#WHOARETHEY: Charissa of Isla Berlin
Charissa Chioccarelli is the founder and owner of ISLA Berlin in Berlin, Germany. ISLA is, as their website describes: “An innovative and inclusive retail destination. We are an online and offline community with a love for fashion, music and beauty. At Isla you can come to shop streetwear, get your nails and braids did, DJ, or just hang with our crew”. Charissa recruited nail tech Maddy Ayers from London to get the nail art piece off the ground. ISLA also offers creative agency services. ISLA is an important fixture in the Berlin creative scene due to the space it has opened up that invites all types of people to come and actively be a part of. It has already attracted a lot of attention on INDIE mag, I-D, and Highsnobiety. Starting your own business is an ambitious and sometimes frightening endeavor. Learn how Charissa started this new chapter of her life.
On a recent trip to Europe, I was able to meet up with Charissa in London for a few days. While we were there, we shot for her feature around a few neighborhoods in London.
Where did you grow up? Where are you living now?
I'm from a small city 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam, called Hoorn. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to move to a bigger city. After living in Amsterdam for 8 years, the city that once felt like a big city to me, started to feel like a village. That's when I decided I wanted to move to a bigger city. A little over three years ago, I got a job offer in Berlin, Germany, and I've been living here ever since.
What were you interested in growing up that started to guide you towards what you are doing now?
I always wanted to work for myself and not compromise on my ideas, but I never really knew what I wanted to do. Besides wanting to be an entrepreneur, I always knew I wanted to make a change for women by working with and for them.
What is ISLA, what services does it offer? And how did you come up with this idea?
ISLA is a innovative and inclusive retail destination. We are an online and offline community with a love for fashion, music and beauty. At ISLA you can come to shop streetwear, get your nails and braids did, DJ or just hang out. The whole idea started with the nail salon. I've always been into getting my nails done but there wasn't a cool salon that offered trendy nail art in Berlin.
Combining nails, women’s streetwear, and DJing with events in the shop really makes ISLA a community oriented place for people to come together. Do you feel that ISLA has been a positive addition to the community or even created a new community in Berlin?
I hope we do! We offer the CDJs for womxn to come in and practice, so in that sense I do think there are people that have a place to practice now that didn't have anywhere to go to before. Promoters and brands also ask me to help them with their bookings because they know there are female DJs coming in at ISLA all the time. So in that sense, I really feel like we do contribute.
How has the past year been for ISLA, has it grown in different ways then you originally expected?
When I started ISLA, I prepared my mindset that it probably wouldn't go as planned ], and it didn't really. Although it's doing really well, I expected to have more nail technicians working by now (year 2). But I have to say I'm very impatient in general so my business plan was very ambitious.
What is it like building and running your own business? What were some unexpected obstacles or challenges you overcame when building this brand?
First of all, it's so much fun and rewarding, but it hasn't always been fun. The first 6 months were very very tough. I really considered giving up a few times, it was just so stressful and not enough money was coming in. I had freelance side jobs to be able to continue ISLA. I was investing a lot of my own money into the company, and I wasn't sure how long I wanted to continue doing that. But luckily my (now) husband and business mentor both really convinced me not give up and helped me to see the bigger picture.
Do you have any words of wisdom with what people should keep in mind or work on for those interested in starting their own company?
Starting your own business is fucking hard work. I imagine it to be similar to having kids, it's on your mind 24/7. But of course, having your own company is also very rewarding and at the end of the day, definitely worth it.
What are you looking forward to learning this year, whether it be for yourself or for ISLA?
We have ideas for a beauty line and we're trying to get an investment for this. I would love to learn how to best pitch these ideas to investors to get them excited.
Anything else you’d like to add?
When you feel like you have a good idea for a business, talk to the right people for advice. I spoke to so many (mainly old) people who advised me not to go in to brick and mortar because they read somewhere that 'retail is dead'. Which in a way is true, but I strongly believe that if you have an innovative idea it takes an innovative person to really get it. My point is; don't let someone that doesn't even get your vision demotivate you!