How a former banker started a home-based business that sells internationally

By Amirul Mokhtar · 27th April, 2016

Most people think that in order to start a business you have to be somebody great or you have to create the next Facebook or the next Amazon. It doesn't have to be that way. In this interview, we have Majorie of to share with us her experiences of starting her online business.

Begin interview...

EasyStore Amirul: So Majorie, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Haha no yume Majorie: Well, I was a former banker whose biggest passion was to travel the world. I quit my banking career of more than 10 years (I was a VP in a global bank in KL) to start this business in order to spend more time with my baby who was then only 6 months old.

Amirul: Wow, leaving your 10-year banking career to spend more time with your baby. I truly respect that. How did your online business got started? How did you come up with the idea?

Majorie: I started this business because I needed an alternative source of income as I would not be employed anymore. In my first trip to Tokyo, I was in awe with how the Japanese are able to package and present their goods in very simple, yet intricate packaging. And, I love taking pictures of my baby in her new outfits, capturing her milestones as well as memories on camera. So I figured why not design baby kimonos made out of soft Japanese cotton, and have them packaged as how the Japanese would? When you open our satin-ribbon gift-wrapped box, you’ll find the apparel gently wrapped in delicate soft tissue, reminiscing fond memories of opening your first birthday present, the excitement, to sheer contentment.

Amirul: Tell us more about your online business. What are you selling?

Majorie: We sell kimono-inspired baby rompers as well as tops and dresses, made out of fully imported 100% cotton from Japan. Rompers cater for infants and babies up to 18 months old, whilst our tops and dresses are for children from 2 years to 4 years old. Our sizing is bigger than standard Asian cut, hence our largest size 4T is able to fit even a Caucasian 6 year old child. I designed the apparels myself, and have them locally sewn here in Malaysia.

Amirul: Ok so you design the apparels yourself, just curious, is there anyone else helping you with maybe the marketing or the operation?

Majorie: At the moment, it’s only me running the business full time, from home. The business has since grown to a point where I now need to hire someone to help out with the operations. Still on the lookout for someone who’s willing to work on flexible hours but with datelines.

Amirul: Running your business by yourself I'm guessing you probably went through a fair share of obstacles. What were some of those obstacles and how did you overcome it?

Majorie: The biggest obstacle when we first started out was obviously branding, as this is a totally new brand (I trademarked the brand hahanoyume). I need to first build brand awareness, as well as garner customers’ trust and confidence in the brand and its quality. In order to do that, we approached retailers in Bangsar Village, Hartamas and Publika to carry our merchandise. We pay them the consignee margins, but it was a fair price to pay, as in return, customers get to see and feel our fabric for themselves, and be satisfied that the price they pay for our apparels are well worth it.  We also participate in weekend markets and roadshows.

The other obstacle was also building up my followers and customer base. This is done through Facebook and Instagram. Takes time, but collaboration with other local brands helped push the brand out to a wider network.

In the first 6 months, sales from the retailers and roadshows contributed approximately 70% of total sales. Now that we are in our 9th month, online sales now rake in 50% of our total sales. Our brand has since grown to reach Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, US and even Guam! We plan to further grow the brand into the Singapore and US markets, hence still lots of work to be done.

Amirul: Wow, Guam? Don't underestimate the power of online business. Ok, last question. What advice do you have for new sellers and those that are just planning to start?

Majorie: You must have the gut to do it. The more you wait to fulfill your dream, the longer the journey will take to reach your goal. If you don’t do it now, you probably will never do in future.

Perseverance is key. Success doesn’t come easy. There will be days when you don’t have any sale. There will be days when your friends, even family, will dampen your spirits. There will be days when you feel alone in this entrepreneurial journey. But you have to hang in there, tell yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a single day. So cut yourself some slack, pull yourself up, and face the next day like a champion. You will one day be a champion.

Great advice from Majorie. Hope you are inspired by her story to start your own business. Here are a few key takeaways from the sharing session: Key takeaway #1 : You don't have to be somebody great or have really great ideas to start your own business. You can be a working mother, a stay at home parent, a teacher, or even a VP of a global bank. Key takeaway #2 : Start with what you are passionate about. This is important because you will need the drive to keep moving forward with your business. Key takeaway #3 : The longer you wait to start, the longer your journey will be. So what are you waiting for, start your online business today!

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