KUCHING PEEPS: Have you met… Lovely Gwendolly?
The Kuching Peeps series is about getting to know our home-grown inspiring individuals by asking them all sorts of questions, shuffling from the basics, the intense, the thought-provoking and the just plain random; all through an e-mail.
By Karen E Chin @karenevachin
GWENDALYN IS THE GIRL behind the successful Kuching-based online fashion boutique Lovely Gwendolly. She is an inspiring and hardworking entrepreneur, and has the kind of attitude that motivates others to be productive and successful (trust me, I’ve been around her and I can’t help but feel motivated by her!)
Beautiful, young and intelligent; Gwen shares with us her about her passions, her thoughts and some tips on successful entrepreneurship. I would describe her as sugar and spice because she balances her sweet, feminine nature with her go-getter, strong attitude perfectly.
How did your interest in business start?
Business has always been my passion but I was stuck in the Science stream during my school years. Physics, Chemistry and Biology was never my forte and ringgit signs often loom above my head.
In 2009, I rediscovered the skeletons in my closet. My obsession of being the ‘toh kay neo’ (lady boss) during my childhood play-time took place. I rummaged through my closet and found dresses that I hadn’t even worn (some with the price tags still on) and sold them online.
And Lovely Gwendolly was born!
Tell us a little bit about how Lovely Gwendolly started.
It started from scratch on the internet in a humble blog. There were no rentals, bills or start-up costs.
As a student, I tried to cut down cost in every way – with only 20 new stocks in hand, a 2.0 megapixel camera and a cheap plastic RM8 mannequin. I took photos of the dresses and posted it online. Then, I added thousands of people on Facebook (the more friends in your list, the more publicity you will get for your business).
All the tools and equipment for running my business were second-hand or stuff I found at home.
Gradually, my business fell into place. I started selling brand new apparel hauled from trips overseas because I truly enjoyed the process; and little by little, my customers’ demands increased.
Finally, I decided to take the plunge in the real commerce world by starting a small business with minimal risk but with endless possibilities.
What is the concept behind your business?
Lovely Gwendolly Enterprise is a Kuching-based and owned online retailer which specialises in fashion – clothing, shoes, and accessories for young women. ‘She’ is the girl-next-door who’s had too much vodka and is always fashionably late.
The enterprise gained its popularity on the internet for providing fashionable apparel and funky accessories that appealed to both the male and female consumers.
Are you naturally business-minded or did you have to practice and develop skills for it?
I was born with these traits; I prefer to save and invest. I can be very calculative and I am always maximising profits as much as I can. However, the skills that I applied in my boutique business are the theories that I learnt from the Accounting, Marketing and Entrepreneurship subjects during my university days.
Give the public an insider’s view, what’s a typical work day like for you.
I am my own manager, marketer, photographer, and designer on my desk at home. A typical day would be checking for emails and messages from customers. After that, I would take photos of my items, upload them on my Facebook page and Instagram, and then arrange meet-ups for customers who want to collect their purchases. I love my job!
What are your best and worst experiences on the job?
The best would be travelling and shopping at the same time.
One of the worst experiences I’ve been through is with a customer who didn’t show up. After arranging the meet-up, I got to the pre-decided place early and waited for her. She ignored my calls and finally, after an hour, she sent a text saying she had to cancel.
I remember crying on the way home.
What are the weirdest things customers have done?
If you sit in a shopping mall from 10am-10pm, I bet you will come across many people from every walk of life. The weirdest customer I’ve had was a lady from China. She was trying to tell me something in Mandarin with a strong accent. I didn’t understand so she lifted up her top and exposed her chest. She was trying to ask me if she could try on the dress she was interested in. I remember being stunned as I stared at her C-cup boobs and the girl next to my booth intervened and spoke to her in Mandarin for me. We were both ‘weird-ed’ out the whole day and had a good laugh.
10 years ago, what did you think you would be working as now?
As a typical Malaysian, I followed the rules of life; studying for exams, getting good grades, graduating in a university, getting a job in an office and finally settling down with a ring on my fourth finger.
But 10 years later, I can put a check sign on everything except an office job and marriage.
Describe yourself 10 years from now.
10 years from now, I will be traveling around the world to get new inspirations, ideas and fashion concepts to contribute to my business. Hopefully by then, I will be running my own retail outlet; a career I never thought was possible but was a dream I envisioned since I was a little girl.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love reading books and fashion magazines. During my free time, I volunteer at the Children Cancer Ward, watch movies at the cinema and have late night yumcha (drink and chat) sessions with close friends.
What is your motto in life?
I’m just going to make the rest of my life, the best of my life! We all have our ups and downs but being positive will make us better people.
If you could have lunch with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would love to share a bowl of kolo mee over conversation with my grandparents whom I lost.
How long does it take for you to get ready to go out?
I take 10 minutes in the shower, 15 minutes for makeup and 30-45 minutes to choose the right outfit. Typical girl problems, we all “don’t have anything” to wear!
Describe your fashion style. Where do you usually shop?
I love bandage-style dresses! I love 6-inch high heels and a clutch for a night out; a comfy worn-out pair of denim shorts, t-shirts and flip flops on Sundays. I know it sounds odd, but even though I work at home, I still dress up in dresses and wear make-up around the house. I would feel pale and under-dressed if I were to work in pajamas. I mean, other women dress up every day for work, I want to have that feeling too! Then I can just chill out with t-shirts and shorts with no make-up at night 😉
I can shop anywhere! From posh designer boutiques in Singapore to the dusty night markets in Bangkok. I love great bargains especially a RM10 dress which can make you look like a million dollars!
I have this weird rule about shopping: when I’m on a mission, I will disallow anyone to talk to me and I won’t pick up phone calls. I don’t like distractions. It’s all about 100% concentration on the right cutting, colour, quality and structure of the clothing on the rack.
What is your favourite makeup item in your bag?
Mascara! I love face-contouring, thick eyelashes and nude lips.
If you could live the life of anyone, who would it be?
I would love to live a jet-setter life like Paris Hilton! (I stalk her on Instagram) One day she would be in Dubai and the next in Vegas for a vacation, shopping and partying. Who wouldn’t want to live like that?
How would you like people to be inspired by you? Any advice to people who wants to do what you do?
For those who are interested to be an entrepreneur, they must have pure determination, commitment and constant perseverance. Running a business is never easy and could take years for success. Most importantly, they must not be a quitter even after facing ‘road-blocks’.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
Someone once told me that no matter what people say about me I should never listen because when I quit my banking job to continue with my business, some people were critical of me and told me that I wouldn’t be able to sustain my business in today’s economy. Despite the discouragement, customers still knock on my door at 8am and my email inbox is still filled with orders.
What are your future plans?
Due to the high demand from local customers to self-collect and also they prefer to view the items up-close and personally, Lovely Gwendolly is urgently finding a solution to serve customers daily by operating both online and at a physical boutique.
What do you think of social media and do you publicize or privatize yours?
Social media is the greatest tool for businesses nowadays. It is the fastest way to get your items posted and shared; and also excellent for getting an instant response from the customers.
Thank you Gwendalyn for sharing your experiences and tips with us. May it inspire other budding entrepreneurs to do the same! We would like to wish you the best of luck in your business!