1. Tell me a bit about your business – when it started and what are your main services?
We, SKYLENCE, are a fashion clothing brand. Based in central London with an international presence in Shanghai, Beijing and HongKong (still expanding). Currently our main focus is womenswear, ranging from tops, shorts, skirts, coats, dresses to evening /occasional suits and dresses. We aim to create a unique style that combines modern Western and traditional Chinese cultural attributes. We are ‘Cultural Attire for Independent Professional Modern Women’. The business started in October 2017 in China and the brand/company was registered in England in July 2018.
2. What was the main driver for starting your own business?
My dad has run his own businesses for as long as I can remember so this definitely encouraged me as when I was a child. I had always wanted to run my own business ever since I graduated from university. After completing my Masters degree at LSE, I started working for a media/advertising company in London but the working culture was really toxic at that time which really affected motivation and the productivity of work. After one year’s experience, I went back to China and tried out a few projects such as international education, technology, social app, some communications projects and an online magazine for women. None of these worked out. From that time onwards I knew that I must figure out what I truly love to do in life.
It was exactly during these 2 years in China that I found my lifelong passion. In the summer of 2017, I started designing clothes for myself as a trial. What I did not expect was that the designing processes would go so well with so many inspirations coming through along with a lot of necessary contacts and customers in the industry. I opened an online shop at the end of 2017 in China and it did really well. I returned to the UK in early 2018. This time brimming with all my designs, necessary techniques and most importantly vision and ambition, I’m back with a mission to make it happen here in London!
3. What gets you up in the morning?
Motivation and ambition, along with the strong desire to build up a brand and lifestyle, that being said I’m not really a morning person. I tend to work late at night because there is time difference between the UK and China (China is 7 hours ahead) sometimes I need to deal with some Chinese customers in their morning (my late night here). I soon discovered that it’s quite unhealthy and even harmful to my health for the long run. I then tried my best to adjust my body clock and lifestyle by going to bed earlier at night and getting up earlier. Having your own businesses is good because it allows you more freedom and flexibility. I would like to share that good sleep plus getting up earlier in the morning is a lot more effective that soon you will realise you can actually deal with and finish so many things only in one morning!
4. If you could change one thing about your first year (or first few years) in business, what would it be?
Well, if I could change one thing during the past year, it would be the accounting part—to be more organised with all the accounts and to have a more fixed pricing plan for my designs in both UK and China. I’m not really from an accounting/finance background so stuff like that is more difficult for me. We are working on this at the moment.
The other thing is to find the right marketing/branding method. This is very important for your brand to grow and develop in the right direction and to get customers along the way. We are currently working on this.
5. What is your biggest achievement to date?
My life during the past two years has been like a rollercoaster. My temporary visa to the UK was rejected in 2016. By that time almost everyone I know kept saying that it was impossible for me to get back to London again. However, adversity always brings about new life opportunities. Exactly because of this rejection, I turned to the route in which I should start my own business. After a few failures in trying different projects and finding business partners, I finally obtained my T1 Entrepreneur status in the UK. I have joined one creative event business Cellar Door alongside my fashion business. The biggest achievements to date would be: 1) Having got my entrepreneur status in the UK (as it’s extremely difficult to get) 2). Running two businesses now in the UK!
I feel so proud and happy when I see friends and customers wearing my designs in their everyday life. Creating a business is not only about making money, you are creating a lifestyle and also creating something good and positive for people around you. By wearing clothes I designed, women not only get this beautiful garment but they are wearing confidence, strength and can feel independent and empowered as well.
6. What has been your biggest challenge?
For so many years I was a ‘student’ and ‘employee’ in both the UK and China and suddenly the switch to ‘entrepreneur’ was huge, at the age of 26! I had to take on this change and be qualified for this new role. My whole mindset must be completely changed from being a former student and employee to a female leader who must lead a team and must be in control of everything going on in this business. I need to be bold and tough for this change. This did take me some time to adjust myself to this big new role.
7. What would be your number one tip for other entrepreneurs who want to develop their personal brand (related to their industry / specialism)?
1). You need to define your Brand DNA–who you are, what you want and how you want it. Be authentic and be YOU!
2). Get the right people/talents around you. No one can complete everything on their own. You need to always keep your eyes out for potential talents and experts in your life and get yourself around them or get them around you. Bring out different people’s different talents and work towards one common goal—this is the key to success.
8. What advice would you give to other women thinking of starting their own business?
Just do it! You only know whether you can make it or not by doing it and taking actions. Don’t get held back.
9. Lastly, which social media platform has helped you get the most customers to date and why?
I mainly have two social media platforms that have been so helpful for me to get customers. Instagram in the UK/Europe and WeChat in China. I can get customised orders on Instagram. In the Chinese market, everyone is using WeChat to promote their businesses and get sales. I also use LinkedIn for developing relationships and connections in the creative industry.
This interview was conducted by Jennifer Corcoran, LinkedIn Consultant & Trainer and Founder and CEO of award-winning social media consultancy, My Super Connector. Jennifer regularly writes and speaks on the topics of social media, personal branding, networking and being an introverted female entrepreneur. If you need help with your LinkedIn profile mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @SuperConnector.