The Jay Kim Show #75: Sarah Chessis (Transcript)
Hey, listeners. I’m happy to announce that the Jay Kim Show is an official media partner and supporter of the Inside Retail, Retail’s Cutting Edge Vertical at the Startmeup Hong Kong Festival at the end of January. The actual event is on the 31st of January, which is a Wednesday, and it’s going to be an all-day event at the Hong Kong Convention Center. It’s going to be an action-packed day full of seminars, panels, pitching, networking, and, of course, cocktails. As a media partner, I also get a special 20% discount code for my listeners. So if you’re interested, head on over to Live.InsideRetail.hk/register. That’s Live.InsideRetail.hk/register. Use the promo code JAYKIM20OFF. Hope to see you there.
So it’s officially been one year since I first launched the Jay Kim Show, which I launched this time last year in conjunction with the 2017 Startmeup Hong Kong Festival. And because of that and the support that InvestHK gave me to launch this show, I always try to give back a little bit and help support them where I can.
Now, the Startmeup Hong Kong Festival is one of the two largest conferences here in Hong Kong — the one being RISE, which takes place in the summer. Startmeup Hong Kong is an entire week full of great speakers, panelists covering everything from fintech, connected city, retail, healthtech, and, of course, the flagship venture forum where we had Elon Musk come speak two years ago.
So this year I’ll be doing a two-episode special to help support the cause, and it will be in the Inside Retail vertical, and I’ll be interviewing two world-class entrepreneurs this week from Hong Kong who have started their own companies within retail. And so we’re going to talk about the future of retail.
This week, I speak with Sarah Chessis who is the founder of Isabella Wren. Isabella Wren is a Hong Kong studio dedicated to tailoring specifically for professional women. We talk to her today about her long career in banking, the life-changing event that caused her to want to leave her career in banking and pursue entrepreneurship, and the cutting-edge technology that she is incorporating into her company that is a potential game changer for the industry. Alright. Let’s get on to the show.
Jay: Hi, Sarah. How are you doing? Welcome to the show.
Sarah: Hi, Jay. Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me on the show. I’m delighted to be here.
Jay: Well, I’m super excited because my podcast actually launched this time last year at this very event, the Startmeup Hong Kong Festival, and I was able to interview some of the people in the Inside Retail vertical, and I’m honored to be able to interview and help support it again this year. So I’m super excited for the listeners listening in. The Retail Cutting Edge is on January 31st, and that’s at the Convention Center. It’s a week long. It’s part of the Startmeup Hong Kong Festival 2018. So, listeners listening in, I would highly recommend you guys checking it out. Get your tickets online, and it’s one of the two largest conferences in Hong Kong, the other one being RISE in the summer. I think you guys are going to enjoy it.
But today we are here to talk about Sarah, because Sarah is doing some really cool, interesting stuff in the retail space with technology. So, Sarah, maybe you could give us a little bit of an introduction to the audience. Who are you, and what do you do for a living?
Sarah: Yeah, sure. As you said, my name is Sarah Chessis, and I am the founder and CEO of Isabella Wren. Isabella Wren, for anybody who has not hours of us, we are a custom clothing company. Our focus is professional women, and we have created a marriage of technology with fashion.
Jay: Right. That’s very succinct, and a great elevator pitch. Get right to the point. I love it. We’re going to go into exactly what that is and the cool technology that you’ve acquired and you’re using there. Maybe you could give us a little bit of background because I know that you’ve done a number of different things, and now you are full-time entrepreneur and founder of a company. But this wasn’t what you always did. So maybe you can shed a little bit of light on your past and perhaps what drove you to embark down the fun-filled journey of entrepreneurship.
Sarah: Yeah. Absolutely. I’d love to. So basically I started my career in London as a stockbroker. And that took me to Hong Kong and then on to Singapore. And that career went on for almost 20 years. During that journey, I reached a point in my life where… To take it back a bit further, what happened for me in my career was, I think I was in the sort of market at the time when everything was exploding with hedge funds and things were getting busier and busier and sales were becomes busier and busier and more successful. And I kind of just stopped. And just kind of didn’t get to the point where I ever got married and had children.
I always just thought it would happen, and I found myself in Singapore, and I wasn’t married, and I didn’t have children. And the financial crisis came along, and for me, I thought, you know what? This is my opportunity. I’ve always wanted to have children. And I was thinking about it a lot. And so I started the adoption process. So I made the decision to be a single mother.
Jay: Oh, wow. Okay.
Sarah: Yeah, so I started the adoption process, and I think the fact that it was a financial crisis and people don’t tend to have babies when their finances are unstable, generally. But it didn’t deter me. So I started the process. I actually thought, well, what will be will be. And I was given a home-study report, telling me that I had met all the requirements to adopt and that I should brace myself, because you could wait years for babies to up for adoption.
Literally, seven days after they handed me that report, I had a newborn baby in my arms.
Jay: What? No way. Now, now wait a minute. Sorry. Was the process carried out in Singapore?
Sarah: It was while I was in Singapore. So I always think I’m special and different in some ways. When someone says to me “no,” there’s a way. No never means no. There’s always a way you can do something.
Jay: That’s right. Yeah.
Sarah: So they sort of advised that it’s very difficult for foreigners to adopt in Singapore, but in Malaysia, there were lots of orphanages and the same thing in Indonesia. So my original idea was to adopt a baby from overseas. So I did the home study report with the intention of adopting overseas. So when I went to the British Embassy to get my letter of authority, they said, “I don’t know what it was that you didn’t understand. But you cannot adopt a child from Indonesia or Malaysia.” They said, “Again, just to put this into context, the babies that are put up for adoption from those countries are not given up because there’s any kind of drug or alcohol issues. They are given up because the family are so poor they cannot afford, literally, to feed any one more person. If you go ahead and you adopt that baby and that family wins some money or inherits some money, they’re going to come after that baby, and you’ve got to give it up.”
Jay: Oh, really?
Sarah: Yeah. And that kind of sunk in then. I was like, okay. When you put it like that… But what happened was, the agency that I’d been dealing with, the agencies in Singapore deal with different kind of criteria in terms of where the adoptive parents are from and where the adopted babies are from. And he only dealt with Singaporeans. The Singaporeans are allowed to adopt from Indonesia and Malaysia but expats are not. So he just so happened to have a Singaporean baby that had come up for adoption, and I just happened to be the only person he had on his books at that time who was interested in a Singaporean adoption.
Jay: No way.
Sarah: Yeah. It was kind of meant to be. He said your baby will be born in about a week or 10 days. Literally, two days later, she was born.
Jay: That’s incredible.
Sarah: Yes. And that’s why the company is called Isabella Wren, because that’s the little girl’s name.
Jay: Was that the name that you gave her, or that was the name that she came with?
Sarah: Actually, her name was Angel, which I kept her middle name. So she’s Isabella Angel.
Jay: That’s amazing. That’s such a cool story, Sarah. Thank you for sharing that. That’s very personal, and I appreciate that. I think the audience will actually really enjoy that.
Sarah: But you know, it’s all kind of part of the journey. Because the reason I left baking was because I’d always… For me, when I was at school, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. And I became an accidental stockbroker. But I really wanted to do fashion design. I can’t imagine it happening today, but back then, I was told that I was good but not good enough to do that. So I did it as a hobby, really. So I sort of drew and designed and had clothes made my whole life, pretty much. So I had the opportunity to come to Hong Kong and set up… Basically, it was online, selling a Chinese brand internationally online, and to set that up. I just became very aware that I had my own ideas about… I think my ideas are fairly commercial. At that time, I felt I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny and to be able to… I was really naïve.
I think anybody who starts a company, any entrepreneur has to be really naïve because less naïve you are, the less likely you are to actually do it. Too much information is definitely going to put you off, isn’t it?
But my feeling was… This was my dream. That I would have this fabulous showroom full of wonderful clothes made of fabulous fabrics. And any individual could walk in and choose any garment and customize it to exactly the way they wanted it. And we would custom make it to fit. That was the dream. That was the vision when I started the business.
And then what would happen… I would take the little girl to school, and I would come into my showroom, which would be fully booked. And then I would say “bye-bye” to everybody about five o’clock. When I got home, I’d play with her and have dinner together and put her to bed, and that would be my life. And would only work Monday to Friday because this business is so successful, I didn’t need to do anything else. Right?
But of course, none of that happened. None of it.
Jay: Welcome to entrepreneurship.
Sarah: Yes, yes. It just didn’t occur to me that the clothes wouldn’t fit. So there’s two big, big obstacles when I started this business, and I was convinced that I would be able to overcome them. I just didn’t realize it would take as long as it did. One was that it was very difficult to get clothes to fit with measurements. Secondly, nobody wanted to manufacture for me because manufacturers want 5,000 units. They don’t want one. Every single garment we produce is different. Every single one.
Jay: Before we get into the details of the business… Because I’m very intrigued, but just a quick back step. First of all, congratulations on getting out of banking. Every time I hear someone… I’ve been there, Sarah. I’ve been there in the trenches where I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to do something else. I know that there’s something else out there for me. This is not it. This is not my future where you’re just smiling and dialing.” So I get really excited when I hear about or interview or speak to ex-bankers that have come out and they’ve made it, and they’ve found their freedom, or what have you.
So first of all, congratulations on it. It must have been… Obviously, it must have been scary at the time of the financial crisis. You just adopted a baby, and you’re going off on your own. Were you financially stable, as in you had enough put away for a couple of years? Did you have a fallback plan? Like, if this doesn’t work out, I’m going to go back into banking? What was your thought process back then?
Sarah: That would have been a sensible thought process. No, I didn’t have that. What I did, I did go back into banking when the little girl was very young. I went to work for a very good friend of mine in Hong Kong. Her company had recently opened an office in Singapore, and they needed a responsible officer. So they allowed me to be that responsible officer. And I worked two days in the office and one day at home, and I did that for a while. And then the company was bought, and then I had to work full time. And it was then that I just was leaving for work at seven in the morning and coming home after she’d gone to sleep, and I never saw her. And I just kind of thought, I’m a single mother. I didn’t adopt a child never to see her.
Jay: Yeah. Absolutely.
Sarah: But on the financing side, what I did was long, long, long time ago, I bought an apartment in London. It’s almost 20 years ago now. And I sold it and put the money into this.
Jay: Oh, wow. Okay.
Sarah: Actually, I raised some money from family and friends as well. So I had some family and friends and they said, yes. Here’s some money. And of course, that, again, is terrifying. Because once somebody else gives you some money, you’ve got a business to run. So up until that point, I kind of had it my head that if I didn’t raise any money, it wasn’t meant to be. And the moment two people gave me some money, I was like, f**k. Oh, sorry. You can edit that word out.
Jay: You’re fine. You’re fine. This is the beauty of having your own podcast. You can saw whatever the beep you want on it.
Sarah: And then two years later, I raised some more money with an institution. It’s sort of a family office fund. So I raised some secondary funding. I that was really for the technology, to build out the technology.
So going back to the issues that I had on the fitting, I needed to get clothes to fit. And to do that, I became an accidental geek, basically, because I didn’t know anything about technology at all. You’ll probably appreciate this. But when you work in a big investment bank, you have like a button, and it’s like the help desk. And you press the button, and the guy comes and stands next to you.
Jay: You call the IT guy.
Sarah: That’s correct.
Jay: He sorts everything out.
Sarah: Exactly. You don’t care how it works, just so long as someone else is making it work, basically. So I didn’t know anything about technology at all. And I think in a lot of ways, technology has become much less scary. I’m very fortunate that I was here at a time, in this particular industry, where technologies are available today that just didn’t exist five years ago — 3D body scanners and 3D CAD software and that type of thing. So it’s been like a stepping-stone journey to get where we are now. And the journey has taken us… We’re now using algorithmic coding.
Jay: Wow. Who would think that those two words would go with…
Sarah: In banking, we used to talk about v-warp engines and stuff. And I used to have customers who would say to me, “How does your VWAP algorithm work?”
Which I would reply, “Can I get one of my colleagues to call you back because they know way more about it than I do, and they can talk you through much more detail.” When the reality was, I didn’t know anything.
Jay: That’s so funny. The V—, yeah. We have a lot of finance, investors, and listeners. So I think a lot of people will appreciate your story as well.
So now let’s talk about the business because I think that one of the coolest things that I experienced when I came to Hong Kong first, way back in 2005, was, oh, I’ve got to go get fitted for a suit. I know for guys, it’s a big thing because it’s relatively cheap. I think the prices have gone up a little bit now because of rents and this sort of thing. But back then, you could get a custom-made suit from Sam’s Tailor or whatever you want and go over to the TST and get your suit done for a couple hundred bucks, USD, and it fit pretty well. And they had their master cutter there. I don’t know how they put it together, but they got it done in a very short amount of time and shirts as well. So it’s sort of like a stock thing. Everyone in banking in Hong Kong has all the same look. They have all the same materials and fabrics and this sort of thing. I know that it’s a huge thing.
But then, I was always curious because on the women’s side, I actually, at one point, I bought some suit material for my wife because she was into blazers a lot. She’s not in the industry or anything, but she liked to wear blazers casually with jeans and this sort of thing. So I got her some material, and I was asking the tailor, “Do you do women’s stuff?” And he was like, no. And so I asked a few different people, and none of the guys would really do women’s stuff. So I was like, I don’t know. So the suit fabric is still sitting in my closet.
So I was always wondering. I guess women don’t really do this sort of tailoring or maybe just like to buy off the rack more. So I feel like you’ve actually entered a very, very strong niche because it’s, literally, there is no one doing it. Right?
Sarah: No. There isn’t anyone doing it. We’re the only people. I mean, there are a few companies doing it overseas, but in Hong Kong, there was virtually nothing.
If you want to know my feeling about why, I’ll tell you. Maybe I should have asked myself that question when I started the business.
Jay: It was a personal pain point, I guess that you wanted clothes that fit better, so you just decided to make them yourself?
Sarah: 100%. So I was in sales and bank, and I had to wear suits. It was just really hard to get them. You would spend such a long time trying to find something nice. And when I did find something I quite liked the look of, it never fitted very well, and I would always think, gosh, I wish I could change this, or I wish I could change that. And the other thing with women’s workwear, they really are like workhorses. You tend to wear the same thing over and over and over again and separate the wardrobes. So there’s one for work, and there’s one for outside of work. It gets really kind of battered. And you’ll sit in that suit for really, really long times — first thing in the morning till…you might even go out after work or go on a business trip. So they need to be pretty well made and nice fabrics. But the reality is, it’s just so hard to get anything that wasn’t either black or gray or navy maybe. So there was nothing kind of edgy. I didn’t seem to be the only person that really this. So that’s why I set up Isabella Wren. And it wasn’t to make men’s clothes for women, which is what some men’s tailors do.
So the idea for us was to actually to be a fashion brand, a professional women’s fashion brand where any garment would be custom made to fit. And any garment could be customized to exactly the way you wanted it. So if you want to have below the knee or you want short sleeves or long sleeves or three-quarter sleeves, you can have anything you like. Nothing is outside the realms of what we do here. And that’s the product offering that I wanted to give.
Jay: That sounds like it would be highly in demand. Can you walk us through the customer experience? Is it done online? Do you guys have a retail store?
Sarah: We have a showroom. So when we were set up originally, and I didn’t have proof of concept, I didn’t want to make a massive investment in a ground-floor space without knowing that this was actually something that was going to be successful, in demand, and would work. Our showroom is on the 11th floor of a building in Central. You can come in here, and we a 3D body scanner, and we can take hand measurements. Or you can go online and go one our website and enter your measurements yourself, or you could go to…
Jay: Where is the showroom?
Sarah: We’re on Wyndham Street, just next door to TONI&GUY.
Jay: Okay. Listeners, go over. Head over to Sarah’s showroom. We’re have it linked up in the show notes. I’m plugging you here.
Sarah: You can. Absolutely. We’ll have a party. They can all come.
Sarah: Yeah, basically, and you can also… We’ve done some agreements with third parties. There’s a company based out of Australia called Import. And they have put scanners into a lot of the Westford shopping malls. They also have them in L.A. Fitnesses in the US. You can go in there, be scanned in one of their scanners, and the data will come into us, if you choose to go on our website. So you can actually… It’s your choice. You go online to our website if you’ve been scanned and then import scanner. Your measurement data gets imported to us so we can then make your on-demand clothing using your measurements taken from there.
And then the other thing which is happening, which is, to be honest with you, is so exciting that it’s literally game changing. If you think about how big the online apparel business is globally, and I think it’s up to 40 or 60% of it gets sent back because it doesn’t fit, there’s a vast weight of money behind finding a solution to making online clothing…to basically online clothing sizing. Not custom clothing but just actually sizing ready-made clothing. But with that in mind, they have to be able to take data points from bodies, which we could use to make clothes. We’re kind of talking to at least, I think, six companies right now who are really close to finding a solution where you can just use your iPhone to scan your body, and it will capture your body data.
Jay: Oh, wow. That does sound game changing.
Sarah: It’s very close. There are so many people working on it. And there’s so much weight of money behind it.
Jay: Sure. At what point did you incorporate technology? Obviously, fashion tech is a big thing. But for someone like yourself, at what point and how did you even get introduced to this technology? How did you acquire it? At what point did that come along? What was the thought process there?
Sarah: Sometimes I say when you think something bad has happened, it’s actually something good. Shakespeare said we don’t know what’s good and bad. It’s our mind that tells us so.
When I first started the business… So I started at the end of 2013, right at end. I think it must have been, literally, a month after I opened, so early 2014, we had this amazing pattern maker — fantastic — from Ralph Lauren. And he fell out with somebody in the workshop, and he walked out. And he also deleted every pattern that was on the system on our computer.
Jay: What? Wow.
Sarah: It was awesome. The good thing was the guy did not know anything about technology, and he did not empty the trash. It was like, whew. It was one of those ah-ha moments in terms of… You know what? I have invested a vast amount of my own money and a lot of other people’s, and our whole business is dependent on that man.
Jay: That’s crazy. Wow.
Sarah: We couldn’t make anything because we didn’t have any patterns. Or we didn’t have a pattern maker. So that made me look at other ways where I would be less vulnerable. So I started to look at freelance patterns makers. I met this amazing guy, randomly, on a freelance website. It just so happened to be, he’d been working with Alexander McQueen for a long time, and he was the senior lecturer at Central Saint Martins on pattern making. He spent a lot of time with me, actually, and he never charged me anything. He was, literally, on Skype, explaining pattern making to me.
Jay: Wow. That’s incredible.
Sarah: It’s funny how certain people come along, and they’re just so incredibly helpful. So from there, he said there are a lot of freelance pattern makers out there using technology. And at that time, there were systems where you could have pattern makers working remotely. So that took me along to how do we capture accurate body data because we quite well having people doing patterns. So I started working with a 3D CAD system which was, again, remotely, and putting in a 3D scanner. So I had one of the first ever 3D scanners. It was almost like taped together, basically, literally taped together.
Jay: Was it like one of those things where you go through security at the airport, where you walk in to this chamber, and you have to get scanned?
Sarah: No. It was probably a bit more like playing on a Wii machine. No, it was literally… You have your Wii machine. Basically, I would take three photos on this Wii camera, and that would get sent through to a processing center. And they would then give me back a whole set of body measurements and an avatar. And the avatar is a 3D body scan. That’s what it looks like when it’s inside the computer. So I would get avatars that I would then put inside a piece of 3D CAD software. I’d put in a 2D pattern, and the pattern maker would wrap the 2D pattern around the 3D avatar. So that was stepping onto the technology journey along this path.
That worked well, but to put the avatar inside the software, the avatar needs to be smoothed down. Software can’t read it if it’s got bumps on it. And removing the bumps, you lose some of the sizing data. So then the accuracy goes, and it’s places like the top of your arms meet your body. It gets noise. And to shave away that noise, you end up losing the accuracy. So it was better. So I’d gone from people needing maybe six fittings to needing two. So that was getting better.
And two and a half years ago, I basically met the fantastic Marc Close who has a company called Bespokify. And Bespokify… Marc had been using algorithmic codes to make tools for mining companies. And he figured out he could apply the same principles to clothing patterns. And he, at that point, had literally just started, and he’d made a man’s shirt with some degree of success.
So we said, let’s see if we can make a dress, and he wrote a pattern, and we made the dress. And I have to say, it was like a Kitty Hawk moment. I was like, oh my god. A piece of code can make a clothing pattern and a second that actually fits. But it wasn’t quite right. It was good, but it was still off a little bit. And we made a decision there and then that if we were going to do this — and it was potentially game changing. He knew what he had, and I knew what he had. I think we really need to make this 100% accurate. So we agreed that he would go away, and he would write the code down to zero and right it back up. I called him Sir Marc because he’s a genius.
Jay: By the way, a really cool name — Bespokify. That’s such an awesome startup name.
Sarah: It is cool. He’s won awards from Future of Fashion. He’s been sort of dubbed as the future of fashion, basically. He’s incredible.
Jay: Let’s say my wife wants to go into your store, Sarah, and now the technology, I imagine it’s much more advanced. It improves. So she goes in. She gets her… How long does it take to get her 3D measurements done?
Sarah: To be honest with you, the measurement capture is under a minute and the patterns are instant. But our average customer spends, on their first visit, between one and five hours in here.
Jay: Wow. You guys have a spa there or something?
Sarah: You do get carried away. It’s a perfect scenario — right? — That every woman has always dreamed of, that they could go in and every single thing in that place will not only fit, but it will look good. It’s going to make you look slimmer. It’s 100% going to fit, and you can do anything you want to it. And it’s fast and accurate. So woman get carried away. We get a lot of visitors coming in from overseas, people that have been referred to us. And it always happens. It does make me giggle. I should video them. The day they come back to pick everything up, they come in to collect everything, they almost start panicking like they haven’t bought enough. It’s almost like they think I’m hiding clothes somewhere that they haven’t seen. What else is there?
Jay: Yeah. Exactly. Now what is the turnaround time on an order? Where does the order actually get manufactured? And what sort of price point are you setting for these Bespoke items?
Sarah: So we suggest that the turnaround time will be around two weeks. We say that because we often have a backlog of orders. But we’ve turned a dress around in three and a half hours.
Jay: Wow. That’s incredible.
Sarah: Yeah. We had a lady who was visiting, and she was a VIP at one of the hotels, and she needed a dress for the races.
Jay: Did you charge extra for that?
Sarah: Actually no. We didn’t. We didn’t.
Jay: You should have.
Sarah: I know. I just kind of… We’ve got a really good relationship with those people, so I kind of think…
Jay: Yeah. Sure. Give and take.
Sarah: So we can do it very fast. On average, it takes around a day to turnaround a dress to a couple of days for a jacket. We have our own workshop which is in China. What we’ve actually done there is we’ve developed a manufacturing platform. So, for instance, if another brand was in a similar position that we’re in, they wanted to start a custom clothing company, and they were not getting anyone to manufacture for them. And if they do, it’s going to be very poor quality and prone to error. The whole process for us is, in a way, we’ve paved the way for other people to do the same sort of thing. Errors, on Bespoke customizations, you tend to get mistakes. And we’ve put a system in place which almost makes it impossible to make a mistake. It’s very visual. So we were using 3D models, and they snapshot the final garment in the 3D visual. So the person who is making the garment can just follow the images. They don’t need to follow hand-written instructions or nothing can get lost in translation. This is pictorial.
Jay: And who actually does the designing of your pieces.
Sarah: We have a qualified, very experienced designer who has always specialized in women’s professional wear. Again, it was like the angels were shining down that day when she came into my life. So she designs all the silhouettes. And she also runs a whole production office. She’s amazing. And then what we do together is we sort of scour the globe finding the best possible, incredible fabrics. And then we put together a whole collection based on those. We just use those silhouettes.
Jay: I think this is definitely — with the technology and the speed and the turnkey nature that you’ve set up, it’s definitely game changing for sure.
Sarah: Especially on the fact that we’re also developing the on-demand manufacturing platform too.
Jay: Yeah. That’s definitely the logical way to go. Tell the audience a little bit about your plans for 2018 this year and the future of Isabella Wren.
Sarah: So I think we are actually… Well, we’d like to expand. I think logically for us, the next step for expansion would be the US. I think we’re ready now to have some kind of retail presence in Hong Kong and move out of this showroom. So our customer base are professional women. So ideally, it would be further into the heart of Central, if we can and to increase our online presence and expand the on-demand manufacturing significantly. We’re looking at laser printers. So basically the software from the pattern making, laser cutters, will all talk to each other. And then automating some part — the sewing if we can, because it’s very artisanal, our product. We want to keep that artisanal feeling about it.
Jay: Absolutely. That’s the allure of this sort of business and having that personal touch, being able to engage with you, the founder, if need be. I think that’s very special.
Sarah, thank you so much for your time. It was very intriguing and interesting. And thank you for sharing your story with the audience, with my audience. I guess just the last couple of questions… The second to last one would be, as an entrepreneur who has come out from the banking system and has successfully launched your own company, for aspiring entrepreneurs and maybe young startup founders that are looking to start their own company, what’s one good piece of advice you could share with the audience?
Sarah: I think one of the… If you’ve got a brilliant idea and you’re very determined and you have the financial backing — I think that’s very important, is to make sure you can afford to do this. It’s interesting because I looked at some research. A lot of companies that are brilliant, absolutely brilliant, with a wonderful idea and a wonderful business plan and just, unfortunately, just didn’t raise enough money to keep it going. So just, obviously, make sure your funding’s there.
And also, everyone has problems, particularly when you’re doing something that you can’t copy somebody else because it’s never been done before. So you’ve got nobody else’s experience to go on. And you’re going to hit pitfalls, and there’s going to be issues. Not to worry too much about the issue. Think more about a solution to the problem. Focus on solutions and not problems, because everybody has problems.
Jay: Absolutely. I think that’s very true. Even the copycats, if you try to be the whatever of Hong Kong or whatever, everything is different. There’s no two companies that are exactly the same, so you’re going to have to deal with it.
Jay: Well thank you so much. The last question was just simply where can people find you, follow you, connect with you, maybe learn a little bit more about Isabella Wren. Are you on social media? Any of that?
Sarah: Yeah. We are. Absolutely. We have a website — www.IsabellaWren.com. We’re on Facebook. We are on Instagram. I personally am on LinkedIn and so is the company. As you mentioned, we will be at the startup conference at the end of the month, which we’re very excited about. And yeah. I mean, I think… I’m not sure if I mentioned this earlier. But as part of this expansion, we are hoping to close out on another round of financing this year as well.
Jay: Fantastic. That’s great.
Sarah: Yeah. Hopefully by the end of the first quarter, if not before.
Jay: Very exciting.
Sarah: Very exciting. So we’ve got them really amazing strategic partners we’re talking to at the moment.
Jay: Excellent. So for the audience listening in, Sarah is a speaker, I believe. You’re a speaker at the forum. Right?
Sarah: I am.
Jay: January 31st, which is the Retail’s Cutting Edge. You can get your tickets online. I’ll have links up in the show notes and everything linked up for you for her website, where you can follow her, find her, or even maybe go in and get measured, for those female professionals out there. And also, I will have a special link with a place to buy tickets for the Retail’s Cutting Edge event at the Startmeup Hong Kong Festival.
So, Sarah, thank you so much, again, for your time. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you and hearing your wonderful story. And I wish you the best of luck. I always root for, not only for bankers that get out of the system and successfully start startups but for Hong Kong entrepreneurs because that’s special to me, and Hong Kong is my home. So thank you again.
Sarah: Thank you very much, Jay. I’ll speak to you soon.
Jay: Alright. Take care.
Sarah: Thank you. Bye.
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