Putting tights on my head was my light-bulb moment!
Maria Sotiriou, 52, is single. She has three adult children and lives in London. She is founder of SILKE London, a company that makes silk hair wraps that condition hair over-night.
I’m a hairdresser with more than 32 year’s experience in the industry, yet I couldn’t find a product that would tame my brittle, dry, difficult to manage hair. I’d wake every morning, even after a careful blow-dry, to a frizzy mess. One morning, waking up to my pillow strewn with broken strands and split ends, I realised the damage was happening in my sleep! In desperation, I put a pair of tights over my head to stop it getting tangled up at night. This still wasn’t great, but I knew I was on to something. So I did lots of research and started to experiment with different fabrics, when I realised, if sleeping on silk is great for our skin, surely it must do the same for our hair? I asked a client, a talented seamstress, to create a little turban-type cap of silk and after the first night of wearing it, I instantly knew this was it. The results were even better than I’d hoped. Within a week, my clients started to notice a difference in my hair and questioned what I was doing differently. I experimented for a year to get the right fabrics before using my savings to get some manufactured at a local factory and started selling the wraps to my hairdressing clients.
What Happened Next
For the first year, my little business was going well, but I was mainly selling to clients and just ticking over. Then my eldest daughter, Christine, who was an accountant with a City firm, asked if she could be my partner. I was over the moon because I knew that with her business acumen and design aesthetic, we’d really be able to make this work. We invested in branding and employed a proper designer to get the shape, colours, and packaging right. We created our website and also employed a full-time social media manager. We also employed a PR here and in the US, and managed to get a lot of press coverage, which really helped sales.
Selfridges asking to stock the wraps was a huge endorsement for us.
Steepest learning Curve
Ditching consultants and agencies that promised to open doors for us. None of them could do anything we couldn’t – so we do it all ourselves.
Where I Am Now
We’re about to move into bigger offices. We have a staff of five, including myself and Christine. As well as our website, we’re sold online by stores including Anthropologie and Sephora. We sell globally and continue to grow the brand.
Start up costs - £50,000
Stock - £10,000
Packaging and design - £10, 000
Marketing - £5,000
Website - £10,000
Photography - £10,000
Sundries - £5,000
Turnover - £500,000
Website - silkelondon.com