Q+A with Galyna Nitsetska
Tell me a bit about yourself, your background and where you are from.
I am the CEO and founder of Silkarmour, an online purveyor of luxury workwear for women in London.
I was born to a Russian mother but had a somewhat nomadic lifestyle growing up in that I had lived in four different countries before the age of 16. After I entered the world of finance as a banker, it quickly became clear that women in the corporate world did not have access to the same high-quality clothing men often do – and so Silkarmour was born.
Tell me more about Silkarmour and how the idea for it came about.
Silkarmour was set up with the mission to empower and make every woman look and feel as the best version of herself. During my time in finance I was often the only woman on the team and it soon became very apparent that whilst men had an easy go-to uniform style (also known as the suit and tie), women had both a lack of instructions and resources available to them to walk into meetings with confidence. This is something we set out to rectify by bringing the best designers together to one platform, and carefully curating collections which help women define their own personal style in the workplace.
How did you get to where you are today and what was your career path?
The most important aspect of my career path probably came before my actual career: my schooling. My parents enrolled me at a European School when I was 12, and my life changed dramatically after this. Being surrounded by people from different cultures and backgrounds taught me to be both more comfortable with my own international upbringing (not to mention “exotic” name), but also how to get along with anyone no matter where they are from or what their belief system was. If you have children and are scared to take them out of school, my advice is, don’t be. Travel as much as possible and open their minds to new experiences: they will thank you later.
I went on to study Politics and Economics at UCL, whilst also taking a module in Russian. The combination of numerical, analytical and linguistic skills that I had to develop during this time helped me later when I joined a Private Bank with an International client base. It was during my time working in banking that I realised both how women were still a minority in many offices (especially further up the ladder), and the many insecurities they dealt with when it came to how best to present themselves in a corporate environment (due to a lack of female role models).
We have just celebrated our one year anniversary with Silkarmour and it has been an incredibly exciting time. Having worked in the corporate world myself has definitely helped in that I understand and know the customer we are serving.
What has been the most challenging aspect of running your own business and how did you overcome it?
Learning how to prioritise my time has been the most important learning curve. Acting as the founder and CEO means I have to deal with many decisions on a daily basis; from hiring new team members to planning social media, dealing with taxes and the technical side of the business. I have found that the key to overcoming most of the issues is truly understanding that despite it sometimes feeling like you are on your own, you are not. Finding female mentors and speaking with other women who have started their own businesses has been incredibly helpful; suddenly you realise that the problem you are facing is not unique, and one which others have already solved before you.
Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get through a busy day?
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a step back and some time out for yourself is sometimes the best way to get things done faster and to a higher standard. As the person leading the team you are the last person who can get overstressed, so keeping your head cool to be able to keep making those decisions is of vital importance.
I schedule walks for myself during the day, during which I will usually listen to podcasts (Tim Ferris being one of my favourites) or audiobooks about start-ups (“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz is a must read / listen for anyone working in a start-up). Listening to others who have overcome higher hurdles than what you are currently facing is definitely a fantastic way to bring you back to earth.
Something else I have been trying to do a lot more of recently is daily meditations. It’s amazing because you can be trying to think of a solution to a certain problem for hours or days, and the answer actually comes to you when you stop thinking altogether.
How do you keep motivated?
I definitely feel very fortunate in that the first business I have set up is something I believe in. Starting any business will have many ups and downs, but I think doing something you really believe in makes it so much easier to keep going even when things are difficult. It’s important to remember that most businesses do not become an overnight success – unicorns in the start up world are called unicorns for a reason. The business then becomes more like a marriage – make sure you choose something you are committed to.
Have you had any mentors to help you along the way?
I have had many amazing women guide and help me along the way. From women who have led start-ups to women in the business world, the journey and response has been absolutely incredible. I also do not believe that mentors have to be formally assigned as a mentor – sometimes someone just sitting down with you for half an hour over coffee can bring more value than they themselves realise. I’m a big believer in giving back and paying it forward, so it is something I try to do as much as possible with others too.
What has having your own business taught you?
The importance of celebrating the small wins. It becomes easy to set yourself milestones and to simply move on to the next one each time you reach one, but working this way makes the journey feel like a difficult one that will never end. If you have accomplished something of importance, no matter how small, make sure you celebrate that achievement and that moment. Once you are out of the corporate world, no one is going to take you out for a coffee to tell you how well you have been doing recently or give you a promotion; so make sure you are your own best boss.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start their own business?
Do your research, meet your customer, know your market backwards and forwards and read everything you can get your hands on about starting a business, marketing and anything else you think you may have to do. I think not doing enough reading and research upfront has really held me back in the long run. Also, save save and save some more if you are still in a job and want to leave for good. Then if you are still motivated to start a business, just dive in!!
Find Silkarmour at https://www.silkarmour.co.uk/