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Theresa Shuman, Founder of Thérèse de Vintage

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Theresa Shuman is the founder and owner of Thérèse De Vintage, an independent fashion boutique based in Hong Kong that specializes in vintage goods and apparels. Through Thérèse De Vintage, she has been passionately working within a niche market, actively broadening the demand and interest for vintage goods. Originally hailing from Hong Kong, Theresa developed a creative passion for fashion and a vision for an independent career, at a very young age. As a child, Theresa would often fix and alter her own clothing to her personal liking. Her talents were eventually recognized, as she was accepted and read Fashion Design and Women’s Wear, at the renowned London College of Fashion. Having built her own technical expertise and industry acumen, Theresa decided to start her own boutique focusing on vintage goods, a passion she acquired whilst living and studying in Canada in her teenage years.

The Asian Entrepreneur is joined by Theresa Shuman today, in an interview session about the valuable and interesting insights she has developed working on her own business.

So tell us about Thérèse De Vintage.

Well, Thérèse De Vintage is really a store that specializes in vintage goods that I have personally sourced and collected from different parts of the world that I’ve traveled to. However, I feel my store goes beyond that because to me, these goods are more than goods or products in the conventional business sense. To me, they are items of significance. I say this because as vintage goods, each of them possesses a history and a story, you are buying a piece of time, you are buying a piece of that story from the totally quaint world of where it originated from. So, I like to think of Thérèse De Vintage as a store that deals in stories.

What kind of vintage goods do you deal in?

At Thérèse De Vintage, I think you can find a bit of everything. I predominantly deal in fashion goods which is my forte. On that front, you can find clothes, hats, bags, and various fashion accesories. But you’d be surprise to also find other things at the store. I also source and deal in other goods like watches, calculators, camera and unique jewellery.

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And what drove you to start Thérèse De Vintage?

Actually ever since I was young, I’ve always had a love for vintage things. I think this love comes from my nolstagic appreciation of things from the past. I find vintage things to be very different, as I was just trying to explain to you earlier. I think they possess distinct memories and stories, locked in time and that is reflected in their appearance as well which is vastly different from their modern counterpart. I’ve always loved that and I found myself collecting them at a very young age, for me its a very natural thing. For example, I would see a quirky vintage watch by an antique shop and I would think to myself, “I want to bring this story back home with me.” I see it as collecting stories.

The actual idea for a vintage store was an idea that I had for quite awhile. In fact, I can trace it back to high school. The concept is something that is very immemorial, it stems out of my own passion to share the stories that I have collected with others.

When did you decide to open your store?

I wanted to start this store earlier than I did. However, back then I did not actually have the support and expertise to actually initiate this idea. I was quite young. Believe it or not, my family and friends were against it. Many people were concerned about whether I was capable of actually managing my own business. It was not until last year that I actually opened my own store.

And why did you decide to open your store in Hong Kong as opposed to abroad?

That is actually a very good question. Initially, I was interested in setting up my store in the United Kingdom. However, being from Hong Kong, I find myself more familiar with the market and the business environment of my country. I understand the culture and the mentality of the customers. I believe this sense of familiriaty is something that I could capitalize on in the pursuit of my own business. It was something that I wanted to operate on. So I would say, it was a practical move as well on my part.

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So tell us about the startup process.

The process of starting up Thérèse De Vintage was quite specific and methodical. Prior to starting this store, I’ve already developed a sense of how the business model would be like. This was based on my experience of visiting and seeing many vintage boutiques over the years. With a keen eye, I was able to almagamate their approach and their model for operating such a business. When I was finally back in Hong Kong, I committed myself to market research. The priority for me was finding out whether there were other such stores, where they were and how they operated. Along with this, was a consideration of how I could set myself apart from these stores and how I could offer something valuable to the consumers out there. So there was a lot of planning went into what I wanted to do.

When I reached the stage where I thought to myself that I actually had a sense of what I wanted to do and how to do it, I went ahead to seek out a location for my retail space.

How is the vintage market like in Hong Kong

To be honest, I think the market for vintage goods in Hong Kong is very, very small. I find it to be quite underdeveloped and fraught with many difficulties. It’s safe to say that it has not reached the levels of the markets that you find abroad in the West. By that I mean that abroad, in the West, they possess a serious appreciation for vintage goods. There is a great demand for them. They’ve come to not only understand the vintage culture but also to admire it. So, for example, in Canada where I was introduced to this culture, you will find many such stores which are very popular with the locals.

On the other hand, in Hong Kong they’ve not come to totally grasp the concept. To the people in Hong Kong, they see such goods as old goods and nothing more. They don’t see the sentimental significance nor come to appreciate the style of vintage goods. They prefer new goods and they just can’t bring themselves to understand, let alone appreciate, why they would ever settle for something that is not new. I say this with personal experience, as I’ve personally encountered customers who have queried as to why the goods I was carrying seemed old and this has been something that I have been working to overcome.

Did you change your business approach to cater to this fact?

Yes. It’s quite interesting actually, the nature of the vintage market here in Hong Kong, has had an effect of how I marketed my goods. Initially, in selecting the retail location for my store, I had my mind set on opening the store in Central, Hong Kong. There were already a few similar stores in Central, so I can imagine that the location would be frequented by a lot of vintage lovers, who atleast understood the goods that I was trying to sell. However, I settled for another location that was quite far from Central. Many of the people I have encountered here, just fail to see the signficance and value of the goods. This has required me to do certain things differently. I have often found myself tirelessly trying to explain the signficance of the goods to those who can’t seem to wrap their heads around it.

Greater business decisions had to be taken as well. So for example, in my boutique, I’ve also introduced non-vintage goods along with vintage goods. This has helped me attract customers and has allowed me an opportunity to sell the vintage goods themselves. As in the initial phases, I found that it was very difficult and quite infeasible to operate my store entirely on vintage goods in such a market. I’ve also had to take a different approach to pricing, more specifically, I’ve had to cut down on the profit margins because people in Hong Kong are only willing to spend so much on vintage goods. Whereas, I believe if I were doing this overseas in the West, I would be able to operate on a higher and more fruitful profit margin.

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Have you encountered any disappointments so far?

I’ve found some customer remarks disappointing. I’ve met some customers who’ve said things along the lines of: “Why is it the things you are selling, seem like they came from the dumpster?” Sometimes I have to deal with some ignorant and often confused customers, who often make comments like this. Though unintentional, they can be quite hurtful in regards to what I am trying to achieve. Despite this, I believe in professionalism, so in dealing in my business I put personal sentiments and emotions aside.

Do you have a lot of competitors in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong there aren’t a lot of competitors in this field. The main issue does not lie so much in competition but rather the fact that the market has not developed into a market that widely accepts goods of this kind. So I believe that is matched by the amount of players in this industry, which based on my research there really are less than 30. I think there would be more competition in the West.

Could you share with us any insights you’ve developed about this industry?

There is quite a few things that can be said here. Given the niche nature of the industry in Hong Kong, market research becomes very important aspect of the industry. In Hong Kong, people have very specific tastes when it comes to vintage goods. You have to find out exactly what their tastes are and cater to it. In my experience, I’ve discovered that they are more interested in vintage bags as opposed to other goods.

Aside from this, I think ambience is also an important aspect in surviving in this industry. In this industry, I think you would have to go the extra mile, again because of the nature of the industry. You would need to know how to attract your customers beyond the basis of just the goods you carry because they don’t fully understand the value of the goods you carry. So the presentation becomes very, very important. In my store, I’ve fully utilized music, scents and specific self-designed lighting, altogether to create a unique ambience that makes potential customers raise an eyebrow.

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In your experience, what kind of people in Hong Kong buy vintage goods?

I think most people who buy vintage goods in Hong Kong, are mostly bargain hunters. They don’t really buy it for the same reason, as one might overseas. They don’t buy it because they have a genuine appreciation for the vintage value of the goods, rather because they appreciate how such goods are undervalued monetary-wise, compared to many of the non-vintage goods out there. So for example, one might buy a vintage bag because they find it to be cheap and they think they’ve scored a good bargain on it. Personally, I’ve not met many vintage lovers, this is quite disappointing but again, this is a really young market.

In your opinion, what is the key to entrepreneurial success?

Having an understanding of what you want to achieve is very important. I believe that many successful entrepreneurs possess a foresight of where they want to be and to them their journey are just incremental steps that they take towards the goal. Having that kind of direction is important. The adequate amount of preparation is also important, and this may include having done the right market research. But most importantly, you should have genuine passion in what you are doing. If you have the right passion and motivation in doing what you are doing, I really believe that will take you really far.

What are your own plans for the future?

Aside from the vintage boutique which I plan to develop further, I am also currently working towards establishing my own fashion brand under my own name. This has always been a dream of mine that I have been slowly working on. Essentially, I would like to set up such a brand in the near future, focusing mainly on intricately designed women’s wear.

Any parting words of wisdom for our readers?

If you have never dreamt of living in a castle, you will never live in a castle.

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Connect with Theresa Shuman and Therese De Vintage today:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThereseDeVintage?fref=ts
Email: [email protected]

Entrepreneurship

Why Angel Investors are Shaking Up the Global Startup Scene

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Candace Johnson is someone who has made a global impact on our modern international telecom and broadcast business. She co-initiated the foundation of SES-Astra and SES Global, which today owns a fleet of 54 satellites and broadcasts 6500 TV channels. And she founded the world’s first Internet-based online service, Europe Online, making it into one of the first broadband Internet services.

But it was in her role as president of EBAN, the European trade association of several hundred business angels, which brought her to Eindhoven’s High Tech Campus recently. She explains why angel investors are making a difference to the global start-up scene and explodes several myths that surrounds the way they do business. She spoke with StartupDelta’s Jonathan Marks.

Building the match between angel investors and hardware startups

“People often think that angel investors are people who do investments around the corner, locally, or in services like e-commerce. To be frank, when the HTCE management told me that they were focussing on the hardware side of things, I was thrilled.”

“What I’m trying to do as President of EBAN, and having incubated MBAN (MENA Business Angels Network) and ABAN (African Business Angels Network) under my presidency, is to extend the scope of angel investments. The vast majority of angels are already tech savvy. But we need to educate our successful angel investors to invest more in hardware and infrastructure. We also need to help start-ups develop a pitch that speaks to the interests of angels, so they can get funding for their initiative.”

“We run the EBAN Training Institute with the goal of raising standards. We’re seeing more and more that the best angel investors are serial entrepreneurs. They bring their trusted network, expertise and experience to the table.”

“Money is important too, but it is not at the top of the list. Business angel investors are high net worth individuals who usually provide smaller amounts of finance (€25,000 to €500,000) at an earlier stage than many venture capital funds are able to invest. They are increasingly investing alongside seed venture capital funds.”

Angels are more important than most people know

“We follow the guidelines and standards developed by the European Venture Capital Association. For over seven years, during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008 until the recent recovery started, it was the angel investors who took over the role of early stage financing. More than €7.5 billion are being invested annually in Europe, with a sustained growth in recent years. Of that €5.5 billion comes from angels. In fact we have had to professionalize our profession to meet the demand of the growth in this early stage ecosystem.”

We always have an exit strategy

“Angel investors can only continue to invest if they have exits. I hear many people talk about investing. Only a few discuss exits. I want to change that. I also stress that proven entrepreneurial success is essential in order to become a member of our association. We need to ensure that useful “lessons learned” are shared with the start-ups. They are always based on hands-on real-world experience. We have no time for people who are using new blood to try and correct mistakes they made in their own failed companies.”

“EBAN was started in 1999 together with the European commission. For the first ten years, I think people were too focussed on the investing part. Now we need to focus on exits and returns on investment. Without returns, business angels are out of business. And remember there is only a short window of opportunity during which start-ups can scale-up to becoming global success stories”.

“Our feeling is that you should not make an investment in a company unless you can see the path for the exit. The exit may be a trade sale, an IPO, etc. The exit also does not have to be 100 %. It does, however, have to bring you a return on your investment so that you can continue to invest. This approach helps you focus on building great companies. There’s always competition in healthy markets, so no-one can afford to waste time. We’re not a charity; we’re doing this because we love building and financing global success stories. We’re therefore looking for companies with a real marketable product, not a prototype or a collection of well-presented ideas.”

Is there specific advice you can share with high-tech startups?

“In the last few years we’ve seen the rise of the accelerators alongside incubators. They have helped raise standards because a good idea needs to be validated by the market before it is the basis for a high-growth company.”

“As investors, we always need to see a start-up demonstrate that they have first clients and initial revenues. We’re not saying that they have had to scale or show market traction. But if we are going to put in our personal money, then we expect the founder to be resourceful enough to work out the first product, to have found the first clients and show us evidence of the first revenues.”

“The incubators who help get an idea into reality and the accelerators have been good at making startups better prepared for angel investment, offering the right coaching to turn an idea into a validated business. That means angel investors are better able to select the growth companies and focus on making a good return on their investment.”

Hanneke Stegweg

“We recognise that young companies need to present their business proposition to the angels attending our annual conference. So we’ve created ways that teams get immediate, honest feedback on the quality of their business presentation. We have one full day of preparation and coaching followed by a Global Investment Forum. The best go on to pitch to the entire network. This year, the “company to watch” category was won by Hanneke Stegweg, who is the Dutch CEO of the iLost company. Together with Neelie Kroes, I am keen to see more women founders lead entrepreneurial teams.”

What needs to change for things to move faster?

“We held this year’s EBAN congress in Eindhoven at the recommendation of several members. They all work in the innovation and financing of innovation field. But this region also came up in our discussions with StartupDelta. We have worked closely with Neelie Kroes when she was with the European Commission.”

“We were tipped off to the High Tech Campus specifically by our Russian members: the Russian Business Angels and the Skolkovo Foundation who are building the Skolkovo science park just outside Moscow.”

“And last, but not least, I know Eindhoven from my work in telecommunications and broadcasting hardware field. We often came here to work with Philips on the establishment of the DVD and MPEG-4 standards.”

“During our visit to the Brainport area it was clear that there is more than enough money in the region and a healthy appetite to invest in innovation. But there are some caveats that we feel need to be addressed.”

“Frankly, I think we are rather tired of the “nice-to-have” e-commerce companies. We would prefer to reinvest in world-class companies who are building something tangible, solving a real-world challenge. They need to demonstrate they can scale and become global.”

“We can see that the efforts by many have helped to raise the bar in the Netherlands and that’s good news for everyone. But remember there is a difference between entrepreneurs and SME’s. Entrepreneurs are the only ones to change our world. They create large companies, worthwhile employment, and that grows into large revenues.”

Failure is not an option

“We should get rid of this talk of failure being an option. If you’re taking angel money, it is NOT OK to fail.”

“If you take third party money, you have a responsibility as an entrepreneur to do everything you can to make a return on the investment of your business angel. The media keeps talking about friends, family and fools. But that’s nonsense! Founders, families and friends build great companies!”

“I have always been a free marketer at heart. Europe and The Netherlands need to create nations of investors. I believe in the power of private sector-led investment. Government needs to follow the leads set by business angels, not the other way round. We are investing our own money and using our years of experience to scale up these companies. An entrepreneur who is not willing to work and dedicate her or his lives 24/7 to achieve the goal should look elsewhere for money!”

“We’re fortunate that the EBAN network acts as a magnet for excellence. We were honoured to have the President of the European Research Council and the Head of Technology Transfer of the European Space Agency address our Congress to show us where the technology trends are going and where we should invest.”

“From a venture and entrepreneurial financing perspective, we were most grateful to our colleagues from the United States who joined with our European, MENA, and African colleagues to set the bar high in creating, building and financing global success stories. Amongst those joining us in Eindhoven from the United States were the president of the Global Accelerator Network from the USA, the president emeritus of the Angel Capital Association of the USA, the President of Start-Up Angels and Board Member of Up Global from the USA. We also welcomed the President Emeritus of the Crowd funding association of the US as well as the chairman of New York Angels. And we were delighted with the presence of David S. Rose, the president of GUST.com. These are some of the world’s best experts in angel investing.”

“They all said they were pleasantly surprised by the high standard of the startups that came to Eindhoven from all over the world. It was well above what they had expected. Start-ups from Africa, Middle East and Europe traditionally explain what they do, rather than explaining to investors why their idea is important. But that’s changing rapidly for the better. Entrepreneurs are also getting better at defining what they need in order to scale-up.”

NEXT STEPS : It’s all about active networking

“I should explain that in expanding our reach in Europe, with have formed alliances with the European Space Agency and the European Research Council. They also have their own accelerators and incubators. I think the onus is on the angel investor community to help bring this scientific community to a higher level of entrepreneurship. They need to think about the market for their inventions from the beginning. I believe we can help these organisations filter out the very best ideas and give those the attention they need to scale ideas into real businesses. There needs to be a validated market need for the technology they are developing.”

“We have two main events. There is the annual EBAN congress, this year in Eindhoven and next year in Porto, Portugal. And we run the EBAN Winter University, this year running from November 17–19th in Copenhagen. We’re doing this with leading organisations active in Europe’s creative industries. And all this is in addition to individual events and competitions organised by EBAN members at a local, regional and national level.

Increasingly we’re assembling cross-border syndicates, both between European countries and increasingly inter-continental networks linking Europe with innovation hubs in Africa, Middle East and North America. As companies scale and go global, it is important they have access to an international shareholder network. It’s a softer landing when they cross continents.

We also believe there is a way in which we can build partnerships with techno-business parks around the globe, led by the flywheel initiatives shown by High Tech Campus Eindhoven over these very fruitful days in the Netherlands.

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About the Author

This article was written by Jonathan Marks, Executive Director at Photon Delta. See more.

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Entrepreneurship

Myths & Facts about Entrepreneurship

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Today, there is a pervasive and nearly deafening mantra insisting that you quit your job and become an entrepreneur. The collective says you should do it today because every day you wait brings you closer to a life of poverty and regret.

A central theme in the entrepreneurial world is challenging the status quo and questioning conventional wisdom in search of new and better ways of doing things. If you’re just going to follow the pack, you may as well just get a real job and call it a day.

Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. Starting your own business may be the best decision you ever make. But it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and a lot of myths to expose, starting with these.

Let’s take a glance at some of the Myths of entrepreneurship:

1. You’ll be Happier

Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. Starting your own business may be the best decision you ever make. But it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and a lot of myths to expose, starting with these.

2. You’ll have more freedom, control and work-life balance

If you’re on your own, chances are you’re going to find yourself wearing all sorts of hats and working 24×7 for a very long time. Work will become your life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone feels more freedom and control that way.

3.You’ll be more fulfilled

Do we know what just about everyone loves to do? Great work that accomplishes goals they can be proud of. One can do that working for a big company, a small company, or their own company. Fulfillment has nothing to do with business ownership. If one wants to manage, lead, or run a business, it’s better off learning the ropes in a good company before starting your own.

4.There are no jobs; technology and outsourcing killed them all

It is shockingly untrue. If technology destroyed jobs, then which one will you call the most lucrative and fastest-growing industry on the face of the earth.That’s right: technology. If you can’t find a job, chances are you lack in-demand skills or education, in which case, yes, you might want to consider starting a small business which does not require much of exclusive skill sets in particular.

5.Entrepreneurs Live a Glamorous Lifestyle

That’s again untrue. Most entrepreneurs do not live a glamorous lifestyle; if they do, their investors should cringe. Entrepreneurs are notoriously frugal, hard working and opportunity-obsessed with little time for outside activities. These qualities are not hallmarks of the glamorous life.

Now,Let’s look at some of the facts of entrepreneurship.

  1. Most successful entrepreneurs succeed by exceptional execution of ordinary ideas: See Jiffy Lube, Starbucks and Charles Schwab.
  2. Most successful entrepreneurs concentrate on minimizing risk rather than taking huge risk at the time of starting their companies.
  3. Successful entrepreneurs use their innovative passion in many ways, such as buying companies, creating new ventures within larger companies and re-strategising nonprofits.
  4. More than 80 percent of new ventures are boot-strapped from personal savings, credit cards, second mortgages and the like. The median start-up capital is about $10,000. Waste Management began with a single truck; Sam Walton started with $5,000. So, in short access capital is not required to startup.
  5. Being first to execute well and delight customers is not at all important for success. A lot of startups have entered quite late in a particular startup industry and have done well.

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About the Author

This article was written by Utkarsh Sharma.

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