Today's youth is eager to attain their dream job just after stepping off the graduation stage. For me, a very different journey built me into the entrepreneur I am today, and I don't regret one bit of it.
When I graduated in Hotel Management from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, I realized my love for hotel interiors and décor enticed my senses a lot more than managing them. And so began my love affair with décor. La Désirade was my first ever quaint furniture restoration workshop for interior design after University. 13 whole years into interior designing, I found my heart pumped in search of more.
I began working as a freelancer at Swiss women's magazine, Femina, to beautify the home interior section pages. In parallel, I explored my infatuation with photography and life as food prop stylist, laying out some alluring, eye-appealing tables. I perused my passion for capturing the essence of a product not only through photography but also with an added touch of graphic design through the incorporation of ambitious ventures, Coucou Clock Agency and Swiss cookbook-- Les Délices de Manuella. My learning curve never diminished.
I continued to keep myself abreast of evolving technologies, literally mugging up the InDesign and Corel Draws of the world. All this was accomplished while I brought up my two handsome sons. After 26 years of navigating in the visual communication industry and my children out of the nest, I packed my bags and boarded on an adventure to NYC at the age of 50.
My quest to know more helped me to pursue the Accessory Design Major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Just the touch at supple leather intrigued me instantly to continue my focus on perfecting the craftsmanship that strengthens and ensures the quality of this fine material. While a student, I dug up a Yves St. Laurent suede skirt I had purchased years ago for just five dollars at a thrift store. I let my creativity flourish and turned it into a bag. I knew right then and there that I had found my calling! For the next two years, I learned everything I could about leather, how to craft it, and designed line after line in the FIT workshop.
"The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came my way." Photo courtesy of Lioness
My inaugural brand, Samira Buchi New York is an orchestrated outcome of a serene marriage between my creative instincts and learnings at FIT.
You know as they say, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?" Hailing from a small town near Lake Geneva called Lausanne in Switzerland, I too, like many others, dreamt of living in the concrete jungle of the New York. Coming from a family of nomadic roots, my childhood revolved around the arts of big cities and the cultural diversities of the places we traveled. I remember visiting New York City in 1979, standing in the middle of a gritty SoHo street, and fancying that one day I would live here. This dream of living in New York never left me.
The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came in my way – from being an interior decorator to graphic designer to prop stylist to photography, not realizing it was carving and sharpening my artistic skill sets, inching me a bit closer to my dream.
And when I finally touched down here in New York and at the forefront of the Fashion Institute of Technology, my lust with the art wanted to relive the second innings of life as a newborn on a virgin unexplored territory. Starting afresh, I saw this gap in the entire accessories business where providing custom-made luxury pieces with functionality and simplicity did not exist here in the fashion capital of the world. This instantly motivated me to go back to school and learn the nitty-gritty of the acceptable and lovable art of New York.
Initially, I believed, as I'm more fluent in speaking French than English, I would come across as a naïve to people in this great city. What was supposedly a weakness in my head, turned out to be my strength. My way of living, my personal style preferences and a cosmopolitan touch to designing my products has in every way come to be loved and desired by many in the United States. This particular transition of thought really shaped my character in New York– to hone every ability with confidence & pride.
The men in my life brought out this confidence in me through their daily inspirations as a young girl and well into motherhood– my father as I grew up, and then my kids who grew up too soon to chase their dreams in Paris and London respectively. Their dedication and faith to achieve what they believe in have had an insurmountable impact on my life that motivated me to leave Switzerland and grab the opportunity of living my dream in New York at the age of 50, which happens to be in an itsy bitsy apartment.
My tiny shoe box type Manhattan loft in Chelsea is a soupçon of my vintage European style. You will find a sense of industrial and rugged vibes– a chariot layered table to store my cookbooks and other kitchen essentials, a dining table of metal feet with bar stools, a décor comprising of Omersa- handmade leather pig footstool from Liberty London, a collage of memories on wooden frame and an incredible view of the Empire State Building from sizable windows. Though I miss waking up to the snow-capped Alps, the New York City skyline is a constant reminder to never stop chasing my dreams.
I'm now working for myself—something many will never experience or fathom. It's like having a luxury of freedom with fear. But no one gets free lunches in life and as a 53-year-old woman with myriad experiences of life, I can certainly say that everything has its pros and cons – but what is constant is the learning. And the desire to learn should never fade!
I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.
During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.
The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.
Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.
I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.
Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.
My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:
- Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
- Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
- Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!