SOOK-cessful stories with Zita Katona, designer and founder of Zitozza
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Zita Katona, founder of Zitozza
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?
I’m a Hungarian-born designer, and after a decade-long career zig-zagging between graphic and textile design I founded zitozza. It’s a brand that brings unique surface patterns into the home on sustainable materials. Zitozza products are lampshades, rugs and cushions, handmade in Scotland with natural jute. Everything is hand block printed with a modular system of uniform printing blocks that are largely the same size, creating an interchangeable pattern design system of infinite combinations and fully customisable, unique designs.
The printing blocks are organised into two main collections: the MODERN sets are more geometric and are inspired by brutalism and the built environment, which is something that I’m forever fascinated by and often blog about. The HERITAGE sets on the other hand are more botanical and take elements from traditional textile heritage – this is a combination of both the Scottish and Eastern European influences. In material choice, I’m very conscious – natural jute is used due to both its tactile, coarse texture and its environmental benefits and sustainable qualities as zitozza believes in embracing the present and taking responsibility for the future.
What triggered you to start your own business? Was it bringing a new idea to the market, earning more money, more freedom?
I have been thinking about starting my own business for a very long time but I wasn’t brave enough before and it felt like I needed to be more sure of my vision first. I thought I had to “know” some kind of “how to” first, rather than just do it. But when the lockdown came in 2020 I was unexpectedly given some time, which arose from a really horrible global situation so I wanted to be spending it usefully, and I decided to just go for it.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running your own business?
I’m not sure if there is a universal answer to this. I used to think about myself that I’m not very entrepreneurial – I don’t like risk, I worry too much and I like an easy time. But I do have a vision and I believe in what I make, I know that my products have their place and that drives me forward. And perhaps even more importantly, I love, and find great joy in the whole process from designing a pattern to putting the product on the website – this makes it easier to go through the tasks that can be more tiresome or less rewarding. I think those two are the key probably – have a vision and love it enough.
What do you like the most about being your own boss?
Perhaps this might be an unusual answer but I think the biggest improvement since I started my entrepreneurship is in friendships. Starting your own business is scary and it will make you want to look for as much support as possible. What I found out is that there are a lot of really good people out there! And I made many new friends amongst them, I think you just connect to people on a deeper level if you share similar interests and have the same enthusiasm.
We love how colourful and graphic your products are, can you tell us a little bit more about the process of making them, what would you say inspire your work?
A lot of my prints are inspired by architecture. I like man-made spaces, industrial, utilitarian architecture, I’m really attracted to functional form and material. I’m fascinated by modernist ideas and brutalism and I find it interesting how negatively it’s often perceived (especially in the UK). So I’m determined to make it look beautiful by deconstructing its geometry and re-assemble it with bold colours. The natural jute is part of that aesthetic though I guess, it’s raw and utilitarian as well but it’s also very sustainable so I’m trying to change perceptions of it as well by taking it into the home as a luxury accessory.
Small businesses have been some of the hardest hit by Covid-19. How has the pandemic affected your business?
I started my business in lockdown which of course came with its own challenges. My first year was spent all online as there were no events, markets or retail opportunities. I was not even looking for stockists until a bit later because retail was closed. There was a positive value in this as I had a lot of time to think and create an online presence, but of course it made for a much slower growth as the internet is a fairly crowded place… and only when I started venturing out to events I realised how much difference it makes to talk to people and receive feedback.
What changes have you had to make to your business to adapt to the ever-changing retail situation during COVID? How are you operating now?
I think my journey is a bit backwards compared to others, in the sense that I started online and now I have to adapt to real-life events, whereas pre-2020 businesses probably did this the other way round. I’m still mostly trading online on my website on www.zitozza.com but I’m looking for stockists with a renewed energy and I’m trying to attend markets and events to spread the word of my brand.
Pop-up shops are becoming a permanent part of the retail landscape. What made you choose a Sook pop-up space to promote your brand?
It was not myself who decided about it, the credit goes to Women’s Business Station. I could not have thought about a pop-up alone, certainly not at this early stage of my business. Through friends I was recommended the opportunity to participate with other businesses, along with a membership to join this great support network for women entrepreneurs. It was great to do it this way I think as it made it possible for me too despite being very early in the journey. I’m really looking forward to working with them further!
What goals did you hope to achieve with your pop-up?
Apart from making sales of course, I wanted to increase my presence in Edinburgh and make the market aware of my brand, talk to people and get feedback on my products.
How did you promote your pop up with us? Which marketing tools did you find most successful at driving footfall?
I mostly promoted in social media but it’s hard to judge how much it drove footfall as I joined a bit late in the project and it happened in a rather short-notice and I couldn’t really build up to it unfortunately.
Was the pop-up a success? Tell us a little bit more about your Sook experience.
I would consider it a success as all the goals listed above can be ticked – I did make some sales, I did increase my presence in Edinburgh, I did gain followers, and I did talk to people and receive feedback on my products. I also think it equipped me with a retail experience in a high-end market, and I’m grateful that I could do it at such an early stage of my business, I’m sure will be very useful in the future.
What sort of things do you wish you knew before booking your pop-up space?
This was the first time I had a designated retail space for my own products. I just wish I had brought more stock, more props, I didn’t know I would have this much space or could be this creative with it. And be given more time to advertise it.
What would be your top tip for anyone else looking to do their own pop-up?
Think about the vision you have for your product and visualise it accordingly – in a pop-up space you can play with the display and create that whole brand experience for yourself. And promote it relentlessly! People don’t necessarily turn up or go into a shop if they don’t know who’s in it so make the effort and bring them in.
What are your future plans? Where do you see your business in the next year?
As well as extending my retail line at more stockists and online, I’d like to take on more bespoke projects too which is very easy to do with my prints. I’d love to participate in more events too! I hope maybe next year I’ll have a much more solid brand with a steady following and stronger presence.
Find out more about a Women’s Business Station Membership and how it can benefit you: https://www.businessstation.co.uk/membership-model/