KJUS CEO and President, Didi Serena, started his career in the finance sector; however, he soon realised that particular industry wasn’t for him. He was always interested in sports, which led him to launch his first business—a Swiss-based distribution company—in 1979. The business became part of an international group in 1984, but by 2000 Didi decided it was time to go out on his own again. Drawing on his past experiences he created KJUS, a technical ski wear label which has since expanded into golf and active lifestyle wear.
“I think the biggest thing I have learned is that it’s really all about how you support your dedicated people,” says Didi. “You want them to be happy, to go the extra mile and to do more than just their 9 to 5 job. For me, everything has been built on the spirit of being a sportsman because the person who plays a high-level sport is usually very team-orientated.
I always say that the leader needs to be the guy who walks in front of the team, acts as a role model and keeps the banner up—inspires and motivates—because then the whole team follows.
“They believe in you as their leader, they accept you, they want to be part of the success, and they appreciate the authenticity. Saying that, they also need some room to do things their own way. I have never believed in being too strict; however, at the end of the day, someone needs to make the decisions, keep the banner up, and walk the talk.”
Since its inception, KJUS has gone through several different phases to get to the successful position it is in today. “I think there’s always a couple of phases when you build a brand,” Didi explains. “The beginning is a 3 to 4 year period where it is really tough because the market is very competitive. When we launched our ski line in 2000 there were already lots of ski brands out there. Some people told us we were ‘crazy’, but we felt there was an opportunity and that there was room for something new. We needed to convince the consumers that KJUS was something really special.”
Then, after several years, if you do phase one right the momentum starts to pick up, he says. “We had a huge jump in turnover and—most importantly—a huge jump in interest from the best sports stores in the world—from the US and Europe: France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Norway.”