By Cheow Sue-Ann, The New Paper, 24 December 2018 at 06:00 am
TNP PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN
Picture posted by Cheow Sue-Ann, The New Paper on 24 December 2018 at 06:00 am
Young entrepreneur overcomes doubts and doubters to launch multi-purpose bag.
At 22, Miss Mandy Chan has two successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaigns under her belt and has sold over 10,000 bags to people in 22 countries.
As one of the co-founders of local backpack company Bow, Miss Chan has chosen an unconventional - and difficult- path.
After graduating from Victoria Junior College in 2014, Miss Chan decided to take a gap year to launch her business.
It was tough as her parents wanted her to go to university. So at 19, Miss Chan found herself financially cut off.
She said: "They did not support the idea. If I wanted to do it, I'd have to fund it myself ."
To get funding for Bow, the teenager took on three jobs, working to earn money to put into her first product, Quiver, a multi-purpose bag .
She quickly went from having four figures in her bank account to having to borrow thousands of dollars from friends.
Miss Chan also found that she had to prove herself to an often dismissive business world.
She said: "When we met our first manufacturers in China, they saw how young I was and their faces fell. They quoted us ridiculous prices and told us to show them a concrete business plan before they would work with us."
She had to quickly learn to hold her own in such meetings.
But it wasn't just the negotiation process that she had to learn. Miss Chan said: "I would do everything, from carrying boxes of stock to the warehouse, to learning to do our own accounts."
One of the hardest lessons was facing failure.
She said: "I put everything - over 11 months of work - into our first prototype.
"And no one wanted it."
Back then, she would hit the streets pitching the product. Not only did people not want it, some even mocked her .
One man told her directly: "You are wasting your time."
That was a breaking point for Miss Chan.
"I had been on the streets for hours and people kept telling us to give up. I went home and cried. I thought I should just forget it. But then I remembered my promise to myself - to give my best no matter what."
Ms Chan decided to get help from experts in rejection – insurance agents.
“I asked them how they faced rejection day in and day out. They told me that I would never know, I might get rejected, but someday, someone will say yes.”
Miss Chan said that when she looks at her friends enjoying holidays with their families, she wonders why she chose the difficult path - but said it is worth it.
She said: "Last July, we were able to give ourselves a salary. It was an amazing feeling. While it is stressful knowing that people rely on you for their livelihood, I feel proud that I can now pay the people who work so hard for us."
"And few things feel better than having people who use our bag tell me they liked it."
Bow's second Kickstarter campaign - for the Quiver X - was launched on Nov 23 and reached its ＄15,000 goal in 12 hours. It now has ＄60,000 pledged.
Miss Chan said: "I never expected this, and we are going to keep pushing ourselves."
One of the hardest lessons was facing failure. Miss Chan said: "I put everything - over 11 months of work - into our first prototype. And no one wanted it."
She said: "I never expected this, and we are going to keep pushing ourselves."
It is a very rough working world, seeking fulfillment with defying efforts, but without any certainty.
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