International Womens Day

Behind these successful women are very successful brands. We interviewed three local female entrepreneurs to share with us how they got to where they are, and how on earth they did it. #InternationalWomansDay. 
First up Stephanie Chai the founder of The Luxe Nomad, Asia-Pacific's leading luxury booking portal.

 

1) What motivated & inspired you to start The Luxe Nomad?

Finding the right business idea takes time! Before The Luxe Nomad, I must have gone through 5 or 6 different business plans for all sorts of things such as importing vodka jellies that don’t melt from New Zealand, a resort within the city to unwind, and a digital women’s magazine. I went through many business plans and several different thoughts until I came across The Luxe Nomad. And the way that happened was in itself I think a touch of fate. The true story is that I had a good friend (who, let's just say, ‘owed’ me a business idea), and he was always sending me emails with various concepts. One day, he sent me a link about an American site focused on luxury travel. I looked at it for five minutes and emailed back saying: “I’m going to do this for Asia!”. Literally, I decided on the spur of the moment. For some reason, my instinct was very clear that it was a business I was going to start.

 

2) To what do you attribute to your success?

I think I still have some way before becoming successful ha! Well for starters - it all comes down to the team. I am really proud and care a lot of about our team, one of the key drivers (for me personally) is that we have created a company where everyone (I think everyone ha) loves coming to work each day. I always felt there was nothing worse than someone who disliked their job, so to give that to my team, is one of my greatest fulfilments.
Next, you have to be competitive. But when I talk about this - it’s not just with your actual competitors in the market, but with yourself. How can you be better than yesterday? What could you improve about yourself personally?
People often make the mistake of focusing on what their colleague does or does not do; rather than looking in the mirror first.

 


3) Can you take us through one of your average days?

It’s always different! Traveling to one of our destinations to work with the team there, i.e. Samui or Bali. Or running through calls all morning. Whenever I visit one of our teams, we have a hectic schedule as it involves working and training with different members of the team personally.

4) What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

No matter what business you’re in, you will always hit tough times, but resilience is key. Sometimes, even if I have a potential investor who says we’re not going to come on board last minute I make it work because I’ve already been thinking of Plan B - if they can’t come on board who can? Or how can we change the deal structure to get them back?
You simply cannot afford to wallow so when times are tough, I ask advice from one of my close friends and fellow entrepreneurial friends. One of best friends, Tessa, who I went to high school with, is #2 in the legal department of one of Dubai’s biggest property companies, as well as corporate secretary for the listed company. She’s one of the savviest people I know and always dishes the right advice. Sometimes though, all you need is the support of a friend to agree with what you think should be done. Friends are important, success is tough on your own!

5) What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Firstly, always follow your heart. If you have a great idea, and you believe it in 200% - then go with it. People around you might try to talk you out of following your passions, but remember no one knows better than what is best for you - than you. So lead your own life, and not the lives of others.
Secondly, agility is key to entrepreneurship. Times are always changing. You have to be able to react to changes in the market and to a certain extent, continuously look towards to what will happen in the future. In the day and age we live in, with factors such as the rapid advancement of technology and the internet, competition is far greater than it was 20 years ago. Gone are the days when people could stick to the usual 9 - 5 routine, now you have to be able to respond 24/7.
But I can’t complain, it keeps you on your toes!

 

 

Please visit www.theluxenomad.com for more details and to book your next holiday. Don't forget to bring your Mazu Resortwear Swim shorts? Shop here to get ready. 

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Next is a woman who has been designing bags for over 11 years! Her signature print can be seen all around the world. Michelle Lai is one that has been through it all. 

 

Founded in 2008 as a passion project,  MISCHA embodies the personal style and sensibilities of its founder. Inspired by the intrepid spirit of women today, MISCHA creates timeless designs for the everyday journey. The brand is best known for its iconic hexagon print totes bags, becoming a travel and style essential for the global citizen.

 

1) What motivated & inspired you to start Mischa? 

It happened accidentally really. Growing up, I had a lot of different interests; art and design, science, teaching, archeology, making and building things. My father ran a travel business, so those two things combined were a way of life for our family. After graduating from King's College and not pursuing a career in medicine, I went on a quest, as a young and ambitious graduate, for my life's career. Needless to say, it's not something you discover overnight! Through my travels to Japan and my insatiable collecting, I'd amassed a collection of vintage Japanese obis and kimonos. I started to sew. My grandmother taught me how to sew as a child, so making things was second nature to me. I was restless and needed a creative outlet, so began to make clutches cutting up my vintage textiles. People seemed to like them very much, so MISCHA was born. I went on to design the iconic hexagon print that MISCHA is known for today. Unlike many founder stories, I did not make a grand exit out of my job to start my brand. It was gradual and by the time I quit my job to run the brand full time, I'd already had a proven concept. then it was just about scaling it up.

2) To what do you attribute to your success? 

This sounds terribly cliché, but it comes down to perseverance, long hours, learning from mistakes, being systematic and surrounding yourself with the right people. The early days of MISCHA were a steep learning curve. Because I didn't study fashion nor business at university, I felt at a disadvantage for not having formal training. In hindsight, I think this is what gave me the upper hand. As an outlier and doing it my way, my approach to creating a brand and scaling the business, was more scientific and practical than your traditional fashion design graduate. I take a very holistic approach and inspiration comes organically from my daily life. Now that MISCHA is up and running, I want to flex my entrepreneur muscles with other businesses and that's how my work at Brandcap started. Launching the London based consultancy in Asia is my new baby and answers to my passion for helping brands drive performance. 

3) Can you take us through one of your average days? 

Every day is quite different but I always start it with my morning routine. I get up an hour earlier than I need to, do a short meditation and start with an hour of reading and journaling. I find that sets the tone for the hectic days I have and keeps me focused. I do this while sipping my bulletproof coffee. Then I'm out and about for meetings and like to work solidly at my desk in the afternoons. I get out of the office at a decent time now and go to yoga class a few times a week. I've realized looking after your mind, body, and soul, is the real key to peak performance at work.

4) What challenges have you faced and how did you over come them? 

Overcoming challenges is ongoing for businesses no matter the size. I think that's what interests me most about brands and how to drive commercial success - by solving problems in a holistic way. As an independent brand, it seemed like we never had enough budget for everything we wanted to do. But it made us more resourceful and surprisingly creative. I think to start up companies have the advantage of being nimble as you can make impactful changes relatively easily and with a smaller number of stakeholders to answer to. As time went on with MISCHA, it became more challenging to grow the brand because the industry was being disrupted and the business model was becoming obsolete. We made some tough decisions to pivot the business model, to cut out the intermediaries and rebrand to become a direct to consumer online brand. That wasn't easy and we're still working on it, but it saved us from a lot of uncertainty and made us refocus on what we do best, designing for our clients. Thankfully, I always had my advisors and trusted people around me to validate and support me.

 

5) What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs? 

The first thing I'd say is to think carefully about why you want to do it. Being your own boss involves 100% dedication and sacrifice. You have less control of your life and work much harder and without any boundaries. The early days can be very intense, exciting and all-consuming. Be careful not to leave your partner behind in the dust. I would advise that you bring in advisors and mentors early on, their experience can help save time and expensive mistakes. When the business starts to take off, it's very rewarding and encouraging but you can never take your eyes off the prize. When things aren't working out, it can feel very lonely. My practical advice would be to thoroughly do your homework, have a well-researched business plan (with an exit strategy) and be very well capitalized. You will always need more money than you budgeted. 
Please visit WWW.MISCHADESIGNS.COM to see more. 

 

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Lastly, is a woman who co-founded Macau Lifestyle. Sally Victoria Benson is the Editorial Director at Macau Lifestyle Media. We sat her down to ask her some burning questions. 

 

1) What motivated & inspired you to start Macau Lifestyle? 

 

Well it all began when I moved back to Macau, a city I grew up in. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know all the cool things happening in the city or even where to find the information for what was happening in the city and that in fact, there wasn’t a comprehensive guide to find all this information. Macau is a really dynamic city with great local events, a thriving F&B scene and an undeniably charming history and culture. This is what inspired me to work hard and launch Macau Lifestyle. I wanted everyone to see the side of Macau that I knew and loved.

I met my business partner Katya when I moved back who had started working on an idea for an online platform all about Macau. We decided to work together and in just under a year our website Macau Lifestyle officially launched.

 

2) To what do you attribute to your success? 

 

No one achieves success on their own and without my business partner Katya, my supportive husband and family and hard working team on the ground, there would be no success, at least not at the level that we have achieved so far.

Prior to Macau Lifestyle I worked as an actress so I’ve always been self-disciplined and worked for myself, which I think initially, helped me successfully adjust to life as an entrepreneur. I.e. long hours, low pay, working on your own schedule etc. As this lifestyle choice is not for everyone. There is also an element of luck and timing that I don’t think many people talk about that can also lead to success. You can have the best idea in the world for a business but launch it at the wrong time in the wrong market.

With the millions of visitors to Macau every year that don’t speak Chinese, It was a great time to launch an online English platform about Macau.

 

3) Can you take us through one of your average days? 

 

Mornings are for myself, which can be an extra hour sleep in, yoga class or walk. I then do a round of checking and replying to emails, connecting with the team, checking the content calendar schedule for the upcoming 2 weeks and then getting started on prep for the upcoming months. As Editorial Director, I’m also delegating articles to writers, arranging experiences for the team and analyzing Google analytics and Google search console to help best improve our SEO strategy and overall content direction. Afternoons are spent attending to clients, going to media events or writing articles. I am a beauty and travel junkie and love nothing more than trying out a new face cream and travelling to a new hotel and city.

  

4) What challenges have you faced and how did you over come them? 

 

There are challenges all the time and you just have to find a solution and move on. There are quite a few straightforward challenges when you start a business such as not enough cash flow or not enough staff etc that I think a lot of business owners encounter and have to find a way to sort out or just work harder. You need to have a good attitude as well, challenges keep on coming no matter what, so find a way to deal with them the best way you can.

 

5) What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?  

  • Get a job or work experience in the same industry or field you want to launch a business in. You will learn so much and avoid some basic mistakes when you branch out on your own. Take some courses if you need to.
  • Money- Make sure you have some savings, an investor or both! You can never have enough money when you start. Everything costs money including your own time.
  • Ask for help when you need it and get a mentor or have someone you can talk to. Networking is important when launching a business for both professional and personal growth. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely path so do your best to be surrounded with good people.
  • Get ready to work so damn hard, harder than you have ever worked and harder than you probably ever will. It all comes down to work.
  • Make sure to make time for yourself. Proper lunch breaks, shutting off in the evenings, maintaining a healthy lifestyle etc. Work/Life balance must be a priority.

You can visit Macau Lifestyle in the link below: www.macaulifestyle.com  You can also see Macau Lifestyle interview with the Founder of Mazu resortwear (here).

 

 


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