Like Mother Like Daughter

Fu Si Hui, who graduated from the Diploma in Business Process & Systems Engineering (BZE) in May 2015, not only applies what she has learnt from her course, in the running of her online clothing store, but she has also passed on her business knowledge to her mother, Mdm Ang, who runs a brick and mortar shop selling classic ladies apparel at Bedok Reservoir Road.  Si Hui tells us why her BZE course is extremely relevant to life.

Daughter and mother at their Bedok Reservoir store

I graduated from the Diploma in Business Process & Systems Engineering (BZE) in May 2015, and even before I had completed my course, I already found that what I have learnt is extremely relevant to life – it helps you to understand how a business is run, and of course, how to run a business yourself, if you so desire.

My mother, Mdm Ang, runs a brick and mortar shop selling classic ladies apparel at Bedok Reservoir Road.  Besides helping her to tend to her shop, I also often discuss business concepts with her.  She offers good rock-solid business advice cultivated and learnt through years of trial and error, tested and proven, whereas I offer her the latest concepts and theories about business systems processes which I learnt from my BZE course.  Often I could see that many of our ideas overlap and her business practices are actually based on the established business theories; it’s just that she has no name for those theories!

I also introduced new concepts and things which I learnt from my BZE course.  For example, I taught my mother the Supply Chain Management concept so that she can better manage her supplies, as well as some of the marketing strategies which I learnt in school, such as customer loyalty programmes.  I then realized how the curriculum in polytechnic really helps us in real life situations!  (Unlike in JC, where the focus is on theory and students are unable to relate it to real life.) 

In addition, my mother used to take ages to record her daily sales and sometimes has problems balancing her account.  So I developed a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which automatically does all the calculations for her.  It is very convenient and efficient!  It also eased the workload that my mother had. 

Besides helping my mum in her shop, I also run an online clothing store myself.  Mine is Pefetto Boutique, an online store selling trendy ladies clothes and accessories.  I started up the store during my second year in BZE.  I usually bring in the type of clothes which I would personally wear, clothes that would be chic, trendy yet not too old fashioned.  Just in case I can’t sell my stock, I can wear them myself!  So, you can be assured of the quality of the clothes sold in my online website!  Cos I wouldn’t sell anything that I would wear myself!

Modelling the clothes that I sell, and selling the clothes that I model

I guess being in both the online and retail store business helps me realize a huge difference in them!  Online boutiques are really important and “in” these days as technology is vast; it helps busy students or adults get their clothes delivered to them efficiently.  However, having physical retail stores are also important and should not be neglected!  Physical retail stores are for those who do not know how, or do not like, to online shop or even get into the internet! Also, some do not trust online shopping as there have been plenty of scams online these days. Hence, to be safe, these customers would still rather shop at a physical store.

Needless to say, my diploma training has helped me to run my own online business as well.  My BZE course has helped me in keeping track of my supplies and financial management.  I also apply the pricing strategies I learnt, such as taking into account the currency exchange rate, because most of my supplies are sourced from overseas.

For those who are considering setting up or are already running their own online business, here are some “tips” to help you:  The key in making money from a business is to buy items at very cheap prices and selling them at prices which give you a profit, but yet are a little lower than market rates.  In this case, more customers would purchase goods from you and you will still earn!  Also, word of mouth is very important in business.  I assure you that if your apparels are of good quality and cheap, more customers would introduce people around to get items from you!  Last but not the least; we need the 3 P’s – Personalization, Presentation, and Packaging.

Personalisation: Make the customer feel at ease when communicating with you.  She will feel that the service you provide is personalised and she will trust you.  Personalisation also means going out of your way to customise something for your customer.  It may be a request to stitch on her initials to a T-shirt, or to change some buttons on a blouse – but if you can, then do it.  If necessary, you may charge an extra fee – which usually customers won’t mind paying because they know that it’s an extra service.  You could even make some extra profit in the process!

Presentation: Next, we have to present the goods appropriately.  If it’s a physical retail store, your shop windows and counter displays are very important.  Change them often, because having a same display for one whole year shows that you have can’t be bothered, and besides, you have nothing new, so people won’t go in.  New displays also tend to catch the eye, so people will step into your store to browse!  On the other hand, if it’s an online store, then your goods need to be showcased via photos and just like the windows in physical shops, your pictures must be updated frequently.  You can do it by taking good photographs of it or getting a pretty model to model the items!  More people tend to purchase clothing worn by beautiful models, as compared to mediocre (or even unpleasant) looking models.  If you are setting up and designing your own website, then you should ensure that the website design must be attractive and matching, to create the correct feel that you want to achieve; and you may also want to consider SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to ensure that potential customers will find you easily when they do a google search.

My online store: 

Packaging:  Lastly, we need to package the items well and show the customers that we put in effort to deliver the goods to them!  It is even more important in today’s online market.  The products are usually delivered by mail, so packaging is important to prevent damage and to ensure that the goods arrive in perfect condition.  Using bubble wraps is one way to protect your goods.  Customers are not stupid people; if they see that you take care to protect your goods, they will understand that their next purchase from you will also be similarly well packaged and the goods will also be in the same perfect condition.  This cultivates customer loyalty, and also helps in, as mentioned earlier, promoting recommendations by word of mouth.

Of course, there is often no substitute for experience.  Having been in the retail clothing business for 30 years, my mother has this advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs: “In business, it is always better to earn less than not to earn anything at all.”  The wisest words indeed.

Si Hui dressing chic for a day out

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