With both female founders at heart, KAAI & Diamanti Per Tutti are all-in, when it comes to female empowerment. A positive trend throughout our society, with plenty of new initiatives creating the much-needed awareness. We couldn’t feel more proud when discovering women in high-profile positions, leading in entrepreneurship and a young generation set on following their dreams.
A woman on her own has immense power, collectively they have impact. For too long, there has been a precedent set that women do not support each other, but that is simply not true. With this collaboration Kaai and Diamanti Per Tutti want to set the record straight and shine a light on women supporting each other. The result is a timeless necklace showcasing two female faces behind each other. Let’s put the saying ‘behind every great man, is a strong woman’ in the shade. It is time for a new perspective: ‘behind every great woman, is a strong woman’. The necklace is a tangible form of celebrating female positivity and sisterhood. A perfect gift for that special woman in your life that unconditionally supports, inspires and encourages you.
WOMEN SUPPORT WOMEN.
No better way to set the tone than to lead by example. KAAI x DPT invited 3x inspiring duos to share their personal stories and the challenging road they have walked together. All wearing the KAAI x DPT necklace, inspired by KAAI’s logo of feminine faced silhouettes, representing its co-founders Ine and Helga. First up is a chat with these impressive ladies, discover all stories in the upcoming weeks, right here.
Ine Verhaert (52, Co-founder Kaai) & Helga Meermans (56, Co-founder Kaai) – business partners.
How to be brave enough to take the plunge, swim through deep waters and being each other's life line.
What was the biggest challenge for you during the start-up at Kaai?
I: I think our first challenge was to get our concept straight. It took us a year to get it together, so it's not like it was that easy. I think this was our first big challenge and we complemented each other very well. Everyone did his or her own thing and that is how we managed to get everything up and running. We worked side by side and with each other to finally rent the shop in June and open it right away in August. Personally, I think the biggest challenge was finding a manufacturer. It really hit us like "wow, we've been working on this for six months and we might not even get it done".
I: We were developing for six months, but we were working on a different concept first. We were going to make fabric bags, instead of leather. By involving the interviews and the co-creation group, we concluded at a certain point that we should offer leather bags, which was an important change. This made such a difference in terms of manufacturing and investment, because it was immediately in a completely different price range than we had in mind. So, the switch as a start-up was very difficult. We travelled a lot, including all over Europe, and it was still very hard to get into a factory. Sometimes we had to use certain tricks to get in and sometimes we had to lie to get an appointment. I remember when we were in China, and we went to all those fairs and didn't find anything. We walked down all the aisles, but nothing was right. With only half a day on our trip left, we really lost our nerve. Until at one point Helga said "I'm fed up with this, we're not going to find anything here. Why don't we call back to the very first manufacturer we saw in Hong Kong? We only have half a day left, let's call them so we can have another look. "That’s what we did. We went there for a few hours, leaving with a sense of 'this might be something'. We almost missed our plane because of that, but if we hadn't done that, we would never have found our supplier.
H: And then the biggest challenge was when Ine, on the train to the Hong Kong airport, said "If it's leather, we don't have enough money". The first challenge then was to go and find money elsewhere. In the end everything went well with that PLC (public limited company), but that was also something that could bring us down. So, we danced on a tightrope a few times and I can tell you that it gave us a lot of sleepless nights.
I: Yes, because we had already come to an agreement that we would give up our jobs and go all out for this new challenge, but then it turned out that the switch of fabric and leather involved more money than we had at the time. Even though we had a lot of financial experience, the step to find funding was not easy. The risk of taking out external loans was not something we planned on doing from the start. So, each time we had to take one step further in entrepreneurship, which was a big step for us.
H: It has always been challenging for us, but we supported each other well. Ine is always the first to think creatively when it comes to finance, so she suggested to go to the bank and it all worked out. The financial aspect always remains a big challenge. You must make sure that your cash flow is sufficient. Nowadays, it’s a given fact, but back then it was a real test.
How did you support each other during this time?
I: I have wanted to start my own business and stand on my own two feet, but the idea came from Helga. It all started at Helga's house one evening with our spouses after many glasses of wine at 12 o'clock at night when Helga suddenly asked "If you are going to start your own business, what exactly are you going to sell?" I had no idea at the time. I just wanted to have my own business; I always have. Then of course it was great that Helga already had the idea and that she had been thinking about it for a year. We sat down about becoming business partners and it quickly turned out we have had very complementary experiences. Helga had a lot of experience in sales, and she’d often been involved with products. In my previous job, I was mainly involved in purchasing and finance. So, we concluded that if we would do it together, we already had all the skills for a solid start and we would be able to continue during the first few years.
H: Yes, that has been our advantage in the end.
I: In terms of experience and character, we are also complementary. We know how to temper each other, which is fundamental. When starting a business, there are plenty of highs and lows and everyone reacts to those in their own way. It’s important to have different personalities at play to be able to stabilise the other, so can get past those lows. The highs are easy, you share in the euphoria and the success, but when at a low point, it’s key to not both get stuck there. We depend on each other for those uplifting moments. That’s why it would have been impossible for me to start this adventure all by myself, I could never have done this alone.
H: It’s really impossible. The benefit of good partnering is the fact that you can co-depend. I don’t believe for a second that Ine - or myself for that matter - would ever give up, we are both die-hards. We fully commit and count on each other to hang in there.
What do you admire about each other?
I: For me, it’s Helga’s perseverance and her unbelievable dedication to something. For example, when drawing, she has the patience to create the whole design with the necessary dose of creativity and the endless patience with the digital drawings. That would not be my cup of tea. Also, in the beginning , when we couldn't get any further with the sketches in the factories, she then decided to take evening classes and dive into something totally new. I am completely different in that respect too. Oh, and the shop and the team in Brussels: you did a great job putting an excellent team together. I think it's fantastic how you can transfer your enthusiasm to the sales team, it's beyond admirable.
H: Thank you, I am indeed a detail-oriented person, also when it comes to recruiting staff. A thorough selection must be made, because ultimately these are the people you can build on, with whom you must live and work. So, you better do it well.
I can still picture us too sitting in the kitchen and suddenly Ine says "Tell me, what do we have to do to make three sales a day?" Everyone laughed, but we spend an entire meeting on it and discovered down the line that the great input that followed, was the foundation of our webshop. So I’m happy to compliment her on being the reason for our online success. Ine always gives her all to please the customer or to win him/her over, so I am delighted that we are such a strict online channel and that we have achieved this together.
Anything else you would like to tell about this campaign? Now is your chance.
I: We want to help women, we want to help female brands, we want to encourage female entrepreneurship, we want women to dare to take the step. It is all about female empowerment, because women are less likely to start their own business than men. We want to show that it is possible at any age, even after the age of 50. There are plenty of women with a dream, blocked by the fear of taking the risk. Our piece of advice: just do it. And be sure to have another strong woman, like you, by your side.
KAAI x DPT is a heavenly match made in Antwerp. As both brands encourage to invest in durable pieces, they invite women to indulge in every luxury, boosting their confidence as they go. The KAAI x DPT necklace is made in sterling silver, handset with a 100% natural and ethically sourced diamond. Available at KAAI bags, as from November 8 at €85 - receive yours as a gift when pre-ordering SS22 collection, starting December 15.