Interviewing Laura, the founder of Lilja the Label

By in Interviews

An interview with the founder of Lilja the Label

 

Hi! I’m Laura, the founder of Lilja the Label and nowadays the CEO as well. I haven’t introduced myself properly here on the website or on our social media before, so we put together a short interview for you to get to know me better. If you ever have any further questions, you can reach me directly at [email protected]!

 

Could you first tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Hi everyone! My name is Laura, I’m 27 and I’m the founder of Lilja the Label and have been running the brand since 2016. I’m born and raised in Finland but have spent a huge part of my adult years traveling and living abroad, and even though a ‘traveler’ isn’t exactly my identity, it’s a thing I’d have to mention as it’s shaped myself and my business so much along the years. I studied accounting and finance at a university here in Finland and have a M.Sc from the Turku School of Economics. I’m a surfer and a swimmer and love the ocean and the water in all forms. I’m also a lover of breakfast food, oat lattes, the rain, autumn, all things nature and all things vintage and retro.

 

(On my recent holiday in northern Norway, wore our Linnea Onepiece!)

 

What are your main areas at Lilja the Label?

For a long time, I’ve been in charge of pretty much everything, but in the past two years things have taken a huge leap and I’ve been able to hire some amazing people to do certain things and to outsource some other things to other businesses or entrepreneurs. I’d like to say I’m in charge of the design process and marketing as these are the two fields I love the most. All things money are also on my desk as that what I’ve studied and it’s therefore relatively quick for me to do, however personally not as interesting as the two aforementioned. However, being a small business owner it’s pretty much everything else that I get to do as well, from customer service to cleaning to packing boxes to writing lists to making coffee to picking up mail to to to… You get it!

 

What made you start your own business?

The idea of starting a swimwear brand or coming up with an activewear collection was kind of always on the back of my mind as I had always wanted to do something completely myself and start something for a scratch.

At the time of starting Lilja the Label, I had just finished my B.Sc and wasn’t sure which way to go after. I didn’t see accounting, finance and the corporate world being exactly for me. I had found my studies relatively easy and overall useful so I didn’t exactly struggle, but didn’t find my field that interesting and wasn’t excited about finding a job in what I had studied. I wanted to come up with something that I could use my knowledge in but that would challenge me in a different way. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to study what I did and learn so much, but also I’m super grateful that I listened to myself and took the learnings I could and put them into action in something I love! 

 

You’ve been on a bit of an incognito mode throughout the years and have never introduced yourself on the Lilja the Label website nor social media. Why is that?

I know!! Honestly, it’s because I’m actually a really awkward person when it comes to this. I don’t know where it exactly comes from as I’m not shy nor in any way ashamed of what I do, I’m super proud of myself! However, I get really awkward when people ask me questions about Lilja or when I’m put into a spotlight about something I’ve created. I guess it’s because I’ve put so much of myself into the designs and the creative outlook of the company that it feels like people already ‘know’ me, but it’s a bit of a silly way to see it as I know that giving the brand an actual face and introducing yourself can do so many good things to the brand, the credibility and everything! I’ve recognised this the whole time but just somehow have never taken the step. Here we are though! X

 

 

People often ask about the name of Lilja the Label. Where does it come from?

I wish I had a great story to this! Lilja in Finnish is a type of a flower (a lily) but also a women’s first name, and also a last name in Finnish. People often ask if it’s my name, my second name or the name of someone important to me. The last one especially would be such a beautiful story, to have my beloved brand (=my baby!) named after my sister, mother or grandmother for example. But all in all, I wanted to come up with something that was short and easy to pronounce and remember both in Finland and abroad. I wanted something that sounded beautiful and a word that had a meaning in Finnish. So Lilja it was! The business was originally started with a different name but I got bored really quickly as it was a bit too general and didn’t feel like it represented the brand.

 

What has been the most rewarding thing about running your own business?

Honestly so many things. Seeing quick drawings and rough sketches coming to life in the form of an actual product is an amazing feeling. Seeing people love the designs, purchasing them and loving them is even more incredible! I don’t think I’ll ever stop being in awe when someone tags us in a photo or when I see someone wearing one of my designs. 

Also being able to manage my own time has been a priority for me. Even though I do work a lot, I feel like I do it on my own terms and have freedom to be independent when it comes to when I work, where I work, who I’m surrounded with and so on. Not to say that I have complete freedom – my work will always follow me wherever I go and I can’t 100% switch off ever, but I guess it’s the same with anyone running a business where they work hands-on and are responsible for every single thing. Nevertheless, I love love love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world!

 

And on the other hand, what has been the most challenging thing?

I started the entire thing from scratch and with no budget at all, as I was a 22-year-old student at the time. Because I didn’t have much money to allocate to starting a business, I had to learn to do pretty much everything myself. It was so so fun and rewarding learning about so many different things – from web design to photography to pattern making to taxes to to to… And I’m so proud to say I did it all! But letting go of ‘doing it all’ has been very difficult. At the point where the company is today, I don’t have to do every single thing myself as I have so many amazing people that can help me, and that I can afford to offer work to. So why wouldn’t I utilise that?! Being so used to thinking “I’ll just quickly do this myself” instead of delegating caused me to spend so much time working, to absolute exhaust myself, to kill all my creative drive and to just almost drive myself to complete burnout. I think it’s great that these things are discussed more and more nowadays and a certain rush culture isn’t so popular and looked up to anymore. And being in a somewhat creative field, I’ve noticed that the more relaxed, free and rested I am, the more I get done and the better the work I do is. I would say I only learned this entire thing this year, so it’s definitely been the most challenging thing overall!

 

If you were to start again with the knowledge you have at this moment, what would you do differently?

I think it’s definitely been a learning curve and if I hadn’t done something I now did along the years, the business wouldn’t be exactly where it is now. Who knows if it would be way better or gone worse if things had been done differently, but I don’t like to second guess that! However, I think there always will be things that every business owner would do differently if given the chance to go back in time. 

Wait I was apparently talking about a different thing! I wrote about going back in time, however this was about starting again. It would be a completely different business if I started with the knowledge I have now, but I wouldn’t have this knowledge if I hadn’t had this business. So I don’t really have an answer to this question!

 

Where will Lilja the Label be in five years?

Of course I wish the company to grow and evolve, but I also want to somewhat keep the feel it has now as I love what it stands for at this moment. It’s still small and hopefully feels personal to the customer, and I don’t think I ever want to become a ‘big’ brand. I want to be able to still be in control of what is happening at the company and don’t want to become an owner that has no clue. But there’s still A LOT of space in between where the company is now and when it’ll turn into a ‘big’ one, and that’s where I want to be! I want to employ some more amazing people and to be able to focus on things I love the most about running a company while successfully delegating areas I’m not the strongest in nor have the time for. I want to take over new markets, create more gorgeous designs and keep interacting with our amazing community!

 

What are your favourite items from Lilja the Label?

I would have to say that the Helena Onepiece is my all-time favourite! I’ve worn it so much and it’s just perfect for everything – swimming, surfing, sun baking, as a bodysuit and just looks amazing aside being super functional! And the blue retro print is 100% my style. Also the Sandy Top and Sandy Bottoms from our Lilja x Laura Rosilla collection have been a fave this summer, I’ve worn this set nonstop. I also have a feeling that the 2022 summer collection that we’re currently sampling will have some new faves for me…

 

An interview with the founder of Lilja the Label