CEO and founder of SOUKRA
Pauline Eveillard is a mission-driven entrepreneur who connects with an international community, forging unexpected, yet strong relationships. She is the CEO and founder of SOUKRA, an e-commerce platform that celebrates goods and apparel from Tunisia’s creative community. Her entrepreneurial spirit was ignited when living in Tunisia as a Fulbright fellow, where she embraced new opportunities and established lifelong connections in Tunisia. She has applied that entrepreneurial mindset throughout her career.
In 2010, while working at the international preservation non-profit, World Monuments Fund, she launched Fouta Lifestyle, importing and e-retailing the Tunisian fouta, a versatile 100% cotton fabric, after noticing a void in the US market. In 2016, she left WMF to rebrand Fouta Lifestyle into SOUKRA, expanding into new collections from Tunisian designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs, many who have launched since the Arab Spring. Pauline recognizes opportunities for growth and fosters deep connections through initiatives centered on core values and engagement strategies
Pauline is a curious, solutions-driven, compassionate and agile entrepreneur. She is committed to fostering mutual understanding between cultures through her work celebrating and showcasing Tunisia’s creative community. She is always learning and maintains a high level of integrity.
My mother is my female role model. She worked on Wall Street her entire career, focusing on mid-size retail brands. As a child, I didn’t think anything of it. She would always be home at 7pm for us to have dinner together. She and my father would split time going to my volleyball games. She was always there for the family, and supported my endeavors, whatever they were. She taught me to stay true to myself; to follow my own path, passions, interests, and strengths. And with that, I was able to take on challenges, make mistakes, get experiences, and learn from it all. She stands firm and with integrity in who she is, and has taught me to do the same
To no surprise, one of my favorite places to visit is Tunisia. For the people, places and stories I continue to explore. I also enjoy returning to New York to spend time with family, and places that bring back memories of my childhood, such as the Hudson Valley, New York, Brittany, France, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. When not traveling, I visit museums and different neighborhoods in San Francisco, where I live.
I don’t travel without a Tunisian fouta. It’s always in my bag for unexpected chilly places and impromptu picnics with our daughter
How did you get into the industry?
I’ve worked in two separate industries, non-profit development for 7 years and e-commerce start-up for 3 years. Some may not make the connection, but my work in both is rooted in raising awareness of cultural heritage, preserving craftsmanship and fostering a loyal audience, which stems from my art history studies. I was always someone who didn’t know what I wanted to do but knew what I didn’t want to do. So I approached opportunities as a way to explore what work is fulfilling to me, what my strengths are, where I can improve, what I don’t ever want to do, and what inspires me to wake up and work every day.
Any emerging industry trends?
There has been a growing movement of consumers (many of them Millennials and Gen X) who seek out brands that minimize the human and environmental toll of production. They buy products that are unique and have a story behind them. Consumers want to know how products are made and who fabricated them. You see this with the initiative, Fashion Revolution – who made my clothes?, which teaches the social and environmental impacts of buying clothes. Consumers are also conscious of materials and environmental sustainability. They avoid synthetic fabrics and search for products made of recycled materials or in a circular economy. However, the story, sustainability, and brand mission don’t replace the fact that consumers have to like the product.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
When buying and curating SOUKRA, I’m aware of consumers’ interests in socially and environmentally sustainable products. SOUKRA is committed to showcasing Tunisia’s designers, artisans and entrepreneurs, so we’re already telling an exciting story. The challenge we’re seeing is that there are so many e-commerce sites out there, that it’s hard to be noticed amid a myriad of brands. So in addition to e-commerce, we do pop-ups, fairs, and have a limited number of wholesale accounts.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Timing played a big part in launching SOUKRA. While working full-time at World Monuments Fund, I started importing the Tunisian fouta, but I found the single product limiting. When the Arab Spring happened at the end of 2010 into 2011, I followed what was happening there through my friends and Instagram. After a few years, I noticed co-working spaces and concept stores opening, designers and social entrepreneurs launching their own businesses, and architects pursuing product design. After 7 years at World Monuments Fund, it was time to leave, shed a spotlight on Tunisia’s burgeoning community of creatives, and connect their goods with international tastemakers. The vision is to foster mutual understanding between cultures by showcasing Tunisia’s creatives and their products, which can easily be incorporated into our lives.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Maintaining the business is much harder than launching it. To maintain the business is a constant pursuit and retention of customers, and it can be demoralizing when business is slow. So I recommend patience, perseverance, and flexibility as important skills to have when launching and growing your own business. Since we’re self-funded, we work lean and use consultants and contractors when necessary. I also believe it’s important to establish core values and stay true to those values. Because in moments of doubt, there will be trends and suggestions that steer you away from those values. People are perceptive and take note when a brand has followed a fad instead of staying true to their mission. Lastly, it’s a zero-sum game, so test and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
* DAY IN THE LIFE OF PAULINE EVEILLARD *
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM: Sleep until 6:30AM, when my daughter wakes
10:00 AM: Working from The Wing in San Francisco.
12:00 PM: Favorite Lunch spot/meal? If not eating at The Wing’s café, I step out into the plaza outside The Wing and eat lunch I’ve brought from home. It’s a moment I can be away from a screen, soak in the sun, and watch people walk by.
7:00 PM: Back home getting our daughter to bed.
11:00 PM: Deep asleep.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Water throughout the day, fresh-squeezed tart lemonade as a treat.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
The streets of an unfamiliar place.