In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Anca and Sabina Sercau, founders of The Hush. We discuss what it's like starting a business while working another job full-time, how because of Covid they had to drastically shift their business model, and what differentiates their handcrafted shoes from others.
If you love beautiful handcrafted womens hoes, then you are going to luv hearing how two sisters launched an exclusive high-quality shoe brand while working full-time in their careers. Anca and Sabina Sercau are founders of The Hush shoes. The road to getting their startup off the ground has been rocky to say the least. Because of Covid, their entire business model had to change. Afterall, with many people working from home, women aren't putting on high heels to go to the grocery store or pick up their kids from daycare.
Fun conversation and of course lots of laughs as we kick off the show with two lies and a truth. Enjoy!
If you love beautiful handcrafted woman. you are going to love our show today. Today we have sisters Anca and Sabina Sercau, co founders of the Romanina startup - The Hush. Hi, ANCA, Sabina. Welcome to the show.
Hi, and thank you for inviting us.
So how are you gals doing today?
We're working as we do every single day. And we were really enthusiastic about talking to you.
Fantastic. So I thought we start off with a little game and it's called two lies in a truth. Okay.
I'm going to say three statements. Two are lies. And one is true? You both have to decide which statement you think is true. Ready?
okay. That seems fun.
Okay. First statement, I haven't bought a new pair of jeans in seven years.
Second statement. I play the guitar and the third statement, I own four pairs of Ferragamo dress shoes. Which statement do you think is true
they all seem so false.
This is a hard choice. Really.
Maybe the second one is true.
Is that the one you're going with,
Let's say the second one. Okay. The second.
now. Unfortunately I don't play the guitar. I wish I did. But I don't. It's the third statement. That's true. I own four pairs of Ferragamo dress shoes that I never get to wear any more because it COVID, and I don't really go to the office.
But that's the true statement.
oh, I go to Sam to get four pairs of slippers or flip-flops or whatever.
Like Adidas or something. Yeah. Okay, Now Anca I have a question for you about your sister.
Okay, I'm going to
You have to fill in the blank on this one. You ready? of for Valentine's day, Sabina would rather receive
fries. Fries. okay.
Okay. From where though, like where are the good Fries.
here in Bucharest?
We are a huge fans of a McDonald's fries, so that should be easy.
Yeah. Yeah. They do have really good fries. Very good fries.
Savina question for you about ONCA. Okay.
You have to fill in the. What is Anca's go-to karaoke song.
Oh, okay. She's not the Griesinger. It's hard to choose.
She's up here with a singer. We both are, but
Okay. At the bar, there's a karaoke machine. She's had a few beers or few drinks. What's that song that she's thinking about going on stage to sing there.
I'd say Whitney Houston We'll always love you, hey, Kate
That's a very romantic choice there. Okay. Cool.
Hopeless romantic here. Busted.
Oh God. Yeah.
Yeah. All right. So French fries and Whitney Houston go hand in hand. There we go.
Okay. Let's dive into shoes. How did the hush story begin? Tell me about that.
There was evening, we were at my sister's place having a glass of wine. And we were brainstorming on a business idea and we went through so many of them from dry cleaning to jewelry, and we finally chose shoes. It took quite a while because.
It's not that they're few business ideas that we could go for.
It's just that we try to just something that felt close to our hearts, something that we wake up every day eager to do. It's not that we don't love our current jobs, but it's not something that I look forward on the next day. And this is what we try to find something that we really enjoy doing. And that's.
We both like shoes. We both have ever, since we were little and we said, why not? It's quite hard, but I think we can manage. And off we went
Now was there ever any discussion or hesitation because your siblings, my brother, he's great and I love him to death, but I doubt I would want to work with him.
, was that ever any discussion there?
There were discussions, not on the business idea. It's. When I think I said to have a shoe company, she said, yeah, that sounds great. Let's do it. We'll go about it. That raised any questions. However, yes, we do have times when we disagree on things, but I guess we both, got to that level of maturity where we appreciate the differences and we.
Use them constructively, let's say,
Okay. And between the two where are the strengths between the two? Who's better at doing X and who's better at doing Y
The thing is I see myself, as on the creative side, but I. Couldn't do the things I do without Sabina, without my sister, because she sees everything from a totally different perspective. When we are looking at the same situation, we are seeing completely different things and that's why we're working so well together because we can evaluate the situation from different points of view and that.
Yeah, you compliment each other. I think my wife and I are like that. We're very opposite in the way we're thinking and approach things, but it works out. It's just a great team, collaboration. So I imagine for you too, it's been working out when you decided to launch the shoe company.
What about the name? The hush. That's a very, peculiar name. How did that come about?
It's the thing that hush makes you think about something that is somehow with a closed circuit, unapproachable.
We also want that our customers feel the, that our shoes make them feel special. Our shoes are special and our purpose is to make women feel special.
Got it. Who is the woman that's wearing your shoes? Describe her for us.
Even though We see ourselves as a more exclusive brand. We are at the same time inclusive because we support women being who they really are. We support their individuality. The hush client can be a business woman, a young mom. Can be a fashionable teenager can be whoever she feels like being that day.
Whatever version of herself makes her feel most comfortable. We support, again, the idea of being who you really are of being here.
see clients ambassadors of our brands, and we do encourage them to talk about their experience with harsh, to encourage other women, to be the best version of themselves.
Got it. And I read that these shoes are handcrafted. Quality is very important to you guys in regards to quality. What makes a pair of shoes?
Good quality in your opinion?
We have invested a lot of time and resources in research before launching our collection. It's very important that the no. White of the shoe fits your your foot, that the quality of the leather, the quality of the heels it's high because low leather quality will also hurt the foot and also look somehow.
Different than the quality we want to exhibit on our shoes. It's very important. Feet are different. It's very important that each pair of shoes feeds you are
Now COVID happened last year. And it's still continuing today. When you decided to launch the hush, was that pre COVID or was that during COVID?
it was during COVID
Wow. What was the biggest hurdle that you both had to overcome, for the launch?
There were actually a couple of things because when we decided to launch harsh, we were thinking of a shoe brand that sells that's all exclusively. However, due to COVID not many women wear shoes or high heels, your way to the supermarket. Therefore we have to lunch a series of flats as well.
That was the first thing because we had to reinvent our business right before the launch. We expected the pandemic to be over beginning of this year, which did not happen. So in January, we'll have to come up with about 15 pairs of.
That was one thing completely unexpected completely unplanned from a financial point of view, it was quite hard to overcome.
But the thing I'd say that was the most difficult for us was to find a group of professionals that was able to turn our vision into reality. The pandemic affected all industries and the industry is no exception. The, or every company is started to reduce the size of their teams to fire people.
And therefore there were a bit skeptical in dedicating their few resources to a new project. Given the fact that they had no clue whether it's going to succeed.
To convince them that. We have a business model that is worth the effort that it is going to perform. There is going to be on the market five years from now.
It was a really tough job. They were they were really hard to convince them.
on the snake. So you're both working full time for other corporations I'm guessing and correct me if I'm wrong. But a lot of the finance is maybe from both your savings.
Was there any other types of fundraising that you did, to get the hush launched?
No, it was all our resources, all our savings actually
new true entrepreneurs. So let's talk real quick you're working full time for another corporation. You're launching this startup. What has been the approach in terms of how to get things done? How to execute. How to launch this business on the side. How have you been able to do that when you're both working full time?
We started to do it step by step. We started to learn things about shoes because none of us had any idea about how shoes are made. We just liked shoes, but we didn't even have any idea of how they were made. The starting of the business was not that hard because we already know what to do in terms of legal requirements.
And so on ,
paperwork and everything.
Selma, we just started to learn about shoes and then we found a. Professionals that could help us go and find production shops. We have visited five or six production shops and we have worked with them on a limited period of time until we decided that it's not the type of quality that we want for our shoes.
So we went further and further until we reached the ones that are perfect.
Luckily for us in the shoe industry, the working schedule is a bit different than incorporations. We work from nine to 6:00 PM.
In the shoe industry, the workers start their working day at about five or six in the morning.
So we woke up really early. We have, we had three or maybe four hours before we had to start our other job. And then afterwards, after 6:00 PM, when the shops were closed, the the suppliers will close as well. Oh, we had to do our administrative.
Marketing strategy, our financial calculations and all that.
And also the weekends, we don't really have too much of a personal life nowadays.
I love hearing about this grit and determination and we all have the same number of equivalent hours, but for entrepreneurs like you guys, you make the most of it. How many shoes are in your collection currently?
oh, sorry. thirty.
Okay. About 30. And are you thinking about expanding outside of Romania?
Of course. Yeah. Actually this one was a long-term plan, but recently it has become a medium term plan or maybe short term plan because we have received many orders that we couldn't deliver. So
That's a good problem, right?
That's an excellent problem. So what are you doing? It sounds like there's a lot of demand for this. Are you doing something specific to get customers and to drive awareness? What are you doing from a marketing and sales perspective?
Actually we're not doing that much. As I'm also working in media I am approaching all the online channels. We available local channels for hush. But other than that actually we're not doing that much. People come to us just because the type of shoes are different.
They look different that the shoes than the shoes you can find somewhere else, maybe. And they're very conscious. This is the feedback that we receive from each and every client that has worn our shoes. They're very comfortable even with a 10 centimeter heels.
That's fantastic. What have been the most wanted, or the most requested shoes so far and your collection?
We have a pair of sandals called ingenue, and that was the most, bought, of our.
Okay. Okay. Last question for you, both. What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in an entrepreneur?
I think it would be to never give up actually, because getting started. Usually it's easy, but we have encountered a number of issues that could have convinced us to give up. But luckily it was two of us that were doing the job. We encouraged each other. When one was down the other one,
God is saying, okay, we got this, we can do it.
We have to move on. And this is what I would say to any person, speaking of entrepreneurship, to be patient and to give themselves time, we were supposed to launch six months before we actually did. We were not ready on time. It's a six months gap. It's a very long time. We have a huge delay if you asked me.
And yes, there was a lot of money and resources invested that we wanted to get there. However, we said that if you had to choose between a product that has a medium quality, but it's on the market on time or having the right quality. But later on, maybe for six months, even a year, we would have done the same as we did.
We would have waited and invested some more. So we can get to the point where we always dreamed of.
The product has to be up to the highest standards and quality that was it seems like that was the big priority for you guys.
And it's working out that way. If people are giving you great compliments, testimonials, referring others it worked out in your favor real quickly. What was one of.
those obstacles that came your way and you thought, wait a minute, maybe I should be doing something else and give up.
The beginning was not that easy because after we launched our business we expected to receive tons of orders and sell tons of pairs of shoes was not the case really. We just, we were just looking at our Our order list. And we were like, now what? We were just refreshing the window from hour to hour and no orders were coming.
So that was a little bit scary, but it's natural. It's the beginning. It's actually, it's the way it should be. Okay. And then actually, and then it went away.
Better and better. And now we're good.
Good. Good to hear. And I love your tagline by the way.
Of course, I'm never going to buy your shoes because you don't make men shoes, at least not yet. But when I read the tagline for people who make shoe contact, before I contact, I loved it. As somebody who loves copywriting, I, when I read that, I was like, that is good. That's really good.
thank you. That's actually, that came from us.
Fantastic. Well,Anca and Sabina. Thank you, so much for being on the show for everybody listening until next week. This is Eric. Melcher from innovators can laugh saying goodbye and LA.
Thank you, Eric. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Bye.
Okay, so I'm going to start recording, but just want to thank you guys for being guest.
This was a really good conversation. I like the fact that there's going to be people listening and they realize that, wait a minute, I work a full-time job. I can do this. I can wake up early. I can work in the evenings. I can work nights. This is something I can do. And so I really appreciate you guys coming on as guests for this.
Yeah. It is hard, indeed. It is. But it is possible if you want it bad enough. Yeah.
Yeah. How has the summer going for you? Are you just, are you consistently seeing like more demand for orders? What's the summer been like?
yeah, we the demand is increasing and it has been increasing.
I think the mid of June, maybe. Yeah.
Okay. Do you think you'll put some shoes in some physical stores here in, in different malls or stores? Or do you want to just keep the e-commerce store?
yeah. We're trying to find some sort of collaborations. So in order to gain some more awareness on our brand but because at the moment we are not there. Financially stable enough to be able to open our own server room, but yes, finding collaborations and displaying our products next to somehow different brands.
That's a short term plan.
platform. Good. Good for you guys. Okay thank you again. I will keep you.
posted on when this gets released probably in about three, three weeks, I'm thinking. And so in the meantime, I will tell other people about this.
I would tell my wife about it and her friends and my sister-in-law I think they're going to like your shoes.
Yeah. Yeah. Until Alex you can, if you want, you don't have to. But you feel free to just say that Eric said hi.
That would be weird. Yeah. I just talked to Eric.
Yeah. Okay. All right. ONCA Sabina. you guys have a great day. Enjoy the rest of the day.
Thank you for having us. Bye bye.