Starting a business isn’t for the fainthearted. There’s a great deal to consider. Irrespective of the initial award-winning idea that you’re expected to make millions from, you also have to consider; writing a captivating business plan, financing yourself, deciding on a legal business structure, registering with the government, building a (successful) team and how to use all these components to grow expansively!
Surely it can’t be as taxing as it sounds? Luckily enough, we’ve taken the time to interview a fresh face in the business industry. Alex Christodoulou is the founder of new clothing and lifestyle brand, Levendi. Here’s what he had to say about starting a business in 2020, the challenges he’s faced and the qualities needed to succeed.
Alex, first off tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your business
I’m half Greek-Cypriot and half English, so I think the fusion of cultures has landed me where I am today. The political turmoil in Cyprus at the time my dad migrated to England meant that my family was always invested in politics, my dad founding a political NGO of his own. I followed this lead, studying Philosophy Politics and Economics at university. The English side of my family is less traditional and my mum always encouraged me to be creative, which I’ve always enjoyed – from drawing to video editing and everything in between. So now, I’m in a situation where I am trying to juggle and fuse my two interests to create a living for myself.
Levendi is a lifestyle brand, that produces two things; leisurewear and multimedia content. The idea is that our target audience will become loyal through identifying with and enjoying our content (which is free) and in turn, they will proudly sport their Levendi gear. The content must fall under the 3 pillars: cultural commentary, active lifestyle, and local creativity; and these themes will obviously be reflected in our clothing lines.
What was your initial lightbulb moment and at which point did you think, yes, this is a winning idea?
I had 2 lightbulb moments. After university, I took some time off to figure things out. I spent my time doing two things – applying to graduate schemes in political and economic firms, and digital designing in my spare time (something which happened without me realising). This is when my first lightbulb moment occurred: I enjoy the process of creating so much more than the process of writing applications to what I considered to be “boring” jobs. So why couldn’t my life’s work be creative? I hadn’t thought like this since before university, so the idea excited me and I began churning out designs like there was no tomorrow. Before long I found that I hit a wall: something inside told me that my life’s work couldn’t be in fashion, because this didn’t really fulfil my curiosity and passion towards bigger societal, philosophical, cultural problems, an interest which I’d fine-tuned at university. After a few months wrestling with these ideas my second “lightbulb” moment hit. If my life’s work is informative and stylistic, then my needs will be satisfied. That’s where Levendi really came into fruition.
What were the first steps you took when setting up your business?
First off I set about designing. The next step was finding the right product and printing services. This was painful, and I was surprised by the lack of quality out there, but it taught me a lot about the differences between consumer and producer supply chains, and makes me eager to scale up.
The last step was finding a team; creatives to help with product design as well as promotional content; journalists to begin working on stories that fill the “Levendi” criteria. This wasn’t too difficult, being a recent graduate with a range of contacts eager to create too.
What were the most challenging aspects of the process?
Personally I’d say the biggest challenge yet has been management. My passion inherently was more to create beautiful products and ideas. As with anything, there is a shipload of administration that comes with that, as well as managing the people working on your projects. This has been the steepest learning curve, but I’m certainly enjoying the process.
Describe your target audience, who is the Levendi brand made for?
Levendi is for adolescents through to young adults primarily, but really it is for anyone who sees the importance of supporting companies with values that align to their own. Our consumption today is a political act: every time you buy a Trainline ticket, part of that money goes to KKR & Co., a typically malevolent capitalist multinational corporation. People are becoming more aware of the impact of their consumption: Levendi invites people to consume for the good.
What skills have you needed in order to execute this project successfully?
I wouldn’t go as far as to say the project is a success, and so the first skill is patience. I’ve got a team around me who are all passionate about fashion, knowledge, and creativity. This alone gives me the confidence that in the long-run Levendi will turn into a profitable venture.
Who are your competitors in the industry?
In terms of leisurewear, Yardsale, Supreme, Palace – all household names. The plan, instead of going up against these fashion industry powerhouses, is to offer something different, to occupy a new space. That way, we won’t be competing.
As you’re based in the UK, how do you think the current political and economic environment will affect your business?
I think the current environment actually suits our plans. Following on from a somewhat divisive general election and Brexit campaign, the country’s youth seem to be interested in politics again… albeit there is a lot of political energy rising but people don’t seem to know what to do with it.
A political series coming out on Levendi soon hopes to tap into that, and give the youth somewhere to channel their political thought.
How do you market your business? What’s been the most beneficial tool in marketing your brand?
Giveaways. Instagram promotions. Ultimately though, let’s not forget that Levendi is just starting out – the focus now is to just get some stuff out on the web and to promote it that way.
Where do you see Levendi in 5 years time?
In 5 years, I see Levendi with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. It might not sound like much, but if the growth is organic and our followers are true supporters, i.e. they buy our products, that is the ideal foundation from which to run a business with sustainable profits.