If you've been following my blog posts on the HP TopShot, the entire campaign culminated in a lovely Tea Party organised by the kind folks at HP and Nuffnang! Fifteen budding entrepreneurs were invited to a tea party session with Vel, Jess and myself, together with special appearances made by the HP TopShot!
This tea party was held at Arteastiq, and it was my first time there!
Tea Lounge @ Arteastiq Mandarin Gallery
#04‐14/15 333 Orchard Road
We were served little bites and finger food, I love the ambience and decor of the quaint tea lounge! Didn't get to try alot of the food, but I would love to return to the place for a tea session soon!
The three of us had to give a short "speech" on entrepreneurship and I honestly don't know if I actually said anything of value... I'm not too good with speeches! We also shared a little about how useful the HP TopShot is for small business start-ups, and after that all the fifteen invitees then got to try out the HP TopShot, and there was a little contest held to see who could create the best image with the TopShot scanner, some of the entries were really really creative and breathtaking!! The best entry won a TopShot for their very own too, which is an amazing prize! :D
One of the highlights of the tea party, a specially designed cupcake baked by Jess herself! She is one talented young lady!
I was seated with five girls, all of whom have their own startups and are aspiring to make their dreams come true.. :) Hello Shirlin, Michelle, Nicole, Chings and Amanda! Thank you so much for joining us at the tea party, and I hope all of you had a good time! It was tremendous fun for me! :)
I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and experiences with everyone, and I hope that some of what I've shared with those at my table can serve to inspire, motivate, or even just to provide fodder for thought.
I have to say that Jess and Vel are two amazing young ladies who are truly inspirational to myself, and it was an amazing opportunity to be able to share among side the two of them! Despite their huge successes in their startups, these two are extremely extremely approachable and down-to-earth. I've enjoyed getting to know the both of them better, and I also have to thank Nuffnang and HP for allowing this chance to take place!
The event was really a huge success! To find out more about the HP TopShot, do read my earlier entry here!
Zippered Denim Bustier in Dark Wash from TheVelvetDolls (upcoming)
Feather necklace from Sort & Pepper
Vintage Chanel 2.55
Gladiator Wedges from Steve Madden
Someone asked me on Formspring to blog about TheVelvetDolls, how TVD started and the difficulties encountered along the way, I think if you read my earlier blogpost for HP TopShot, it's quite a good account of TVD and how we've grown over the past two and a half years! I'm not too good at expressing myself fluently in words, so please excuse me if my writing is a little disjointed or incoherent at times.
Sometimes, I still can't quite believe myself, I am not ambitious by nature, and it still feels like a series of strange twists and turns that has led me to where I am today. Never would I have envisioned myself running my own business, or being a "老板娘" as my friends like to joke around and call me by.
When I started blogging, I didn't imagine that I would or could become a "blogger" (well, this term is pretty much over-used nowadays because anyone who blogs is a blogger) that would actually be able to work with clients, and get paid for writing. When I meet new people who come up to me and tell me they love reading my blog, it still feels surreal, and sometimes I want to laugh at the incredulity of it but of course that would be such a disrespectful thing to do, especially to the readers I love and treasure so much! It's amazing how much social media and the internet has evolved, enabling all these seeds of opportunity and possibilities to grow.
When TVD was started by Gina and myself, I had no idea where it would end up. But along the way, I discovered that I had a true passion for this little brainchild called TheVelvetDolls, and never have I once wanted to give up or call it quits.
How did the name "TheVelvetDolls" come about?
I'm sure all of us girls have had childhood memories of playing with paper dolls, my sisters and I used to draw and cut our own dolls out of paper, and we'd painstakingly come out with different outfits to dress them up with! These little dolls were very precious to us, and we hid them under a corner of our mattress, but they always inevitably got thrown away by our mother or the domestic helper.
This childhood memory sparked off an idea, and gave birth to the name "TheVelvetDolls", because as young adults now, we may have discarded our childhood games, but every single one of us still enjoy dressing up, and shopping for beautiful clothes to make ourselves look good!
Thus, our logo has a signature Russian nested doll or Matryoshka, which represents the fashionable woman who dresses up for every occasion.
Because a Matryoshka doll consists of many different figures/dolls all nested in one, I like to think of it as symbolizing the versatility and multi-faceted range of apparel TheVelvetDolls provides, such that every customer is able to shop with ease at TheVelvetDolls, with full trust that she will be able to find something for herself, that's perfect for her own unique style :)
(I only realized just how successfully we managed to brand TheVelvetDolls, when EVERYONE started buying Russian doll trinkets for me! HAHA. I've received everything, from Russian Doll stickers, to tape, to cushions, cards, sticky notes and even underwear!!! Indeed memorable.)
In the past two and a half years, there's been both highs and lows.. Some people think that it's easy peasy to run the blogshop especially when you're already "popular", but it's not true!! In fact, I think the more popularity TVD gains, the more pressure there is on me to keep on improving continuously, be it in terms of apparel quality, designs, photos, efficiency, customer service etc.
For almost a year, everything was DIY, from the modelling, photo taking, photo editing, packing/mailing, invoicing, email replies... everything!! But it came to a point where Gina and I were unable to cope by ourselves anymore. (And also, the amount of stocks in our house was shocking) Then, we had to look for an office space, deal with adult-ish stuff like renovations, rental, internet/phone bills.. (I will NEVER feel like an adult, even now!) Also started hiring staff to help with operations, and to take the workload off my hands. Got a professional studio set-up, as well as paid models.
The thing about blogshops is that, apparel cost is high, and the profit margin is low. So for every piece of clothing that doesn't sell, we are in fact making a bigger loss than the profit earned from selling one piece of the same item. So when the stocks start piling up, and the bank account starts running low.. You can only imagine how high my stress level gets :(
And problems happen all the time.. from factory issues (fabric out of stock, sizing issues, wrong color arrived for backorder) to website issues (Livejournal crashes or unstable connections) to photoshoot problems (models canceling on shoots, thunderstorm in the middle of an outdoor shoot...) And while I'm tending to the operations side, there's also the customers to take care of (blogging more frequently with TVD outfits! answering Formspring inquiries!) Sometimes I feel like I'm gonna go bonkers from all the multi-tasking, because my mind has to be worrying about so many things at the same time!
Every single waking moment of my life, my mind is going like "Ok, must edit photos for previews on Facebook. Oh wait, I need to get the backorder parcels mailed by this week! Right.. and then to plan a photoshoot for next collection. WHAT ABOUT STOCKING IN AT KISSJANE?? Time to discuss new samples with the supplier if not the stocks are not gonna make it here by CNY! Better plan today's work agenda for the staff to do since I won't be in office later. Make sure Gina verifies payments by noon if not the customers will be complaining! Submit backorders by this week and email customers!! Answer formspring questions and blog today if I have time! Time to take measurements and do a stock count for upcoming collection! That customer has got a lost mail/defect! Need to check with supplier if stocks are arriving yet for this backorder." Argh.
But at the end of the day, amidst all the stress and worries, I know that I will not give up on this business. Somehow, we'll pull through and make everything work! One huge source of support comes from my wonderful friends, the other blogshop owners, my suppliers, who are all always there to help and lend a helping hand or listening ear. Thank God for being surrounded by so many angels!
Getting to meet all the lovely customers during the warehouse sale two weeks ago also made me realize how happy this business has made me. :') Every single customer who waited so patiently to be admitted into the sale, every single customer who bought an item from TVD, every single customer who said HI! and said, I love TVD!, every single customer gives me new motivation and strength in tackling any issues that's facing my way.
I have gotten so much joy and satisfaction from being able to make you customers happy, really! It is an incredible feeling. (I sat down on Saturday night and with this new strength and motivation, tackled the emails from 100 to 25. Felt really good!) Even small things like little words of encouragement from customers, or compliments on our apparels and how they have made a customer feel beautiful, all these little things give me the motivation to carry on doing my best. I am so blessed! :)
I know there are so many areas to improve on, and there's also alot more areas we are still lacking in. Please have faith in us, because I will work hard and strive to make TVD better! One last thing that TVD has taught me..
Doing TVD has been something even beyond my wildest dreams. But I've realised that from Day 1, it has never even felt like work, or a job at all, because I enjoy it so much. Everything that I do for TVD gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction.
Thank YOU too, to every single reader and customer, for making my dreams a reality.