ONCE business was a man’s world, but today, stand aside guys, it looks like women have their hand in almost everything. Some say the “locker room” may be the only one left man space where women are not allowed (pun intended ... perhaps).
But reports back the fact that women really have come a long way, especially in the employment scene, including business. With digital marketing setting the path for the future of business, theSun’s HER! connects with two female digital entrepreneurs, Daphne Chan and Junita Satibi, to talk (about) business.
Behind the gowns
Daphne is the founder of ELEVENTH Gown Studio, synonymous with “made-to-measure bridesmaid dresses”. She established her business in 2013, accessible online via eleventh.com.my which offers an effortless way to source and purchase modern bridesmaid dresses and gowns and provides custom-fit service catering to women of all shapes and sizes. The fact that customers can choose their fabric and design gives ELEVENTH Gown a more personalised touch and a “greener” undertone. Through this unique platform, Daphne’s brand promotes “handmade-to-order bridesmaid dresses right to your door”.
“I still remember before e-commerce flourished, brides had to search high and low just to find a (hopefully) perfect dress for their bridesmaid/s.Back then sizes were standard and made-to-measure was not easily available as an option. It was the norm for bridesmaids to visit the tailor for alterations after buying a dress off the rack,” Daphne shares.
She recalls a time she saw an amusing quote online - You think your friends have good taste in fashion until they ask you to wear an ugly bridesmaid dress! and says: “Yes, picking the right bridesmaid’s attire and to eliminate the girl drama is a tough job for some brides. This was the ignition point to my passion, to develop a solution to this problem.”
While growing her business, Daphne learned that when it came to shopping for bridesmaid dresses, most people tend to think of the (colour) palette, the length, textile or cut, few consider the aesthetics. Hence, she decided to provide her customers with a custom-fit experience, also founded on the utter fact that people are not cookie-cutter beings.
She says that her customer merely needs to go through her easy-to-follow self-measurement guide, after which her experienced tailors take over to cut and craft each dress accordingly “to one’s bust, waist and hip measurements. With this, post-purchase alterations are a thing of the past,” she assures.
Daphne has no issues with her business she established online. In fact, she is happy as she has easy reach to customers all around the world, 24/7, with no geographic limitations. “We’ve had brides who reside in Australia who had her bridesmaid dresses sent to her bridesmaids in Canada, United Kingdom and Hong Kong respectively.
“This is how online stores are able to cater to brides who have busy schedules and deliver beyond boundaries,” she explains. And because of the nonlinear, volatile and interdependent characteristics of a business set in the digital world, ELEVENTH Gown has managed to serve customers based in Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, the United States and Canada ... so far.”
But Daphne doesn’t deny there are many important aspects that need to be well thought through and established (see the article below for some of her advice) before setting up a website, let alone an online business.
“If you are really passionate about running an online business, don’t hesitate, start it now! As long as the basic resources are all set, do it and keep learning as you go, as seen in the path I have taken. Start it small and grow along the way, keep your momentum and passion, always improving oneself, and don’t give up easily. You won’t regret the experience gained through this wonderful journey,” she urges.
After years of experience, Daphne shares about the best part about her business - “We are always much honored and grateful when we receive wedding photos from brides and can see their happy smile on the bridal squad; plus telling us how much they love the quality, style and craftsmanship of our product. Above all, it’s about satisfied customers exceeding their expectations.”
A handle on handbags
The founding mother of JEMARI by Junita on Facebook and “jemari_by_junita” on Instagram is none other than Junita Satibi. Besides creating her portfolio on these digital platforms, she is also the creator of the handmade bags and clutches sold on those “sites”. Unique patterns, remarkable fashionable designs and an array of materials, customised to one’s taste - these are signature traits of her “brand”.
“I fell in love with bag-making after the first tote I made. Since then, I kept learning to make more complicated bags. I felt confident in starting a business offering handmade bags when my BFF persuaded me to sell her one of my bags,” Junita reveals.
While some of her bag designs are of her own creation, there are some designs she purchases from suppliers based here and abroad.
“What’s special is that each of my bags are designed to a customer’s needs. Clients choose the fabric/material and the design of the bag, after which each and every bag is sewn with love,” says one who is passionate about her craft.
To Junita, her online business suits her lifestyle - being a housewife. She has the freedom to plan her time and see to both domestic duties and business affairs. On setting up her business online, she says: “Creating a Facebook page and Instagram account was super easy. Just click here and there, key in everything and walla! you can start posting everything right there!”
Still, she says that one of the important elements where more thought is required is the name of the business. “I decided on mine after serious thought and discussion with my husband,” she informs and adds that “Jemari by Junita” aptly means “handmade”.
For those who intend to start online businesses, this business-minded mum is all out to encourage.
“Do not worry about the market competition. Take it as a positive challenge and keep upgrading yourself and your work,” she advises. But she also suggests research and study into pricing, which is important. “All materials, transportation and other costs must not be left out. And don’t forget checking out wholesale, when and where to purchase, the choice of factory-made or hand-made bag parts, etc.”
At the end of the day, Junita is happy. “Alhamdulillah! 99% are satisfied customers. I am very grateful and blessed,” she says. “I encourage anyone who wants to start an online business, especially handmade products, to just do it. But do it with all your heart. Don’t envy others. Put aside bitter jealousy and selfish ambition which can eat and destroy you. Be positive and enjoy the experiences.”
Before starting an online business ...
* Tips from Daphne: Establish a business plan, no matter how simple it is; keep on track and focused on the business needs; when designing a website, remember it is similar to renovating a brick-and-mortar store which needs to attract a customer and prompt them to ‘stay’ and browse longer; ensure the site is uncluttered, user- and SEO-friendly; keep your audience in mind, define their queries and end with addressing them; deliver excellent customer engagement and support; build trust; listen and meet customers wants and needs; adhere to delivery timelines; ensure return policy, terms and conditions are clearly outlined; keep customers posted from start to product delivery.
* According to inc.com, it’s not about the idea, plan, business model, team or the money that are the most important factors that determine a startup’s success or failure - it’s all in the timing. Questions to ask yourself: Are you ready? What’s the competition like? What does market research say? Do you have enough market engagement to attract investors?
* It’s in the details says pcmag.com which suggests one scrutinise these areas: the kind of business to invest in; the e-commerce business plan; the chosen business partners; the best digital platform; the website design; start safer by building an affiliate marketing network (where brands join forces or you work with brand influencers or individuals who can help boost your marketing); develop a partnership target list; track, manage and make good use of data; best to get tech savvy; track and monitor performance.
* Says smallbiztrends.com, research is numero uno and the type of business you choose to start is of utmost importance. Other important things to consider include the location; lifestyle of the people; target market segment; and naturally, the product/service.
* bdc.ca suggests one pin points the market; evaluate the market needs; the players/competitors you’ll be up against; conduct market research before deciding your product/service; strategise and execute a well thought-out business plan; select the right business partners and employees; ensure there’s adequate resources/finances; don’t forget the legal side of your business; think through what will be required of you and if you’ve really got what it takes; plan short and long-term goals; and know your product/business strengths and weaknesses.
* Quora.com proposes first-timers start with a drop shipping business and consider these areas before starting. Figure out your niche including your interests and passions; identify problems you can solve; research competition and determine if your niche is profittable; find a drop-ship supplier and work out terms and conditions plus warranties; get registered and find out about sales and government taxes; choose your selling platform; promote your store by building a kickass email list, by creating referral discounts and don’t forget to send samples to product influencers.