Origin Story Interview W/ Sebastian Alexander Guldstoev, Continued Fasion

Origin Story Interview W/ Sebastian Alexander Guldstoev, Continued Fasion

Brighter Future


Jul 6, 2022

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #SustainableFashion #CircularEconomy #FashionInnovation #FashionRevolution #EthicalBusiness #FutureOfFashion

Brighter Future

Today, we’re thrilled to be joined by Sebastian Guldstoev, the CEO of Continued Fashion, a retail platform focused on creating systemic change in the fashion industry by connecting brands with consumers and recirculating clothes. Continued Fashion enables brands to become more circular by facilitating the resale and rental of their items while learning from data insights that can help them understand the lifecycle and long-term value of their products.

Hi, Sebastian! Thank you so much for speaking to us today. We’re excited to learn more about you and Continued Fashion. Let’s jump in with the basics. Where are you from?

Hi! I’m a Danish-born citizen. However, my dad is a mix of Latin American and Spanish and my mom is native Danish. This gave me an international mindset from an early age, and I was lucky enough to travel a lot—both within and outside of Europe—in my younger years.

We all know that the fashion industry is responsible for vast quantities of waste each year and has a massive carbon footprint. Continued Fashion is a really innovative approach to solving—or at least reducing the impact—of that through a model that is profitable and efficient for brands. What led you to join this forward-looking company?

I always knew that I wanted to do something that would have an impact on other people, something that creates change.When I was young, I never really knew what that would be. You often hear people say that, from a young age, they just knew what they wanted to do. Or that they’ve been pursuing a goal since they were five years old. I never had that same feeling. And if I had followed my young dreams, I would probably have ended up being a medieval soldier, living in a completely different era! I loved everything related to old wars, history and different eras in time. Even though I never had that ONE thing that I knew I wanted to do, I somehow knew that I wanted to work on something that would have an impact. When I grew up a little more, I was also very inspired by big achievements and the visionaries and creators of hugely successful companies. When I was growing up, my dad had his own HiFi company, so I believe that this somehow inspired me to think independently and do things on my own. When I started my studies at Copenhagen Business School, I wanted to work with inspiring products, so I pursued a career in tech and Danish start-ups. I was fortunate enough to work for some very inspiring leaders and companies, and I believe that this nurtured in me a curiosity and willingness to create something that will have an impact.    

Amazing. It’s always really interesting to look back and see where those tiny seeds of interest and inspiration were first planted. You may not have known exactly what you wanted to do, but it sounds like you knew your values and what excited you. How did you get to where you are now—the CEO of a successful sustainable fashion organisation, and what motivated you to join Continued Fashion?

During my studies, I was lucky enough to work with some truly inspiring tech leaders in both large companies and small start-ups. I also had the opportunity to start small projects on the side of my studies, like student organisations. This resulted in very educational experiences, and it is wonderful to see that CBS Running—the student running organisation that I and a couple of students started at Copenhagen Business School—is still very active and making a difference for a lot of young students. While studying, I was very interested in entrepreneurship and also CSR and sustainability. So, being able to combine these elements into what I am doing today is a huge motivation in itself. Knowing that what we are doing at Continued Fashion is actually making a difference for both the companies using our products as well as for the planet gives us so much meaning. Making real sustainability a choice for users is so inspiring and motivating, and that opportunity drew me to the company. We all need to take action—for us, our loved ones and for the planet. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth.

When you think about all Continued Fashion has achieved and is yet to achieve, who exactly are you doing this for? What is the goal or mission of Continued Fashion?

Essentially, the end goal is to make a systemic change and behavioural impact. We aim to enlighten consumers by showing them that buying brand-new products is not always the only and right choice, but that you can actually get as much value from used products. Of course, the best solution is to not buy anything new at all. In an ideal world, we would just keep using, re-using and repairing the same products. However, this is not always possible, and, therefore, we believe that giving brands and consumers the opportunity to choose differently by offering them more sustainable choices is a good way to start. 

That’s an incredible vision—and you’re certainly achieving it! Running a business is not the most traditional career path, and a sustainable, planet-first business even less so! Did you always know that you would do something different than expected?

I’ve always known that I wanted to do something that would have an impact and be useful to others. I took a minor at CBS in Sustainable Business, so when I was writing my Master’s thesis on CSRand sustainability, I started to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of creating shared value for people, society, the company and the environment. So, achieving these things with what we are doing at Continued Fashion became such a strong motivator and something that I could not neglect. I had to pursue it. Of course, there is a lot of risk when you go into a new start-up company, as there will be a lot of responsibility and unknowns. But you have to embrace these and be ready for them; otherwise, you will not sleep well at night, and you will not be able to be yourself and perform well. Of course, I also feel the pressure from “the unknowns” when problems arise. This could, for example, be related to our product, our investments or customers. But you have to be able to see through this, to always be positive and trust that we can find the right solution. And this was also the reason why I wanted to pursue this endeavour. Because not doing it due to risks or unknowns would, for me, be something that I know I would regret. Once you then start doing it and you are in it, and you can feel that this is the right place, that this feels right, then you know that you have followed your inner and most authentic self.

We couldn’t agree more! It takes a lot of time, effort, determination and sometimes sacrifice to run a business. It’s certainly not for everyone. What made you believe that you had what it takes to be successful with Continued Fashion?

I have previously launched a very successful student organisation and my own start-up projects, all of which got good traction, so I’ve always known that I can achieve the things I set out to do. And, as I mentioned previously, I’ve always wanted to create something that has a positive impact on people. I’ve always trusted my ability to do this and known my own abilities and limitations. So, my life journey, as well as my professional work experiences, shaped me into who I am today and provided me with the self-confidence and wisdom to trust that I can achieve something with impact. With passionate and talented people, nothing is impossible. We have seen that throughout history, and I’ve personally experienced that multiple times myself. The members of our very experienced team at Continued Fashion have a deep insight and passion for their respective fields, whether from working in similar businesses in the past (within circularity and sustainability) or from studying the field for years. When I saw their skills, experience and passion in action, I knew that we could achieve something great together, whether by doing things a bit differently or even a bit better. 

Yes! It has been said many times that you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with, so the team behind an idea can be make or break. Were there times, whether in your life or your career, when things didn’t go to plan or you took a different direction than originally planned? If so, what did you learn from that?  

One of my first start-up projects was with my super-talented techy little brother, Lukas. We built our product entirely from scratch and started a company, going live in just about three months. To this day, it is still one of the fastest executions I’ve ever seen, and I am still impressed with what the two of us could actually achieve in such a short period. Traction for the product was also quite good, and we started investing a bit more of our own money into the project for our acquisition strategy. We quickly realised, however, that we needed more money than what we, as students, could afford to invest. At this point, we started looking into what we could actually expect to earn in terms of ROI and getting our money back. It became apparent that we really needed to raise money in order to succeed with this business. Until then, we had hoped to just bootstrap it ourselves and grow organically. Looking back, I don’t think we were ready to raise money at that point in our lives, so we slowly started doing other things and decided to end the project. It was definitely a case of things taking a different direction than we had hoped or anticipated. We weren’t experienced enough, and, at that time, we didn’t have the right resources to raise big capital. But we did learn something very important: that we can execute. We learned that we both have the skills to build a great product that people actually want to use. We proved that we could see possibilities and that we were certainly not afraid of testing them out and executing them. This was a great achievement, and it provided us with insights and experience that we both utilise to this very day. After this project didn’t go the way I wanted, I took a job as a consultant and helped companies and start-ups to build effective digital, growth and acquisition strategies. 

Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s important to acknowledge that great ideas and great people sometimes fail. Maybe the timing is not right, or the team is not right, or perhaps mistakes are made along the way and essential lessons are learned for future endeavours. Ultimately, nothing is wasted, and it’s all part of the process. Did you experience any failures or setbacks when you started out on your journey? If so, what did you learn from them?

The biggest failure I’ve experienced (Spoiler: I did eventually manage to get it right) was when I was almost kicked out of my university. There was a course in my undergraduate programme that I just couldn’t really get a full grasp of. It was something about rhetorics, sentence analysis, old Greek thinkers, logos, pathos and ethos, and how all of this could be drawn into parallels with the business world. Very interesting stuff, and the logos, pathos and ethos part was pretty straightforward, but the entire course took it to new levels, and it started getting pretty complicated and confusing, at least to me. When we reached the final exam, I did not pass. Damn, I thought. As I’m an optimistic person, I was sure I would pass it the next time and started reading up on it again. I took the re-exam. FAILED AGAIN!

Okay, let me give you some background information. When studying at Copenhagen Business School, you have three attempts to pass an exam. If you do not succeed in this, things start getting really nasty. You have to apply for a compensation in order to get further re-exams. In the worst-case scenario, you will basically be terminated from your programme. Now, I had one last attempt to pass this exam, so I was starting to feel the pressure. I wanted so badly to complete my studies, and my worst fear was being excluded from school due to a failed exam, especially for (what seemed to me, at least) such a “silly” course. I was offered the chance to take the entire course for one more semester with the classes below me. So, I had to take this entire course again while continuing my ordinary studies. It was a very tough time, and I certainly felt like a big failure. As the semester went on, I paid as much attention as I could, preparing myself as much as possible so I could pass this exam. To make things worse, I had a friend studying at CBS who, after failing a different course three times, had to say goodbye to his studies. Seeing it really happen to someone I knew added even further pressure to my whole situation. The day came, and I nervously took the exam. I could barely get myself to click the link and check my grade. I PASSED! I barely passed, scraping by with the lowest grade possible, but I was so grateful that I could move on with my studies and that my worst fear could finally disappear.

This whole experience taught me two things. One, that you need to take things seriously and have to do your best in order to succeed. And, two, that things will work out and you will always find a solution. I guess the higher powers wanted me to pass. I mean, they could just as easily have made me fail, right?

That’s a great example of resilience and persisting through adversity—and also a good example of not underestimating potential challenges. It sounds like you learned a powerful lesson. When reflecting on the process of getting a business off the ground, many people report experiencing an “a-ha!” moment. A moment when something just makes sense or clicks into place. Have you ever had that experience?

Yes, I have! My greatest “a-ha!” moment was when I realised that we, as people, can do and achieve much more than we are told we can do or more than we are expected to do. You are expected to get a good, useful education. Something you can then utilise for many years on the“normal” job market. Once I realised that this was not the only way in life to have a great, long and fulfilling career, it changed my perspective on things. Having been educated at a top business school, this paradigm shift was difficult to accept. You are easily deluded into thinking that other possibilities outside of the safe, traditional path are hard. Hence, it takes some courage to actually make this change and not put yourself into situations where you are forced to follow this ordinary route. Instead, you actually put yourself in situations where you can follow your heart, be true to yourself, and do what feels right and what you actually want to do.

That’s a great “a-ha!” moment and a lesson it takes some people decades to learn. Sometimes we have to sacrifice what other people want for us in order to become who we really are. Speaking of sacrifice, did you have to make any serious sacrifices to get to where you are in your career today?

There have been times throughout my career when I have said no to great corporate opportunities—offers that would secure me a very high salary, a nice car, a large mortgage and a fancy house. So, looking at friends earning 10x what I earned or at people with no education earning more than me could sometimes be very hard. From time to time, I have, of course, asked myself if it was really worth it? It’s a big sacrifice to make. Of course, there is also the sense of safety and security that comes with a corporate career. Risk is inevitably involved when you work with start-ups, so this combination of low salary and high risk is something you need to be able to say yes to. But when there is high risk, there is, as we also learned at the very same business school, high reward/potential upside. This, combined with the freedom and ability to achieve things with a product and a great team, is what makes it worth it for me. Looking back on my career, starting out in multiple Nordic start-up companies, doing my own start-up projects and now being partner and CEO of a start-up company, it’s all a sign to me that if you follow your true inner self, good things will come. You have to be true to yourself, believe in yourself, and be willing to make those tough sacrifices. One day, it will all become clear, and you will see the bigger picture. 

The safety and financial security of traditional employment is one of the most common sacrifices reported by entrepreneurs and high achievers, so you’re certainly not alone in that sentiment. As a people and a planet, we are currently undergoing a period of great change. As someone contributing to the building of a better world for our future generations through Continued Fashion, we’d love to know how you envision the future?

I believe that we will become much more digital and, simultaneously, much more sustainable. The combination of these two trends will be omnipresent. We need to act, and we need to act now. The forces of these two elements combined will probably be what will solve our problems. Basically, there is no alternative, as I see it. Change has to come. But it should be done in the right way, as we’re also seeing more distance being created between people. The “always on” lifestyle, for example, creates some of the highest rates of stress that we have ever seen. When that happens, digital and tech become very counterproductive. The beauty lies in the solutions and forces being combined to solve these issues.

That’s a very positive outlook. Thank you for sharing! When future generations look back on your life and what you have achieved, what do you hope they’ll take away from your story?

I want people to find inspiration in my story and proof that everything is possible if you believe in yourself and follow your heart. I also want people to be inspired and to know that sometimes we need people to lead the way and dare to come up with new solutions that challenge the status quo. We need people who are willing to take a risk and never give up. People with a constant force and passion for achieving the impossible. 

That’s powerful stuff! We’ve spoken a little about future generations in terms of the planet and climate change. Now, we’d like to give you a chance to speak directly to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, young or old, who are just starting out and are possibly shaping the future through their businesses. What advice do you have for them?

Trust yourself. Learn to listen to yourself and your instincts. Follow your gut feeling and constantly develop it. Do not be afraid to try things, no matter what the expectations and external pressures that are put upon you. Things will go your way. When you get a great opportunity and it feels good, go do it rather than stay with the safe choice. After all, what is the worst that could happen? Last but not least, please remember that everything is possible. My dad used to have a saying: “You can do what you want”. This is strongly embedded in my way of thinking, and I want to pass this idea on. And one more thing: always stay positive! Nothing can move mountains and make the impossible possible more than being positive and trusting that things will go your way. If you believe that a solution is always just ahead, you will go much farther than you ever thought possible!

Great advice, Sebastian! It was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to you today. To finish up, we’ve got one last question for you: If there was one lasting message you could share with the world, what would it be?

Remember to trust yourself and constantly challenge the status quo. Everything is possible, but it is up to you to do something about it. It is only you who can make it happen. No one will come out of the blue and do it for you. 


A huge thank you to our wonderful guest Sebastian from Continued Fashion for participating in this interview and sharing his knowledge! If you would like to find out more about Sebastian and the great work he is doing at Continued Fashion, you can find him at: www.continued.fashion.

To stay up to date with all of our latest content and interviews with amazing people like Sebastian, subscribe to theBrighter Future newsletter here.

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