I don’t leave my house without... drawing my eyebrows.
People would say that I am... a go-getter.
The most important aspect of any business is... women empowerment.
My favorite business book of all time is... Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel
My favorite entrepreneurial organization is... Fashion Brain Academy (www.fashionbrainacademy.com) by Jane Hamill, a business coach specialized in small fashion start-ups and entrepreneurs.
At MADEIRA our mission is to empower petite women (5 ft 4 in and under) to take on the world through stylish and versatile clothing. Our clothes are designed to fit the height and proportions of an average petite woman (not all petite women have the same body shape). For example, my signature jumpsuit even comes in 3 inseams (24”, 26”, and 28”) to accommodate women of different heights. My business differs from other fashion brands in that I help my audience build confidence through knowledge also. A big part of my work focuses on curating inspirational and informative content on our website and our supportive Short Girls Crushing It community on Facebook. I invite all the petite WE Rule audience to join our community.
Short Girls Crushing It Facebook community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/shortgirlscrushingit
See informative content on our blog: http://www.madeirabrand.com/blogs/blog
Being socially responsible is an integral of my business. Because we want to ensure factory’s integrity and their job relevancy to our local economy, I choose to manufacture locally in San Francisco so we can visit them easily and often. Since most San Francisco factories are run by Cantonese speakers, I can talk to them in their mother tongue. It is a wonderful feeling that part of my culture is threaded into my products, literally!
What is your proudest accomplishment so far when it comes to your business? What helped you get there? Was this accomplishment a clear goal or did it happen by chance?
From design to launching my first collection online in 8 months, all during my first pregnancy and shortly after my daughter was born. I had a clear goal and launch plan. Having a hard deadline (my due date) really forced me to focus on things that mattered for launching the business.
Who/What inspires you?
My parents, who run a family business, are my inspirations for how to be resourceful, flexible, and tenacious when it comes to running a business. In terms of creativity, travel, people and culture are my source of inspirations.
How as being an entrepreneur affected your life? How did it change the way you think about life?
Growing up in a small family business, we did not celebrate holidays because my parents would still work after business hours. I do not want that for my own family. Being an entrepreneur makes me constantly evaluate what success means to me AND my family. I then derive the goals and plans to achieve that definition of success.
What does it mean to have competition/competitors? Do you compete/collaborate or just observe? What is the best practice to approach your competition?
I am a type-A person. Competition used to fuel me in a negative way — I would work my buns off to just win. But once I won, I needed another “contest” to prove myself. I was focusing on winning instead of the intention of winning. Now, I view competition as an opportunity, a teacher, and in some cases, a collaboration. I believe that the best practice to approach your competition is through giving. When you give, you will receive. This way, you turn every competition into a potential collaborator. Do so strategically.
Do you have hobbies? What are they? Is it important to take “time off” and focus on other things such as friends, family, hobbies etc.?
My hobbies are learning new things and getting new experiences. It is very important for me to take time off to be with my family, to travel, and to have me time. Yoga and meditation in the morning is a must, even if I have only 3 minutes before my very reliable 1-year old alarm clock (my daughter) rushes into our bedroom.
Is there one “rookie mistake” that new entrepreneurs keep on making? What is it? Did it happen to you?
I think many new entrepreneurs spent too much time on perfecting their products, and not enough time on marketing. It happens especially to artists turned entrepreneurs and has definitely happened to me. If I can turn back time, I would start building my email list a year before I had my business set up. People need to know, like, and trust (KLT) you before they buy from you. And building that KLT takes time. If you wait until you have a product before you starting building your audience’s KLT, you hear “crickets” for a long time.
What is failure?
Failure means not learning from my own mistakes. As entrepreneurs, we make many mistakes. The key is to learn from each mistake so you can spot them even before they come close again.
Why do you think it is that women get less funding than men? What can we do to change that and close the gender gap?
What I am going to say may anger people out there. But I believe that women tend to settle for less compared to men, and we underestimate our abilities to get more. But everyone can do something to close the gender gap.
(1) Start from ourselves — Raise the awareness of our own tendency to settle for less, and practice pushing ourselves to ask for more even when it gets uncomfortable. That goes from salary negotiation to asking for better maternity leave benefit. Like anything, the more you practice, the more natural you become.
(2) Call out other women when they under-sell themselves (in a mindful way). Encourage them with your own stories and experience.
(3) Involve men — It’s great to be able to talk about gender issues in a safe place amongst other women. But if we don’t discuss them with men and let them know why there is a gap, we cannot expect them to understand. A lot of time, when I point out gender issues with my husband and guy friends, they are actually glad to know where the gap is and our thought process. The analogy I use is — If you did not tell people when your birthday is, don’t get upset that no one throws you a birthday party”. So tell the men in your family, your colleagues, your kids, your uncles, your friend’s husband, etc.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
Most people think making a career change is hard. It is not. But you have to decide on it and take the first step. When I first told people that I decided to start a clothing line (all after getting a Ph.D. in bioengineering), some of them were scared for me. I got a lot of “Why would you waste all your efforts (from what I studied)?” I used to be offended but now I realized that these were their fears for change and uncertainty. If you want to start something very different, it is merely a decision you have to make. Once you commit to that decision, you will focus on finding resources you need to get started.
What are some pros and cons of having (OR not having) entrepreneurial parents?
You learn how to be resourceful and creative with what you got.
You learn how to deal with different types of people.
You learn how to talk to customers on the phone (at least I did growing up in the 80s).
You learn basic accounting! I had to count all the money in and out at the end of the day for my parents.
You become friends with a teller at the bank.
Lack of mommy and daddy time. My parents never completely shut down at the end of the day. They are always working on some aspects of their business.
Holidays and family vacations were never pure down time. My dad used to take me to Hong Kong on day trips where we would spend several hours at a hardware store ordering supplies for his business. As a kid, that was the most boring thing.
When I got sick as a child, I had to learn how to get food and take care of myself because my parents were too busy and I did not want to bother them. This may actually be a pro but as a kid, it felt more like a con.
Do you believe that there is one specific formula for success? What does it mean to be a successful business owner?
No. But I do think that there are traits that make someone go further faster than others.
Thick skin but humble.
Not afraid to roll up the sleeves and do the (dirty) work.
To me, being success means having a fulfilling life of which my business is a part. A fulfilling life to me consists of quality family time, a healthy life and mind, giving back to the society, and not having to worry about paying the bills (hopefully someday I can tell my husband to retire).
Courage to face their own fear.
Patience to delay gratification.