The American Chamber of Commerce in Estonia hosted a Women in Leadership event last month, opened by Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir. Blu Mint Digital was in attendance and chose to profile three amazing entrepreneurial women in Estonia: Anna-Greta Tsahkna, Berit Bailey and Piret Mellik. The final article in our series of interviews is Piret Mellik, Production Co-ordinator at Kriss Soonik Loungerie.
You freelance in a variety of roles. What are you currently involved in?
I look after production preparation, sourcing and technical design at Kriss Soonik Loungerie, I’m ‘Editor-in-Sewing’ at the Estonian craft magazine Käsitöö, I lecture students on sewing technology and pattern cutting, and I provide freelance tailoring service for jackets, coats and other items of clothing. That includes the occasional costume for my 5 year old niece who loves dressing up as Princess Elsa! I also study myself and am currently focused on leather work, although I’m always on the lookout for new courses that interest me.
How do you manage so many responsibilities?
I’ve always been used to managing multiple projects simultaneously so I can’t actually imagine only working on one job. It does help that I’m doing work that I love.
I never consciously made a choice to be a freelancer, it was a natural progression for my career. After studying and working abroad for 6 years, I moved back to Estonia and immediately began doing project based work. After a while I got to a point where I had 2 to 3 large projects simultaneously providing a secure income,with smaller side projects I could complete depending on the time and interest that I had.
It feels awesome being my own boss and taking full responsibility for everything I do.
Where do you do your work?
I started out with a needle and thread, but now I’m just as likely to be using computer software so about 50% of my time is spent at a computer. Meaning I can work anywhere there’s an internet connection, which these days is pretty much anywhere! I’m really fortunate to be able to travel with my work so it means I can keep working whilst on the move.
The rest of the work takes place in my sewing studio, in the production factory or in classrooms.
What advice would you give to others thinking about quitting their job to be their own boss?
Being your own boss can be difficult at times, but also very rewarding so you might not know if it’s right for you until you try it. The best way to do that is to start taking extra work as a freelancer and then determine if it could develop into a permanent career.
I love being my own boss, but this is ultimately your decision and no one else can tell you what’s right for you. If you are not content with where you are at the moment, then it’s definitely a change you should consider.
How did you get into the clothing industry?
I’ve loved sewing since I was 10 years old so the logical next step was to study Garment Production at Tallinn Technical University before I went abroad for six years to study more and work. During this time, I decided to specialise in the more technical side of the industry, which includes product development and pattern cutting so all my roles now are in some way connected to garment production.
What skills are needed for your work?
It’s important to constantly learn new skills.
For my work, I need an understanding of pattern making (human figure, measurements, sizing standards etc), fabrics (how to choose suitable combination of fabrics, linings, fusings, accessories) and sewing technology (machines, needles, threads, choosing the right construction methods). I’m a big fan of using software in the garment industry, so I use CAD/CAM whenever possible and am developing my own services for clients in this area.
And personally, when you’re a freelancer you have to be highly organised, responsible, a good communicator and most importantly – a determined worker.
Why is it important to retain these skills?
I sew a lot of my clothes because I want to wear garments that are well made, made to measure and unique. These are the kind of clothes that I appreciate, take good care of and repair, if necessary. I’m certainly not the only person who appreciates this so progressing my tailoring skills is very important to meet this demand.
What are the benefits of working for yourself?
The best part is that I’m in almost complete control of my professional life. I can choose the projects I want to do and I don’t have to continue working with people unless I feel we have the right synergy to achieve great goals together. I love taking full responsibility for my work, because I am my own first and most important critic.
Choosing my own working schedule makes me more productive. I don’t think I would make a good 9-5 person since I can’t be productive 8 hours in a row. Sometimes I work early mornings or late evenings, and even weekends and holidays.
And what are the challenges?
All the benefits of working freelance can be viewed as challenges too. Being my own boss means that work is always at the back of my mind and I can never really shut my work thoughts off. Luckily, I love what I do!
The biggest challenge for me has been a personal one. Changing my way of thinking from “I am not good enough” to “ I am not yet experienced enough.” Most skills develop in time, so one has to also fail in their work to learn from it and become better.
How do customers find you?
It’s mostly word of mouth. It’s always a great compliment when I get suggested by people I don’t know personally. Estonia is quite small and so is my industry so if you do very good work then the word will get around. Sadly the same can be true for anyone who does a bad job!
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I would say being satisfied and happy with my work life is the most important achievement, plus the feeling that my motivation and ambitions are growing every day. I really enjoy being able to take up different projects and constantly challenge myself with each one.
About the author: Andrew is an American living in Tallinn and active within the Baltic Startup scene with roles at Blu Mint Digital, Air Patrol, Quips, Self Diagnostics, and Zave. Andrew is passionate about Sales, Marketing, and Conversion Optimisation.