My Business: The Russian online fashion label
- 6 June 2012
- From the section Business
What makes an entrepreneur? BBC Moscow's Ekaterina Drobinina and Tom Santorelli hear from Moscow resident Alina Gamsakhurdiya about why she set up an online fashion label.
When she was in her twenties, Alina Gamsakhurdiya already had a great job in a big international corporation, a good salary, and a degree from one of Russia's best universities.
But one autumn day she decided she wanted to leave it all for a new challenge.
"I was sitting at our factory which was situated very far from the centre of Moscow, looking outside of the window and seeing those factory facilities: everything was grey," Alina says.
"I knew exactly what my next day would look like. Everything was predictable: I was a senior brand manager, and I knew that in two months or half a year I would just be in a higher position.
"I knew what would happen in my life for the next 10 years. I did not want that."
Alina realised that she wanted to combine her two passions in life: fashion and the internet.
So six months ago she started up her own own online clothing store for women, Shop-shop.me, where she sells dresses she designs herself for her own brand - called 995 - and unknown brands she imports from the US and Australia.
Dress to impress
"In Russia the clothes market is very specialised: you have the low segment and the luxury segment, but you do not have this upper-middle class segment. I am playing in this segment", says Alina.
The average price for one of her own dresses is $220 (£143; 177 euros;) - which, says Alina, may be a bit steep for the average Russian consumer.
But her target demographic is middle class women from big cities in Russia and former Soviet republics.
"I did some serious market research and found this segment of the market. I have invested in this segment and I'm sure I will get it back", explains Alina.
Russia is not always the easiest place to start your own business.
But Alina found the online business world let her cut through a lot of the bureaucracy the country has a reputation for.
She did not have to deal with getting electricity or construction permits for an actual shop - which can often take more than a year.
However, she says that problems with corruption at all levels persist in the country, and Alina found communication with the tax authorities a real issue.
"The most difficult thing is that the process is not organised, and you need to wait. You have to ask 100 questions, but after you have applied for something, not before! Nobody will tell you. Of course you can bribe or pay someone, but I did not want to do that."
Having launched her online shop from home, Alina faced another difficulty - the lack of a reliable service which could deliver her imported brands to the office where she stores, designs and manufactures all her garments.
"Nobody asks you when it is convenient for you to see the courier, but they just inform you when the courier will come", she complains.
Despite the global financial meltdown, Alina is confident that every woman's desire to look good will see her through.
"Of course I'm afraid of the crisis, but I'm sure Russian women will buy clothes and beauty products, even if they are in need or don't have money for travelling or furniture! But I hope that everything will be OK."