In 2016, the luxury accessories brand By Far was launched with a footwear collection produced by a family-run factory in Bulgaria and designed by its three co-founders — sisters Sabina Gyosheva, chief executive officer, and Valentina Ignatova, chief marketing officer, alongside their friend and Chief Creative Officer Denitsa Bumbarova.
In less than five years of operation, the brand has garnered more than 300 retail partners worldwide, alongside a growing own e-commerce site, and doubled its employee base in 2020.
The brand’s co-founders have always sought to prioritise local artisanal techniques, responsibly sourced materials and short production routes while extending their use of factories across Portugal, Spain and Italy. Within their offices in the Bulgarian capital and, since August 2020, in London, the co-founders extend their people-driven culture.
Championing an environment of constant learning, they have built a culture on the transparent acceptance of imperfection, empowering employees to consistently build and improve. The company surveys its workforce bi-annually, with the last survey boasting a 93 percent employee satisfaction rate.
Now, BoF sits down with sisters and co-founders Sabina Gyosheva and Valentina Ignatova to hear more about the inspiration and drive behind By Far’s company culture and their hiring plans for 2021.
What core values shape By Far and its company culture?
Sabina: Every time we recruit someone or restructure an aspect of the company, we are looking for passion and drive to build something different and authentic. Passion is also an important characteristic for employees to grow in the company. Before, when we only had an office in Bulgaria, few people came from a fashion background, so to have an entrepreneurial passion and desire to grow and learn is a top priority for us.
Until last year, we were a company of just 15 people where everyone did everything. Being so few, we quickly became really close, like a family. Although we are more than 60 now, we still aim to keep this trustful and friendly family culture where everyone is appreciated and supported.
Valentina: We also like to keep the feeling of a start-up culture, because every successful start-up is problem-solving every day. We believe that there is no learning without mistakes, otherwise we cannot grow and operate out of our comfort zone. We are learning through experimentation, and I think this is why we have grown so fast. Mistakes are part of the game.
Our energy and supportive culture has built a community, where every voice is heard and valued. This results in diverse perspectives and more bold and creative content, produced by our team.
How does By Far’s company culture support its growth?
Sabina: We believe that behind every successful business, there is a happy team. Being a fast-growing start-up that values our employees’ voice and contribution, By Far has managed to create a team of ambitious, talented people — and their professional development is vital. Through different training, webinars and coaching, By Far gives employees the tools and support they need to realise their full potential, create excellent products and ensure our sustainable growth.
There is no learning without mistakes, otherwise you cannot grow and operate out of your comfort zone.
In addition, we believe improving employees’ skills and constantly developing their knowledge base helps them feel motivated and increases their job satisfaction. This leads to increased productivity, which contributes to the successful implementation of our business goals. We believe this is the engine through which our business, and all of us within it, can move forward and thrive.
Why did you choose to open an office in London?
Valentina: It was quite a natural transition to open an office in London because the access to professionals, particularly in the fashion industry here, is huge. In Bulgaria, we felt like we were pushing the limits, and the time came to move. A lot of our bigger partners are also from London, like Net-A-Porter, Selfridges, Harrods, Browns, and so on.
I have also moved here to support our employees — not because we don’t believe they can manage their everyday tasks, but to ensure we share the drive that [Sabina and I] have. We see the bigger vision, our roadmap for the next five years, and sometimes when you get lost in your everyday tasks, you forgot about the bigger dream. So, we believe it’s important to have a leader present to keep reminding our employees what the overarching purpose is.
How do you source and act upon your employee feedback?
Sabina: We believe that the driving force for success comes from our people-driven culture and placing our employees at the centre. We genuinely care about our employees and the experience they have working at By Far, and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas. We conduct various questionnaires in order to gain important insights into areas where we are excelling and where we can improve.
For us, it is very important to understand any problems that we are not seeing, like if there is a process that is not working for our employees. We measure our employee satisfaction every 6 months, which helps us make By Far an even better place to work. We are proud that during our last Employee Satisfaction survey, the satisfaction rate was 93 percent.
We are confident that people know their work and their process — they are the experts. It’s for us to learn and grow together. During meetings, everyone is invited to share their opinion — it’s all about collaboration. All opinions matter to us.
How did you support your employees during the disruption of 2020?
Valentina: We are very lucky in that our team is super adaptive. During the crisis, we became even closer and even more creative. We also encouraged cross-functional collaboration. For example, we might be discussing a PR topic but someone from finance, logistics, even production, is welcome to share their views. It’s again about this family culture and supporting each other during tough times.
We also took the opportunity to get everybody connecting more often. We now gather each week rather than quarterly, and on Fridays, we watch masterclasses or brainstorm ideas and learnings. We were careful to distinguish our communication channels early on too and regularly held one-to-ones to keep activities and priorities clear and consistent.
Sabina: Social isolation, along with all the restrictions and changes this new “normal” brought during 2020, have also demonstrated a need to take better care of ourselves. This is the main reason why we developed a Wellness program called “By Far Wellness Club”, which will run throughout the whole year and focus on the 3 main aspects of well-being: mental, physical and social.
People know their work and their process — they are the experts. It’s for us to learn too.
Valentina: We also didn’t keep a strict policy on working from home, because some people literally cannot work from home with kids, for example. We made sure it was their own choice. We have a schedule for office attendance to provide flexibility, while also keeping in mind the health and safety of our employees.
What is your hiring and onboarding strategy for 2021?
Sabina: We actually hired about 30 people in 2020, taking our employee base to over 60, and we have identified another 15 positions moving into 2021. The only major constraint we’re experiencing is travel restrictions for those we’re hiring from international locations. It is harder to connect in a digital space, but we are doing our best to make them feel welcome, to be understanding and flexible in these strange times.
We believe anyone can bring something valuable to the company, as long as they feel happy and comfortable in their environment and team. As a result, onboarding is a friendly process and we look to celebrate new additions to the company. The care for our new employees begins with the acceptance of the job offer — each new employee gets a buddy and they connect before their first day.
Our goal is to excite, engage and make new members feel our people-oriented family culture from the start. Our onboarding process also sees new employees spend one day in each department, through which we strive for a quick adaptation and transition of the new employee into a valuable member of the team.
What characteristics are emblematic of successful By Far employees?
Sabina: We feel we have built and support a culture that embraces audacity, authenticity, inclusion and passion. We are true believers in the potential that lies in each one of us, because everyone is unique and born with the potential to achieve anything, as long as they want it and work on their goals. To respect our differences and uniqueness is very important to us.
We embrace positivity and the importance of being happy — only then can people reach their full potential. We promote gratitude for one’s own successes and those of others — being able to give feedback and recognise each other’s success is a key.
Valentina: We also encourage originality, imagination, emotion and a personal approach as we believe these are the main forces driving our growth.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by By Far as part of a BoF partnership.