Global Retail   //   September 14, 2023

Sisterly Tribe founder Kristin Hars on building a yoga lifestyle brand based in Europe

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Kristin Hars is trying to start a yoga apparel empire from Gothenburg, Sweden.

Hars has worked in retail for decades, rising the ranks at brands like All Saints and Jack Wills — ultimately becoming the CCO of Nordic fashion retailer Bubbleroom. But she left her position in 2020 to start her own brand, Sisterly Tribe, which makes yoga apparel and focuses on fostering a tight-knit community.

“I was missing this kind of brand that was very Scandinavian, minimalistic, sophisticated — a premium brand. But it is also very much about being sustainable and ethical — and having all these values around it,” she said on the Modern Retail Podcast.

Sisterly Tribe had very humble beginnings. To get it off the ground, Hars partnered with local yoga studios, as well as started an Instagram account. “Instagram has been a really important channel for us — growing our following, growing our community… We’re spending a lot of time there connecting with the community,” Hars said.

But after about a year, the business was selling out of products and ready to grow more. In 2022, it raised a seed round of funds to help it expand. As part of its growth, Sisterly Tribe moved its production from Bali to Portugal.

“It’s in Europe, it’s closer to home — and I’m able to visit them more frequently,” Hars said. “That was one of the reasons to move — to be able to scale up the production because now I’m with a partner that has more capacity to scale up and they work with bigger brands.”

With all of this, Sisterly Tribe has big plans to grow its presence this year — both in Europe and in the United States as well. Hars is also focused on building a profitable business (the startup, she said, isn’t yet profitable).

“When you have a profitable company, you can decide the destiny of where the company’s going,” she said. “You don’t have to constantly be out raising funds. And you can focus on actually building the brand, building the community and doing what I’m actually excited about.”

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

The white space Sisterly Tribe tries to fill
“I found moving back to Sweden that I was missing this kind of brand that was very Scandinavian, minimalistic, sophisticated — a premium brand. But it is also very much about being sustainable and ethical — and having all these values around it. So I kind of found a white space around that kind of brand, carrying those values and also that aesthetic. And I also saw that there was a global opportunity for that kind of brand because, obviously, Sweden is quite a small market at the end of the day. And I want to build a global brand. And I thought that this is missing in that space — having that kind of aesthetic, having the values and also the sustainability and ethical side of it.”

An early focus on community
“I started an Instagram channel really early — like maybe six months before I even launched anything — to kind of build a community and talk about our values and just get them to come along on the journey. And then the plan was to launch through my own website. But I was also looking to find authentic collaborations with other people within the community — like the yoga and wellness space… I had collaborations with other yoga studios or yoga teachers, we had several events. Even though it was Covid, we were able to have — small at some points — intimate events. And we were also doing some digital yoga classes and events and things like that. It was very much initially to get the brand out there — we launched it, got the reaction and had a really positive reaction from the community. People were buying the products, and it was selling out. So I then had to invest more into inventory and just grow it from there.”

The brand’s revenue mix
“Now, the majority [of sales] is through our e-commerce space. The first year actually was 50/50. We were really small then. We were 50/50 yoga studios and e-commerce. [Now], I’ve been spending more time growing, doing better on the e-commerce site and also building a stronger following. And now the majority is on our website. But we also are in some retail spaces — mainly yoga studios, both in Sweden, but also in [other parts of] Europe. And we have some orders from the U.S. as well.”