In our monthly Founders & Faces column, we introduce you to inspiring founders and faces from fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. This time we chatted with Lisa Zaiser, founder of the sustainable jewelry label DEAR DARLING BERLIN, about her passions and tips & tricks for a good work-life-balance.
Who and what is behind Dear Darling Berlin?
I'm Lisa, 26 years old and from Berlin. At the beginning of 2020 I founded my Responsible Fine Jewelry Label Dear Darling Berlin, which focuses on sustainable and ethically made jewelry. I always like to say: I want to make the jewelry world more sustainable and the business world more feminine. I think that fits quite well! Because as a female founder, I also want to lead by example. Ok, sustainable jewelry – that sounds nice. But what does it mean? Our jewelry is made from recycled silver and gold, manufactured locally in Italy and Germany. Our designs are timeless and minimalistic, independent of short-lived fashion trends, which means they also bring long-lasting joy! Short shipping routes, resource-saving materials – these issues are very important to us.
Is there a story behind the name of your label?
Yes, there is! At uni I already started developing ideas about founding a company and how to do it. You often start with the fun things, like how would the logo look like and what could the brand be called? So my then boyfriend (now husband) Jan and I did a lot of research and thinking. One evening we were sitting on a garden bench at a wedding and somehow Dear Darling Berlin came to our minds. And so, even though it took me another 3 years to actually register my business, the name has been around a bit longer. And I like it a lot, because I think it’s memorable and perfectly balances the sweet, lovely, and personal from 'Dear Darling' and the cosmopolitan, self-confident 'Berlin'.
How did you come to found your label? Was there a decisive moment that made you take this step?
I’ve always loved creating things, making others happy and being responsible for projects. That’s why I always knew that sooner or later I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I toyed with the idea right after I graduated, but for various reasons I didn't feel ready for self-employment. That’s why after graduation I first moved to Berlin to my boyfriend and started to work as a sales manager at one of the largest European online marketplaces for beauty bookings. I was there for about 2.5 years – happy and successful. But me and my husband Jan, who had already founded his own company, kept talking about me starting my own business. How could I make it happen? What exactly could I do? When should I finally get started? Then, on a mild winter day, we sat at the river Spree in Berlin with a cappuccino and talked. And somehow that was the beginning of my label Dear Darling Berlin. I had a desire for something of my own and the courage to take on the challenge of 'founding' and so it started. (Please note that the courage was there, but also a lot of respect, a thousand question marks and a good portion of doubt). In early 2020, I founded Dear Darling Berlin as a side business and quickly realized that although having a full-time job and being self-employed at the same time works to a certain degree, I wanted more, and the popularity of Dear Darling Berlin was continuously growing. That's why I quit my full-time job as a team leader in sales and have been working for Dear Darling Berlin ever since – plus a little bit for Jan's company. We have two family businesses and each of us is boss of their own..
What do you stand for with your label?
Timeless, modern & sustainable fine jewelry. I want to show with my label that quality, sustainability, and design are not mutually exclusive, but on the contrary can be brilliantly combined.
What issues are most important to you?
I care a lot about sustainability and female empowerment. That's why I try to stand up for both – and not just with fine words, but deeds as well. As a founder, I want to set a good example and inspire others to follow their own path to entrepreneurship. That’s why I want to show the ups and downs of founding in an honest and authentic way, e.g. via social media. But I also want to give other female founders a platform to present themselves and their story/vision. That's why I created Female Founder Stories, an interview format at our store and on Instagram. In September 2021, we will also host our first Female Founder Event "Hummeln im Hintern" (bee in your bonnet) in Berlin to connect female founders and exchange ideas. Networking is everything! Sustainability also influences every aspect of my label. I want to build a responsible and good company. For me, that means local production and using resource-saving materials, such as recycled silver and gold. We have already great brands in many areas of the fashion industry that specialize in sustainability – you don't find that in the jewelry sector yet. If it's sustainable, it's often not beautiful (or unaffordable) and if it's beautiful, it's often not sustainable. Besides, many don't know that not all that glitters is always gold in the jewelry industry. Exploitation, poor working conditions, child labor, environmental damage – a lot of this is normal. I think that's not only a shame, but also unacceptable. We want to educate people about this, because there is another way – and we want to show it.
How do you come up with product and design ideas? What inspires your designs?
I love everything classic. Uncomplicated chic – that’s one of my mantras. My mom influenced me and my style early on – it’s funny how similar our tastes are today. That’s why I find a lot of inspiration in the jewelry and designs that she herself loved to wear and I like to talk ideas over with her. But of course I also keep up to date with what's new in the industry. There are so many great innovations here and I hope to launch a special collection soon! It's also important to me to involve our community. That's why we often proactively ask: what do you guys want? We collect every feedback, every idea, and every message. We create mood boards and pin boards and also draw from time to time – until we have finally created a beautiful, new piece of jewelry.
Where do you get your motivation, or what inspires you most in your everyday life?
That’s easy: Seeing my baby grow! I still can't believe that we have been able to make so many people happy with our jewelry. I always try to be proactive and try new ways and this sometimes opens doors in an amazing way. At the start of 2020 I was still at the very beginning and today I was able to be part of the Berlin Fashion Week. I am motivated by the thought that there are still so many things for me and Dear Darling Berlin to discover and achieve that I don't even know about today.
Before you got started, what did you think would be easier than it turned out to be?
The emotional ups and downs. Obviously, everyone tells you at the start that "there will be ups and downs" and you know that's just part of it. But once you’re all in, the setbacks can hurt quite a bit. Being able enjoy the highs, save the euphoric feelings, and then remember and draw strength from them when things get hard is really a challenge. I thought it would be easier.
What has been your greatest success so far?
My biggest success (besides the fact that we were in VOGUE!) is that I made it this far. I put a lot of heart, energy, sweat, tears etc. into building my young business. I am very grateful for everything that has come my way so far, the wonderful people I have met, and I feel pride that I have kept going.
What is the best advice you ever got?
There is a time for everything & you grow with your tasks. Let me explain quickly: I am generally rather impatient, perfectionist and ambitious. So when things don't go fast enough for me or something isn't executed to perfection, I get frustrated quickly and so I always have to remind myself of this advice.
What future plans do you have for yourself and your label?
I’m so happy that we can finally do more things offline. It’s great to have an online shop and interact by Instagram and email, but it’s just not the same as meeting personally IRL. I really hope we can work with a few selected concept stores and boutiques that can exhibit our jewelry for an in-person customer experience. I hope my team keeps growing and that I can continue to make people happy with my little label. I’d also love to launch another collection and jewelry, continuously but at a sustainable and responsible pace. No Fast Fashion. And of course I’m still dreaming of my own store…
Work never stops for an entrepreneur. How do you recharge? Do you have tips & tricks for a good balance?
I still haven’t got the hang of the balance issue, to be honest. I have been self-employed for a year now but still find it hard to close my laptop at night and take a break (just ask my friends and family ;)). But when I do get the time, I like to visit my family (who lives in southern Germany) for the weekend or go to a SPA in Berlin for half a day during the week.
What is your must-have of this season?Normally I wear mainly beige, brown, black, and white. But this season I want to set a few bright color accents! I just bought a grass-green sweater and I also want something in red – pants, shirt, jacket, bag or whatever. They work great with timeless basics and still catch your eye :)
Find out more about Lisa and DEAR DARLING BERLIN here.