Com Raya, Whimsical it is a household name that Malaysians would buy for parties or, on any other day, also for comfortable everyday clothes.
The woman behind the brand, Syazana Sukiman, started from scratch with her tailoring and design career after originating in an architectural setting.
Building Whimsigirl into the great home brand that is today was a journey that cost him many costly mistakes, he revealed earlier in an article with The star.
Curious about what I had learned, we contacted Syazana and she shared some tips that might be helpful for the (aspiring) founders of local fashion micro-brands looking to grow.
A self-taught skill
Before starting Whimsigirl, Syazana was a newlywed unemployed man who was simply learning new skills at home.
“I had all this free time, very well, I could take advantage of them. I had all of these [designs] and vintage fabrics that I have collected over the years, so I bought a sewing machine for my birthday, bought books and taught myself to sew, ”he shared.
He made products for friends and family and gradually began to generate orders. Still, he realized he had been unconsciously researching the market and testing its viability.
“I followed the demand and listened to the public. Your products are only valid when you need them [them]. You might think you have a great product, but you need a paying customer to make it valid, ”he advised.
It is not the first iteration of the business
The Whimsigirl we know today has come a long way since its inception. At the time, Syazana made clothes for children, which later caught the attention and demand of her parents who also wanted comfortable clothes.
He started the company doing bootstrapping, but received a small loan MyCreative Ventures as it began to grow as a children’s clothing brand. In the same article in The Star, he mentioned how he got into it without a proper business plan or financial strategy.
So it was in those early years that the brand would make costly mistakes:
1. He entered a market of which he knew little.
As a children’s clothing brand, Whimsigirl decided to venture into the European and American markets without fully understanding its complexities and the workings of wholesale buyers.
“[We] I spent quite a bit of time and money with few results in the end, ”Syazana recalled, but added,“ We quickly realized that [the] The B2B / wholesale model is not what we wanted, it is based on a DTC model. “
Dictionary time: DTC stands for Direct-to-Consumer and is a business model for which no intermediaries are used.
Looking back on the experience, he reflected: “We should definitely have researched and sought guidance from more experienced entrepreneurs, but then our network was limited and we definitely didn’t know better.”
“I don’t think more money could have solved the problem; it was more of a situation in which we did not fully understand the intimate details of the market that we were trying to capture ”.
2. Customer data was not being analyzed.
In terms of inventory management, the team had no guidance or data to work with. This meant that they would sometimes produce too much or too much.
“Finding that sweet spot took a while because we had to learn the purchasing power of our customers and build data from scratch,” Syazana said.
3. He was too risk averse with his products.
“We were so focused and focused on producing only 1 type of thing. I think it was a mistake and a learning moment for us, ”Syazana said.
“This decision also arose out of fear:‘ Do we have the resources to explore different product verticals, if things don’t go well, will they affect us, do we have enough experience, are we equipped financially, emotionally and physically? “.
Then they realized they were just rethinking, sabotaging themselves, and making excuses. It is something 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 in first place with the mistakes we made with the money,” Syazana admitted as she recounted Whimsigirl’s journey.
Not only did they not make sales, but they also burned through 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 work and really reflect on what we wanted to achieve as a company and redefine our goals and values,” Syazana recalled.
After free time, they decided to opt for design for more women and relaunched the brand, taking us to the Whimsigirl we know today. They have been profitable ever since, Syazana proudly shared.
Still, he maintains a positive view of these past mistakes. “After all, as costly 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 am sure we will make more mistakes in the future, but we will address them head on, one crisis at a time ”.
One such example was during Hari Raya in 2020, when they were fast enough to reprogram part of their production and delivery schedule. With that, they were able to face the storm. They also made sure to readjust and reduce targets last year, but overall they got a good year on their records.
Advice backed by experience
“Most designers can stick too much to their art, which is important, but that makes it difficult for 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 out of business. Know the pros and cons of each and try to get the most out 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 little more as the company stabilizes. Our thought process now is to try many different things on a smaller scale and see what we should focus on. “
“It’s okay to make mistakes whenever we learn and grow.”
- You can find more information about Whimsigirl here.
- You can read more startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Syazana Sukiman, founder of Whimsigirl