Company – Hend Krichen
Unit 36, Regent Studios
8 Andrews road
MA Product and Space
Enterprise! Spotlight features Hend Krichen, a London-based designer and business woman whose practice manufactures and retails handmade luxury home-wares and accessories.
Having launched the Hend Krichen Collection in 2013 and successfully introducing her brand across London’s upscale boutiques and stores, she is on her way to becoming a household label. We reached out to KU’s own upcoming design entrepreneur to ask her a few questions about her business, inspiration, aspirations and her advice to students at Kingston University.
Originally from the Tunisian Republic, Hend is currently being sponsored through Kingston Univeristy’s Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa programme to help her establish her artisan business in the UK and abroad. According to Hend, “Having come from a design background and enrolling in the Graduate Enterprise programme has given me the business and entrepreneurial skills necessary to proceed with this venture”.
Hend Krichen Press Image
How do you describe the Hend Krichen Collection?
The main focus within the practice is producing beautiful timeless objects designed to enrich everyday lives through the use of the rich artisanal skills and craftsmanship in Tunisia.
Based in different parts of the country, being mainly rural towns, has aided in embracing the variety and authenticity of the crafts manufacturing platform available across the country. This approach has also created an ethical network of manufacturers providing them with jobs and an opportunity to develop, grow, and sell their trade with a greater international purpose.
The materials chosen are kept in a raw and natural form, physically revealing the country’s identity and showcasing Tunisia’s available natural resources through products that can be used within the home in everyday life.
Is there a market for your business?
There is a market for my business, and that being the luxury high end home ware and gift market.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My starting point and inspiration for this project has been a combination of two things: one being the fact that I’m 100% Tunisian however I’ve lived abroad almost my entire life and two: the Revolution that took place in 2011 in Tunisia.
I remember being glued to the TV the entire time the protests were taking place. The feeling of patriotism that was expressed during that period was just unbelievable. I remember wishing I could be there to contribute even if it was just for a day, but I was actually all booked and ready to go on a volunteering programme in Malawi. I always look back at that time and think it was strange that my country needed me but I was in another country that probably needed me even more, it’s weird how things happen like that. The day the ex-president and dictator Ben Ali was out thrown was the day before I left to Malawi and I remember watching the news and a tear dropped out of my eyes and that was the first time I ever really felt and understood what it was like to feel completely proud to say I’m a Tunisian.
From that moment on I decided to come up with a design brief that would allow me to go back to Tunisia post the revolution and experience the day to day life as well set myself a task to study the history of Tunisian craft and heritage and how it has been influenced and changed through out history. I thought it was the perfect time to do this, because history was actually being made at that moment and time. As soon as I landed in Tunisia, it was so apparent there was change, the county’s national security was all over the place, the people were happy but felt unease and the economy was unstable.
“Some people said to me, this is probably the worst time to think about starting a company that depends on Tunisia when everything is uncertain, but I say to them now, that was the best gamble I have ever taken”.
Those couple of months I had spent travelling around Tunisia and getting as much information as possible, meeting local craftsman, taking notes, sketching, reading history books, exploring rural towns and finding out what raw materials they had, how things worked, where artisanal artefacts were produced- was the most exciting part of this project and was a real adventure. Had I not been there at that time and taken that risk, I probably wouldn’t have this much passion towards this project.
I have always wanted to design with a greater purpose, as far back as I can remember, and this suddenly gave my work purpose, it all just fell into place to be honest.
Have you used marketing to promote your business?
Yes, but it has been soft marketing, this being at the right place at the right time, talking to the right person, interviews with magazines, features on blogs, newspapers and magazines. I haven’t actually had to pay for any marketing or promotion so far, which is great!
What has been your biggest challenge being in business so far?
The biggest challenge that I have faced with this project is having lac of patience, I mean I’ve had an enormous amount of emotional connection to this project so when I got a NO, or there was issues, I got frustrated and angry, so I wish I had me who has been through it all now, that would have told me to be patient. But hey, you live and learn!
“Enterprise skills are essential to a start up company because a company could not possibly survive it’s first year without them”.
How did you raise funds for your business?
I was lucky and got some family investment for my business, will be forever re-paying them for the amazing opportunity they have given me.
Looking back, what would you have done differently with your business?
Looking back, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, and I don’t mean to sound like miss know it all at all, I just feel like whatever mistakes I have made and whatever issues I have come across needed to be experienced in order to learn and move on. It’s part of the charm of running your own business with very little experience and at this age.
Can you share something that you are most proud of?
What I’m proud of the most is probably the outcome of Clerkenwell Design week 2014. Was a brilliant experience to have been a part of that has led to interesting leads and collaborations.
The feature we had in ELLE Decoration UK was amazing!
There are a few other things that I can’t really talk about just yet, but I wish I could, but so much exciting stuff in pipeline.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
The aim in 5 years time is to be in at least 10 to 15 stores globally, mainly focussing on the UK, USA, Singapore, Italy, Sweden, Copenhagen and Qatar. It would be good to spread out across regions in order to gain as many venues for sales and revenue as possible. I would have liked to have taken part in collaborations that will allow me to design and produce some limited edition pieces.
I would hope that the collection would have doubled by then making our range a lot bigger, we are looking at expanding it already with some new tableware items.
And one last thing is, I would like to take on some shareholders that would bring in some experience and a different angle to the company.
I would like to have a small team by then, around 4 people who would specialise in different parts of the company.
How did the Enterprise Programme at Kingston University help you or support you in growing your business?
The University helped me as a start-up in understanding fundamentals to build a foundation for a small company. The mentorship and guidance has been invaluable.
“The skills have been invaluable in developing my knowledge in marketing, PR, financial planning, sales, and the overall importance of business planning. Without the assistance and guidance of the mentorship offered through this programme I would have found this significantly harder to have reached the point at which I find myself”.