This week on FEW Members' Corner, we would like to introduce you to Sarah Fung, Founder of Hula, the best edit of pre-owned designer womenswear.
Hello Sarah, what inspired you to start your company?
A few years before I left Lane Crawford, I suddenly realised how much waste there was in the industry, not only with the retail side where a product would have 8-12 weeks shelf-life before being deemed to the sale bin, but also amongst my friends and colleagues who would often ask “where do you get rid of items you no longer want?” I knew there would be an opportunity for this type of business, plus a whole load of amazing products to unlock in my friends' wardrobes.
My past experience as a designer made me appreciate the efforts that go into designing, producing and marketing a collection, so I wanted to make it HULA's mission to extend the life of these well crafted pieces.
Fast fashion has also been on the increase over the last decade. Because of this, consumerism has been on the rise, making textiles waste is one of the biggest polluters worldwide - which turned into another big enabler for me to start this business.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
Getting half the population to change their mindset about buying preloved fashion! Local superstition has partly held this market back from developing over the last decade, where second hand clothing was previously known to be passed on from the dead, or was sold due to lack of money - so buying these items was deemed 'unlucky'. However I have seen a rise, even in this year for a change of mindset - those who were not so sure are slowly coming round.. and buying preowned is finally being seen in a positive light.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned whilst building Hula?
Be ready to tear a page out and start again! Not much of what you plan ends up that way, so you need to need to be nimble and agile with your approach. We originally launched solely as an online platform and slowly realised that people in HK really wanted to see the items before they purchased. When you are in business you need to listen to your customers. It was never our intention to open a retail space, but we are so happy with our new warehouse in Wong Chuk hang as it has really helped solidify the brand, elevate our products and ensure trust in our brand, plus its a great hub to build our community.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
Find out whats best for you in terms of investors.. not all businesses will be interesting or will suit venture capitalists for instance. Be ready to have your business information on hand to be looked through with a fine comb. Also, know that getting investment doesn't automatically mean you have made it - you will have to develop this relationship with your investors and it will mean answering to them occasionally.
On growing teams
If you are a tight team, you need to hire people that gel well together otherwise the whole thing can crumble. Make sure you celebrate successes and praise your staff for even the little things they are doing.
On building credibility
Having come from the fashion industry helped as I had already made a lot of contacts to enable us to source items. From a buyers perspective, our items HAVE TO BE real, so we make sure we maintain our quality and also use AI technology to help verify our premium branded handbags.
On the top consideration before starting your own business…
1. You have to ready to take hard work, criticism, knock back, failure and disappointing days on the chin and and not let it effect you. I believe in being as stress-free as possible, staying positive but also realistic (not letting things get too personal) and be surrounded by good people who can offer you advice.
2. Be ready to give up your weekends and social life but make sure that when you do spend time with loved ones that it is real quality (rather than being a stress-head)
3. Be truly passionate about what you do. When the going gets tough you will want to walk out that door and slam it shut hard behind you! Doing something you love or even better, that also serves a greater purpose will really help those down-days.
4. You have to take risks - even if they are considered one.. if you are not a risk taker, don't start!
If you can nail the above and your business is starting to get traction and grow - it is the most incredible feeling, so it is totally worth it - please don't give up!