Ella Abdullaeva: "Anna October is a brand that is always ready to meet halfway"
You already know that I launched the #YouOgonek section on my blog, in which I talk to our guests. But you still don’t know that apart from this, I like to tell the stories of the people with whom I work every day. The people who keep the brands running in sales, communication and production running smoothly. When I started to travel to Paris and communicate with brand representatives, I realized that this is what I tell everyone around me upon my return. These are the most exciting stories for me. This is the truth about the inner cuisine of brands, about how such a business and fashion in general function. Because when they talk to designers, they talk, first of all, about creativity and inspiration, but when, for example, they talk to the head of the sales department, it's a completely different conversation. And it seems to me a very interesting conversation. For me people like that - heroes of brands, and it is with them that I speak in a new section on the Ogonyok blog. My first heroine Ella Abdullaeva is the Head of Sales, or rather, as she calls herself, the Partnership Development Officer of the Ukrainian brand Anna October. I get great pleasure from working with the brand and with her personally - she is one of the few representatives of Ukrainian brands who shows the highest level of communication with the client. Working with Elya became my personal discovery this summer - Ogonyok and Anna October successfully worked it out together. We recorded this interview in the brand's Kiev showroom, where an incredibly hospitable welcome awaited me: I was introduced to all the employees, invited to the table and accepted as a family member. I was very moved and at the same time delighted with Eli's story. I think you will admire it too - pleasant reading.
View from the Anna October office
- Elya, how did you get into Anna October?
- It was very unexpected for me. I have a great friend, Christina, who works as an HR director and advises on professional growth. She called me and said, “You know, one cool fashion brand here needs someone like you. Please go to them. I know you are not looking for a job, but go. " And at that time I taught calculus and English at the National Agrarian University, worked with foreign students - I really liked it. But I still decided to go for an interview, and Anya fascinated me at the first meeting. That curly hair, white skin. I am an esthete, I really love everything that is aesthetically beautiful, and at the very first moment I fell in love with this person in the truest sense of the word. My mother says that Anya looks like an angel. Anya, of course, is far from an angel (laughs), but the first impression and disposition to herself was something. I very rarely feel this kind of energy from people. I was so impressed with the way she spoke to me that I said: yes, I will work at this job. And I do not regret for a second, although it was extremely difficult for me. It was so difficult for me that I cannot tell you. The first half of the day I was still working at the university, and the second half of the day was Anna Oktyabr. At the moment I feel very happy.
- And for what position was Anya looking for a person?
- Anya offered me the position of Sales Manager, she was recruiting a new team at that moment, and in the end we came to Head of Sales. Honestly, I wanted to quit many times, many times (laughs). Getting into a rut, mastering and understanding the world of fashion was difficult, because this is a completely new environment for me - at first I did not understand at all how it works, what drives it all. Before that I had bushings, nuts, pistons (laughs). Even my first Paris, where Anya and I went, was not as effective as I would like, because there were things that I did not fully understand. But Anya is the person who believed in me immensely. She always supported and said: “Elya, you can”, and I am very grateful to her for that, because I am a person who works for praise (laughs). I'm kidding, of course, but it's important for me to understand that my work has an effect, that I make a certain contribution to the development of the business. The feeling that you are part of the beautiful, part of a strong team, do your job with great pleasure and see the result. This is my biggest motivation. Money never motivated me. I am a child who grew up in a family of deported Crimean Tatars, who had a very difficult childhood and had practically no opportunities until the age of 19, until I left for the USA. I understand that money cannot be a motivator.
If money motivates you, then something in life has gone wrong. Good deeds motivate me, volunteering motivates me, I am motivated by the fact that I bring good to society.
And this makes me very happy, because in life, you know, as it is written in the Koran (I am a Muslim after all): you have to bring good. Here I am the person who brings good in life, and I am satisfied with this.
- Tell us about your previous job: what was the field, position, what did you do there?
- My previous job was directly related to agriculture - I worked in a company that was engaged in the manufacture of equipment for growing broiler chickens. I was the Personal Assistant to the Sales Director and it was one of my coolest experiences. Sometimes, I received and negotiated with clients who placed orders for equipment worth over $ 1 million. This was the upper class of society, and I had to do my best. Everything from communication to the supply of equipment had to be so perfect that customers would come back to us. I gained some knowledge in the field of communication back in the USA, and my boss taught me communication in business. Plus I trained myself and went through a lot of trainings.
In general, in all previous jobs, I was a personal assistant. Do you know the series "Suits"? Donna was there who could resolve any issues. So I was Donna for each of my three chefs.
I, as the boss’s right hand, could do absolutely everything, even organize a personal chess game with Garry Kasparov when my boss wanted it.
I disagreed with all the chefs amicably, some still call me back.
- You mentioned the USA several times. Tell us what you did there, what you learned and how you got there.
- I first came to America in 2009. This was my second year at the university - I studied at the Faculty of Economics of the Agricultural University in Crimea, and we announced the selection for an internship in the United States. I went through it and got into a hotel in Colorado, which was included in the top 10 hotels in the world - The Broadmoor Resort. This is one of the best periods of my life: I was 18 years old, I was on a cool internship at a cool hotel in one of the most beautiful states in the United States. His level was such that world champion in golf Tiger Woods played golf literally three steps away from us. It was an agricultural internship: we were landscaping a huge golf course. After that, I returned home, and in 2018 I went to the States again - this time to Washington, for an internship at the Library of Congress. It was dedicated to my volunteer work, which I live in and to which I am very scrupulous. This internship concerned, first of all, the topic of displaced persons, people who suffered from the military conflict in the Donbass, as well as the promotion of the culture of the Crimean Tatars, which I am also actively involved in and which hurt me, because I myself am a Crimean Tatar. In 1944, the Crimean Tatars were deported and now they are experiencing a crisis of a second deportation.
America taught me a lot of things - this is a completely different mentality, very different from ours. Their approach to work and, in general, to understanding what you are doing, their approach to punctuality, why you cannot leave for tomorrow what you can do today - I really like all this. Now I am working with American partners, and if they said that on the 27th they will launch a trunk show (collection pre-show), they will do it on the 27th. They cannot have something happen or change. It is clear that force majeure happens to everyone, but in 90% of cases, Americans do everything on time - they are always punctual, and our business partners always do the maximum that we demand of them. Now in the USA we are working with Moda Operandi and have recently started working with the Intermix store, which I am very happy about. The level of communication that I conduct with them, as a brand representative, is aerobatics for me.
- It is a very big responsibility to communicate with the giants. How are you doing?
- I am a hyper-responsible person, and I have never perceived work as work. My work is my life, and I always try to do my job very well. It bears certain fruit, and it does not reflect well in the fact that I do not have time to go to the gym or do not have time to dance, and I really like to dance. But I am pleased with myself when I see that everything works like clockwork for me. If I say that I will do it today, my client is confident that I will do it today. Yes, this does not always work, but I strive for it to work 90% of the time. I'm meticulous. If I wrote a grant and he didn’t win, I’ll write it ten more times so that he will definitely win. I am a person looking for opportunities.
I believe that if someone in the team is wrong, it's good - it means that the team is working.
You just need to understand how to solve this problem, how to fix this error. I know very well the ten-year history of the Anna October brand and I know how many difficulties Anya went through - this deserves immense respect. Based on the example of my life and the example of Anya's story, I understand that if you did not achieve the result from the first, second, third time, you need to do it ten times - and you will achieve it.
We have a very high level of culture in the company. It's not that I praise our brand, I just see how other people communicate. It is very important. In all your actions, a priori there should be respect for the other person. Even if the person is wrong, even if the person does it wrong. If you want to have a warm relationship, a relationship is more than just a business partnership, you have to show maximum flexibility. Mom taught us from childhood to be diplomats. And this ability to be a diplomat in any situation, even if you just endure, is worth a lot. As I already said, my final goal is always for the client to order and for him to sell everything well. I love situations when a client calls and says: "Ella, we have crazy sales for this dress, or for this, or for the entire order as a whole, we are on fire, let's urgently get an additional supply." It happened with Fire, and I had such a drive! In such cases, I come to the team and say: "We have additional delivery, postpone everything, we must ship today." I understand that this is how it works. If we have an item in stock and Moda Operandi asks for it, we stay until ten in the evening. I once had a situation when I left work at three in the morning. And the next day I come to work, and clients write to me: "You will not believe it, everything is gone, everything is cool, thank you very much." And I understand that this rumor works into our hands. After all, the communication between buyers and buyers works very well. I can talk as much as I want about our brand, how cool and cool we are, that we are sold in 30 stores around the world, in the largest stores in the United States, but when they hear this from our customers, it's a completely different level of perception.
- And if you segment, do you work only with wholesale customers?
- No, we have two areas: wholesale (wholesale) and retail (retail). Wholesale are our big clients, about 30 stores around the world. And I am very proud that the brand's geography is constantly expanding - we are doing our best for this. We now have Vivian Graf - a store in Switzerland, the largest Intermix store in the USA, which I have already mentioned. In the retail direction, we work through our website, we deliver purchases from the website throughout Ukraine and around the world. We ship a lot of things from the site, and the feedback we receive makes me very happy - people thank a lot: both for the product and for the packaging. We attach a hand-signed postcard to each purchase. We realized that the more attention we pay to clients, the better we think over everything so that our client is comfortable and that he gets maximum pleasure from the entire buying process, the more good feedback and the more sales. And all those improvements that we make in all areas of the company's functioning, I consider our great achievement.
- Do you, as the head of sales, take part in the work with both wholesale and retail?
- Basically all my time is spent on wholesale clients, but I try to control retail issues as well. Vlada deals with them directly with us - and she conducts communication in the same way in which I led her at the beginning of my journey. I like this communication: it is very neat and smooth. Even if a conflict situation arises and we understand that the client is wrong and the client is always right, we will meet halfway, no matter what the situation was.
Anna October is a brand that is always ready to meet halfway.
The first thing I strive for is the absence of negative reflection from the client. If it appears, for me it is a priori a bad indicator, regardless of the reason. The whole culture of communication and building communication is aimed at ensuring that the client is satisfied. And in 95% of cases with us, he is satisfied.
I had a lot of communication in my work: from diplomatic techniques, which I once discovered, to communication with partners at my previous work in the agricultural sector. And today I came to the conclusion that the ability to communicate with a client in the right form - not only in your understanding, but also in the understanding of the client - inevitably leads to successful cooperation. And I now observe this successful cooperation with many of our clients: I see that their sales volumes are growing, satisfaction with our brand and their interest in us are growing. I think this is also due to the fact that we are doing very good and sensible proceeding. We do it because we have a cool team. Why do we have a cool team? Because we have a cool gender. Why do we have a cool CEO? Because we just have a cool CEO (laughs). It is he who keeps all proceeding at one point.
- What does "sensible proceeding" mean?
This means that we deliver quality goods and deliver them on time. Anna Oktyabr creates amazing things, but they also need proceeding. We have a whole system for checking the quality of the product: each unit is viewed along and across - and if suddenly we find that something is wrong, we postpone this product and make a replacement. At a certain point, our whole team came to the conclusion that we should be as meticulous as possible. In general, our Anya, first of all, is very demanding on quality, and our first indicator, which I am very proud of, is the quality of the product. Our entire production system is structured in such a way that the first priority is the product, the second priority is the product delivered to the store on time. Because if you don't, the sales window goes through the store. It very much depends on the region in which the store is located. If this is Australia and a warm period, we must definitely fit into those two weeks of warm time that they have for active sale. If we do not have time, the goods go to discounts - and this is how the whole system of world practice works, against which we cannot go in principle. In addition, it is important that the client receives the product with the entire set of related marketing materials so that he has the opportunity to actively promote the product.
- Tell us in more detail what your communication with clients is based on.
- When dealing with clients, I like a personal approach. We know some clients personally, as with you, and I have never met some of them in person. It's good when there is a possibility of live communication, it always works well: a person sees you, sees how you are tuned, sees that you are fully responsible. If you said you would ship on time, everything will be perfect. This builds a certain level of trust. What I strive for when communicating with all my clients is trust. It is thanks to him that a person is ready to give you a second chance. What I really love about myself is the ability to find a way to give a person a second chance to correct the situation. There were also moments in my life when I was given a second chance. Because operations management isn't always smooth. In a trusting relationship, I understand that even if there is some kind of critical force majeure situation in which it is necessary for the client to meet us halfway, it works 96%. If I call a client and say: “We have force majeure: the fabric is at customs and we can’t do anything about it with all our efforts. Can you give us a time delay? ”, They give me a timeout to solve our problem. This is called a reliable partnership, and I strive for it. And this is a completely different level of communication with clients - when you can count on it, when you understand that you will always be paid, no matter what situation occurs. Yes, different customers have different payment terms: there are huge stores that work exclusively on their own terms, and you can't dictate anything to them, no matter how cool you are. But you understand that after the agreed period you will receive the amount for the shipped goods and their sales report.
- Speaking of reports, how important is analytics in your work?
- We always conduct sales analytics - this search for each client is extremely important for me, because I have to understand what kind of person I'm talking to, what kind of store it is, what brands are hanging there, what their priorities are, what floor they have. I try to delve into the smallest details. Sometimes there are situations when the sell-through, the percentage of sales of our product, is not as high as we would like. This often happens when a buyer does not conduct analytics on his retailers. In my subjective opinion, if you do not conduct active analytics of your customers - what they buy from you, how they buy from you, in what period of time, with what frequency, and so on - you lose understanding of which units need to be ordered. For example, if I communicate with Germans, Swiss or Austrians, I will definitely not offer sexy models, because women there prefer casual. I really love buyers who have analytics. They call me and say: “Elya, look, I have such clients: these are women, they are all working, they need casual, because you cannot come to work in Germany with an open back. What can you offer me?". And that's when everything we do makes sense. And I understand that in the end I will get a good order.
The analytics that I conduct on the client, and the client, if we are talking about wholesale, conducts on his retail customers, works very well. Moda Operandi, for example, sends us a sell-through (ST), by which we can see which unit was bought how much. For example, ST in our Zefir Bustier dress went up to 137% or 140% - and that's wow. Therefore, when you make a selection for the Fire, I recommend you positions based on these indicators.
- Tell us about your working day.
- My day starts with my son, always. He comes in the morning and says: "Elechka, wake up, you need to go to work" (laughs). He doesn't call me mom, he always says "Elechka". And then I go to work. And it often happens that I seem to have just arrived, and it's already six in the evening. Sometimes I don't even have time to keep track of the time, especially when there are calls in Zoom. Usually you need to do a lot of things: talk, send, accept, respond. It's always a meat grinder - in the good sense of the word, of course. I think it's good when there is a lot of work. This means that the company is functioning, the wheel is spinning. For example, we have already received 7 orders for the SS'21 collection. This is not counting our biggest client Moda Operandi, from whom we expect an order. And I'm glad. I am sincerely satisfied, because I understand that I have done the maximum for this, and the team and, first of all, the designer have done the maximum for this. We are reaching a new level - it motivates me very much.
- Do you have days off? How do you conduct them?
- Of course, I have days off, I often spend them in the gym, often at the choreography. I am a professional dancer, I have been doing choreography since I was three and a half years old. My mother first sent me to gymnastics, then I danced in a large Crimean Tatar ensemble. I am engaged in cultural projects and volunteer activities. Soon Suspilne will be filming me: they really want to come to my house. And I love to receive guests, I love to cook. I cook a lot: manti, yantyks, pasties - all from the Crimean Tatar cuisine, and not only from the Crimean Tatar cuisine. In fact, I have a courtyard at home (laughs). My "we will have guests" no longer bothers anyone. Recently, girls from work were visiting, sometimes the former adviser to the minister, the general producer of Crimea, comes to visit. Realities, artists happen. You know, this is very Crimean Tatar. Crimean Tatars are people who can flop up to you at seven in the morning and say: let's get some coffee. I am used to the fact that I have a lot of people at home all the time, I cook deliciously and we drink wine. My friends always laugh at me that I have some kind of selective Islam: I drink alcohol, but I don't eat pork (laughs).
- What do you like to cook the most?
- I like to cook manti. Manty and yantyks. You should definitely try it too! I don't have any specific recipe - I cook the way my mother used to cook. I always put everything on my eyes - I just know what the final consistency of the dough should be, what the minced meat should be. When you cook a lot, you just know it. My boy loves to eat deliciously - I cook a lot for him. My son comes to me and says: “Elechka, I’m hungry, I need to eat something” or “I think today we need to dine somewhere in a restaurant, preferably in“ Chernomorochka ”, there are excellent oysters there” (laughs). So yes, I love home and different goodies.
- You said that one of your main motivators is volunteering. Tell us about it: what direction are you doing and why exactly it, how did you come to this and what results are you proud of?
- I am engaged in active promotion of the culture of the Crimean Tatars, because the topic of immigrants hurts me very much. These are my parents, this is a house in Crimea, these are memories. I still have a grandmother who was deported in 1944, so this topic is very painful for me. I am engaged in various work, for example, I write nomination dossiers at UNESCO - all so that the spark of the 250 thousand people of the Crimean Tatar nation, who have remained today, does not fade away. We are scattering, active assimilation is taking place, and we do not have a cultural layer built here, on the territory of Ukraine.
Most of my volunteer projects are related to the promotion of Crimean Tatar choreography, which I myself dance professionally, on the territory of Ukraine. We have already submitted the Crimean Tatar ornament to UNESCO for obtaining the status of a world cultural heritage, and now the priority is to submit also the Crimean Tatar dance.
I once opened a diplomatic reception dedicated to the 25th anniversary of friendship between Ukraine and Georgia - I danced on the largest stage in Georgia, where, for example, Elton John performed. I am very proud of this. I also often organize receptions and events at America House Kyiv - at one time I talked with both the US Ambassador and his deputy. My last collaboration was with the Germans on a German project. It was an online concert - old Crimean Tatar songs in jazz arrangement.
I understand that in the current situation of occupation, the Crimean Tatars who are in mainland Ukraine are trying to do everything to somehow preserve their national component. I strive for the same, I do everything to have an effect. I am the person who works for the effect and for the idea, as my parents taught me. After all, if you do not burn with your business, you will not be a good employee, you will not be a pro in your business. And I love being a pro.
All my communication skills didn't come out of nowhere - I'm constantly working on them.
- And traditionally, finally. What is Fire for you?
- You know, at the beginning of my work Ogonyok was equal to Jordan for me (laughs). It was your contacts that Anya gave me for communication, and until the moment I came to you, it was like that. And when we met, I thought: wow, what a cool store. I remember how you talked about the renovation, how Anya gave an interview. I was very impressed by Victoria, the founder of Ogonyok, I imagined her in a different way. And I was very impressed with the reception of us as guests - and I, as a Crimean Tatar, really love hospitality, such things bribe me. As for our further cooperation, I would very much like you to develop and that we were your headliners - and we are striving for this. I understand that the sell-through that you made over the summer is a very cool indicator. I am scrupulous about all clients, but from my favorites I have Moda Operandi and I have Ogonyok. And as the main representative of Anna October in Ukraine, of course, I love you very much.
In a nutshell, it's love. I have love for you.
I am very lucky with my interlocutors. Solid love surrounds me. From what was not included in the interview is a conversation about the new collection of Resort '21, which Elya successfully sold to us and many other stores back in the summer, and which you will see very soon in Ogonyok. In the meantime, below you will find a small list of recommendations from Eli and the announcement of a new direction in the Anna October brand. Just don't tell anyone, Anya will kill us!
Favorite thing: a menthol-colored sweater that Anya gave me
Favorite movie: "Meet Joe Black"
Book: "Are You Lie" by Paul Ekman I really liked
What item would you buy in Ogonyok: (laughs) I would buy a blue bustier dress, this is one of my favorite dresses.
Advice to our readers: In this extremely difficult time for us, I would like to wish a peaceful sky over our heads, awareness, a sensitive attitude to our health and the health of the people around us. In general: create yourself - life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.
Editor: Diana Remizovskaya
Photo: Nikita Zhuravlev