I continue to be interested in how the fashion industry is slowly and surely finding innovative ways to leverage the Internet. Kiyan Foroughi has created a marketplace for fashion accessories that is scaling nicely and helping new designers find a customer base.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Kiyan Foroughi: I’m French-Iranian. I was born in Paris. My parents were immigrants from Iran. I grew up a little bit all over the place. I grew up in France, but I also spent a big part of my childhood in Dubai. We went out there because my father was an architect and he had projects out there. I was in Dubai in the ’80s and ’90s before it became the crazy Dubai that it is now. Then, I went to the US and started my secondary education in Boston. I was lucky enough to have grown up in three different parts of the world.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your schooling?
Kiyan Foroughi: When I was in Tufts University, I studied Finance, Economics, and Entrepreneurship. Upon graduation, I started my career in investment banking doing technology mergers and acquisitions in New York for nearly three years before moving to London where I’ve been now for the past nine years.
When I first moved to London, I was still in finance at a private equity firm called TA Associates for another three years before I decided to take the plunge and launch my own business. The whole Boticca story started after that.
Sramana Mitra: What year was that?
Kiyan Foroughi: I graduated in 2004. I was there from 2001 to 2004. I finished university in three years.
Sramana Mitra: The work that you did in investment banking in M&A, what years were those?
Kiyan Foroughi: I was in investment banking from 2004 to the end of 2006. Then, I was in private equity from 2006 to 2010.
Sramana Mitra: So 2010 was when you started Boticca?
Kiyan Foroughi: October 2010 was when we publicly launched.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept behind Boticca?
Kiyan Foroughi: The idea came from an encounter. I was traveling in Morocco. This was in December 2008. I was in the old part of the town when I came across this really wonderful, independent designer of jewelry called Marianne. I started speaking to her. She told me about her story of how she grew up in the Atlas Mountains making pieces for herself. Her mom noticed the work she was doing. She started making pieces for her mom. The other women in the village noted the jewelry on her mom and started buying from her.
Through word of mouth, her business spread to the other women in the village and as well as other surrounding villages. That’s when she said, “People love what I do. I’m going to go after a bigger market. I’m going to sell my pieces in Medina.” She started trekking four times a week both ways everyday between her village and Marrakech. It as about an hour and a half trek to sell her pieces to the tourists.
It was there that I realized two things. One is the power of a beautiful story. When I heard her story, it just created so much desire of the product as a brand. I bought a bunch of her jewelry then and there with my girlfriend at that time. The other lesson was how hard and impervious it is for up and coming designers and brands to get access to distribution on a global scale in an easy manner and also be able to make the majority of the retail margins.