by: Irina Encheva
Can you guess what Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce have in common? Well, one thing for sure – their choice of wearing shoes and bags by Bulgarian brand BY FAR. The scale-up joined Endeavor’s network in 2017 and ever since we’ve been working closely with the founders on the challenges to growing so fast so quickly. We decided to share the inspiring story of how the company started just over 3 years ago and how far it has come.
The founders of BY FAR are twin sisters Sabina and Valentina, and their best friend Denitsa. Sabina and Denitsa met in 2005 through their then-boyfriends who are brothers. Together with Valentina, the three have been inseparable ever since, even in business where their varying expertise are perfectly matched. Sabina, BY FAR’s CEO Sabina graduated with a degree in Business from the University of Wesminister in London. Dentisa, the brand’s Chief Designer, earned her B.A. in History of Art from New Bulgarian University in Sofia, and Valentina, BY FAR’s CMO, majored in Marketing and Media at Webster University in Geneva. After completing their studies, Denitsa and Sabina joined their husbands’ renewable energy business, while Valentina worked for her family’s business in the construction industry in Bulgaria and Russia.
In 2015, Denitsa’s husband was commissioned to install solar panels at a shoe factory in Peshtera, Bulgaria. Knowing of his wife’s passion for shoes, he brought Denitsa a list of production costs for leather shoes of the factory. Little did he know that the ladies will act on his suggestion so fast. As the idea of producing high-end shoes crystallized, the brand’s name “BY FAR” was quickly put together, as it represents the first names of the co-founders’ sons: Filip, Alek, and Roman. The company was founded in June 2016, and, just two weeks after its launch, it managed to sell its shoes at a key pop-up store in London. Instantly noticed by key influencers such as VOGUE UK, BY FAR started gaining traction among important fashion media and influencers.
BY FAR focused on producing leather bags and shoes that fit comfortably and have a modern yet classic look in the so called “no label” market. For the past five years, the niche market of “no label” brands has continued to grow as department stores, struggling to keep up their “coolness” factor, increased their budgets 3x for such brands in 2018. BY FAR achieved product-market fit by strategically positioning itself as an “affordable luxury” brand that speaks to consumers. BY FAR’s marketing material, especially on social media, focuses around the consumer instead of just the product, therefore removing the boundaries between the label and the customer. This differentiates BY FAR from its competitors, many of who showcase their products with high-fashion models and highly artistic photographs that the end-customer can’t relate to. In this way, it has achieved a strong functional and emotional appeal to millennial women. The company’s message through imagery is so effective, that over 90% of customers are acquired via Instagram.
In the 3 years since launching, BY FAR has gained strong traction, being mentioned (non-paid) in key media such as Glamour and Who What Wear and successfully selling in the world’s best department stores such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London and Bloomingdale’s in Dubai. The brand has acquired 250K+ organic Instagram followers and has received key celebrity endorsements by the likes of Alicia Vikander, Gigi Hadid and Amiee Song. In the past year, the brand has added leather bags as a product line and plans to further expand the portfolio of products in 2020.
At Endeavor, we work with such driven founders who are keen to become global leaders in their fields. We support scale-ups in their quest to enter new markets, develop new partnerships, acquire managerial skills and raise capital. Through participating in and sharing the success stories of role models such as Sabina, Valentina, and Denitsa, we seek to inspire the next generation of Bulgarian innovators on the global scene.