In Profile: Marita Sanchez de la Cerda

Marita Sanchez de la Cerda

Marita Sanchez de la Cerda

MSc in International Management CEMS ’18

Two years after getting her master’s degree, Marita Sanchez de la Cerda gave up her management consultancy job to focus on SAIZ, the Berlin-based fashion tech start-up she co-founded. The company was shortlisted in the start-up category of the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards 2024.

About Marita Sanchez de la Creda

Tell us about your education and career background

I’m the co-founder and CEO of SAIZ, a sizing and fitting technology start-up for the online fashion industry. I’ve been doing this for two years now and before that my co-founder and I had another business together in the fashion and apparel space. The idea for SAIZ was rooted in seeing inefficiencies. We didn’t understand why it was working in a particular way so we just decided to build the solutions ourselves.

Although my name has Spanish roots I’m originally from Austria. I grew up here in Austria, went to boarding school in the US when I was teenager and then returned to study international business as an undergrad in Vienna and Boston.

I wanted to find out what I was really passionate about in business and organisations  so I took a gap year and spent some time working in Stuttgart for Daimler Benz and in Barcelona for a public organisation. When I graduated I worked for another six months, this time for a utilities company in Vienna.

I ended up deciding to continue my studies, which is how I came to UCD. I did my Master’s Degree in International Management in UCD and in London at LSE. And I also met my co-founder, Svenja Tegtmeier at LSE.

Shortly after that I started my career in management consulting. I’m always driven by trying to understand how businesses work, what makes them successful and what doesn’t work so I thought consulting was a good route to go into at the time. It definitely taught me a lot and I think it laid the groundwork for my entrepreneurial journey.

I was in consultancy for two years. The idea for SAIZ started to take shape while I was working there. As you’d imagine consulting isn’t the best job for having a side hustle because you work quite a bit. The idea was taking root and then I thought, let’s try this fulltime.

It was my first time handing in my notice and I was also betting everything on myself and my business partner so it was definitely a little bit daunting but I was very excited to do it too. Looking back now it was the best decision I ever made.

What is your role now?

We’re co-CEOs and I’m on the commercial side while Svenja is on the technical side. I do everything related to the business. Everything to do with clients, marketing and sales and also the financial aspects is overseen by me. Svenja oversees the tech teams, the data and the software teams.

We launched a product last year that offers sizing and fitting recommendations for fashion brands. This tool can be installed in their e-commerce stores to assist customers in selecting the correct size. Based on the data model, we analyse and relay this data back to the brands, helping them gather business insights about their customers' preferences and the sizes they are purchasing. This information is used to improve operations, making them more sustainable and efficient. Therefore, it's not merely a gamified approach for end-users, but a highly intelligent business tool for organisations in the fashion and apparel industry.

For me it’s been a very interesting ride to deep dive into the commercial side of it all and being able to sign quite a lot of clients has been very fulfilling. I’m not a salesperson by design but I’ve learned quite a lot.

We had a funding round last year so we’ve been able to build our team out and grow the company and that’s been a very rewarding journey.

We’re based in Berlin and have been focused on the DACH region although our growth plans will include internationalisation. Eighty percent of our customer portfolio are in the top 60 largest brands in the DACH region. This definitely reflects the type of clients we are able to work with.

What motivates you?

We’re a remote-first team but we do onsite meetings every quarter. We’ve just had an onsite meeting and to see people from different backgrounds come together as a team that we were able to build out based on this idea we once had is something I find so incredible. That idea has come to life, it has an impact, we can see results and we work with all these different stakeholders.

This whole process of seeing this idea that was once in our heads come to life and having an impact just gives me so much motivation every day and I just want to keep building on that.

How would describe your leadership style?

I would say it’s very transparent. I would define myself as a very direct person. I’m a very honest and transparent communicator with the team and also quite enabling. What I want to do is make everybody feel they can fulfil their own potential to the max. I want to be that person who helps them achieve that and support them in their endeavours.

Who has inspired or influenced you?

I grew up in a family where my parents also founded their own business. Seeing how hardworking everybody was around me showed me the kind of person I wanted to become and that if you want to build something you could eventually do it if you put in the work.

That definitely pushed me from an early age to keep working towards my goals and to become who I am today. Being brought up in such a loving, caring environment instilled in me the confidence that I could do whatever I wanted to do.

Is ongoing learning important?

I think it’s something that’s in and around us every day, whether it’s challenges that come up in the business or in relationships in general in your life. I’m a very reflective person. I don’t want to call it overthinking, but I’m very aware of my surroundings so for me there is an opportunity to take a learning in every moment.

What I mean by that is that if it’s a difficult situation or a challenging time I consider myself an optimist. I always try to see the silver lining and that the positive thing in the challenges or difficult situations is the learning.

We have a saying within our organisation: This is what growth feels like. I think this hits the nail on the head that we want to grow personally and as an organisation but sometimes it feels uncomfortable and it’s okay to acknowledge that. And it’s okay for that feeling to be there because it means we’re growing.

What’s your best piece of career advice?

I would love to encourage everyone to go for it if they really believe in something and not be discouraged by voices around them. There’s always going to be voices. If you believe in something to your core I’m a firm believer that it’s the path you’re made for and you should do it. Just go for it, try it out, talk to people and get the feedback.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

I’m very proud of how far we’ve come with the start-up, with the organisation and with what we’ve built. It’s a large achievement. That’s definitely what I’m proudest of in this moment.

What are your plans going forward?

Obviously to keep building the business and to make this into something that’s going to be serving more clients and having an impact on a larger scale.

But it’s also about not losing who I am as a person and staying true to myself and being able to create an environment so that I will be proud of who I am as a standalone person as well. So, it will be about developing in tandem with the organisation personally and professionally. 

Insight Track

How has your degree benefited your career and/or personal life?

I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

How important is your UCD alumni network to you?

Being nominated with fellow UCD alumni for the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards showed me again how amazing and inspiring it is to stay connected to the network.

What are your main interests outside work?

Sports and discovering new books to read.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you

In 2015, I spent one month in Hawaii studying Mandarin.

What piece of technology can you not live without?

My Kindle.

What is your pet hate?

Being late.

Who’s your favourite writer and/or what’s your favourite book?

Currently my favourite book is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

And what is your favourite band or musician?

According to my Spotify Wrapped 2023 – Sofiane Pamart.

What’s the last gig you went to that you loved?

A Harry Styles concert.

What team do you support?

McLaren Formula 1.

What is your favourite place in the world to visit and why?

The mountains (winter and summer) because of the serenity.

What’s on your bucket list?

Doing a triathlon (Olympic distance counts).

January 2024