Wuruhi: Running with wolves
The making of: Pille Aasa and Wuruhi.com
This is the beginning of Wuruhi, a new online shop and magazine that connects Baltic jewellery and accessory designers with you. Anna Vandel, our master of designer relations and general management, sat down with Pille to explore the concept and the story of Wuruhi.
Pille, can you tell us what exactly is Wuruhi?
Wuruhi.com is an international online community and e-store that connects fashion and accessory designers and their customers. More than that, we want to connect shopping and lifestyle in one place while helping customers save time. If someone wants to buy accessories and great professional jewellery from Baltic designers, Wuruhi is the place where to find it. You can discover designers you have never heard of before, see products you have never seen before and find out more about their creators.
We have conveniently brought together wood, leather and metal artists. We value design and designers who contribute to and promote sustainable consumption. Wuruhi aims to help people shop smart through building a bridge between the values of the design community and the customers.
For us, smart shopping is embodied in long-lasting and high quality products and in supporting small enterprises and producers.
We are unique. Wuruhi is the first online community in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that connects both fashion jewellery and art jewellery design. There is no other website that does that, so we have a wonderful opportunity to exhibit the Baltic hidden jewels.
Coming from sales, you have most likely encountered many failures. What habits have helped you build resilience in order to become successful?
I believe that success is built on turning things around. When you aim for excellence and growth, you can be prepared for numerous obstacles. Basically, everything you think you know does not work anymore. I guess what I have trained most is the mental habit to automatically start thinking about how to turn this situation around. In the beginning, it might be easier said than done but if you’re in this situation and you hate it, you need to push your mind to quickly find a different angle to make it work and not give up. I guess I’m good at that kind of problem-solving, largely thanks to door-to-door sales.
But success is never built alone. Creating Wuruhi has been a team effort – and the habit of appreciating and listening to your teachers is vital. The Brand Manual have been irreplaceable in building our brand.
I am happy to be a student of the best teachers out there. It’s quite crazy how people who demand a lot, bring out the best in you and make you want to do something very well.
The word “Wuruhi” sounds mysterious and strong. Does it have a meaning?
The word “Wuruhi”, a “wolf”, comes from the Maori language. We in Wuruhi are a wolf pack – a family group of designers and enablers who work and grow together. It is a very powerful name and concept that I feel empowers us to act fearlessly.
Do you remember the exact moment when you realized that the concept of Wuruhi as you just described was IT, when the pieces fell together?
Wuruhi, the name, was not actually not my very first choice. With Brand Manual we had four different options on table but somehow nothing else worked. Honestly, it all sounded very different in the beginning and I was not very excited about it. I remember the very evening when I had to make a decision: I was shopping in Apollo bookstore and as I turned to my right, exactly in front of me there it was, Scott Ian Barry’s book called “Wolf Empire”. On it was a magnificent portrait of a wolf, one of the nature’s most majestic species, as Tom Brokaw put it. That was the moment when I started to think more about the name “wolf”, what it means, and realized how inspiring wolves are. They live as a pack, work hard but also smart, they always have a strategy, love and respect each other inside out. That was the “Ahaa!” moment when I understood that we want to carry a similar message and therefore, Wuruhi would become our name.
What path got you to Wuruhi?
My background is in sales. I started it 12 years ago in the company called Southwestern Advantage, selling educational materials door-to-door. By now, I have knocked on 20 000 doors in the U.S. and Canada if you can believe it. I think this is where I got the courage to start building a platform like Wuruhi.
Three years ago, I founded the lifestyle blog PR Fashion Room where I invited friends I respect and admire to photoshoots. We put a lot of effort into combining and publicizing Estonian local design. This pushed me to start thinking bigger, so in many ways
PR Fashion Room is the foundation and predecessor of Wuruhi.
I am so grateful for having been on different sides of the curtain, so to say. I was a buyer first and now I am the seller of the same designers’ creation. That means that at first, I saw the recipient side, and then through the 100 photoshoots with PR Fashion Room we used their clothing and accessories on other people. That way, I gained the access to their studios and insight to how everything is actually done. Designers have had a huge impact on how Wuruhi looks like now, especially in regards to my reasons of wanting to empower them.
Why is Wuruhi so important to you?
I think it all started with me always loving beautiful clothes, preferably from designers. My older sister was actually the one who bought me my first Estonian design item exactly 13 years ago. It is made by Ivo Nikkolo and I wore it at the high school prom.
I can still remember the feeling of wearing it that evening. I think this is when I really started to value and appreciate designers’ work. I still have it – and actually, as this dress has a symbolic value, you can see me wearing it during our photoshoot here.
Wuruhi is therefore created to be a platform where designers can showcase their personal creation and feel valued.
I believe that this is important because most of the time we consume and do not think about what and why we buy.
What drives you as a person?
Great question. Largely, it is the bigger vision and my team. When we were in the process of conceptualizing Wuruhi with the Brand Manual – our brand strategy creator –, it really made me think through the question WHY. I am extremely grateful for my brand strategist Pello who challenged me to think it through more than ever. To be honest, I get more excited about acting than analyzing a strategy but now, the importance of it makes so much sense. Knowing your why’s, also in personal life, has helped me not rationalize inner thoughts and emotions that can sometimes be counterproductive.
Knowing the reasons and your bigger goals helps to ignore the excuses and doubts on might have when a lot is at stake.
The team I work with and the young artists and designers are also great motivators. When you are surrounded with passionate people on a daily basis, you really just cannot give up. I always have a feeling that they will pay your efforts to help forward to someone else one day.
What is the message you want to convey with Wuruhi?
To shop smart. This is central to my own philosophy and experience. We do not need many things but we do need great things.
Wuruhi is special because we are not only promoting design and fashion but also living it. Sustainable and local design is central to my own lifestyle. I appreciate designers as professionals and artists so much – and wearing their creation almost gives me an extra ‘suit of armour’ and self-confidence.
When negotiating potential partnerships, Wuruhi’s team visited the workshops of all kinds of designers. We saw where this design is created, produced and who the people behind it are. I think this has motivated us even more to help people who are passionate and purposeful.
Also, I have been involved in the fashion and design industry for last three years, first as a fashion blogger and then doing research for Wuruhi’s strategy. This industry we have entered is tough and highly competitive, especially online where everything changes so quickly. That is why I feel that we have to be true wuruhi’s and work as a pack.
While sales and approaching people face to face is something I am very accustomed to, selling online is completely new. I am now ready to move forward and make up my mind quickly because if you read the reports, it’s clear that online shopping is now and it’s our future.
Our journey is just about to begin and without a doubt, our concept will change and renew as time goes on.
The most important thing therefore I have brought with me from sales is the knowledge that success doesn’t happen overnight and that there is still an incredible amount of smart work to be done – as a pack.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that be?
If I had to choose, I’d say I’m a humanist. For me, it means that I believe in the value and agency of people. I am a networker and a people connector, so I believe I can put this side of my personality to great use through Wuruhi – through connecting and introducing people’s incredible work to others.
|PERSON||PHOTOGRAPHER||FASHION STYLIST||MAKEUP ARTIST||HAIR STYLIST||JEWELLERY|
|Pille Aasa||Arttu Karvonen||Alli-Liis Vandel||Ellen Walge||Erica Teras from Decoris Showroom||Rasma Puspure; Birgit Skolimowski; Linda al-Assi; Monquer|