HOW DID I GET HERE?
Long story short, the idea of perk came in 2009 when I have a penchant for lingerie browsing, yet could never afford the lingerie I like. They were expensive and for someone who just started work, splurging on them was a no no. Furthermore, I know lingerie in Bangkok is really cheap. Being the spoilt traveller and the educated consumer, spending $100 for lousy bras and $50 for crappy panties were unjustifiable. To pay a good price, the lingerie have to be really beautiful. Or of exceptional quality. Or they were special close-to-my-heart items which I just had to buy. This sprung the desire in me to start a lingerie business. Why not? I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Furthermore, if I could make some money out of my own hobby, that seemed like a really good deal.
My mentality was to first look upon it as a hobby, as something for me to work on after work, and then see where it leads me to. If Charles and Keith could offer decently designed, decent quality shoes at affordable prices, why couldn't I do the same for intimate wear? The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. I could see a market potential. Next, the era of flash sale websites came along. Again, I thought, if Reebonz could get designer bags at a good discount, and sell them for cheap, why couldn't I do the same for lingerie? I would source for items from renowned brands like Elle MacPherson Intimates, Agent Provocateur, Myla etc, and retail them at a decent discount.
It was all too easy to get carried away by the current market trends. There had to be proper business planning, and a proper business model in order to have sustainable revenue. It helps to have practical friends around so they give valuable inputs, and make you look at issues from a different angle. I cannot say I have any business plan (in fact, I am still in the midst of finalising mine!) - I simply cannot envision myself sticking to an initial plan. I had to give myself room for trial and error. What was crystal clear to me was firstly, I have to offer good value, and always put the customer first. With good products that appeals to the customer base, the revenue will naturally come. Another guiding principle was that I would never allow myself sell sub-par lingerie. A great quote that stuck with me till now, "At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must. But always, fine lingerie." Using these two guiding principles, I went in search of what can and cannot work.
What will not work
Flash sales, multi-label retailing, selling bras at the start.
I had to ensure this business will not rise and fall with a hype, so flash sales is definitely out of the question. Multi-label retailing will not work for me at the start, as I simply have no quantity and no credentials to prove myself! I also decided to leave bras out of the launch product range as I am simply not the expert in that area, and the scariest thing would be to sell a product I am not knowledgable in.
What could work
Retailing underwear, oem/odm manufacturing.
One cannot try on underwear at retail, or online. So this aspect already helped reduce the barrier to purchase. Besides, I love underwear and I am confident of my ability to select designs of the right style and material. I can then work with manufacturers to custom design and produce a product range I am proud of, and offer them at a good value to my customers.
Stick to it
Once you have got an initial idea, stick to it! I stuck to my idea for almost close to two years now. I wasn't the most organised in this hobby. I started off with working on branding and packaging, before I even found a manufacturer! Before I knew how the dollars were coming in, I had already spent $2k on coming up with this logo. But who says you have to do things in a certain order? As long as you know you are not procrastinating and have a reason for doing what you did, stick to it.
Things do fall into place
I faced many obstacles - The most obvious of all was that I simply did not have the quantity to do any custom design, nor the business reputation to find a trustworthy manufacturing partner. That never stopped me from the search for other options. I started buying samples in small quantities so I could see for myself the actual qualities of products. i also never stopped searching for brands I could potentially retail. It all came together when I bought a batch of products from a relatively reputable manufacturer on Aliexpress, with a low MOQ required. At that same time, I was recommended this brand, Honeydew Intimates by a common friend and I bought a sample of a few of their products. You simply cannot imagine the joy when you realised you have reached a breakthrough, that there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, and there is now a small basis for you to further your efforts. :)
More to come from perktrepreneur. Stay tuned!