We profiled four young retailers to find out what makes their business special. In this final profile, it’s 23-year-old Iyia Liu, founder of blockbuster brand Waist Trainer New Zealand Australia and complementary fitness product company Luxe Fitness.
The retail industry is changing so rapidly that some young retailers are finding success in products that couldn’t have been dreamed of a few years ago. A 23-year-old Aucklander is finding just that.
Iyia Liu knows the power of a bit of social media prowess – she runs a multi-million-dollar business out of her Auckland home. Liu’s two brands are Waist Trainer New Zealand Australia, which sells a corset-like garment designed to help shape women’s waists and aid weight loss; and Luxe Fitness, a supplements and apparel company.
Hailing from Auckland’s North Shore, the former Auckland University student studied commerce, majoring in marketing and management. She knew as soon as she graduated that the nine til’ five employee lifestyle wasn’t on the cards for her.
Liu’s first business venture was a fashion website called I’ll Take All Three, which she modelled off Sophia Amoruso’s wildly successful online fashion store Nasty Gal. Liu quickly realised how flooded the online boutique market was and switched tracks.
In 2015, Liu was shopping for a waist trainer for herself – a product she had discovered on Instagram – but found it was difficult to ship the product to New Zealand. She started a business selling waist trainers in response. While Liu doesn’t have a monopoly on waist trainers in New Zealand, she does feel she got a head start on the trend.
Being a young business owner can be tricky, but Liu says it also has a lot of perks.
“Because I had limited experience with business in general when I started out, there was a lot to learn. But the plus side is that I don’t have children or a mortgage so it doesn’t matter to anyone but me if I lose all my money.”
The feeling she has nothing to lose has enabled Liu to take risks more freely, which has ultimately lead to her quick success.
Liu has largely developed and run her business without the aid of business mentors, and her ventures have all been self-funded. Something that she has struggled with is the discrepancy between business study and running a business in the real world.
“I felt like a lot of the theories we learnt at university just weren’t relevant. For example, we did no study about social media marketing. So for me it has been all trial and error.”
The biggest asset her age has brought to her business is that her target market is herself, which gives her insights into how her marketing is choosing to shop.
“I felt like it was easy to sell these products because I’m selling them to myself.”
Being a Millennia herself has given Liu a good foundation in how to use social media to her advantage. While she says traditional PR still has a place in retail, the cost and difficulty of measuring success has largely ruled it out for a new business like her own. Both Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness have significant social media followings – and Liu has tapped into the still-new market of social media influencers.
Bloggers or celebrities with large social media audiences become brand influencers when they post themselves wearing or using a product. American reality TV star Kylie Jenner and New Zealand YouTube star Shannon Harris have been two influencers Liu’s utilised.
“The reason I started using influencers was because I was shopping on Instagram on other people’s brand accounts. If I was doing that, then other people are too – so that’s how I knew it would work.”
“When you own your own business, you have control over your life and you work on your own terms. I’m so used to it now I don’t think I could go back.”
This story originally appeared in the June / July 750 issue of NZ Retail magaine.