Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
No two days are the same. I’m involved in all aspects of the business so on some days my focus is on devising and implementing marketing campaigns, reviewing sales activity, and liaising with retail stockists. On other days, I’ll be managing supply channels, working on new products, and paying bills!
What made you start the business and how did you get started?
When I was a practising lawyer, I worked in an office where there were a lot of “bag hags”, myself included. We would always be showing off our new designer bags to each other. Some of these style-savvy women would then have children, take their newborn babies to the office to meet everyone and would be carrying PVC changing bags to hold their baby essentials. I was mortified by the changing bags that were out there! The needs of a significant customer segment were largely uncatered for because many women wanted tasteful and good-quality changing bags but simply couldn’t find anything they were truly happy with. My husband had been studying for an MBA at the time and I had started reading his various textbooks out of personal interest, and it was then that I thought there was a viable opportunity to create high-end changing bags for a discerning customer segment. I’d always been entrepreneurial growing up but fell into law because I was also very academic and once I became a lawyer, I had very little time for anything else. After 10 years of practising law, I wanted to shift gears and do something entrepreneurial and creative instead.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Two achievements stand out in my mind. The first was Tribe’s signature bag, the “Singapore Sling”, winning the prestigious Junior Design Award 2012 for “Best Changing Bag”. In doing so, we beat many long-established changing bag brands, and the award really positioned Tribe as a brand to watch. It was a big achievement given we had only been in business for less than 12 months when we won the award. The second noteworthy achievement was seeing a paparazzi photo of supermodel Gisele Bündchen carrying our midnight Singapore Sling whilst stepping out in Manhattan with her baby girl. She’s one of the most beautiful, stylish and influential women in the world. I still think to myself, “Wow, that’s my changing bag that Giselle’s carrying!”
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Most start-up businesses have finite resources, whether they are financial, manpower-related or otherwise. Making the most out of resources one has is a challenge. Most entrepreneurs want to take on the world at once but often this can only be achieved in a series of stages. Vision and patience are important personal traits to have.
What are your future plans for the business?
There are so many things in the pipeline but the most immediate is the release of a new collection of changing bags in August 2013. Our fans can expect to see more great leather changing bags for which we are famous, as well as a few surprises too in the form of multi-purpose totes, beach bags and handbags.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would set more realistic expectations around how physically and mentally challenging the whole process would be, and I’d go into the venture with the expectation that I wouldn’t get much sleep for the first few years. I balance motherhood and the business, and both demand a significant time commitment.
Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
I think that over time, a lot of us have lost the ability to follow, or are scared to trust, our instincts. Often things get over-analysed from a conventional academic–type pros and cons approach. Dreams need to be realistic and it’s important to approach them with a combination of realism and trusting our instincts. I think too often people second-guess themselves. Relying on our instincts is something that more of us need to do because sometimes we aren’t presented with a clear and obvious answer to a question.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Know your product, know your suppliers, know your customers, and have a clear vision on what you what to achieve and how you’re going to work to achieve it.
What or who inspires you in business and why?
My mother is a successful business woman who has overcome enormous personal obstacles in her life. She takes things in her stride, and is incredibly resilient and resourceful. She is of constant inspiration to me, especially since I’ve become a mother and now understand the demands of being both a parent and entrepreneur.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
I’m a big fan of metaphysical and spiritual teacher Louise Hay. I like her affirmation, “All is well.” I take a deep breath and say that to myself whenever I’m hit with a curve ball.