Don’t forget your childhood dreams
As a young girl, Milou Knierim (1993) dreamed of starting her own fashion label. But she was told that this would be unrealistic. “People kept telling me to stop dreaming and start paying more attention at school. Only by going to university would I be able to get a good job.”
She ended up studying law. “But the only thing I really enjoyed was standing in front of a judge to present my story – but, of course, that was less than one percent of the time.” So once again, she began thinking about what would make her truly happy and her mind quickly returned to her childhood dreams.
Meeting a partner in crime
While still at law school, she started the successful blog Amsterdam Style Hunter. She also met her “partner in crime,” Sanne Knopper, a fellow law student who was making clothes and selling them via social media.
“Together we made a great fit. So, I stopped with the blog and we started Daylliance while still in school – and without any knowledge, fashion education or money. At first, we made original one-offs with fabric from Noordermarkt or Dappermarkt that we modelled ourselves and then sold online or by renting a stall. We did it all ourselves.”
Success on the streets of Amsterdam
With their unique and affordable clothing catching on, they decided it was time to professionalise and seek a manufacturer. “It was at that moment that people started to shoot us down again. Luckily, we had each other to stay motivated.”
An employee at the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce became charmed by their dream and connected them with a Turkish manufacturer who produced their first sample collection for summer 2016. “Using our student public transport cards,” Milou says, “we took the collection to fifteen stores. Fourteen said yes.”
Soon, Dutch fashion icons such as Nicolette van Dam and Chantal Janzen were seen wearing Daylliance around town and fans of their work began asking how they made it all happen and sharing their own aspirations. “It was amazing. All my dreams had come true. But last year, I began thinking about another dream. How could I help other young women achieve their dreams?”
Closing the gender gap
“Our message behind our clothing was to say to girls: follow your dream. But clothes can get lost in the back of the closet. I wanted to offer more direct help. Entrepreneurship always involves a certain amount of risk, but our society still wants to protect their young females from risk. And therefore, so many amazing ideas don’t even reach the startup stage.”
In February 2019, Knierim founded the Women Entrepreneur College as a platform to support young women who want to start their own businesses. “On a basic level, it combines the two things that make it easier for young women to start a business: the motivation and inspiration to start and keep on going and a network of like-minded women that support each other to follow their dreams.”
Continuing, she explains that “we’re doing this to bring young women together, inspire them and to teach basic practical skills. And in this way, we can contribute to a future where more young women are independent to make their ideas and dreams come true.”
Flexibility, passion, social engagement
Currently, the college provides a variety of courses backed by a community and online support. Knierim is also busy developing a full programme for launch in 2020. In addition, the college hosts offline networking events that feature three young female entrepreneurs who share their insights and experience.
“Everything we do is geared [toward] making it easier for women to start their own business. While Amsterdam has a strong startup scene, it’s still too male dominated in approach. Female entrepreneurship often has a much stronger focus on flexibility, passion and giving back to society – and these are the type of approaches we want to promote.”