The talk of the town in the market scene last December was Souky Souky and her attractive throw pillows. Moms were raving on WeChat, and I was pretty hard on myself for not attending the biggest winter fair of 2017. Even so, I didn’t forget about the fantastic original pillows that are made to be treasured and kept forever. Ellen Dittmar is another mother in Beijing who decided to run with her idea of starting a “make your house into a home” business.
Beijing is an easy place to get stuff made for your home on the cheap, or eventually get those same items mass produced in factories. However, this is not the Souky Souky way. Dittmar makes one-of-a-kind products which have the potential to spruce up any room in your home. She also is available to help you with design suggestions for your home over a glass of wine. Check out her website (www.soukysouky.com) for more information.
Why did you start Souky Souky?
Souky Souky was born out of my love for home décor and travel. Both of these things inspire me in equal measure, and I am fueled by the place where they intersect. Having lived overseas for over a decade, I have spent countless hours wandering through souks, bazaars, and markets around the world, collecting and gathering décor items. My home, as a result, contains this eclectic mix of vintage, globally-gathered and one-of-a-kind items; the kind of items you might find in a well-curated boutique shop.
One day it occurred to me that this “boutique shop” look was missing from the Beijing landscape. I loved this style, but I couldn’t buy it anywhere! Beijing has abundant access to mass-produced home goods, but there seems to be very little in the way of handcrafted and vintage items; the type of items that instantly add so much character and depth to a room. I started Souky Souky to help fill the void in the Beijing marketplace. At Souky Souky we source vintage and handmade fabrics from all over the world and then transform them into beautiful throw pillows. By doing so, we provide our customers with both beautiful items that help them create that perfect “gathered” look, and an alternative to purchasing mass-produced home décor.
My other motivation for creating Souky Souky was to give back to the many communities that have played host to me during my travels; China included. I wanted to build a business that was socially responsible and made a genuine difference to the lives of others. With that in mind, Souky Souky invests 10 percent of its proceeds into Kiva grants and loans. We like to say that we are changing lives, one throw pillow at a time.
When did you start Souky Souky?
I officially launched Souky Souky in November 2017. While I am still relatively new to it all, I can say that I am loving the process and the opportunities this business has afforded me. I have already learned so much and have met many inspiring people. It has been a lot of work but a really fun ride so far.
It must be complicated having your own business, how did it all begin for you?
It is hard to say exactly how I started this business. There were so many steps (both little and big) that I had to take to get Souky Souky off the ground, so to speak. But the most important (and probably the hardest) step was simply making the decision to start. Once I committed to that idea of opening a business, I simply made a list of everything I would need to do to make that happen. At first, there was not much on the list, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. I took the baby steps approach. I would just tackle one item at a time and keep adding to-do items as I went along. After many (many!) months of doing, experimenting, learning, and mistaking, I had a sweet little business.
Photos: Courtesy of Ellen Dittmar
This article appeared on p16-17 of beijingkids April 2018 issue