Sarolta Kiss is not only focusing on developing her brand, but also her own inner self, regardless of the COVID situation. The team behind the brand known for its simple, comfortable and spontaneous pieces has already been building NON+ consciously and carefully before the pandemic: when a lot of Hungarian brands were desperately trying to switch to online sales, they faced the unknown being prepared for the changes to come. What’s their secret? A serious business strategy, focused decisions and humble teamwork. We asked Sarolta Kiss about the experiences of the past year.
It’s now been more than a year that we are forced to live together with the changes caused by the pandemic. How has the coronavirus affected your business?
The past year has been truly strange for us (too), and I must admit, last spring we were all quite concerned how the virus and its economic implications would affect the future of NON+. As we have never experienced anything like that and we didn’t have experiences of the kind, the unpredictability of the situation seemed quite worrying, especially since in NON+’s strategy we work according to a serious, thoroughly elaborated system broken down to days for a year in advance. This makes our operation predictable and transparent, and it provides us stability.
Over the past years, we have been consciously shifting our focus to our online presence, to our online store. Every foreign example and research has affirmed our vision that this was the future. We shaped our annual plan accordingly—we have been doing this for some years now—and the NON+ showroom is an augmentation of this: here, we await customers that prefer shopping in person instead of (or next to) online shopping. Current statistics all point to the growing of online shopping—this didn’t change with the spreading of the coronavirus either, on the contrary: our calculations proved to be true even more. However, the virus brought a giant question mark into the picture, the consequences of which we couldn’t foresee of course. We have implemented the strategic shift that has transformed commerce in the past period years ago, after making a lot of difficult decisions and overcoming plenty of dilemmas. Change sometimes goes hand in hand with renunciations, pains and periods of waiting filled with hope. One thing is sure, however, that change is unavoidable, but it helps us improve and move forward. We had our struggles with the transformation, too, only we did it earlier, despite the fact that we didn’t know what to expect in 2020 and 2021.
I am a big believer of the NON+ brand, the values it represents and its right to exist. I can reach back to this extremely deep faith and power for inspiration in every uncertain period and situation full of dilemmas: it calms me down. The past twelve years, all the experience of our operation and, above all, the feedback received from our customers assure us that our brand has an absolute right to exist, which is also proven by this period, and I am extremely grateful for this.
As international sales—which significantly increased the long list of our tasks and the space requirements of our operation—has also gained a more emphatic role in the life of the brand, we moved into a new showroom a few weeks ago, where we have enough space for both operating our background processes and for serving our customers comfortably. This is another big step and decision in the brand’s life that required courage, but I think by now it has become a trait of mine to try to function even more constructively and effectively in uncertain situations and to make decisions consciously, after lengthy deliberation and calculations. Escaping forward and making decisions that are based on unstable foundations is not paying off in the long term. The serious strategy, the management of cash flow and the conscious brand message are the key before all steps. I hope the next period will prove our decision right.
If you’ve learned something from the pandemic, what was it?
Every uncertain situation teaches us to appreciate what we have now. To stop for a minute, look at our circumstances and ask the big question: are the problems we considered grave before grave indeed? And based on the answers, to try to place the emphases in our lives on the right points and to aim to keep the balance and remain conscious. This process usually cleanses one’s thinking and also facilitates a more focused operation in work processes.
Above all, I think I have to be grateful for the welcome the brand received, our customers’ unbroken enthusiasm and persistent support, and of course for the support the collaboration with our sewing workshop provides. They make it possible to implement even my newest and most complex ideas. The humble work of the team members working in the background, both individually and collectively, to help each other, plays a central role in NON+’s success, for which I’m grateful, too.
In addition, professionalism is extremely important—the need to respect our customers by making what we are doing and how we are doing worthy of their trust. The idea of “less is more” and authenticity remain to be a primary shaping force of the brand. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do all this with the same enthusiasm.
The thing that infuses my days on a personal level—coronavirus or not—is the need for inner development, silent change, observation and an unbroken aspiration for good. To be a better person and to make people’s lives better with the brand. The goal is to provide carefree comfort and meaningful everydays, and to help others find, experience and support themselves—in the language of clothes.