Tereza Pigova is the co-founder of luxury footwear brand 1001 Stories, which specializes in colorful ballerina flats adorned with sparkly bows. The goal of the brand is to support marginalized communities by helping them gain financial independence through their craft. Unfortunately, the economic downturn resulting from the spread of COVID-19 has left the company struggling. Tereza shared how her team is handling everything, and check out the 1001 Stories website here.
GBJ: Have you seen a dramatic drop in sales since the start of the pandemic? If so, roughly what percentage?
TP: Our sales have been impacted by the pandemic as much as any other small business out there. It is hard for us to give you an exact %, we just launched in October last year, so our sales have been fluctuating. We would, however, like to express our gratitude to our customers and all the believers in our brand who have shown us support in many ways – from featuring us in press to sending us thoughtful messages and showing their concern, not just for us as a business but also our partners in Italy and the marginalized communities we work with. This crisis really has brought out the best in people, and we are so grateful for having such a strong community of followers.
GBJ: How has communication with your potential customers changed? Have you had to make alterations to advertising? Are you focusing more on community building rather than pushing sales?
TP: This is an aspect of our business that has experienced the biggest change. We have been following the crisis since it hit Europe, especially with the rising numbers in Italy as this is where our shoes are made and so we have been concerned for the safety and livelihoods of our artisans. We work with small family-run shoe ateliers, and only time will show which ones are strong enough to survive the lockdowns. Going back to advertising, we have completely switched gears. All the content we are currently creating is aimed to engage, lighten up the mood, and put a smile on people’s faces. For example, we have cancelled our spring sale and instead decided to donate 20% of all proceeds to the UNHCR Urgent COVID Appeal. This is not the time for brands to be pushing sales content but rather play their part in this very difficult time and try to help where they can.
GBJ: How have you seen marginalized communities deal with the virus? And do you believe the public/governments are doing enough for artisans in poverty?
TP: The communities we work with have been impacted as much as anyone else, if not more. People are upset as they have to stay at home and comply with strict social distancing rules. What many don’t realise is that social distancing is a privilege. Millions of people around the world do not have this privilege and don’t have a home to stay in. We have seen organizations like UNHCR really step up their game and support these communities as much as they can, but at the end of the day, it will be up to companies like us, as well as our customers, to help make a difference. We are already working on a new idea for a project which we would love our artisans to start working on as soon as the lockdown is over. It is crucial they have a pipeline of long-term projects that they can come back to.
GBJ: What do you think your business will look like after the pandemic has passed?
TP: We do believe than even more than before, customers will want to live and shop in a more ethical and conscious manner. The demand will be there, so the industry needs to make sure the supply will be there too. Also customers are becoming better informed and they see through short-lived “sustainable” and “ethical” campaigns, whose only goal is to make the brand look better. So rather than running CSR programs as a side thing, social impact will have to be deeply rooted in the DNA of these new-age brands. We are well-positioned to become that brand as social impact is the core foundation that our business is built on. We just hope that customers will [realize] this in time and help support businesses like ours so that in turn, we can support the ones who really need it the most.
GBJ: Should brands be using this as a time to make changes to become more ethical and sustainable?
TP: Yes, absolutely, now is the time to make changes. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”