Interview with Sasha Dennig (Callixto)
Callixto sources local handicrafts, jewellery and accessories from around the world.
I interviewed Sasha Dennig, Callixto founder to find out more. This interview is the first in a series of DW ecommerce interviews. Big thank you to Sasha!
Describe Callixto in under 50 words.
Callixto is an online boutique dedicated to bringing together unique pieces of jewellery and other accessories from far-flung places, with a focus on originality, craftsmanship and beauty.
What made you decide to quit your job as a corporate lawyer and set up Callixto?
I had been working for 3 years in a large corporate law firm when I realised that no matter how hard I worked, and paid my dues the level of work and stress was never going to ease up. I didn’t see how I could be successful as a lawyer and have a family at the same time. I felt overworked and underpaid, and was generally miserable.
How did you come up with the name?
I spent a lot of time thinking about it and researching a name that had both meaning and could be pronounced in all languages. Because the concept behind Callixto is very much travel I started looking into the stories and myths behind constellations. Stars being the original navigation tools used by travellers before the advent of GPS, I thought it would be fitting to call my venture after a constellation. Callixto is an alternative spelling of Callisto who was the nymph that was turned into a bear and thrown into the sky by a jealous Hera. She became a The Big Bear Constellation.
How did you fund Callixto in the beginning?
I have taken a very organic approach to funding and growing the business. I put in 50,000 USD to start off with and am only growing at the rate that my initial investment allows me. I work from home, and as a result have no overheads. So far so good.
Who is the team at Callixto? Where are you based?
The Callixto Team is comprised out of me and my husband. He very kindly goes to the Post Office and sends my orders when I am travelling. I am based out of Hong Kong.
How is business so far?
Business is good. I have good months and months that are not so good. On average though I cannot complain.
How successful was your first pop-up shop in Hong Kong in June? Do you plan to make this a regular thing?
The pop-up shop was incredibly successful and I would like to do at least two a year in Hong Kong and potentially in London. The difficulty when trying to organize a pop-up shop is finding a good location/venue in which to hold the shop. It is easier said than done!
Has Callixto got the growth you expected since launch?
It has exceeded expectations in terms of sales. I completely underestimated the amount of work a website requires though. It has not been easy!
Where do you see Callixto in 5 years time?
I would love for Callixto to become the go to destination for women that want unique jewellery and other accessories that have a story as well as a distinct provenance.
While in Turkey for your honeymoon (congratulations) you squeezed in some sourcing. How did your new husband feel about this!?
My husband is incredibly supportive of Callixto. He hated me being a lawyer as I was either working ungodly hours or tired and grumpy. He is incredibly patient when it comes to sourcing with me and even helps me negotiate when needs be. Of course he also has all sorts of games on his iPhone to help him pass the time!
What has been your favourite country to visit and source from so far?
I love Turkey. I love Istanbul. I love the Grand Bazaar. I love Turkish food. There is really nothing about Turkey that I do not like. Turkish jewellery has a very distinct look which is very much up my alley. I like bold, big and colourful pieces and that is exactly what Turkish jewellery is like. It is also an easy place to do business in. It is easy to get around and easy to communicate. Really, I cannot speak highly enough of Turkey.
Do you ever encounter any problems as a woman doing business?
I have not had any problems so far. The interesting thing is that I thought I would be dealing exclusively with women as jewellery and decor is very girly. Almost all my suppliers are men though. Every once in a while I meet a couple where the wife designs and creates and the husband deals with the the production and sale of the product.
The only real problem is travelling alone. There are some destinations that are maybe not that advisable to visit if you are a woman travelling alone.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
At the moment I am a one woman show and it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep up with everything that has to be done. Equally this is my baby and I am finding it hard to give up control of even the smallest things! It has come to the point where I should really be outsourcing some things but I am finding it very difficult. I still take all my own pictures, I do the sourcing, I deal with the the wholesale orders and I do all the marketing and social media aspects myself.
What advice would you give to someone starting an e-commerce business?
Just do it. Don’t think too much about it. If you have an idea, and a bit of cash saved up, go for it. You can wait your whole life for that one idea to come that nobody has ever had. But ultimately Pepsi was made on the back of Coca Cola. You don’t have to have the most novel idea for it to work. You just have to dedicate time and effort to it and do it well.
Where are you heading to next?
My next sourcing destination is either Morocco or Vietnam.
Finished reading? Check out Callixto!