#BEYOUROWN MEETS SASHA DENNIG
Callixto is an online boutique dedicated to bringing together unique pieces of jewllery and other accessories from far-flung places, with a focus on originality, craftsmanship, and beauty. Set up by Sasha Dennig, Callixto represents her love of travel, jewellery and all of the treasures and trinkets she finds wherever she goes.
Half Austrian, half Chinese, Sasha Dennig was raised and educated in Paraguay, Austria, Switzerland, and the UK. Her parent’s love of adventure exposed her to different countries and cultures at an early age, and that journey of exploration has continued throughout her life. Whenever Sasha would travel, she would gravitate towards the markets, shops, and stalls selling local crafts, amazed at the quality of workmanship. As she continued to travel and discover new places across the globe, she realized that true craftsmanship and great design, although hard to find, was everywhere.
Distant and diverse cultures and communities all had original, unique and incomparable touches of design, creativity and artistic composition and invention. Beautiful and charming objects could be found in the smallest villages in the middle of nowhere, not just on Bond Street or Rue St. Honore. Furthermore, there was the sense of history, as she discovered first hand, how in some communities, the tradition of craftsmanship was centuries old, handed down from father to son, from generation to generation.
Hey, Sasha, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Sasha Dennig. I am the founder of Callixto a lifestyle brand that brings together jewellery and accessories sourced from around the world. My love for travel and learning about different cultures comes from my childhood as I am half Austrian, half Chinese raised in Paraguay.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I used to be a lawyer, working in London, very long hours, in a very large law firm. In 2009 for a variety of personal reason I decided to quit and take some time off. At the time I thought I would probably end up doing something in law again but maybe in another capacity and I wanted to take some time off to rest and regroup.
I had also met someone living in Singapore and I wanted to give that a shot. So I packed a bag, left everything else in London in place including my flat and went to Singapore. I spent the next 8 months travelling and seeing the region. One of those travels was to India. My mother who is from Paraguay called me and said, “I have a friend who has a shop and would like to sell some pashminas. While you are travelling around could you pick up 100 pashminas, all of different qualities and design so that you can sell it to her?” I thought to myself, well how hard can that be?
I absolutely overpaid for the first 10 or 15 scarves for sure but after meeting the 10th Kashmiri scarf provider and asking them all 100 questions each I eventually got the hang of it. I sold the 100 pashminas to this friend of my mother’s and the sale of them nearly covered the cost of my trip. So I thought to myself, well that was fun, maybe I can do this for a living, travel the world buying things that are typical of that region and sell it on. I spent the rest the year doing just that.
While travelling and sourcing for my clients in South America I ended up accumulating a small stash of my own, and thus Callixto was born. I still source for clients on a wholesale basis, but now Callixto takes up more and more of my time.
How much research did you do on the market prior to launching Callixto?
I did absolutely no research. I was very naïve but it was also 2009 before Instagram was even a thing so I just went with it and hoped for the best.
How does the power of your travel influence the brand of Callixto?
Travel and different cultures are the cornerstones of the brand. The idea behind the brand is that every country, culture, and region has its own handicraft, something that they and they alone do exceptionally well. Of course, we know that Italian leather goods are the best in the world, but other cultures do other things exceedingly well but do not have the access or the marketing capacity to show their skill to the world. Callixto is there to provide that bridge and access.
Can you tell us more about the brand DNA and Callixto?
Because travel and different cultures are at the heart of our DNA our aesthetic is constantly changing and developing. Indian jewellery has a very distinctive look and aesthetic to Turkish or Thai jewellery for example. Regardless of those distinctions however I am always looking, and am naturally drawn to colour. Our DNA can be described first and foremost as colourful and decorative.
Can you give us 3 of the first steps you took when building the Callixto platform?
I made a lot of mistakes when starting. I thought that I had to do everything from scratch and on my own and I essentially reinvented the wheel for no reason whatsoever. I had my own e-commerce website designed, for example, back-end and front end. However, now I am now on Shopify. Back to the question of the three steps I took when building Callixto I hired a really good branding agency to do my brand and all the collaterals, which I think was money well spent. I took photography and photoshop classes so that all the photography was done in-house by me. It still is as I really enjoy that process.
Where can you see yourself within the next 5 years?
In 5 years time, I would hope to still be running Callixto and for our products to be more widely available in different shops. I also hope to expand our sourcing and wholesale business as I think there is a demand for an interesting and authentic product out there.
What outlets do use to promote Callixto?
Primarily we use email marketing, Facebook and Instagram. We do not do a lot of Influencer Marketing as we do not have a lot of product that we can gift as a lot of items are limited runs or even one of a kind.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
I love finding new products and discovering new artisanal techniques. I would like to expand our offering to include jewellery and accessories that incorporate two or three different cultures and handicrafts in one product.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of Callixto?
I think all small businesses face the same challenges. It is always difficult to find a balance between resource allocation and growth. I have taken the path of growing organically, but as a result, growth has been very small. It was an active decision I took however as I have also had three children in the last 4 years so I did not want the pressure of meeting growth targets and growing the business too much.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I like what Hugette Montesinos from Disfunkshion Magazine is doing. I love the aesthetic of the magazine and her Instagram feed. I love that she has expanded her offering to include all sort of courses. She also created a creative community called Casa Tropisoul. I like the idea of constantly growing and expanding and even changing as you develop and not being tied down to just doing one thing.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
I am afraid to say that I do not really do Podcasts. My mind wanders quite easily and I find that I take in information better if I read.
How do you define your own success?
Being content and finding pleasure in the everyday tasks involved in running your business.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
For me, it means owning my own time and my own creative process. Having the time and not being subjected to the relentless pace of the outside world.
Finally, what are you working on throughout 2019?
We are currently developing a line of pendants which will be made of Italian Intaglio Glass.