Last week, I was invited to share my experience on starting a business at an event co-hosted by The Women’s Foundation and investHK. Over 200 women attended. Of course I planned on giving an inspiring talk but I also wanted to share my bumpy ride of entrepreneurship: my transition from engineer to fashion designer, the challenges I came across and the lessons learned.

Background

I grew up in France in a Eurasian family. I graduated in Engineering and worked for 7 years in consulting mostly in the financial sector in Paris, Geneva and Hong Kong. When I had my first child at 30 years old, I took a one-year sabbatical leave. That was when I discovered my passion for yoga. When I returned to work, I opted for a part-time schedule 3 days a week but soon realised that this wasn’t ideal, so I made the jump and left my corporate job.

Lofty ideals on entrepreneurship

The idea came when I was attending a yoga teacher training. For one month, I was literally living in my yoga clothes and not fully embracing my new athletic look. So I designed an elegant activewear line with feminine cuts and in subdued colours I would wear everyday. I also wanted to incorporate the benefits I had gained from yoga into my clothing line so I embedded mantras INSIDE each top and bottom to inspire the wearer. One of these mantras which has become my life motto is “Life comes from me, not at me”.

I launched my first collection in 2013 at the annual Asia Yoga Conference in Hong Kong and opened my shop in PMQ a year later. That year was tough because all my lofty ideals I had on entrepreneurship crumbled.

1. I am my own boss, so I am free

I realised that owning a business that you just started meant running it too. I was making decisions every day including weekends and holidays on absolutely everything like for instance what to do when the credit card machine was not working. Freedom to schedule my time I had gained but not without a heavy load of obligations and responsibilities.

2. My work experience will help me in any kind of industries

Working in a process-oriented corporate environment gave me strong project management skills. Deadlines, planning, risk mitigation - I had to re-learn from scratch when it came to working with creatives and especially with the manufacturing industry in China.

3. I can do everything myself

I read countless books on bootstrapping, and honestly thought with Youtube and my motivation I could do everything myself. What a myth! A day has only 24 hours. I soon reached out for support from various resources in Hong Kong (start up communities, investHK, Facebook groups, etc.) and hired interns and part-time staff to help me.

Let me share the lessons learned with the following mantras.  

DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT

This affirmation saved me from insanity the first year. I had gone through numerous rounds of sampling when I developed my first prototypes and luckily I had a major deadline I could not miss which forced me to stop at some point, otherwise this was leading me to a never ending process. Choosing progress over perfection and starting small so you can adapt more easily once you obtain market feedback is key.

PRODUCTIVE Vs. BUSY

Hong Kong has an amazing energy that is contagious and intense. I exhibited my clothing at trunk shows, yoga fairs, participated in so many networking events and trainings that I ended up feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities that Hong Kong had to offer. Learning how to say no so I could focus on being productive has helped me to gain more insight on my business.

I EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY

Finally, entrepreneurship is a journey, and things started to sail more smoothly when I accepted that events were not always going to happen according to plan.