Come Raya, Whimsigirl It is a household name that Malaysians would buy for holiday haircuts or, on any other day, comfortable everyday wear as well.
The woman behind the brand, Syazana Sukiman, started from scratch with her tailoring and design career after having a background in architecture.
Turning Whimsigirl into the great local brand it is today was a journey that cost it many costly mistakes, it previously revealed in an article featuring The star.
Curious about what she had learned, we reached out to Syazana and she shared some tips that might be helpful to (aspiring) local fashion micro-brand founders hoping to grow big.
A self-taught skill
Before starting Whimsigirl, Syazana was an unemployed newlywed who was simply learning new skills at home.
“I had all that free time, I could also put them to good use. I had all these [designs] and old fabrics that I collected over the years, so I bought a sewing machine for my birthday, bought books and taught myself how to sew, ”she shared.
He made products for friends and family, and gradually orders began to come in. Despite this, he realized that he had been unconsciously doing market research and testing the feasibility of his product.
“I followed the lawsuit and listened to the audience. Your products are only valid when necessary [them]. You might think you have a great product, but you need a paying customer for it to be valid, ”he advised.
Not the first iteration of the business
The Whimsigirl we know today has come a long way since its inception. Back then, Syazana was making children’s clothing, which later caught the attention and demand of her parents who also wanted equally comfortable clothing.
He started the business with bootstrapping, but took a small loan from MyCreative Ventures as it began to grow as a children’s clothing brand. In the same The Star article, you mentioned how you did it without a proper business plan or financial strategy.
So it was in these early years that the brand would make costly mistakes:
1. You entered a market you knew little about.
As a children’s clothing brand, Whimsigirl decided to enter the European and US markets without fully understanding their complexities and how wholesale buyers operated there.
“[We] we spent a lot of time and money with little result in the end, “Syazana recalled, but added:” We quickly realized that [the] The B2B / wholesale model is not what we wanted, and we moved to a DTC model. “
Dictionary time: DTC stands for Direct-to-Consumer, and it is a non-middleman business model.
Looking back at the experience, he reflected, “We definitely should have researched and sought the guidance of more seasoned entrepreneurs, but back then our network was limited and we definitely didn’t know any better.”
“I don’t think more money could have solved the problem; it was more of a situation where we didn’t fully understand the intimate details of the market that we were trying to capture. “
2. I was not analyzing customer data.
When it came to inventory management, the team had no guidance or data to work with. This meant that they would produce too little or too much at times.
“Finding that sweet spot took some time because we had to know the purchasing power of our customers and generate data from scratch,” Syazana said.
3. He was too risk-averse with his products.
“We were so focused and determined to produce only one kind of thing. That, I think it was a mistake and a learning moment for us, ”said Syazana.
“That decision also came out of fear, like, ‘Do we have the resources to explore different product verticals? If things don’t go well, will it affect us? Do we have enough experience? Are we financially, emotionally and physically equipped?’
Then they realized that they were simply overthinking, sabotaging, and making excuses. It is something that they have now overcome. Instead, Whimsigirl has learned to be more strategic and open to taking calculated risks.
Lessons learned from mistakes made
“We were almost back to where we started with the mistakes we made with money,” Syazana admitted as she recounted Whimsigirl’s journey.
Not only were they not making sales, they were also consuming cash reserves. Simultaneously, the already small team lost key personnel.
“Coincidentally, I had my second child at the time, so we decided to take a few months off from work and really reflected what we wanted to achieve as a company and redefined our goals and values,” recalls Syazana.
After free time, they decided to take a spin on women’s design and relaunched the brand, taking us to the Whimsigirl we know today. They have been profitable ever since, Syazana shared proudly.
Regardless, he maintains a positive outlook on these past mistakes. “At the end of the day, as expensive as they were, I appreciate all the mistakes we have made. We are better entrepreneurs for that. “
“Now they have become tools to help us better manage crises. I’m sure we will make more mistakes in the future, but we will tackle them head-on, one crisis at a time. “
One such example was during Hari Raya in 2020, when they were quick enough to reschedule part of their production and delivery schedule. With this, they were able to cope with the storm. They also made sure to readjust and lower their goals last year, but overall they still had a good year on their records.
Advice backed by experience
“Most designers can get too attached to their art, which is important, but this prevents them [in seeing] how their decisions affect the business, ”he shared.
“You have to be clear that some decisions are made out of passion and others for business. Know the pros and cons of each and try to get the best of both if you can, ”Syazana advised.
And, of course, take smarter risks. Syazana does, and fortunately added: “We are in a position to experiment a bit more as the company stabilizes. Our thought process now is to try a lot of different things on a smaller scale and see what we need to focus on. “
“It’s okay to make mistakes as long as we learn and grow from them.”
- You can learn more about Whimsigirl here.
- You can read more about startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Syazana Sukiman, Founder of Whimsigirl