Name: Öznur Söylem
Company: Yastikizi, an online marketplace for shoppers around the world
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Reason for Starting: Since my childhood, I’ve followed my creative instinct by drawing, knitting, sewing, everything. After an education in graphic design, I worked as an art director in some of Turkey’s leading advertising agencies. I enjoyed it at first, but then I wanted to offer something on my own, something coming directly from my hands. As it turned out, that was a simple pair of gloves. Many years ago, I made “heart gloves” to give to my boyfriend. They were made with love and they started the fire! My boyfriend turned into my husband and the gloves turned into my second career.
How do you define success?: While working in the advertising sector, I won national awards, along with the Cannes Lions award. But they were all short-term successes, and I was never satisfied. I wanted to touch people’s lives and make them feel special. And now people use my products as a medium of expressing their feelings. This is something priceless– this is what success means to me.
Biggest Success: I’ve been running Yastikizi for 2 years now. Etsy is a great base for starting and growing a business. Just in 2 years, I’ve gained thousands of followers and made more than two thousand sales. I’ve been featured in New York’s Time Out magazine, The Guardian, and VH1 Channel, and had a chance to work with FAB.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?: I always focus on quality and details. This makes it difficult to progress while working with different manufacturers. I make no concessions on quality, but I’ve learned how to balance between “high standards” and the “realities of the market.”
Who is your most important role model?: Definitely my mom. She’s the most inspiring woman I’ve ever seen. I didn’t just learn how to sew from her, but also how to see the importance of creativity in life. 5 years ago, she had a stroke and brain surgery; she can’t use her right hand and can’t sew anymore, but she’s still my hero.
Edited by The Story Exchange