Cynthia Salim is the founder and CEO of Citizen’s Mark, an ethical fashion brand for professional women on the go.
Unlike other brands on the market today, Citizen’s Mark is all about quality and longevitiy. The brand shuns fast fashion, favouring European made garments.
We spoke to Cynthia to find out more about her journey to startup success.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I was a young policy professional in the UN community in Geneva, Switzerland when I first realized we needed a brand like Citizen’s Mark. I looked around and saw how easy it was for my male colleagues to look the part, and by contrast, what a minefield it was for women to dress for work. The fashion industry simply doesn’t design for women to look credible. It doesn’t design for women on the rise, who are becoming “shapers” in their industry.
Why do you think your company has been successful?
I think one of the reasons Citizen’s Mark has been so high-resonance is that we’re one of the first brands to make ethical fashion look boardroom-worthy.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
We developed a fabric, Better Than Silk, that’s like a silk blouse, but is machine-washable and sustainable. It’s launching soon on Kickstarter and it’s one of our biggest innovations yet.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Balancing speed and quality. There’s tremendous pressure to move quickly in this industry, but we have go at our own speed to make sure everything we put out is high quality.
What’s your team structure like?
We have a creative director and several freelancers in marketing.
What traits do you look for in new hires?
I look for “finishers”, people who get the job done, ensure deadlines are met and even follow up with their supervisors if we’ve missed something.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business or applying for a job at a startup?
Don’t underestimate the value of getting things done no matter what. It might seem obvious, but there are so many obstacles and “it can’t be done” moments you’ll face as a startup team member or founder that your willingness to go through, or around obstacles to get to your goal will make all the difference.
What challenges are unique to female founders in your opinion?
We visually see fewer female leaders, so people can be surprised by female founders, especially young female founders that sound certain and competent.
How do you measure success?
I measure success by whether or not I’m pushing an industry in a better direction to face the challenges of the future – climate change, resource limitations, etc.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
I’m building Citizen’s Mark to be a leader in premium ethical fashion to illustrate what a profitable, socially responsible company can look like.
How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
It’s important to acknowledge your blind spots. You’re more likely to hire people like you, but it’s people who don’t think like you and come from different backgrounds that will make sure you have a balanced team.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your business?
That it’s hard. It’s difficult to do good, and often more tedious and time-consuming than our Instagram would make it appear.
What does the future hold for your company?
Citizen’s Mark is building a marketing, PR, and product development team here in Berlin, and it’s going to be an exciting period because we’re sourcing and sometimes developing new fabrics, and pushing out a “voice” in the fashion industry that’s rarely seen, the voice of the credible woman on the rise.