Slightly Rebellious, Pink Flavored in Sofia
In times of severe economic and financial crises, most businesses are taking extreme measures in order to survive, including cutting expenses, delaying payments or laying off people.
However, two adventurous Bulgarian girls have decided to not let the recession control their lives, but rather catch the bull by the horns and, yes, start their own business.
They are Anjelika Petrova, 27, and Sonia Anastasova, 24, founders and owners of "Rockacoca" – a Bulgarian brand for alternative fashion, which includes hand-drawn sneakers, shoes, leather accessories and t-shirts.
"Slightly rebellious, pink flavored, a little bit grunge, but yet stylish, and most importantly – quite unique." This is how the girls describe their brand. And it is, indeed, unique because not many companies dare to use the image of Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, on sneakers, on top of that presenting him as Batman, a fighter against injustice, the protector of the weak.
The idea of hand-drawn sneakers came from Sonia after she attended a conference on alternative fashion in Barcelona. She knew it was a niche that was to be filled in Bulgaria and she shared her idea with Anjelika.
The two girls were working for an advertising agency in Sofia at the time. After considering the idea for a minute, literally, they decided to quit their well-paid jobs, collect their last paychecks and start their own business.
Rockacoca began operating in December 2009. The starting capital was only BGN 1,000 and was used for several pairs of sneakers and for the special paints the girls used for drawing.
They knew the idea was popular in the United States and they knew Bulgaria was ready for it too. They started by drawing several pairs of sneakers, which they wore and showed to friends. The reactions of people proved they were on the right track.
"This was not an objective of ours, or a hobby. We wanted to make a culture, make a change, give something to the world," Anjelika says.
She explains that there were very difficult moments in the beginning but there was not a single moment in which she regretted quitting her job. Sonia agrees, reminiscing about the day when she quit her job, sat on a bench in the park and seeing many people there, asked herself why are these people not working.
"Life in the corporate world, which is a life in an office, and life when you are working for yourself are very different," Sonia says with a smile and a huge relief that she could finally "see the sun outside again."
It is normal to suppose that when two girls are working at the same place, there will be some sort of competition. However, Anjelika explains that they have very different roles in Rockacoca – she is doing the communications tasks and works with clients, while Sonia is the designer.
There is also a third member to their company – Stanimir Milev, or their "business angel." He is the entrepreneur and adviser to the company.
The first sales happened online. Several months later, they rented their own place downtown Sofia, which serves as their studio/store.
The items they sell include sneakers, shoes, bags, socks and leather accessories. People can buy items that are ready or order a special design. The production depends on the specific case, but usually takes about 3-4 days for a ready Rockacoca design and 7-8 days if the client orders a special design.
Even though the prices vary, they are still about twice cheaper than the prices in the United States, the owners say. Sneakers are about BGN 150-170 (about BGN 100 at sale), but could reach BGN 200-300 for a client's design.
At first the team wanted to work together with Bulgarian producers of sneakers. However, they could not find understanding in the faces of the "inadequate companies' owners." And just as the cloud of desperation started to shadow their enthusiasm, the Bulgarian distributor for Converse contacted them. The result was an official contract, which is the next logic step towards taking over the market in the United States and in Europe, as Rockacoca's goal is.
"We do not limit ourselves and do not put boundaries. We are open to ideas and to whatever happens to us," Anjelika says.
She thinks it would be good for Rockacoca if they manage to find an investor, someone who shares the brand's idea and wants to carry the same message. Even though it sounds like a wishful thinking, coming from a company that is only a year old, the three entrepreneurs have already started working towards their goal.
Their products can already be found in the stores "Under Construction" in Sofia and in "Hot Spot" in Mall of Sofia.
Little by little, Rockacoca gains popularity and the team cannot manage with all the orders, even if they work almost 24/7.
"It's good that we complement each other. Sonia wakes up as early as 5-6 am, while I like to stay up to 2-3 am," Anjelika sayd.
One of their goals for 2011 is to hire designers to work for them so that they could catch up with the orders and also boost their production in stock. They also hope to find more partners and to increase their work which targets international markets. They also hope for more profit because for now all they gain is invested in the business.
"It is nice when you know you have a steady salary that you get every month. But where is the challenge? We are doing this for us and it is all we care about for now," Anjelika says.
It seems like the people like them too. Only a year after the start, Rockacoca's Facebook page already has over 6,000 fans.
"What we do is not just a business. It is a culture. It is our revolt against mediocrity," Sonia says.
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