Career Stories: running a concept store with your sister

What about running a concept store? This wasn’t exactly the idea sisters Romy (1986 – in the turquoise sweater) and Débra (1987 – in pink) had in mind for the future. Because of an exceptional chain of events, these siblings ended up owning an inspiring and successful concept store in Amsterdam.

Débra and Romy are the owners of Indianaweg10, a quirky mini-warehouse which is different from all the other concept stores in De Pijp area. They sell handpicked vintage and new clothing, plants, cosmetics, accessories and all sorts of interior bits and pieces. Débra: “Many concept stores in Amsterdam sell the same cactuses, the same ‘unique’ brands and design objects. We strive do be different by staying true to our own style and choices.”

What were these circumstances, how did it al start?
Débra: “I got fired in 2014 and Romy just got back from traveling the world. We wanted to start something new. Something challenging. So we opened a bank account and put in 300 euro’s each. You could say we started off with a rather modest start-up capital.”
Romy: “We started visiting warehouses where second-hand clothing was sold in bulk. There’s a lot of shit, but if you develop a sharp eye, you’ll find real vintage gems. It took us hours to get through everything. I’m a lot quicker these days, ha!”

So you certainly never dreamt of becoming a shop owner.
D: “I went to art school.”
R: “The only thing that stuck to me from studying Law are my student debts.”

You started collecting vintage, what was the next step?
R: “We started selling our gems via a webshop and it worked out well. There’s a big market for handpicked good quality vintage.”
D: “In 2014, we opened a pop-up shop at Waterlooplein for a month and that really worked out well. That was the first time we realized we were doing something we both liked very much and could make a living off.”
R: “This pop-up adventure made us want to open a permanent shop. So we did in 2015! We found a beautiful place at the Tichelstraat, in the Jordaan area.”
D: “We thought, fuck it. Let’s do this.”
R: “We didn’t have a plan or whatsoever and suddenly, we worked seven days a week. Both Débra and I had part time job too, we needed a steady income, to begin with. Those days were pretty hectic.”

The shop moved recently to The Pijp area, how come?
D: “Let’s say, our first location was pretty much too far off the beaten track.”

You handpick all items sold at Indianaweg10. How often don’t you just want to keep something for yourself? 
R: “Haha! Quite often. But if my closet gets too full, I take some stuff back to the shop.”
D: “I have to admit, everything I’m wearing right now, comes from Indianaweg10. But I think it’s important too: it represents what we find beautiful and what we sell.”

Tell me something more about the name Indianaweg 10.
D: “We wanted something personal, but didn’t want to use our own names, as many shops in Amsterdam do so. Indianaweg 10 used to be our home address in Curacao, where we grew up. It felt so right. Commercially, it proved not such a convenient name.”
R.: “People thought Indianaweg 10 was our address, and couldn’t find it in Amsterdam. People thought we sold stuff that was made in India or by Indians. I can laugh about it now. And when people know the real story, they like it.”

The pros and cons of working with your sibling?
R: “You don’t have to do everything on your own.”
D: “Things are far more efficient and get done a lot quicker as sisters – even arguments. That’s how family works. We fight, we make up. We are very different people.”
R: “Definitely a con: it’s impossible to go on a family holiday together. That’s something we used to do a lot.”

Do you have a specific role?
R: “I’m very online minded: I like to keep our Instagram and Facebook pages up to date. It’s an important aspect of our business: we sell quite a lot of clothing and plants via social media.”
D: “We complement each other very well. I’m the do-it-yourself kind of person. I love to fix things and I’m absolutely not into online things or whatsoever. I barely use Whatsapp. But hey, you don’t drive a car.”
R: “Correct. I don’t like driving.”
D: “That being said, we do a lot of things together. Nearly everything. Apart from these things.”

What was the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
D: “I have virtually no free time.”
R: “I used to have more money during my college days.”

Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business.
R: “Hire an accountant!”
D: “Dare to take risks. Does who dare, will win. Don’t play safe, but distinguish and move above the commodity crowd. Trust your gut feeling and go for it. That’s something we did with the Tichelstraat. We could’ve stayed there forever. But we made the risky decision to move. We always stayed true to ourselves and true to our taste and that’s something people are coming back for. They tell us we’re different. And that’s our unique selling point.”
R: “Many concept stores in Amsterdam sell the same stuff. We trust on our own taste and try and find unique second-hand and new items. We’re always looking for gems that aren’t sold anywhere else in Amsterdam. We sell some eco cosmetics too, they’re hard to get in Amsterdam. You can only get them in one other tiny shop.”
D: “In terms of brands, we really want to be distinctive.”
R: “And if it doesn’t sell, dare to change.”
D: “It’s trial and error. If the shop location doesn’t work, move. If nobody buys a certain product, don’t try and sell it.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?
D: “I hope it will be more relaxed.”
R: “Ik hope we can hire personnel.”
D: “Good idea, it would be great to take a day off. And a bigger shop would be great too…”
R: “And our own brand!”
D: “Our own collection is something we’ve been dreaming of for years. But it’s a difficult process. And I hope that in five years, people know that we’re the place in Amsterdam for the best-handpicked vintage. There’s so much junk around.
R: “And buying vintage is much sustainable than buying something cheap at Primark.”

Like stories like these? Esther runs (and founded) Studio Modijefsky, a leading interior design studio, based in Amsterdam. You might want to read her interesting Career Story too!