“Once upon a time, carrying only bags of hope and courage, I moved from the …
The interview with Michael Bist, the CEO of The Tailor Network was very inspiring. Talking with and listening to young and talented entrepreneurs like Michael is refreshing. We want to share with you the journey of this new start up, sure that it will trigger your curiosity.
The Tailor Network has one mission: great fashion from upcoming young designers, made by independent tailors, bringing work to the local community.
What was the origin of your company “The Tailor Network”, Michael?
The origin of the idea came when I was a manager and traveling abroad a lot. In China, Beijing, I was introduced to a tailor to purchase a suit. I honestly thought it would have been an expensive service. I went to the tailor on a Friday and got my finished suit by Sunday at an incredible price. It was simply amazing so I kept doing this and having more suits ready for myself. At some point I asked myself “why is this service available only for people who have lots of money in Europe and I had to discover this cheaper service here in Asia?”
I generally believe that the Internet gives us a lot of possibilities that especially creative people and artisans can take advantage from. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that the Tailor Network needed to see the light.
What we are going to do is to create an additional demand beyond what is currently in the market, which allows us to bring additional people into the market. Eventually, we will work not only with established tailors but also bring people into work by training them ourselves. We are working together with transition homes to bring less educated women into meaningful and sustainable income. Over time we want to expand this program to other disadvantaged groups, we are thinking about prostitution exit programs, refugees and other groups, which struggle to find meaningful income and sustainable income opportunities.
Why have you chosen to launch your Start-Up in Budapest?
I came here by chance in 2005 to do my MBA and totally fell in love with the city, the people, and the entrepreneurial spirit that the city had at the time, and still has. Everyone started a business; if someone could dance, they would open a dance studio and give a free class once a week. Everyone was actively doing something. This attitude, for a German person coming from a super regulated and structured market had a great impact on me.
Also, from a tailoring perspective, Budapest is the right place. This city used to have a very strong textile industry that lead us to find amazing teachers, universities and knowledge in tailoring.
This fertile soil helped us with the project a lot.
Traveling makes you more liberal, one of the biggest political problems we face is that people don’t understand other nationalities because they don’t know them. It helps so much when you sit down with different people and you just realize that they are the same everywhere. There isn’t so much that differentiates us, this is what traveling does.
3 things to tell a young entrepreneur who wants to start a new business.
- Don’t worry if something goes wrong because there is always a way to fix things. My experience in the start-up business is that something always goes wrong. What you need to do is to keep calm and find a way to solve it.
- Be prepared to constantly fight the “this is not going to work” attitude. You need to overcome this and inspire the people around you to believe that things can change. The biggest job of an entrepreneur is to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone and think in a new way.
- Being a leader means constantly encouraging your people through every challenge and mistake. Your job as a leader is to pick up your team, and give confidence again and again because if you loose your team, you loose everything.
“As a start up you can’t afford to be a boss. You need to be a leader”.
Difficulties faced so far?
We are still on the early stages, we operate in a super traditional century old industry and we constantly meet people who say things like “this is the way our grand-mother has always done”, or “this is how tailoring works.” We want to change the way it worked, so the constant struggle is convincing people that our idea will work. I have to say that luckily the multinationals have been amazing with our project so far.
Their level of willingness to do something on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) sites has been overwhelming. They are very easy to talk to. For example; I have been super amazed with some of these top level CEOs, and how they go out of their way to support you as soon as they see a project they feel has real meaning and impact. I received so much support from CEOs and banks, and this attitude of the CEO taking time to meet and support you is very important, especially in a country like Hungary which does not have a very experienced managerial culture.