Female entrepreneurs, changemakers and leaders from all over the globe come in different forms. We do not conform to mainstream stereotypes as commonly perceived by society and we approach business by taking into account the needs of all aspects of society, culture and demand.
In this series of interviews by JEOEL, our Founder Jiayueh interviews the Founder of ROOM8008, Kiki about her business experience and understanding in the fashion fraternity and to hear her expertise on fashion advice for young women.
What made you decide to start your own business?
When I was a student, of course I liked shopping! But brands like Topshop have rather expensive clothing and it was a lot for my age. So I got motivated and told myself to make my own fashion label that has better quality, prettier and cheaper than them.
What was missing in the market that made you want to do ROOM8008?
Local fashion labels that are into fast fashion! Most brands tend to go more casual and simpler. nothing fancy really, but it's what the market wants. I made Room8008 to prove that local brands are not as bad as you think they are!
How long did it take for you to set up ROOM8008?
To be honest...just a day. We have been in this market for about 10 years, but we only started manufacturing on our own and that took about 2 years. This is when the team started coming together, fashion designers, print designers, graphic designers, marketing team, administration team as well as our retail associates which took about 7 years!
What was the hardest thing you had to learn to do in running a business?
Branding as a local brand was one of the toughest obstacle, and it still is. Many tend to ignore us when they want to purchase any outfits, and rather go for international brands. They had their uncertainty and doubts on us local brands, and stereotyped us as a company that offers low quality products or even assuming us marking up the prices way too high. Not only that, most Malaysian females tend to go for neutral colours that does not correlate to our brand's palette. We prefer bright, fun and pastel colours in our collections that shouts femininity. They also tend to think our products are too extravagant for their own personal tastes, so they would visit us to shop for evening occasions.
What makes you feel like giving up?
Giving up...never thought of it really. There are times when I'd say out loud, but never took into consideration. That's because I don't think I've given my all yet, like when I achieved something I'd still tell myself that I can do more than that. But I wouldn't stress myself out to achieve a milestone from any expectations of others. It never really occurred to me that I wanted to have my own flagship stores and manufacturing my own clothes, if not for others that mocked or talked me down. There weren't times when I wanted to give up because I believe every point in life has its own lessons to learn based on obstacles and challenges faced. Giving up was never an option in my mind.
What keeps you going?
I'd say I was fortunate enough where I'm surrounded by those who understand and appreciate my passion in curating my own collections. There are those who I was thankful for because they motivated and inspired me to want more and achieve better throughout my journey. They really made me want to show that I am proud of where I am now and I want to celebrate this with the world.
What would you say is the proudest moment in your journey?
My proudest moment so far was actually having a team that has great work ethic and understanding with profession. From making a collection come alive, to serving every customers in-stores. There are so much more that I'm constantly proud of for letting me towards where I am now.
What was the biggest business mistake you made and what would you do differently?
I do believe that my decisions made have led me to where I want to be now. Maybe if I started using social media like Instagram or Facebook earlier, there may be a bigger audience? But in a way, stress could be way bigger then. If I can turn back time, I might not change a thing as timing is perfectly fine now.
What is one thing people often misunderstand about you?
Many assumed I'm a very funny and enthusiastic person, maybe because I look cheerful most of the time. It really depends on who I'm with. Things can be different around my family, friends, clients as well as my staff.
How do you create milestones for yourself?
Well, this is not a question you should ask me, because I do things rather impulsively! I'd say my decisions does vary depending on the economy and situation I am in.
What advice would you give your younger self, knowing what you know now?
Usually you'd hear people saying things like don't give up and believe in yourself... But to me, you have to make sure you have the ability to do something before you start. There's a saying goes "With great power comes with great responsibility". Don't try to be a boss if you can't handle the responsibilities, expectations and obstacles you will face. For example, an influencer is not about his or her looks, but how she or he INFLUENCE people on their platforms. And if you're someone who gets hurt very easily, don't bother trying! Because if you make a mistake, chances of having a second chance is really really low, you may need to beg for it too.
How do I know if I'm paying the right price for good quality clothes?
Simple, try it feel it touch it. We believe new-comers should try on our clothing before assuming, because how the clothes fit speaks for itself.
As a women’s fashion insider, what do you know that normal people don't about picking quality products?
The simplest method is the lining. Most clothing actually needs lining for a better silhouette on your body, and the quality of the lining needs to be decent for comfort. The sewing of the lining is important as well.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to start a business?
Give yourself one year to try it out, because everyone can try! If it doesn't work, you can still turn back. And the effort should never be just 100%, but 1000% instead!