Career Spotlight: Madelene Törnblom, Founder of Maya Delorez
An interview with Madelene Törnblom, founder of Maya Delorez, about how she single-handedly started the Maya Delorez brand from scratch and built it into a fast-growing DTC powerhouse that has grown annual revenue from 0 to 10 MEUR in just four years.
Thanks for joining us in this interview, Madelene. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and how you first came up with the idea behind Maya Delorez?
I founded Maya Delorez when I was 20 years old, with no background of running a business or brand whatsoever. I had just finished high school and was at the time studying two courses at the university while figuring out what my next steps were. My university studies were exciting, but I’ve always had my mind set on starting my own business. So, once my two university courses were finished, I decided to quit my studies to focus 110% on pursuing my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Riding horses has always been a passion of mine, so that's where I decided to put my energy. At the time, product development and design for Equestrian sports apparel was lagging years behind other sports. Product development and functionality was outdated, and the designs had looked the same for decades. I saw a great opportunity to create a brand that was targeted towards the younger generation of riders that had become accustomed to the level of high-performance products that were already industry standard in other categories. So that’s what I did. I sold one of my horses and used the profits to finance the brand that became Maya Delorez – all on my own.
What were the first steps in making your idea come to life?
To be honest I started out doing a lot of googling and research, just trying to gain as much information and inspiration as possible. Since I am the target group, coming up with the product ideas was no challenge at all – but running an e-commerce business was something I had to learn from scratch. So, I read tons of articles and listened to many podcasts to soak up knowledge, but I was also really cautious about not taking in too many people’s opinions. I didn’t want to be too affected by others and loose track of my vision.
Once the business started growing, how did you manage to handle everything by yourself?
Business blew up pretty fast, and we sold out the first batch of breeches in just a month. I handled everything myself during the first year, but since Maya Delorez was growing at such a fast pace, I quickly had to start looking to include more people in the company to avoid losing momentum. After a year, we were three people in the company – today we’re 28 people, and still growing.
Image description: The Maya Delorez website is built on the Centra platform and designed by the digital agency NoA Ignite. The brand was founded just three years ago, but is already shipping products to over 70 countries, and generating an annual revenue of over 10 M EUR.
What’s important to think about when starting a brand?
If you start from scratch like me, I think the most important thing is to trust your vision and gut feeling. It’s also important not to take in too many outside perspectives in the beginning – it might sound weird, but if you want your idea to fly, you have to be able to really believe in it and stand behind that belief all the way. Before my idea was confirmed by others, that was all I had – my belief in my own capabilities, and that my idea would work.
Was the plan always to launch Maya Delorez as a DTC-only brand?
It’s always been really important to me to stay in control of my own brand, so I’ve never had any plans to involve any resellers. I want to be able to make fast decisions, and have full control of where and how we sell our products. And since Maya Delorez became successful very fast, I was confident that I could trust my gut and that our strategy worked. We are now able to sell to entire world through our online store in a very smooth way, so I don’t see the need to involve any intermediaries. I would have played it exactly the way I did if I would do it again.
In just three years time, Maya Delorez was nominated in the "e-commerce brand of 2021” category at the e-commerce trade show D-Congress in Sweden. What are the secrets behind your rapid success and growth rate?
I think one of the reasons behind the explosive success of my e-commerce business was the timing of it all. We jumped on the Direct-to-Consumer trend right away, at a time when there was a big turning point in consumer behaviour. Instead of going to a local store to shop, people started shopping online – and instead of ordering from resellers, people began to order directly from the brand. Soon, everyone was used to the convenience of shopping online. Being able to control your brand from one store only, also makes it easier and more effective to offer your customers the best deals – since there are no middlemen eating up the profits.
With that being said, you can't assume that your e-commerce store will be a success just because you choose to launch as a DTC-brand. It takes a lot of grit, hard work, and many sleepless nights to achieve what we've achieved.
Another reason behind our success is definitely our social media engagement – we came on pretty strong from the start and developed a strong digital presence that we made sure to leverage for driving traffic to our online store. I’ve seen many other DTC brands go through a similar journey as ours over the recent years, using the same strategy – and they’re all thriving today.
"It's been a bit like running before you've learned to walk. You just have to make sure to not break any legs on the way."
What entrepreneurial challenges have you faced so far?
Maya Delorez is growing really fast, and don't plan on slowing down any time soon. It’s a bit like running before you’ve learned to walk. You just have to make sure to not break any legs on the way. Our current challenge is to maintain our rapid growth rate, and at the same build a strong and sustainable organization going forward. I have no prior experience of running a business, so I've had to trust my gut and solv problems on the go.
Image description: Madelene Törnblom founded Maya Delorez when she was 20 years old, all on her own, with no previous experience of running an e-commerce business.
Why did you choose to build the Maya Delorez 2.0 store on Centra?
Once we started growing internationally and selling to many different countries, our backend solution became very complex. Our previous site was built on WooCommerce, so in order to manage all different VAT rates and rules we had to create separate solutions and for each market. We were growing super-fast, so we quickly realized that we needed a lighter backend structure that was built for selling on international markets. In this process we found Centra, which is a platform that had exactly what we were looking for. Long story short – we didn’t waste any time and started the migration project immediately while simultaneously designing our Maya Delorez 2.0 site together with our agency partner NoA Ignite.
How has Centra helped Maya Delorez expand as a brand? What are the biggest differences compared to your previous platform?
Simply put, the Centra platform is built and tailored for DTC brands selling to a global audience, so the entire backend solution is better and much easier to work in. The Centra technology saves us a lot of time and headaches related to managing a cross-border commerce business. Working with a platform that is completely headless and not theme based has allowed us to design a website that truly resonates with our fans and customers. It also allowed our team to configure and work in the CMS that they preferred. As a result, our conversation-rate has increased, and our customers are praising us for the improved buying experience that we’ve created. Appearance is one of the most important factors for a brand to stand out from the crowd, and our setup with Centra gives us full control of that appearance which makes it easy for us to build Maya Delorez into a strong, dominating brand that pushes the equestrian industry in a progressive direction.
Do you have a special moment you’re extra proud of?
When the Maya Delorez breeches were worn in the Olympics last summer. I remember thinking to myself, “the breeches that I have created, are now being worn by riders in the Olympics”. That was surreal.
Image description: The first batch of breeches sold out in just a month – four years later they were worn in the Olympics.
Finally, if you had one word of advice to give to other women that are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, what would it be?
To go for it – everything comes down to trusting your gut and believing in yourself. Knowing your product and target audience is important, but then it’s just a matter of who’s willing to do the job. Entrepreneurship is not about the right gender, it’s about the right mindset.