Stephania Stefanakou is a fashion technology entrepreneur, and the CEO and Co-Founder at House of Anesi, a lingerie-tech startup based in Toronto. With a Bachelor of Design from Ryerson University, and a background in Digital Fabrication, she first started her research into shape-shifting clothing during a semester at Manchester Metropolitan University. As well as being the driving force in bringing the first fully adaptive bra to market, Stephania has showcased multiple tech projects at Toronto exhibitions, appeared as a panelist at TODO Festival 2018, and founded STEFANAKOU Studio, an interdisciplinary studio focussed on merging 3D Printing and fashion. A former advisor at Ryerson’s DME (Digital Media Experience) Lab and FCAD Fabrication Lab, Stephania also gives her time as a Crowdfunding Consultant to startups who want to launch a crowdfunding campaign, after her Kickstarter’s success.
My first job ever was… at a restaurant in Wasaga Beach when I was 14 years old! I was a server’s assistant so I basically cleaned up tables! I learned from a young age that I need to work hard in order to get what I want. But now I believe I have to work hard AND smart in order to achieve everything I want.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I honestly never really “decided” to be an entrepreneur. I think I am one now just because I have worked on House of Anesi for 3 years. During those years I realized that creating products like the Anesi Bra, makes women feel happy, comfortable about their body and more confident and that is what makes me happy! Also, I have had many jobs since I was 14 and after having so many bosses, managers and supervisors I realized two things: 1) I wanted to become my own boss 2) I am not employable!!!
The idea for House of Anesi came… during a hackathon I attended in my 3rd year of university in March 2015. The hackathon was called “Re-Engineering Fashion” and I was a big fashion technology nerd. I met my two engineer co-founders, Jacob John and Leen Al-Taher, we decided to mix our backgrounds and research together with the biggest problem Leen and I had — our bras!
We decided to create an adaptable bra, which would adapt to the women’s breast size changes everytime we got our periods, started a new birth control prescription or started menopause! That idea and business model helped us win the hackathon and eventually 7 more awards!
I am 24 and in the last 3.5 years I have launched 3 startups which all have brought me money!
My proudest accomplishment.. As of July 2018 my proudest moment became the success of my Kickstarter campaign — it raised $90,452 CAD for the Anesi Bra. Again, not many people believed we would make it, they thought we were asking for too much money ($65,000 was our funding goal) but we did make it and then surpassed it!!
My boldest move to date was… launching a Kickstarter campaign with half-done prototypes. It was a risk I had to take otherwise we would not have enough money to continue the company. We launched the campaign, women believed in our vision, raised the money and now the Anesi Bra is perfect and will start shipping it out in February 2019!
I surprise people when I tell them… how old I am and how many startups I have started! I am 24 and in the last 3.5 years I have launched 3 startups which all have brought me money! House of Anesi was the first one, the second one was the STEFANAKOU studio, an interdisciplinary studio fusing fashion with 3D printing and the third one is THE POWERHOUSE Consulting, a crowdfunding consulting agency!
My best advice to people starting their business is… to be persistent and not to strive for perfection from the start. You will never get something perfect right away, you should create something, test it, receive feedback and improve. Then again test it, receive feedback and improve even more. Only by testing with your customer will you ever create something perfect!
My best advice from a mentor was… you don’t face problems, only opportunities. If things don’t go the way you want them to something better is coming.
My biggest setback was… a manufacturer that stopped communication with me back in January 2018 after 6 months of arrangements. I had to postpone Kickstarter and find new designers and manufacturers which took me 2 months.
I overcame it by… crying and intensely searching for someone else for 4 weeks! I did not give up, I called everyone I knew, I messaged everyone on LinkedIn, emailed every apparel and lingerie manufacturer I could find and posted on different freelancer websites. Eventually, I found a lady that was a designer and production manager! I have a specific vision and i will accomplish that no matter what!
You don’t face problems, only opportunities. If things don’t go the way you want them to something better is coming.
The challenge I’m still working on is… not taking things personally. I’m trying a lot to work on this and I think I’m getting better. I used to feel so attacked every time someone said something bad about House of Anesi because it’s my baby! I understand you are not supposed to be emotionally connected with your startup but I am so in love with my mission and vision.
If I don’t succeed it with House of Anesi, I will create another company with the same mission, to help women’s health and wellness, to make sure they feel happy, comfortable and confident. After pitching at many competitions and in front of angel investors, I have become much better at not taking their feedback personally and actually improving my business plan and pitch deck!
I never go a day without… visualizing my dreams and dancing! Everyday I do this!! I will blast music in my apartment, usually Cardi B or latin music haha and dance like I’m in a recital! It gives me so much energy and I can dance however I like because nobody can see me! Lastly, I have been visualizing for years, during high-school I would daydream the life I wanted and now I have actually started writing down all my dreams and goals.
The last book I read was… the ‘Energy Leadership’ by Bruce D. Schneider.
I stay inspired by… other women’s accomplishments and by the innovation in fashion technology. I love reading the journeys of other successful women and how they managed failures. I also love reading and learning about the latest innovations in fashion technology, for example how to improve apparel with the use of biotechnology and bacteria! It allows my imagination to go wild and makes me truly believe that we can create anything we set our minds to!
The future excites me because… I have a good feeling! I know it is very cheesy to say but for years I have felt that something great will happen to me. So everytime I fail or something wrong happens, this feeling keeps me going. The idea that I can change the lingerie and technology industry, that I will be able to travel the world, buy my parents anything they want, start businesses and inspire people to do better! I know I will accomplish these one day and that excites me!