I »e-met« Sandra Šuc on Instagram about two years ago through her Alpine Princess brand. At that time, she had just started to promote her first line of outdoor leggings and she asked me if I wanted to test them. And the rest is history. I have been following Alpine Princess story on instagram ever since and I am happy to see it grow so fast. Both, me and Sandra were born and raised in Slovenia and this is one of the reasons I decided to support her in the first place. However, my love for the brand has surpassed the “patriotism” motive long ago. With no doubt in my mind I can say that Alpine Princess leggings are amongst the best in the category of women outdoor outfit. Follow me on Instagram and see for yourself. 😉
I invited Sandra to share with us her experience with starting a global brand from scratch and to tell us more about her plans in the future.
Hi Sandra, how is your leg?
A bit better, thanks! I fell with my bike and broke my ankle. The surgery was last week and I have been pretty much immobile for the past 3 weeks. I should be able to walk normally again within 4-5 weeks. It’s quite difficult, being an active person, but I’ll get there!
I can’t imagine how it must feel to be forced to rest for so long. However, the orders are still being sent, right?
Yes, the first few days were the worst, since I couldn’t even work. Now I work remote, so my days are much more interesting. Thankfully, the Alpine Princess team has grown in the past half year, so everything is running smoothly in my absence. We’re now a team of 4. I visited the office yesterday for the first time after my injury and realized how much I miss going there. A good team really means everything.
But in the beginning Alpine Princess was more or less “one woman band”, right?
Yes, I worked on Alpine Princess solo for the first year and a half. Looking back now, I have no idea how I managed it all on my own for so long. I guess it wasn’t sustainable, but it’s crazy what the right motivation does to your energy levels!
I actually had a full-time job for the first half year of Alpine Princess’ existence and it was a very busy time for me. When I left my job, I thought I’d suddenly have a lot more time and was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill up my day. Well, my 8-hour work days quickly became 12-hours’ and within half a year I realized I was going to have to get some help if I wanted the company to continue to grow. With a start-up, it’s really important to have the right people beside you.
How did the idea of starting your own brand turn up? Was it an instant flash or did it grow slowly in your head?
My personal Instagram account focuses mainly on hiking and traveling. I love looking stylish also on my hikes and I always wore leggings on my adventures. I would get tons of questions about where to find nice looking leggings that are also durable enough for outdoor sports. I quickly realized that there was a gap in this area, so I got the idea that maybe I should start making them.
I dreamt about this for about a year before I actually began taking it seriously. It took another year of prototyping, because I wanted my own unique designs and sewing pattern, not something ready-made. I almost gave up a few times. When you receive the 10th sample and it’s still not how you wanted it, it starts to get to you. But I’m really happy I powered through!
Describe Alpine Princess in the beginning and Alpine Princess in 2021. Did you expect to be exactly here where you are now?
At the beginning it was just me, doing everything, from product development, designs, marketing, social media management, taxes, accounting, packaging, customer support. Things are much different now, and I’m still getting used to having a team around me. When I was just starting out, I was dreaming about how cool it would be if I could leave my job and just do this for a living – a few months later, it came true. It’s really inspiring to me to look back at things which are a given now, but that seemed so unattainable at the time and to see how far we’ve come in such a short time.
I didn’t expect for things to grow this quickly, and each month the growth takes us by surprise! We have to plan next year’s winter collection now, and it’s impossible to estimate growth (we always end up being out of stock 🙂 ).
How do you choose colors, designs and models? By yourself or do customers tell you what they need?
The products, designs and colors are still mostly my job. I also still manage the social media accounts and get a lot of ideas, inspiration and feedback from customers. At the end, I always listen to my gut instinct, even if others don’t agree, and it usually turns out to be the right decision. Having a close relationship with customers helps a lot in improving our products. We get feedback very quickly and are able to adapt our products to fit our customers’ needs.
Was there ever a time when you wanted just to quit and get back to an 8-hour job?
No, never. There’s been days when I’ve been stressed out of my mind, weeks when I couldn’t sleep, didn’t have time even to wash my hair, but not once in that time did I ever want to quit. The level of motivation and passion you have when you have your own company is incomparable to any other job. The hardest days here are still way better to the best days at any job I had before and I really hope I’ll be able to continue doing this for the foreseeable future.
What is the hardest part in your business?
Keeping everything afloat. 🙂 I have so many ideas in my head of things I would like to do, and I have to contain myself and realize I can’t do everything at once.
Alpine Princess ships worldwide. Did you face any trust issues by foreigners at the beginning?
Not really. My first foreign customers were my Instagram followers, so they “knew me” and I guess it helped build trust. Then, once there’s enough word of mouth and happy customers, everything is much easier, also selling abroad. Some foreigners are even proud of the fact that they found a company from the Alps producing hiking leggings, so it does have its perks, being from Slovenia. 🙂
Would you say that your customers are mostly hiking enthusiasts, or is Alpine Princess suitable for all kinds of activities?
At the beginning, most of our customers were hiking enthusiasts, who really found themselves in our brand image and everything we portray. However, good word of mouth advertising has proven to be really strong with our brand, and now more and more women wear our leggings for all sorts of activities, also for indoor sports.
What is your favorite Slovene hiking trail?
Visoka Vrbanova Špica (Pot Lojzeta Rekarja). It’s more of a Via Ferrata and it’s really dynamic and a bit scary at times, but I get bored quickly with really long hikes and I love having a bit of adrenaline to spice things up.
And what was your most memorable hiking adventure abroad?
A 3-week trek in Patagonia. One of the only multi-day hikes I did with just a tent and all the food you need for a week of hiking in your backpack. That combined with no cell signal really makes you forget about all your worries and just focus on the small things around you. Really hoping to do something like that again soon.
When is the new summer collection coming out?
Soon! We’re working on light-weight fleeces, tank tops, t-shirts, merino products as well as shorts and capri leggings. Since the producers and the materials are different, it’s not all coming out at the same time, but from May to June.
If you won 10 million EUR, would you quit or would you invest most of it to further business growth?
Definitely invest into further business growth. I’m already dreaming of all the new products I could make with 10 mio. 🙂
And what if somebody comes and wants to buy you off, is that an option?
Maybe, at some point in the future. Definitely not yet. I still have so many things I want to achieve with the brand and I want to do them my own way, without anyone restricting me. And I think it’s gonna be a while before I get that out of my system. 🙂
Which item from your store is your favorite?
Blue Skies leggings and Maple Red Pro Hoody.
We love happy endings. Shall we give my readers some special discount code? 😉
Of course! They can use the code ANDA10 for a 10% discount. 😉