Have you ever wondered what it takes to start your own business, especially within the fashion industry? We recently had the opportunity to interview Micha Maatouk, the founder of Garderobe, the first pre-loved luxury fashion retailer in the UAE. With almost 25 years of industry experience and a passion for sustainability, Micha recognized an untapped market in the region and started Garderobe to provide a platform for people to shop and sell pre-owned luxury bags, shoes, and clothing.
But starting a business from scratch comes with its own unique set of challenges, and Micha had to navigate them all on her own in the beginning. From maintaining relationships to building a strong network of mentors, advisors, and partners, she has done it all. In the interview, Misha shares her advice for young entrepreneurs who may be hesitant to start their own businesses and how she stays motivated and focused on her goals. She also gave us some insights into how the partnership with cashew’s financing solutions has helped Garderobe tap into a new customer demographic. Read on to learn more about Micha's journey and the success of Garderobe.
Q&A with Micha Maatok: insights and advice from a successful entrepreneur
“ I recognized that there were so many people in the region who had untouched luxury items in their closets, and so I wanted to provide them with a platform to buy and sell pre-owned luxury and to encourage sustainability, which is what I did with Garderobe. ”
What inspired you to start your own business, and what were some of the challenges you faced along the way?
Starting my business was not a spark of the moment. I always knew that I was going to do something on my own within the fashion industry. What kickstarted the decision was becoming a mom, as well as the recession that hit in 2008. I recognized that there were so many people in the region who had untouched luxury items in their closets, and so I wanted to provide them with a platform to buy and sell pre-owned luxury and to encourage sustainability, which is what I did with Garderobe. The biggest challenge that I faced, in the beginning, was that I was on my own. Especially at the start, I didn’t have a big team of advisors and decision-makers to help navigate anything, unlike many entrepreneurs nowadays who start off with bigger teams – I had to do everything myself and slowly build the business up from scratch.
As an entrepreneur, what unique obstacles have you had to overcome in your career?
As a business owner, it is difficult in the beginning because you’re on your own before you grow your team, but that comes with its own difficulties because maintaining trust in relationships can get tricky. I was betrayed more than once within the company, which is why I don’t take loyalty lightly. My biggest mistake was that I knew better, but I still made certain decisions from the heart, out of kindness, which ended badly. However, we still came out resilient, and we are continuing to grow with a stronger team and bigger plans for the future.
How have you built a strong network of mentors, advisors, and partners to help you grow your business?
At the start, I leveraged my 10 years of experience and the relationships that I’d built over the years when I worked in the fashion industry. Lots of great connections from Chanel, Al-Tayer Group, and being a buyer at Harvey Nichols – it all helped me build Garderobe, and since then, I have been an industry veteran for almost 25 years.
What advice would you give to youngsters thinking about starting their own business, but may be hesitant or unsure of where to start?
Either you need to know enough about the industry you want to start in or do extensive research to know what it is that you want to set up. Build a team of people around you who have the expertise that you need for your business. A lot of it is trial and error, but always stay focused on the goal and what you want to achieve, but don’t give up, keep on trying until you get it right.
What strategies have you used to stay motivated and focused, and how do you balance business demands with your personal life and other responsibilities?
For me, it is the love and knowledge that I have about fashion that I have gained over the years that I can apply daily in my work and my business by constantly trying to enhance it. Seeing the constant improvements in the business as you’re applying your knowledge, seeing the team and the company grow, and of course, customer satisfaction, those are the main motivations. It has become easier over the years by building a strong team that I can trust and delegate to. This has made a balance with my personal life possible, so I can be more present as a mother.
What have been some of your proudest moments as a business owner/leader, and how have you celebrated your successes along the way?
We celebrate every day with simple and small successes. The fact that we started the trend - the pre-loved luxury fashion industry did not exist in the UAE. We educated the market and paved the way for other players to enter the industry, and now we have many people who benchmark against Garderobe.
Why was cashew right for your business? Is there a customer demographic that you have successfully tapped into through flexible payment services?
Buy now, pay later solutions have enabled us to convert younger generations who don’t have the purchasing power to buy from us up front yet, but still love luxury fashion. It lets us make circular fashion more accessible to people who are aware of and care about sustainability and want to get involved.
In conclusion, Micha's journey as an entrepreneur and founder of Garderobe is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and dedication. From leveraging her years of experience and industry connections to educating the market and paving the way for a new industry trend, Micha's success as a business owner is a result of her commitment to sustainability, customer satisfaction, and staying focused on her goals.
And by partnering with cashew for BNPL solutions, Micha has made payment an easier tactic, thereby enabling more customers, especially younger generations, to access the pre-loved luxury fashion industry while managing their finances, and therefore contributing to the sustainability movement. Interested in becoming a cashew partner? Tap into your brand’s potential and learn more about how your business can grow when you choose to partner with cashew.