If you want to make a million dollars, you should solve a problem for a million people. In other words, the best business ideas provide both value and convenience to customers. And this is exactly what FashionValet (FV) has been able to do: providing a sophisticated one-stop shop for all customers alike who are looking for high-quality fashion at affordable prices.
It starts with frustration
Founded in 2010 by Imperial College Aeronautical Engineering graduate, Fadzarudin Shah Anuar and London School of Economics Law graduate, Vivy Sofinas Yusof and supported by a solid team, FV is today home to over 300 fashion brands available on its website, www.fashionvalet.com. Additionally, its current footprint extends beyond Malaysia, serving customers in more than 15 countries including Singapore, Brunei, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Middle East and Australia.
The business partners – who are also husband and wife – met when they were students in London and shared a passion for online shopping. When both returned to Malaysia, they discovered that they missed the convenience of online shopping as they enjoyed in the United Kingdom. To find their favourite designer brands, they had to hunt high and low around Kuala Lumpur. Subsequently, it was that kind of inconvenience that sparked the idea of bringing online shopping to Malaysia.
Perfect fit of a partnership
In a statement describing her natural entrepreneurial spirit, Vivy talked about how she was a rebellious-yet-determined child. Despite causing her teachers headaches, she was a straight-A student and keen to seize upon any kind of business opportunity, no matter how small, such as creating friendship bracelets for her classmates and renting out a book she wrote at RM1 per time.
Possessing a contrasting introverted personality, Fadza revealed that while the couple has different preferences and tastes, they share the same values and it’s through these core values that both their professional and personal partnerships flourish.
At FV, Vivy, as the CCO (chief creative officer), deals with the buying, merchandising and creative marketing side of the business, while Fadza, as the CEO, handles the day-to-day operations and finance. The couple’s teamwork further strengthens the fact that having the right business partner that complements your own strengths and vice-versa is vital in terms of creating a successful business model.
Not everything comes easy
Two years into the business and after doubling their revenue, things suddenly took a turn when big competitors started coming to Malaysia. Their fear and anxiety became one of the most memorable mistakes they did as a young company. Trying to beat their competitors at their own game, they opened FV to almost anyone who wanted to sell through it. Due to that decision, the company’s standards went down and gradually lost its brand identity.
After this misstep, Vivy and Fadza decided to go back to their roots. It cemented their niche in Southeast Asia as a premium fashion destination and a direct, slightly more affordable connection to local designers. And as the company grew – aided by investors both at home and abroad – consumer confidence in the brand soared as customers bought into the FV values of quality, authenticity and supporting home-grown talent.
Always appreciate feedback and advice
One of the key factors in the company’s growth was the couple’s willingness to listen to mentors as well as customers in terms of how they perceived Fashion Valet and its quality of service. During an interview with Leaderonomics, Vivy said:
I can’t stress enough how mentors have changed our mindsets because when you’re doing the business, you’re not seeing it from an outsider’s point of view. So you don’t know why things aren’t taking off. But if you ask an outsider to look into your company, it really opens everything up.
Despite having no prior experience of building a business, the duo believes that having a strong leadership in place can make all the difference, particularly when engaging with employees.
Talking about the early days, she also shared:
We were learning as we go and because of that, there were so many mistakes. The first thing we had to do was set expectations for the team and what they have to achieve. Secondly, as a leader, you’ve got to give credit where it’s due; people love it when they’re recognised and acknowledged – even to say ‘good job’ can mean the world to people.
FV is more than just a great story
When it comes to building a sustainable and successful brand, Fadza believes that storytelling plays an integral part in encouraging people to buy into what you’re doing as a company.
“One of the best things about Vivy is that she’s an amazing storyteller,” he says, “and I think storytelling is something the company does best. The way that we think about marketing is we don’t just think about sales, we think about how to create hype or get people to become extremely engaged with us.”
That being said, Vivy suggests that the products or services must be justifiable or else the customers won’t have a reason to keep coming back. “The reason why Malaysians don’t have long-lasting brands is that we have this copycat nature – whatever works at the time, just copy it. How can you last? How can you sustain yourself if you don’t stand for anything? I truly believe that any brand has to have a cause, and people have to want to be a part of it. You can have the best storytelling in the world, but if your product is not good, it just won’t do. So, you have to have a complete package: the brand, what you stand for. At the same time, your product has to be really, really good.”