When Helen Tahk (29) entered the world of work straight from university six years ago, she would never have dreamed that a customer service representative at BonBon Lingerie would be promoted to managing director of the retail company. Even less could she have foreseen the challenges that this title would bring. She had no experience in managing people or building businesses. Today she has successfully opened six stores, each of which has become an irreplaceable haven for every lingerie fan who appreciates luxury. But what can we learn from a young woman who made the bold decision to plunge headfirst into the unknown and let her desire to deliver a world-class customer experience take her to the top? We believe: everything!
From lingerie fan to CEO of Estonia's leading lingerie brand
In order to offer others something unforgettable, you must first believe in what you are offering. That's why Helen is convinced that she would never have been able to understand the needs of her customers so well if she hadn't been a big fan of BonBon lingerie herself. "One of my fondest memories related to lingerie and BonBon was 10-12 years ago when I was walking through the center of Ülemiste with my mother and she wanted to go to the then BonBon branch. We went in and my mother said: "Feel free to look around if you want something too". I just remember looking around in awe, feeling the products and thinking that I couldn't possibly wear something like that or that I was "not worth it." I didn't even think about trying anything on as it felt unnatural for a young girl like me. So my mom went home with a beautiful white lingerie set from Isabel, and I left empty-handed. Now that I'm turning 30 next year, I deserve nothing less than beautiful lingerie and feeling good about myself. The self-confidence that well-fitting, beautiful lingerie gives me is priceless. No one else can see under your clothes, but the knowledge of this is so powerful. In today's world where everything else is on display, lingerie is something that only belongs to you. Only you can decide where, if and with whom you share this little secret. Plus, I now have Isabel's white set in my lingerie collection.
"NO ONE ELSE CAN SEE UNDER YOUR CLOTHES, BUT IT IS THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IS SO POWERFUL. IN TODAY'S WORLD WHERE EVERYTHING IS ON DISPLAY, LINGERIE IS SOMETHING THAT BELONGS ONLY TO YOU."
Despite opening her sixth store in mid-October, Helen feels the excitement has not waned over the years. "To this day I still don't realize that I opened six new stores more or less alone. In the early years I had help, mostly from project managers from construction companies, but I completed 90% of the last two deals on my own. So I was involved in all processes. From lease negotiations to actually opening a store. The middle part between the beginning and the end was a real rollercoaster of emotions for me, during which of course a few tears were shed. Before BonBon, I had no experience with construction project management - I knew nothing about plaster walls, low voltage or safety transformers. But I had to familiarize myself with all this and more, and simply put - deal with it! This really taught me a lot, made me stronger and helped me get thicker skin. The construction industry is a man's world where you have to swim with the sharks. I swam to shore without a scratch, and every visit to our newest Viru store fills me with the greatest sense of pride - I did it! Of course, I also have to thank my father, who was by my side throughout the entire process and guided me in his own way."
"CONSTRUCTION IS A MAN'S WORLD WHERE YOU HAVE TO SWIM WITH THE SHARKS.I SWAM TO THE SHORE WITHOUT A SCRATCH, AND EVERY VISIT TO OUR NEWEST VIRU STORE FILLS ME WITH THE GREATEST FEELING OF PROUD - I DID IT!"
For those waiting for the right moment to start something big, Helen recommends just doing it. "Fake it 'till You make it". All people usually start something new with 0 knowledge. You learn and develop until you can call yourself an expert or professional. By bringing qualities such as self-confidence, competence and an optimistic attitude into our real lives, we can achieve the results we desire. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to succeed in life and enjoy the process. Believe in yourself and your abilities until it becomes reality!
A project is the best opportunity to acquire new skills as you work in order to be successful. The mistakes you make are not failures, but opportunities for further development. “It’s eye-opening to compare Helen today and 23-year-old Helen. The most important area in which I have developed over these six years is self-confidence. I have never experienced a more confident, calmer me. I don't let other people's opinions make me feel insecure (although sometimes that is the case), I feel comfortable in my own body, and I generally have a lot more compassion for others. The hard times are over, the landing was shaky, but the journey was beautiful and pleasant. BonBon Lingerie has also developed a lot since its early years - from a playful girl to a confident woman. So in a sense we have grown together and I firmly believe that the best years of my life are still ahead of me in my 30s. I'll probably be saying the same thing in 10 years, waiting for my 40s to trump the previous years."
Helen is wearing Mara Push-Up Bra.
BonBon Lingerie - more than a woman's dream job
"I feel aroused by my own existence in BonBon Lingerie," says Helen, summing up what BonBon Lingerie means to her. "Working in a lingerie company means my drawer is ONLY filled with the most beautiful lingerie in the world. But that's hardly the best thing about it. The best part is that I give other women the opportunity to own the lingerie that I value and love so much. I have the opportunity to meet other inspiring women and together realize our brand's vision, which is to help every woman get in touch with her feminine energy. This is BonBon Lingerie's contribution to the world and it makes my experience as a woman on this earth so much more special to be a small part of it." Their work is also enhanced by the fact that BonBon Lingerie supports local entrepreneurship while offering lingerie with a unique design to the global market. "We are the ONLY domestically produced lingerie company today that makes truly comfortable, perfectly fitting and beautiful looking handcrafted lingerie for a variety of sizes. What's special about BonBon Lingerie are our designs, especially the ouvert cuts of the Boudoir collection, which are simply stunning - for both men and women!"
"I FEEL EXCITED BY MY OWN EXISTENCE AT BONBON LINGERIE."
Helen is wearing the exclusive Bite Me Long Sleeve Bodysuit.
But what does it mean to be a CEO in retail? "My day starts at 10 a.m., the same time all the shops open. We have three stores - in Ülemiste, Viru and Nautica Shopping Center. On Mondays we have a sales meeting where we discuss last week's sales and see what the coming week will bring. On Tuesdays we have a production and design meeting and on Thursdays we have a meeting with our CFO. My tasks also include delivering new products to the stores twice a week. All of our lingerie has been made in Tallinn since the beginning, and every time I go to our production facility I still feel proud. Next, I go to the stores and make sure they have everything they need to run smoothly and that the salespeople are happy. Of course, there are also various SOS topics that suddenly appear throughout the week. Some weeks I'm particularly excited about, for example when we do a shoot for an upcoming season or, like this time, my very first photo shoot with BonBon."
"ALL OUR LINGERIE HAS BEEN MADE IN TALLINN FROM THE BEGINNING, AND EVERY TIME I GO TO OUR PRODUCTION FACILITY, I'M STILL PROUD."
Having experienced the design process firsthand since her early years, we couldn't help but ask Helen about the lingerie collection she's most fond of. Of course, she couldn't choose just one. "Angelina is my absolute favorite - a luxurious everyday collection. It's honestly just soooo comfortable and beautiful. As you can imagine, my lingerie drawer is filled with various options, but on weekdays my hand inevitably goes to Angelina. Try them and you won't regret it. It comes in black, beige and white, meaning it fits perfectly under any colored outfit. There's a reason we keep reproducing them. The second and most recent favorite of mine is our newest collection Coco Heart. I simply have no words for how special and beautiful this collection is. When I wear them, the feeling I get is un-be-lie-va-ble! Coco Heart's rich details make it one of our most beautiful collections ever.
Helen is pleased that people are paying more and more attention to what they buy and from whom. "Sustainability is becoming more and more important and relevant, and so it is only natural that people prefer local brands whose production chain is transparent and of high quality. BonBon Lingerie is one of the few brands where you can be sure that the lingerie you buy was made under humane conditions, by people who care about you, and in conditions that are healthy for your body. Therefore, one can assume that everything produced in China will either slowly die out or hopefully achieve a similar production quality to ours."
"BONBON LINGERIE IS ONE OF THE FEW BRANDS WHERE YOU CAN BE SURE THAT THE LINGERIE YOU BUY IS UNDER HUMANE CONDITIONS, BY PEOPLE WHO CARE, AND UNDER CONDITIONS THAT ARE HEALTHY ARE MADE FOR THE BODY."
A big thank you to Helen, who came out publicly for the first time!