Seeing the need for personalised frames to suit every face shape, Canadian-Chinese entrepreneur Doris Ngie built her brand AMAVII to do just that.
In this instalment of “Startup Life”, we get to know more about the first-ever eyewear brand that uses aerospace titanium material to create lightweight and practical sunglasses, in three different sizes for every style they offer. It’s no wonder the Hong Kong startup quickly became a Hollywood-favourite.
Name: Doris Ngie
Profession: Founder & CEO
Industry: Fashion and accessories
Company size: Under 10 staff spanning across six cities
Start up since: 2018
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
I’m the CEO of AMAVII Eyewear. We’re the first independent designer eyewear label to offer Aerospace Titanium eyewear in three size fits for any face shape, and plants a tree for every pair sold. I also own a wellness candle brand MYBU, my passion project.
What is a normal work day like?
When I wake up, I check my phone for urgent updates on WhatsApp work group chats and scan my emails. Then I check my Shopify e-commerce app for daily sales reports, that’s always a nice motivator and gets my mind on the right track. I then do a morning gratitude meditation with my aromatherapy candle before heading to my home office.
My day then varies between managing my team spanning across five cities; Hong Kong, L.A., New York, Manila, London and New Delhi. Everyday is quite different depending on what needs to be done.
As a child, what did you aspire to be?
When I was just eight years old and living in Canada I sold limited edition Sailor Moon cards that I’d bring back from visits to Hong Kong. My teacher couldn’t keep a straight face when she had to tell me I wasn’t allowed! I always knew I wanted to be doing my own business by instinct.
How hands-on are you?
I setup the entire business from the ground up by myself in 2018 — everything down to building our online store, graphic design, operations system, customer service, marketing, photoshoot campaigns… you name it.
I was photographing lifestyle photos for AMAVII’s social media on my 30th birthday in Thailand because the scenery was perfect for it that day. We only recently expanded and hired our first full-time team member who works for me remotely, before that, my team included all part-time employees or agencies. The working style is great as people move towards gig-economy and many people I know have side-hustles or multiple projects. My management style is result-oriented and relaxed — as in life, everything should flow and not be forced.
I’m careful not to become the bottleneck of the company. Being a good leader means the organisation has to run well with or without me. It’s important to set guidelines and procedures so everything is laid out and ready to go whenever anyone picks up the task, so that’s what I’m focusing on now and delegating more as we grow.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I like to live in the present moment and do things that bring me joy. I make sure to allocate time for family, have fun with good friends, and spend quality time at home with my husband and two dogs (we recently adopted a French bulldog).
What has been your biggest hurdle?
Overcoming my own fear of failure. In my 20s I felt I had something to prove and that kept me caged mentally. I took past failures to heart and it took a toll on my sense of self worth and self esteem.
How did you overcome it?
I’ve been seeing my life coach and reiki healer Pervin from Shakti Healing Circle for the past four years.
I read a lot to empower myself. My husband introduced me to a life changing book The Power of Now which teaches us how to live life in the present moment and stop incessant worrying.
I also meditate or practice reiki at home daily for 30 minutes to an hour, saying thanks and repeating positive mantras to remain in a grateful state. When you separate ego from self, you become free.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
I would have told myself to have faith, invest in myself, worry less and take things less seriously. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, just lots of hard work, patience and timing.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up?
Your business idea has to solve a problem for the customer, especially nowadays.
Also, staying positive even when times are challenging, which they definitely will be. It’s a never ending learning process — you do, you make mistakes, you learn and that’s how you get better with experience. So you have to stay positive. Everyday you are putting out fires or situations but you can train your mind to be more forward-looking amidst the pressure.
I look at each failure as a learning experience. Recently, this quote really spoke to me: “Success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm” by Winston Churchill. Read motivational quotes when you need a pick-me-up.
Lastly, invest in your wellness. You have to take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually to function at your best.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you do now?
I have a certificate in Doctor of Natural Medicine so I would likely focus on my wellness aromatherapy candle brand MYBU, which is sold online, at wellness retailers and most recently at The Mandarin Spa, in The Mandarin Oriental here in Hong Kong. It’s a passion project I started in 2015 which I enjoy and can manage to run on the side.
Why is Hong Kong an important market for you?
For the past decade, Hong Kong has been the fashion portal for luxury brands to enter the China market. We’re based here and ship free worldwide through our online store AMAVII.com. Hong Kong is a vibrant city with friendly and established trade infrastructure for small businesses and I’m excited to be here.
If you were to invest in another start up, which would it be?
Probably something related to cloud service or cyber security, or a startup that can change the world and save the planet.
How did you feel when you first found out international celebrities were fans of AMAVII?
Gigi Hadid wore it not once but continuously wore AMAVII ten times in a row in multiple occasions during fashion week which shows she really loves them. We are thrilled, and honoured!
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself successful?
I look to Warren Buffet when I try to define success. “The ultimate measure of a successful life: Do the people you care about love you back?” I consider myself successful in this aspect as I am surrounded by genuine people who love me and bring joy to my life everyday.
What’s next for AMAVII?
We have grown by 500% this year and our best selling style has already been re-stocked three times even during the pandemic. We are capitalising on this momentum and shooting an exciting campaign in L.A. this fall for our ultralight new collection “AMAVII aria” which is also made in three size fits for any face shape.
Almost 95% of our business comes from the U.S. so next we will expand to new markets in China and Europe.
This story first appeared on Prestige Hong Kong.
(Main and featured image: Doris Ngie/Prestige Hong Kong)