From Corporate Job To Online Fashion Boutique Store: An Interview With Ching Su

 

I met Ching Su when we were studying in TARC, back in 2008.

Back then, I only know her as a girl who was hardworking, versatile and extremely talented in baking. Don’t believe?

Animal planet cake.
Animal planet cake.

Upon graduation, she was offered a job in banking line and she readily accepted it.

Fast forward to-date, she is now a proud founder who works full-time on shop360degree – an online fashion boutique store that sells fashion apparels and accessories.

This is not your typical story of zero to hero, or a unicorn start-up story.

But it is a grounded story which a girl wanted to change her life by making a choice.

Ching Su is a perfect example of that.

I talked to Ching Su about her story, the challenges she’d overcome, and most importantly, why did she made to choice to start her own business.

Why Start Your Own Business?

Ching Su has always been interested in fashion design. When she first started working in her banking career – she realized that this wasn’t the life she’s seeking for.

Reporting to work everyday was boring and uninspiring. The daily tasks are repetitive and the lack of freedom was killer. Perhaps it was my personality, I’ve always wanted to be in control of my life and didn’t want to be bonded by companies.

Her first e-commerce experience started when she purchased from the China popular e-commerce site TaoBao. While Ching Su was navigating through the site, she realized that purchases can be made within a single click and there was no need to go to the store physically.

Coupled with her strong interest in fashion design, that’s how she decided to start her own boutique store.

The Journey of Shop360Degree

Ching Su started off with a capital of RM 500, like everyone else, she sourced the apparels locally and upload them to Facebook for sale.

Admittedly, it wasn’t easy when I first started out. I’ve always been eager to try online business but I can’t risk it all, that’s why I started off as part time to see if this is sustainable.

Sooner or later, she realized that local designs are not quite up to par – there was a lack of demand on those designs.

That’s when she pivoted to TaoBao which led to her success:

I launched a pre-order service online and started to market apparels from TaoBao via Facebook. This reduces my inventory risk as I don’t need to hold too many stocks. I simply need to re-post to my customers when the apparels arrived. I primarily rely on tools & platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, WeChat & Line to communicate with my customers.

As time passes, I started to gain more and more customers and I find it extremely challenging to reply 1:1.

That drove me to create a website: http://www.shop360degree.com.my/

The website provides necessary information and tutorials to guide the visitors, most importantly, this freed up my capacity to focus on other things.

Shop360Degree Home Page
Beautifully crafted by Ching Su 🙂
Shop360Degree - Featured Products
A list of fashion apparels that you can select from, my wife actually bought her sunflower series from Ching Su!

It was only until when her business stabilized – where she took the leap of faith by committing full-time on her own boutique store.

Ching Su resigned and went back to Kuantan. She started to design her own branded apparel.

My first few attempts of designing and manufacturing apparels wasn’t successful. It might be due to my inexperience, but through trial and error, I’ve managed to find out what works and whatnot.

Until I met a wholesaler cum manufacturer through TaoBao which was helped me in growing my business.

This wholesaler in particular sold many popular designs to Malaysians and Singaporeans which gave me confidence in sourcing her products.

I’m grateful for meeting her as she had shared with me many valuable experience and helped me on solving various issues.

Eventually we became friends and she is now helping me to manufacture my own branded apparels 🙂

I may not have the fashion design background for now but I’ll be studying it in near future. My goal is to design and customize all the apparels, building up my own brand.

Utilizing Instagram and Facebook To Grow Her Business

Ching Su relies heavily on advertisements to promote her business. As her customers are ranging from 17 to 30 years old, she mainly relies on platforms like Instagram and Facebook for bigger outreach. [click on the link to check out her page!]

There will always be up and down in business cycles i.e. economy climate etc, however, constant growth is still possible as long as one is putting continuous effort on improving the business.

I find these 3 factors to be vital in my business – advertisement, service quality & trend.

I’ve relied heavily on both Facebook and Instagram for bigger outreach and increasing brand awareness. If you’d noticed, I’ve been collaborating with few bloggers to drive more awareness. Not only that, I often design contests or promotions on both platform to drive more engagement. All these engagement leads to many repurchases from my customers.

Secondly is service quality. I find that most of my returning customers act as my advocate by recommending to their friends.

Last but not least, identifying trend is the fundamental of my business. I need to constantly keep track on latest design and fashions to make sure the apparels are relevant to my audience.

There is always a downside to things, and it’s the same for her business

Even with a website developed for ordering purposes, I still find it challenging to drive my customer to order via the platform. They felt that ordering through website is difficult and complicated. With customers relying heavily on messaging app, it is getting much more challenging for me to reply 1:1.

I would also need to bear the cost of “accidents” such as missing delivery packages, customs issues, so on so forth.

Not to mention the on-going challenge of competition with much cheaper price & lower quality products.

While it looks glamour from the outside by taking in charge of her life, Ching Su said that she doesn’t have a fixed working hours.

I don’t have a fixed working time and rest day. My working hours is defined by the my customers’ messages and arrival of new apparels – which I need to arrange for photoshoot.

My rest time is when there is no inquiries or new stock coming in! haha.

It sounds crazy but as long as you know how to arrange your time, it’s not a big issue.

Ching Su setup her own site through Easy.my. She suggests beginner to explore on this simple system to create your own website. [Carl: There are also other available platforms such as WordPress, Joomla etc which you can explore on, this blog was built with WordPress]

Conclusion

While it seems Ching Su’s story was not unique in anyway, however, I really liked the motive and drive behind her story. It feels real, in fact, it is REAL.

It wasn’t her special talents in baking that led her this far, but it was her intention – the thirst for freedom – that led her this far.

Running business on your own is not an easy feat, but again, it was never meant to be simple to begin with. Focus on your intention, craft your goal and slice it down to smaller piece that you can take one step at a time. Slowly but surely, you’ll definitely achieve your goal as long as you’re not giving up. Ganbatte Ching Su!

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