Coming as a total introvert…I never would’ve guessed that I’ll be pursuing the path of entrepreneurship…how did it all happen?
Join the ‘Clueless-What-The-Hell-To-Do-With-My-Life Club’
It all started with a goalless life after graduating from University, I pretty much immediately went in the same boring pattern of 9 to 5 job and lived miserably.
Sounds familiar? How about the feeling of lost and depressed? Yup
Repeat the boring cycle of curse at the alarm, stuck in traffic to work, come back home tired as hell, eat, surf internet, sleep, and repeat? check
Feel like a living dead, soulless, and wasting life? check, check, and check.
If you feel this way, you are not alone. Join the club, we got members globally, in various age, gender, size, and race.
Cultural Shock Popped My Comfort-Zone
Yup, with little knowledge for the fashion industry, I just dive in. It certainly was lots of obstacles and challenges, but I just ‘do it’, and engaged to any opportunities I could find. Throughout the past year or so, I’ve switched from apparel to handbag design, created lots of designs with my sewing machine, attended local charity fashion shows, community fashion shows, collaboration projects with photographer and models. I built more confidence and experience as I go, learned as much as I could. Reading books, websites, blogs, connecting to other designers…pretty much just throw myself in the industry. I realized SO many things that I would never know if I were a regular consumer.When I finally got my green card about 5 years ago, I first visited my sister that lives in Taiwan. Throughout the trip, I’ve experienced major cultural shock and was certainly dragged out of my comfort zone. But then…visiting my sister became my excuse to travel, I slowly came out of my shell and became more open-minded from all those priceless experience. I built confidence through my solo travel and got very motivated to pursue my dreams. Life’s too short to waste on doing things we don’t like. So I decided I want to be a designer that can make living from my designs and travel.
The Fashion Industry
Although I’m still learning and building experience as I go, I’ve came this far from never attended any fashion design schools. I’ve met many inspiring people that broaden my view. The more I learn about this industry, the more I understand myself too. What I want to accomplish, what’s my strength, and my weaknesses. To be honest, a lot of the times I just feel lost and overwhelmed, but I just kept on learning and being (stubbornly) persistent. Aside from family issues, I completely changed my lifestyle in many ways. I became more frugal to better invest in my business, I don’t go out unless I’m working, and I am constantly working.
Maybe you already knew that designers have to fight for opportunities to present their designs in well-reputable shows like Nolcha and Mercedes-Benz, but do you know the fee to get in could be more than $10,000 just to present around 15~20 piece of designs? I’m not even counting the supplies and materials, just the participation fee alone. On top of that challenge, buyers usually wait a couple season before they pick up your line to test if you can make it that long, according to their standards. You can try to get sponsors…but how do you get sponsors when you are start-up that’s scraping everything you have to buy materials to make stuff? It’s almost like that same ol’ pattern from fresh grads: graduate from college, not able to find a job because you have no experience, and can’t build your experience because you don’t have a job. Certainly you can get internships, but if you did not have a chance to get internships, does that mean you are screwed? Well…maybe.
For the most part, whether you want to work under a company or run your own biz, internship experience is always good to give you an insight to the workforce. I didn’t do internship when I was in college because I had international student visa and worked for my parents to pay my sky-high tuition.
Anyways, I still manage to find an opportunity to collaborate with other designers in Cine de la Mode at New York City. Sound astonishing? Working day and night, nipped my hands with wounds, insomnia, and restless, I made all my designs myself for this show, collaborated with other emerging designers, had the craziest backstage experience, and met some really inspiring people. Yes…coming as emerging designer, paying for the experience is a must, and it truly was a great learning experience. At this point, my income from my designing business is in the negative zone, everything out-of-pocket from my current job. After that show, I had to think more realistically, what other ways will be more effective? Up until this point, I followed the traditional fashion industry pattern, start from the bottom, keep working, get connections, and somehow one day I will build myself a well reputable brand.
Opportunity is always there, whether you are ready for it is the question.
I understood at the beginning that making handbags by myself was definitely not the way to go if I want to make profit. It takes a lot of time, effort, money, and energy…and the finished design does not look ‘professional’ enough for the buyers. Unless you are a retiree sewing for hobby, you would be wasting WAY too much time making each piece and try to make profit out of them, a Mexican factory worker is surely making more than me.
The whole point is to get buyers interested. From designer standpoint, I am building connections, brand awareness, and gain experience, but from the business standpoint, no cash flow, not good. Besides, how long and how much do I have to put in to ‘make it’?
So I started to think how to make my handbag designs more professional.
Well…I certainly don’t have a factory in my garage to make it happen, so I started to source manufacturers to make my samples. Domestic handbag manufacturers starts off around $600 for 1 sample, yes you heard me, 1 sample at $600+, not including the materials. International manufacturer costs around $150+, then you’ll have to add the shipping, and minimum order is usually 100 per design. That’s why a lot of crafters couldn’t make it big, self-production is not scalable to make profit for the effort, material cost, and valuable time you put in, and manufacturer hunting is a PAIN.
Something doesn’t feel right…
Up till this point I just put myself in what I call it “shut up and work” mode. The truth is, I’ve created a job for myself and it was a nightmare. That was certainly NOT the reason why I created my business, to tie myself in endless day and night hard work and that almost killed my health. What was I doing wrong? Everyone told me to work hard from the bottom, get connections, do shows, create designs, and just make it work, that’s the way to go, but I am starting to loose that momentum…
My purpose is to make living with my given talent and help those I care about! Not that I was afraid of hard work and hustle, but putting all those efforts, sweats, blood, and tears in the wrong direction that’s not giving any fruitful outcome? Why?
Beginning of the year I worked with a manufacturer, got my samples, and was lucky to collaborate with an apparel designer friend in a well-reputable Nolcha Fashion Week in New York. I’m very very VERY thankful for this opportunity and was glad I gave it all I’ve got to learn from the experience.
It was a big deal type of event. I had great experience, learned a lot, inspired a lot, cried a lot, thought a lot…there was a sprout of feeling that’s growing…something inside me is whispering “You struggle because you don’t love it”
I’m almost scared to admit it because I’ve already made my parents ‘disappointed’ for not doing what they want me to do.
the photo shoots I’ve done, designs I’ve created, shows I’ve attended…for some reason…it just feels…..suffocating
if I have to describe this feeling, it’s almost like: you are in a relationship but it doesn’t feel right. I can do the things I do, but do I love it? hmm….not sure, it’s hard to pinpoint my feeling but I don’t ‘feel it’. I know what I don’t like… I was never a fashion-fanatic at the beginning, I am not the type of fashionista that can name brands A-Z, subscribe to all the latest fashion trend there is, I don’t get excited when certain designer’s collection is out, and truthfully, I don’t even like shopping.
Well, at least I am more truthful to myself more than ever at this point.
I need to open up my horizon more, so I started to broaden my iTunes podcast selection to not just in Stuff You Should Know and other business marketing stuff, but a new type of business called ‘lifestyle business’. According to Wiki, “A lifestyle business is a business that is set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle.”
The key points about lifestyle business entrepreneurs that attracted me is that they are:
I listened to all Topical MBA at www.lifestylebusinesspodcast.com, read Tim Ferris’s The 4 Hour Work Week and was completely blown.
I am normal! It does exists! THIS is what I want, work and travel. I do like designing because I am capable, but looking back at how I hermit myself in front of my sewing studio all day everyday is just another dreadful 9-5 job. I feel like I’m hustling like an artists…creating all these designs and hoping there’s a market that will like my designs, but that, of course, is not how business rolls. I need to implement the ‘designer’ with ‘lifestyle business’, and think like an entrepreneur.
Now that I understand myself better, I am more truthful to myself, and approach my business from a different mindset. Life is more than what we’ve been taught, the rest is for us to explore.
My lifestyle business journey has begun. Now that you see where I am coming from, hopefully my story inspired you in some way.
Don’t ever settle for less, don’t ignore your inner voice, don’t gave in and not try.
I’m still hustling and figuring out how to build my lifestyle business, but I won’t give in until I reach where I want to be.
Please feel free to email me if you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions on my story, I would be more than happy to hear from you