Kate Low is the kind of girl we want to be BFFs with. The founder of homegrown lingerie e-tailer Perk by Kate (www.perkbykate.com) is, well, positively perky when we reach out to her, sweetly thanking us for the interview ("it's an honour!").
We reckon that joie de vivre is the key reason for her loyal following - more so, dare we say, than her exquisite padded bralettes. Kate is famously personable; she treats her customers as friends.
Indeed, she emphasises that she would rather make less money than end her day knowing there's an unsatisfied buyer out there.
"Our customers know that we are fair and will treat them right. Our reputation is more important to us than anything else," she says.
It's an ethos she developed from the start, back when Perk by Kate was a nascent passion project developed in 2012 to curate the lingerie brands Kate loved. How much did she have to fork out, you ask?
She invested $10,000 of her savings to set it up, for starters, and spent approximately US$3,000 a month in the first year stocking inventory and searching for new brands to introduce.
In 2015, she launched her popular in-house label, Perk by Kate.
In an almost artisanal approach, the brand's lacey bralettes and sensual longlines are produced in small batches to ensure quality.
They're beautiful enough to induce hours of languid online browsing, comfortable for everyday wear (Kate eschews underwire) and affordable at between $49 to $89 a pop to boot.
Though she declines to reveal sales figures, Kate says she's been, to use business jargon, "cash-flow positive" since her first year of operations. Here, some of her insights on running a business.
1. One question your business sought to address
"I started Perk by Kate to offer inexpensive lingerie options which were comfortable and offered good fit. Being a really small lady myself, I lacked lingerie options in the market - everything was either too expensive or didn't fit well."
2. One straight-up business tip
"Perk by Kate bootstrapped it from the start, and our focus was always to grow the business by relying on its own cash flows.
I strongly believe that when your own capital is at stake, you'll be even more driven to make the business work. We have not accepted any external capital to date."
3. One really smart thing you did
"Deciding early on to conduct my business in a fair and generous manner, and to always make my customers happy. We offer free courier delivery in Singapore regardless of the purchase amount, and have easy returns and exchanges - and I really mean this. I would choose to refund or exchange an item, than live with the thought that someone is unhappy with her purchase.
Recently, I manufactured custom bralette pads and did a free replacement for all my customers after someone told me that her pads were fraying in the washing machine.
I would rather make less money and have happier customers. This philosophy has brought me many returning customers."
4. One dilemma you constantly face
"Expansion versus being a niche brand.
Most brands tend to mass produce and expand once they gain traction. We could do that, but this would mean giving up some control over our retail channels, marketing, and perhaps even quality.
We always remind ourselves to be very strategic and picky about our retail partners.
As a result, we have turned down most wholesale enquiries. I'd rather devote the time to building up the business through brand-led initiatives, source for better materials, or brainstorm new designs."
5. One thing you'll never compromise on
"Customer service and the quality of my products. I always try to improve on workmanship - every little bit counts. I tend to absorb the extra cost of using better materials or more complex sewing techniques."
6. One thing you can do without
"The limelight. I am rather publicity-shy! But in this digital age, it's hard for businesses and their owners to avoid social media exposure."
7. One thing you make time for every day
"Actually, as a one-woman show, I find myself giving up my hobbies for work. That's the reality. But I still try my best to engage in some stretching exercises every night. I am trying to improve my flexibility and want to achieve a full forward fold by June... I'm almost there!"
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