of problems that may arise during the production stages.
The other aspect is bringing together and managing the many different types of people, coming from different education levels (from elementary school graduate to university graduates with degrees), social cultures and backgrounds and have them work in harmony with each other under the same roof for the same goal.
It can also be challenging dealing with various international customers and learning how to collaborate with each one. For example, the way Italians work is completely different from an English customer, while a Danish customer is very different from a Russian, etc.
- You shouldn’t work to be rich but should work for personal success.
- Business is like olive oil and water, it should never be mixed with your personal life.
- Without trust you can never make business, but without control you can lose your business.Coming from an all-female team we think it’s amazing that over 90% of your employees are women. Tell us what it’s like working with a nearly all female staff and how it has helped your business?
I am extremely happy to have chosen a field where 90% of the staff are women which is also the core of our success. In garment production you have to think and correlate at least five or more things at one time and do all of them without any mistakes. Who can do this better than women?We love visiting the factory and the food is amazing (it’s all grown on the roof and cooked fresh each day) but can you share with us how you have you helped to cultivate a nice working atmosphere in your factory?
I always believed that if I don’t like and don’t enjoy my meals, why would my staff? That was the reason I decided to build our own kitchen on the roof of our factory 25 years ago. Since then, I write a weekly menu which consists mostly of fresh healthy vegetables (which plays an important role in Aegean kitchens), salads, beans, rice, pasta etc as well as some Turkish deserts which are all cooked by our two lovely ladies in the kitchen.
Almost every month of the year, we have birthday celebrations with a cake, New Year Parties with lots of food, music and dancing. We go to picnics and have breakfast together at springtime all paid for by the company. All these activities help to bring us closer together and help to increase the team spirit.
The main thing for me was starting as a small company and taking our time to grow slowly year by year and working with my employees’ side by side, learning every detail of the process so I fully understood all the roles in the factory.
Create a team out of the people you like and enjoy working with. This is something so important for me. I could have never worked with colleagues that do not have “a sense of humour”, or those who are selfish and who do not work with their hearts.
To be resistant to long working hours and to stress. To have patience, to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. And the most important is to believe in yourself, to have a positive mind and never give up no matter what happens!
Never stop learning and never stop investing in yourself. Do not rely on anyone but yourself which includes your father, your mother, your husband or your children. This will give you freedom in all your decisions and will make you a very strong woman.
I was one of the founders of EGIKAD (Aegean Women Entrepreneurs Association) in İzmir over twelve years ago. I am still a member and this year we have been carrying out an EU-FEM Project between Turkey-Spain-Greece and I am the representative of this project on behalf of Egikad for Turkey. The project is about exchanging experiences and information on the current status of Women Entrepreneurs in these three countries.
I am also the Vice President of Italian Chamber of Commerce in İzmir and a board member of the Aegean Exporters Union in İzmir for Apparel and the Ready-Made Garment Division.
I have also participated in many other social events and leadership programs and have organised many international meetings between European countries and İzmir to help increase the exportation from İzmir to the EU.
Believe in themselves and don’t give up at the first obstacle they meet. They may lose money, they may not find any customers at the beginning, but if they are doing their job in the best way they know how, with honesty, with love, and with their heart, they will be successful in the end.How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I make sure I do a lot of after work activities such as attending a yoga classes, swimming, dancing and attending festivals and workshops.
Because I travel a lot for business, I always try to create small pleasures out of them. An Italian pasta with a glass of red wine or finding a last minute ticket for a concert in Scala, Milano are things that fill me with pleasure and joy.
MindfulnessIf you were to describe your job in three words, what would they be?
100% adrenaline guaranteed!What do you love most about your job and why?
Although it looks like it is repeating itself, I feel the same excitement and pleasure again and again with every new collection we create.
Through my business I have met some very precious people all over the world, and I have become very good friends with some of them. Each of my customers has played a role in my life and taught me something. So, wherever I go, I will always have a friend to visit.How do you ensure you always stay true to your core and ethics?
My star sign is Libra, which is the symbol for fairness and equality, so it is in my nature to be honest to my customers, to be ethical and fair to all of my employees and to have justice and respect for everything that surrounds me. Otherwise, I would lose respect for myself.What is the best advice you have ever been given?
It is better to lose money than lose the trust of your customers.Where would you like to see your business in 10 years’ time?
I am hoping to add new customers from new countries and to double our current turnover whilst maintaining our ethical standpoint.What is your single piece of advice to the next generation of women?
Stop being afraid of what can go wrong and start being excited about what can go right.
Princess Diana. She did everything in her own way rather than following the life which was set out in front of her. From the way she dressed to the way she integrated with the public in the poorest countries.What has been your favourite Asquith collection over the years and why?
I have loved all the collections that we have made but probably one of my favourites was the Autumn/Winter 2018 Collection. I loved all the colours and style combinations in that collection.If you could only live in one item of Asquith clothing what would it be?
The Rhythm Jumpsuit You can wear it during the day, to a yoga class or with high heels at a party in the evening.