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Female Entrepreneurs of the Future: New Ideas, Increasing Sales

by Natascha Zeljko

Katrin ten Eikelder founded The Knots, an online platform for unique handmade rugs. Last year, she was one of the participants in "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future" by Amazon. What she learned and how the program affected her company's success, she reveals in an interview with F10.

You studied business administration and last worked in the fashion industry. How did you wind up working with carpets?

My grandfather built up a home textile business which my father took over and specialized in carpets. He is an expert in the field and an expert on oriental carpets. He has travelled to all these countries and is very familiar with the product. I grew up with it, but wasn’t interested in it at first. Even after my studies it wasn’t an option for me. I came back to carpets via detours. I was working for Hugo Boss in New York when I had the idea to set up my own carpet label. I quit my job, gave up my work permit and everything, and returned to Germany and founded The Knots.

What appealed to you about it?

My idea was to breathe new life into oriental carpets, to make them younger and cooler. I wanted to bring this traditional product back to relevance with modern marketing tools, to put the craftsmanship back into the foreground. My carpets are all unique; I use vintage goods and redesign them. It was a daring venture to sell the items exclusively online, especially in this price range. But it worked.

What was the most difficult part when it was founded?

The biggest challenge was that I had to do everything myself. Starting such a big business alone means you lack a sparring partner. Not even necessarily with big issues, sometimes it’s just a matter of small things – questions of taste where you would like a second opinion. And of course with larger obstacles, which one inevitably encounters, is a partner missing all the more. Seen in this light, the “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future” program was a real stroke of luck for me.

What motivated you to apply to “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”?

I wanted to exchange ideas. To talk to people in a similar situation. And, very importantly, to get support. It was great having coaches at your side who accompanied you throughout the whole process. They are proven experts in their field and you get a lot of insight.

How did that affect your business?

I was able to increase my sales significantly. And I learned a lot about branding as part of the program. It was interesting, especially as an online company, to think in the other direction: pop-up shops and offline events. This gives you the chance to present your products to people directly. Originally the plan was to offer my assortment via other marketplaces like amazon.de. But unfortunately Amazon, as an American company, is not allowed to offer Iranian products. This means that a part of my assortment was not listable at all. That’s why we focused on other topics; for instance, I expanded my product portfolio and now as a result of diversification I distribute via various platforms among others also via Amazon. For this reason and with the help of the new marketing measures I was able to increase my sales.

Who is the “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future” program suitable for?

I really think it makes sense for everyone, no matter what stage the company is at. Of course, if you’ve just started, you can take an incredible amount of learning with you. But even if you’ve been at it for some time and need new input, have a specific question or objective, or you want to expand your company or give it a new twist, it’s a great opportunity. And the nice thing is that it’s sustainable. We are all still in contact and have a Whatsapp group. If you ever have a question or would like to exchange ideas on a subject, you can put it into the group.

What is the most important thing you learned?

To really think in a different way and to consider how I can further optimize my business. And there are two possibilities: I intensify what I do, or I try something new.

Which did you choose?

The latter. I have further expanded my product portfolio, and that’s not over yet. I have now added completely self-designed products and prints. Now it’s about expanding the range and thereby winning new target groups.

Last question: what comes after the Beni Ourains? What is the hottest tip when it comes to carpets?

Oriental carpets are still on the rise – the more contemporary styles firstly, but also the classics. I see this now more and more often in combination with modern pieces of furniture. Especially in the USA – a real hotspot in terms of carpet trends. They are much more eager to experiment than Germans.

The deadline to apply for “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future” is February 28th. To get more information and to apply, go to: unternehmerinnenderzukunft.de

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