Who are you, what do you do, and for whom do you do it?
I am the founder and CEO of ettitude.
Prior to ettitude, I had a successful career in the international trading business in China and Australia. I was educated at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business English. After obtaining my degree, I embarked on a career in international trading business by taking a position as a sales executive with Shanghai China Light Industry International Trade Corporation. Four years later, I started my own international trading business. This was followed by the launch of P&S Global Pty Ltd in 2003, where I rapidly established strong relationships with clients worldwide and supplied products to several international chain stores.
To answer the question of what I do now – and for whom – the idea for ettitude hit me when I was shopping for bedding for my first home in Melbourne. I was in shopping centers for hours, hunting for the perfect sheets, and was very frustrated by what I found. Affordable bedding was of very low quality, while the more comfortable options were outrageously overpriced, and there was a total lack of any eco-friendly choices. I came up with the solution for my frustration: to build a business from scratch that offered premium quality, sustainably made, healthy bedding essentials at an accessible price. I decided I wanted to sell online directly to consumers, bypassing the bloated supply chain and expensive designer licensing fees that are often passed on by traditional retailers. Once the idea formed in my head, I never looked back!
How did you get to where you are now?
I got to where I am now by evolving and continuing to learn.
I’d like to provide some context for how I came to do what I do now. Back in 2006, when I had just moved to Australia from China, I wasn't aware of the world's climate problems because it was not being discussed much in China at that time. As a new immigrant, I didn’t experience too much culture shock; instead, I experienced what I call an "awareness shock" about the environmental issues our planet is facing. Once I knew what was happening, I just couldn't remain in my old job anymore, because I knew was helping large retailers to source giftware and homewares in Asia – products that were often of poor quality and encouraged an unsustainable lifestyle of overconsumption. Most of those products will be used once or twice during the holiday season and end up in the landfill as they were not designed to last but to make the chain stores the highest profit margin. Hence, I started to research and develop my own product line, with the idea of well-designed, well made and sustainable products in mind.
In the early days, one of my biggest challenges was that there were so much to learn about how to run a business in Australia. I was experiencing a completely different taxation system, business laws, and regulations from what I was used to. Luckily, the Australian government is very helpful. There are lots of helpful events to attend, like workshops for new business owners to educate them and help them flourish and grow.
My second biggest challenge was facing the new market and a new business model. Back then, I had no experience in the ecommerce industry. The business grew really slowly at the beginning, but I kept learning, listening to my customers, and attending industry and startup events to learn from other entrepreneurs. Once I started to employ staff, I actively encouraged them to learn new skills and offered them education funds to learn anything they think would help them do a better job and advance their careers. A focus on continuous learning has really helped us grow stronger and smarter – as a team and as a company.
As a startup founder, you learn to be resilient, to think out of the box and never give up. One of the challenges we encountered as a result of our business growth was finding sufficient working capital to purchase more stocks to empower our sales growth. My "think out of the box" mentality helped in this arena, too: we were one of the first Australian companies to utilize PayPal’s Working Capital option when it launched in Australia.
The Working Capital option uses the sale history in your PayPal account to judge how much working capital you can apply for, then you can use up to 30% of your daily PayPal income to pay back the loan. This method has worked out really well for us – it enabled us to purchase more inventory around peak holiday seasons to support our revenue growth. We have also run three crowdfunding campaigns to launch new product lines, which not only give us additional funds for production, but are also are great ways to create brand exposure and acquire new customers outside of our usual marketing channels.
Why are you doing what you're doing?
I'd always known I wanted to set up my own brand one day. The turning point for me came when my interest in the environment and thirst for entrepreneurial success collided, and I knew it was time to put my ideas into action. I wanted to develop a business that allowed me to make the most of my passion for sustainability, and so that's why I started ettitude.
The number one reason I do what I do is that I get to run a business that stands for something bigger than myself. I get to be creative and bold and work in a way that reflects my values and beliefs. It's easy to get out of bed in the morning when you get to learn something new every day from such a wide variety of people. You never know what's going to happen, or where your next business lesson is coming from.
The freedom my work brings me is another massive advantage. I try never to take it for granted, as I know how many people would love to have the opportunity to do something they feel this strongly about. When I see our customers using our products, or hear about how they've become a fan of our brand, it makes me glow inside. That is why I do what I do.
What advice would you give to other aspiring Women2Watch?
Ask for a ton of advice – and then actively ignore most of it. Nobody knows your company or work better than you. Other people's advice is good for helping you find your blind spots or to avoid common mistakes, but you need to do your own thinking about what's the best solution for your business at that particular moment. There are no silver bullets or magic solutions. Just try to do your best with every little thing, and you will see the results start to compound.
Thank you Phoebe – what an amazing entrepreneur with a great cause! Keep an eye out each month as we’ll be sharing more about the Women2Watch.
Do you know an inspiring female business leader or entrepreneur who should be honored on our Women2Watch list? Are you one yourself? Submit her name (or your own, we encourage it!) to be recognized! Nominate a Woman2Watch here.