Dear entrepreneurs of tomorrow,
It was November 16, 2010. I was in a small room filled with flimsy furniture which I assembled myself. Clothes and packaging were everywhere in the room. One by one, I pasted the labels, which I wrote earlier, neatly and with love. There was a mannequin whose arms and legs were lying on the floor, but there was no time to clean it up, for it was a monumental moment – our business just went live. I stared at the website – only a few seconds old – with pride. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. My heart was beating fast. I thought this was it; this was my future. I was about to pour my life into this journey that I started with my partner whose name goes by Fadza Anuar (He’s kind of cute. I might marry him one day, we’ll see). Overnight, we became entrepreneurs.
It felt really good. We thought it through. One website, multiple brands on the platform, we had RM100,000 as capital, and the media were writing about us constantly. What could go wrong?
Learn from your mistakes
In the URL bar, I was beaming when I saw www.fashionvalet.net. This was mistake number 1. Always use a .com domain. People kept mistaking our website URL and in the end we had to pay a few thousand dollars to buy the domain name fashionvalet.com. Selling other people’s products on your website is great, but what happens when they stop producing or stop sending in stock? What happens when your competitor charges a lower commission and all the brands go there instead? You have zero income. Depending on other people’s supplies – mistake number 2. It is a very noble thing to want to elevate the local fashion industry. We branded ourselves in the beginning as a platform for local brands where you could find all Malaysian brands. We were getting popular and things were going well, so why not go global now? Why would the people in the UK care about a website of Malaysian brands? Or, “I’m from Saudi Arabia, I have to buy Malaysian brands because…?” By branding ourselves as a Malaysian-only platform, we limited ourselves from global expansion. This was mistake number 3. Sales seem slow. Since everyone’s going digital, let’s spend a big chunk of our money on Facebook ads. We’ll definitely see the conversion because people can click on the ads. Mistake number 4. By the way, congratulations, we’re now broke.
Someone once asked me if I thought entrepreneurs were born or made. I told them the truth and what my honest opinions were. In my opinion, entrepreneurs are born. To have an appetite to constantly take risks, to be the captain of the ship, to be able to have thick skin and persistence to sell something, to be able to power through in times of hardship or uncertainty – I think all these are leadership qualities that an entrepreneur needs, and not everyone has that – which I think is completely fine. People see the success of entrepreneurs and immediately peer pressure tells them that they need to be an entrepreneur. But I truly believe everyone is brought into this world to complement each other. There is no shame in not wanting an entrepreneur’s life. Some people are meant to be entrepreneurs, executives, basketball players and comedians. Everyone has a different personality and character, and we need to be honest with ourselves and truly self-reflect to find our strengths. I knew from young that I was a go-getter. I started businesses as early as eight years old, and I was this annoyingly determined child who would argue her way into getting what she wanted. Can you imagine how tired my parents were (still are)? I think even they knew that I definitely couldn’t work under someone. I was restless and stubborn. I think if I worked for someone, I would be fired in the first week. As an employer, I wouldn’t even hire myself. My point is, play on our strengths that are already there, instead of focusing on wanting to improve a weakness. If you’re still finding yourself, my advice is to take personality tests. You’ll be surprised how powerful self-awareness is for your career.
Identify your weakness then complement it
Once you really believe that entrepreneurship is for you, then start ticking your boxes. Perfect your product – get feedback, criticisms and never look for praises. Stop asking your parents what they think, because they think you’re perfect. Ask the community instead, ask the skeptics and people in the industry. Build a team by first finding people to complement your weakness. Our CEO Fadza and I are complete opposites, and we complement each other in many ways. If you aren’t good in marketing, hire someone to do that first. If you aren’t good at operations, hire someone to do that first. Then sell. Find distributors, channels and partners – make a list of all the people you need now to become your new best friends. Reach out to them because they won’t fall on your lap. If they don’t reply, find someone who can connect or mutual acquaintances. If they still don’t reply, re-evaluate and try another approach. Never give up. Review feedback, innovate, review feedback, innovate. That’s your life now and there’s no turning back. Get ready for an amazing ride.
Focus on gratitude
Before you go on to do great things in your life, I hope you will remember one thing and it is possibly the most important – gratitude. No matter how successful you get, how wealthy you become, always keep your feet firmly on the ground and be grateful. Gratitude is a superpower that has helped me whenever I’m down. When things don’t go my way, it keeps me sane and helps shift my focus to the good in life. Be grateful to God for all the blessings, your team who is helping build your dream, the failures that taught you invaluable lessons and made you better, people who left you because they brought you closer to your dream, and your customers who help you put food on your table. The more grateful you are, the more God gives.
Vivy Yusof was part of the Prestige 40 Under 40 2015 list
Read the full story on Prestige Malaysia’s April 2020 issue
Photographer Eric Chow @ Blink Studio
Creative Direction Ibnu Aswan
Stylist Nigel Lee
Makeup Artist Noriana Nazuir
Hijab Stylist Didiyana Ehsan
Location Colony @ Mutiara Damansara