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The xouxou Story: “It’s About Getting Started. No Excuses!”

by Natascha Zeljko

A bit of chance, a bit of luck, and perfect timing: an interview with Yara Jentzsch Dib, who kicked off a huge trend with xouxou, the mobile phone necklaces

Where does the name xouxou come from?

From my home country. I grew up in Brazil and came to Germany at the age of 13. My mother tongue is Portuguese. “Xouxou” is a nickname for children, it means “sweetheart”.

How did you come up with the idea of putting your smartphone on a necklace?

That had to do with my situation as a young mother—you don’t have a free hand with a toddler, but you’re always looking for the phone. At some point it got so annoying that I made my first prototype with macramé ribbons that I had at home for my decorative things. I tied it to the phone case and put it on my neck. In principle there was already such a thing, but not as stylish. At the time I would never have dreamed that it would go through the roof like that.

Was that than zero strategy and pure coincidence?

Yes, but many coincidences came together. And of course a big portion of luck and good timing. After the first prototype with macramé, I further optimized it and attached a Paracord ribbon—I still use the material today. In addition, it was gradually becoming summer. I was wearing little dresses and always wearing this xouxou cord. I noticed that people looked interested in the street. And in my circle of friends the thing that was a hit. A lot of people work in gastronomy or in the movies, creative people who are always on the go and go to festivals in the summer. They ordered the first mobile phone chains from me. At first, it was on an exchange basis. One gave me a massage, the other could sew. Finally, I decided to put the mobile phone chains on my website. So began the first orders.

How many xouxou necklaces have you sold so far?

About 45,000.

Did you have any sales or marketing experience?

No, I studied acting and film science. I grew into it. For example, I designed and programed my own website. I also run my Instagram myself to this day, which is a lot of fun. I think the customers notice that there is a real small company behind it, with people who identify with the product.

How many people work for you?

If you add everything up, including shipping etc., we now have about 60 employees. We cooperate with a workshop for the disabled and with students. In the core team, which takes care of PR, marketing, and dealer support, there are five of us. In the meantime, my boyfriend has also joined us. We are a kind of family business.

Were there crises?

Oh yes, there were! The difficult point was when we grew and reached a certain size. More and more orders came in and I still drove myself to the post office packed with three or four Ikea bags. At that time I was also pregnant with my second child. It became more and more every day. Like a giant wave that builds up in front of you and threatens to roll over you completely. Then I knew it couldn’t  go on this way any longer. We needed an agency that handled the fulfillment. We already had a good half year and the Christmas business behind us. We decided to reinvest everything completely in production. Like at the casino: all in. That paid off. Our product was the summer trend of the year. We haven’t taken out a loan yet and have no investors in the company.

What would you recommend to other founders?

It’s about getting started. No excuses! There are always reasons not to do something. And I believe in not thinking too much. Sometimes even a little naivety is important. I didn’t know what to expect and was therefore relaxed and so in love with my product. In the beginning, I looked at every order and thought, “Oh how nice!” Or when I saw people on the street with a xouxou, it felt to me like we were connected in a certain way. I was completely free of fear because of this carelessness. The success positively surprised me.

The best insight?

How uncomplicated it is to connect with the world in times of digitalization. This new freedom that has arisen as a result. That is a great luxury. What’s new for me is that I can work anywhere and anytime. My baby is six months old, if he has a fever, then I stay at home and work there. That’s why women in tech has such a future. I always work, xouxou is like a third child to me. In the beginning I almost had a guilty conscience that I was working with a baby. But my mother drove it out of me. She said: “This is such a privilege for your generation! When you were little, I had to have you looked after at home. Forget your guilty conscience.”

What’s the next step?

We will offer even more designs. But above all, we want to expand internationally. At the moment we sell mainly in Germany. Now we want to add Europe, North America and Australia.

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