5 questions to ask before starting a fashion business

I received a lot of positive feedback for my article on the fashion industry as well as requests for a more detailed post on the topic. So here it is:

Beautiful people and beautiful things. Glitz and glamour. Prestige and parties. Fame, fortune and fun. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the fashion industry? Sadly, all this is just part of the reality, if at all.

This industry is not for everyone. The glitz and the glamour hide all the hard work and the tears. Insecurity comes easily while success does not. Challenges are aplenty. Finding meaning, purpose and joy eludes even the best.

Here’s a checklist for you to go through before you set up a fashion business.

  1. Do you have something unique to offer?

Ask yourself this – why will people choose your product over someone else’s? Is it the price, the design or the dream that you are selling? This is a hyper competitive industry even at the smallest scale so it is essential to have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that sets you apart from your competitors.

  1. Who is your customer?

It’s not enough to answer with – “A rich, stylish man/woman”. You need to understand their lifestyle and their motivations. You need to understand their relationship with fashion. Assessing how your business can blend into their life will ensure that there is a demand for your products.

  1. Are you ready for the grind?

Are you ready to pack boxes at 4 AM? Create invoices and analyse receipts with your accountant? Source raw material and liaise with manufacturers in countries where you may face a language barrier? Find stockists for your product and coordinate with them on a regular basis? Handling all these complexities can prove challenging even for the most organised person. Your success will hinge on your entrepreneurial abilities as well as your commitment to your business.    

  1. Where is the money coming from?

Is it your family and friends? Bank loans? Angel investors? Grants or sponsorships? And how much do you need? It is critical to ensure that your money doesn’t run out half way through. Take the time to create a business plan. It will not only help you get funding but will also refine your vision for your brand and set a roadmap to realizing it.

  1. Who is on your team?

Even if you are the sole founder and only employee of your business, you would still need a team of people to support you in various ways. A graphic designer, photographer, stylist, accountant, lawyer, PR maven, social media manager – depending on your business, you may need one or more of these people. Finding the right people is as important as having a great product.

I hope I haven’t scared you from starting your business. My intention is to make you aware of the challenges and the processes involved and be prepared.

If you have successfully answered all the above questions, you are ready and I wish you all the success in the world.

Note: The above article has also been published on the Expat Fairs website here.

Flash Fiction: Don B Angri Sharon

Many of you don’t know that I also write fiction.

Here is a flash fiction piece I wrote some time ago:

A maid working in Singapore emails her daughter living in the Philippines:


To: Sharon Gonzales (gmail.com)

Subject: Don b angri Sharon

Sharon don cry. eat food now. Mamma say u no talk to her. Why so rude Sharon. She do no wrong. She tk care of u. You rude to me also. Why you cut my call. I call and call. I so worrid for u. U my only child.  I in Singapor only for u Sharon. U think my life easy. I clean house all day. No holiday. Some bossess nice like Mr Carl. Some boss so rude. Scol me make me do extra work don pay me at time. Yestrday my India lady boss scol me for talkin to her husband.  She say I don cleen proper. I cleen frij bt she make me do agin. She jelus off me bt I jus talk to him. Agency also too much they earnin too much coz of me bt when hv problem they no care.

I say many time u cant cum to Singapor. My contract I sign no allow. No allow u in my place. They no lemme cook no iron no hot water. Tolet also no flush. Thes pepl not nice Sharon. Yestrday Dora scol me coz I put food on her tray in frij. I say sorry also bt Dora say hole frij smel coz my food bt she ly. I so suffer here Sharon. I only go church and pray for strenth.

I mis u. U go college. u work in offis. No maid job for u. What u do Sharon. U cut skool u smok u anser bak ur granma. U finis all money I sen u. Why u go to KFC evry day. Why u gv money to ur frens. Ur frens only use u. Granma say u hv many boyfrens also. Is true Sharon? Now u repet 1 yr in skool. Why u no tell me. What ur daddy say Sharon. He no mor sen money if I tell u fail.

Why u angri wid me. I tell u agin and agin u cant live wid ur daddy. Ur daddy don wan u. I so sorry bt u r big now so I tell. Don say nothin to him on fone. He get angri. I work so hard for money for ur skool. Why u cut skool. U wan b pregnan and marry at 16 like ur cozin Lily. Hav baby and tk care of baby all day. U study first u work in offis. Then u marry nice man. U wan b like ur mamma. B maid all life. I ur mamma Sharon. I think good for u. Don b angri. I so far away. B nice to granma. b happy. I sen box alredy. Got cloths, bags, shoes. My bossess pas me. Sum new also. Sum u keep. Sum u giv to Cora. I LOV U SHARON. Don b angri. I sent kissess to u.


Accessories – Blithe and Merry

When I was a teenager, my taste in accessories veered towards the cheap and the colorful. Wood, shell, plastic – I liked eclectic materials and huge designs. And I wore something different everyday. I wanted to stand out from the crowd.

In my 20s, I decided I wanted to fit in. My jewelry became dainty and delicate-it was hard to make out what I was wearing. And I wore the same Swarovski and Pandora pieces everyday.

Now that I am in my 30s, I like statement pieces. I appreciate unique design, good quality and a luxurious feeling. And I am able and willing to pay for it.

I came across Blithe and Merry and its founder Joanna at the last Blueprint. The designs of the cuffs she was selling then immediately caught my eye. Even to a layperson like me, the quality of the pieces was immediately evident. I tried on one cuff. It looked good, it felt good and I was immediately sold.


Blithe and Merry makes luxurious statement jewelry which are available at accessible prices. Their latest collection consists of genuine leather cuffs with unique hardware.


I am the kind of person who judges a product or a service by the people who own/sell it. It’s no wonder then that the brand’s best asset is Joanna. She is a warm and wonderful woman who will talk and listen to you whether you buy her pieces or not. She is creative, passionate and totally dedicated to her business. And I know for a fact that it’s not easy as like me, she is mum to a toddler and does it all without any help.


If you want to know more about Blithe and Merry, please visit:

Website: http://www.blitheandmerry.com/

Instagram: @blitheandmerry

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blithe.merry


Oh and a little birdie told me that their pieces will soon be available at a major department store, just in time for all our holiday shopping 🙂

Fashion Industry – Should you be a part of it?

Before I set up my business, I used to work in fashion PR. Currently, a few of my clients are from this industry. Many close friends work here.

I have come across many more young people (in age or in spirit) in recent years who want to be a part of this industry. It looks glamorous, it feels creative, there is name, fame and fortune to be made – or so is the conventional thinking.

The one thing that I can tell you is that this industry is not for everyone. The glitz and the glamour hide all the hard work and the tears. Insecurity comes easily while success does not. Challenges are aplenty. Finding meaning, purpose and joy eludes even the best.

The most effective way to know if you are suitable is of course to try it out – via internships. Seek a mentor to guide and support you through the journey.

Besides that, you must find out everything you can about the industry. And for this, I would recommend The Business of Fashion. It’s a one-stop website for everything you would ever need to know about the global fashion industry.

Besides a Careers section where you can find jobs, they have recently launched an Education section that features free online courses and videos such as – Do You Really Want to Start a Fashion Business?how to write a fashion business plan, how to finance your fashion business and how to build brand awareness. There are also courses on fashion marketing & communications and fashion history.

Subscribe to their newsletter and you will never be out of the loop again.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the very best!

New Beginnings

September is going to be a month of several new adventures for me and my family.

My son is starting preschool. At 20 months, he has joined Arts Kidz in Bukit Timah, a great school by all accounts. I am experiencing mixed emotions right now, most of which I haven’t sorted through. It’s really hard for me to let go off a boy who I have raised almost singlehandedly since he was born (my husband was in Malaysia for work for almost a year and I have no help or family in Singapore). It’s taken me some time to trust his teachers and not be too critical of them. After all, they are not his mothers and they play a different role in his life.  The discipline at school chafed me initially but I have accepted now that it’s necessary. My son cries every day when he is dropped off at school (which is why my husband drops him) and cries occasionally in between as well especially when he has to share things (he hates sharing and wants everything for himself even when he is not using them).

It’s excruciating for us to see him cry and to think that he is crying when we are not around. We have willed our hearts to stone so that we can do this every day. There are immense benefits to attending preschool and I have noticed significant positive change in my son in just 4 days but I guess he will take some time to adjust emotionally to his new environment. We will just have to bear the torture in the mean time.

We will also be moving to a new apartment at the end of this month. The lease on our current place is expiring and will not be renewed. Besides, we also want to move closer to my son’s school so that we don’t need to take the bus for drop offs and pick ups. However, the kind of houses we have seen so far has put me in depression. We currently live in an old executive HDB apartment which is huge in size, has a great view and very affordable rent. Only condos are available near my son’s school where the apartments are small and expensive. We might end up choosing between a nice house or a house near school as it seems we can’t have both.

With my son in preschool now (starting full days soon hopefully), I have a lot more time to devote to work and I am really looking forward to taking my business to the next level. More exciting projects, meeting interesting people and making a lot more money are on the horizon. I am super psyched!

I am also going to start 2 new sections in this blog – Look out for Label and Interview of the Month. The aim of the first section will be to draw attention to new and/or under-the-radar brands that are unique, good and have a certain ‘It’ factor overall. This is a particular passion of mine that I am finally able to bring to reality. The second section will introduce you to interesting and inspiring people that you must know about.

Friends, if you have any ideas on how I can improve this blog, please do drop me a note in the comments section. Thank you!

Happy Independence Day India!

A week on and it’s time to celebrate India’s 68th Independence Day.

I was born here in 1982 in a city called Dhanbad, now in the state of Jharkhand but then in the state of Bihar. My interaction with Bihar was limited to annual trips and gazillions of relatives. I grew up primarily in Delhi, studying there, then working in Hyderabad, then studying in Pune and finally working in Mumbai before leaving for Singapore.

As with a parent, it’s easier to see the country’s flaws than to see that which makes droves of foreigners flock to India every year – and stay on.

But the fact remains – India will always be my country, my land, my home. And the first thing I want to improve in India is the way it treats women and children. Infrastructure, environment, corruption can all wait – first we need to create a country where one half of the population is not at the mercy of the benevolence of the other half.

Then together we can work on the rest. And there is a lot of work to be done. Here’s hoping no one is talking about women’s issues in India in another 68 years.

Happy Independence Day India!

Happy 50th National Day Singapore!

Congratulations Singapore!

50 years is a momentous milestone and you deserve all the bouquets and celebrations.

You have been my home since 2011 and what a wonderful home you have been. While I appreciate your fantastic infrastructure and corruption-free bureaucracy, the freedom I have experienced here as a woman in public spaces is the truly matchless gift you have given me.  I am supremely grateful.

Today though, I have just one thing to say to you- don’t be disheartened by the criticism you receive, especially from your young ones. You have served every generation well but each new generation has different desires and expectations and you need to adapt to fulfill them.

But be mindful that you don’t blindly agree to everything. You know from experience that limitless freedom can easily devolve into anarchy. Given the unique character of Singapore, some restrictions are necessary to preserve the integrity of the country.

Give your people space to be themselves and grow, without jeopardizing their future. I have been here a short time but I am confident you can do this.

Here’s wishing you another glorious 50 years Singapore!


Friends, as my contribution to this joyous occasion, I am volunteering with Singapore Fashion Runway, an SG50 celebration programme that aims to bring the country together through fashion. You can read more about it and sign up to join here.

3 months, 6 lessons

Double profit! It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

Approximately 3 months ago, I began my journey as an entrepreneur. These are the lessons I have learnt (or rather have been knocked into my head), not just by running my own business but also by observing successful and not so successful small businesses around me.

1. The founder has to do everything. 

When I started out, the first goal was to register the business.

Then get requisite permissions from the Government. Then set up the website and email account. Then get my visual identity package (logo, letterhead, visiting card, envelope) designed. Then promote and publicize the business. Then pitch to clients and get accounts.

Then do the actual work for my accounts. Then do the changes and corrections in the work. Then send invoices and collect payment. Then figure out my accounting and tax obligations. Then…

Yes, I have to do everything, everything on my own and it just doesn’t stop.

2. …and I can. 

3 months ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be able to accomplish any of the above. But I did. And the lesson is – anyone can.

The pattern is – a challenge comes up and you figure out a solution. Either ask Google or find an actual person who can help. I can’t tell you how much confidence and self esteem I have gained by being able to face all the challenges and come up with the solutions – for everything, on my own.

An entrepreneur needs to be comfortable with uncertainty, with asking questions and seeking help.

3. Networking is critical. 

I have to give credit where credit is due.

I would not have been able to do any of the things I did if it wasn’t for the help I received from people in online and offline networking groups. Tips, contacts, advice, solutions, business leads – you can get it all by networking in the right communities.

But remember, the first rule of networking is – pay it forward. A helps you and maybe you can help A in return. Or maybe not. But you can definitely help B and C.

I currently volunteer for a phenomenal networking group for female entrepreneurs – CRIB. It stands for Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses and is a social enterprise that empowers women to become successful entrepreneurs through networking, matchmaking and business incubation.

4. Communication is the difference between a successful business and an also-ran. 

In today’s world of instant communication – not replying to WhatsApp or Facebook messages within an acceptable period of time, taking days to respond to emails, not picking up calls despite previous confirmation, going off-the-grid without a word – is just not going to cut it. I am not saying that you need to be chained to your smart phone but responding especially to current and prospective customers, hardly takes any time.

A lack of communication hurts the reputation and credibility of your business. With so many choices available, a customer will just take her business elsewhere. But before doing that, she’ll write a nasty post about you on the Internet.

Is this really worth not picking up that phone?

5. Choose your clients/customers wisely. 

This is especially true if you are in the service industry. One gets a fair idea what a client will be like and what your experience will be servicing them in the pitching stage itself.

Do you want a client who pays you peanuts but expects artisanal chocolate in return? Who is obnoxious and thinks they have bought you? Who will keep asking you for options till the last minute and will never be satisfied? Who thinks they have done you a favour by hiring you and now they must justify the cost by making you do as much work as possible, even if it is not required?

Is their money worth the physical toll, the mental anguish? Won’t the time you give to such a client be better served on other clients?

This is a personal choice every business owner has to make but my answer is no.

6. Never give up – there is always a solution. 

Being an entrepreneur is hard – hard on the body, hard on the mind, hard on the soul. But we must remember why we chose this path.

I became an entrepreneur because I want to make money, I want to be the boss and I want to do this while taking care of my children.

Whatever be the challenge, there is always a solution. If you can’t figure out, ask someone else. Do some research. Don’t give up.

Whenever I feel low, I read Tim Ferriss’s blog. This guy and his off-the-beaten-track approach to life has been a source of inspiration for me for many years and finally, I am trying to put some of the things he says into practice. Do check out his site if you don’t know him already. You will definitely not regret it.

7. Manage your email well.

Here’s a bonus lesson – while communicating and responding are a must, you must learn to manage your email else email will manage you. Emails can become time sucks. Your work will be left unfinished if all you do is keep responding to emails all day.

If you are like me and don’t like seeing emails piling up in your inbox, then you need a strategy.

Unless you are in a business that experiences emergency situations, check emails no more than 3 times a day – morning (after putting in a solid hour or two completing urgent work), afternoon and evening (before the end of your work day). Try and respond as soon as you check the emails and not leave them for later. Set aside a time for this and don’t exceed the time limit. Aim to respond to all emails you receive on the same day.

Here’s wishing all business owners many more months and many more lessons!

7 tips for balance in life

All our plates are full.

I have the house, the child, the business and volunteer work. My husband has a full time job, the child and cricket. Everyone I know is essentially running around from morning to night trying to balance all their obligations and interests.

Here are my tips to balance it all and keep sane.

1. Quiet time – If meditation and/or prayer is not your thing (I do both), just take 10 minutes every morning and evening to be alone (without any person or thing). Sit or lie comfortably, focus on your breathing and try not to think. It’s o.k if you fall asleep. It’s as relaxing and rejuvenating.

2. Exercise – Even 10 minutes a day is enough. Any form of exercise that suits you is good. I have tried many – aerobics, jogging, weight training, kick boxing, cycling – but what suits my body and routine most is free flow yoga and stretching. 10 minutes of this and I feel revitalized.

3. Diet – I have realized that what I eat has a major impact on my energy levels. So if I eat rice or wheat, I feel sluggish, physically and mentally. While I love my two cups of coffee a day, green tea is most refreshing for me. After significant trial and error, I have figured out that I work best on a diet of eggs/fish/chicken, vegetables, fruits, nuts and Greek yogurt (I also have milky coffee, green tea and occasionally soup).

4. Lists – I am always making lists. To-dos for the day (the night before), to-dos for the week (the weekend before), separate business, personal and volunteer work lists; separate lists for each of my clients, grocery lists, cleaning lists – see I am listing here too. I have a daily and a monthly planner and it really helps me stay organised and on the ball. The key is to do urgent work first on all the lists and keep pushing non-essential work to the next day.

5. Read – You don’t have to read fiction or non-fiction books if that doesn’t interest you. Read newspapers, magazines, online articles, business features. Read for information, for motivation, for inspiration. On a day when everything seems to be going awry, reading an inspiring story gives me perspective and puts me back on track.

6. Make time for that one passion – We all have something that makes us come alive. No, not your child, your partner, your work – it could be books or art or music or dancing or friendships. In my case, it is movies. I don’t get to go to the cinema hall these days (childcare issues) so whenever a good movie is coming on TV, usually on weekends, I schedule my entire day around it. The movie is my top priority that day. And I have never regretted this.

7. Fun – Take fun breaks as often as possible. This is what we are doing on our fun breaks these days.


When it all seems too much, slow down and take stock. Cut out the non-essential. Delegate and postpone. Recall why you are doing all this. Be grateful for all the gifts in your life. And remember you will feel better soon.

This always works for me.