After the successful selling of Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness, business mentor Iyia Liu talks about her newest store Bambi Boutique, the trials and tribulations of starting four businesses and how influencer marketing benefits her.
Launching into another business venture, Iyia Liu is a sucker for punishment when it comes to putting in the hard yards to grow a successful store. After the selling of her Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness brands, the decision was made to start Bambi Boutique, a “one stop shop” as stated by the website, for clothing.
The clothing is imported predominantly from Australia, with the launch of the website due December 4. Liu’s newest venture is not one to be overlooked, despite entering a very saturated market, the 23-year-old is no newcomer to the marketing game.
Q&A with Iyia Liu, owner of Bambi Boutique.
Tell us a little about Bambi Boutique, where did the idea come from to open another clothing store after selling Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness?
I actually tried a clothing store before Waist Trainer and Luxe, but at that time I guess I didn’t know very much, so I shut it down. I recently sold Luxe and Waist Trainer, so I was just a bit of "What do I do next?" This is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I thought I’d give it another try.
So you completed your business degree prior to opening the stores, did you always know you wanted to start your own business?
I think it was my second year, I was saying to my dad, "Should I just leave uni and start my own business? It's what I really want to do," and he said "No you should just finish, and then do it." So I did start when I graduated but I knew half way through that starting my own business was something I really wanted to do.
Bambi launches December 4, was getting the business to this point easier with the experience from setting up the last few?
Some things are definitely easier, like let’s say setting up the website, setting up the payment systems, there are a lot of things that are the same this time around. But within that there are also a few things that I am struggling with, like inventory management. I never had to do that with Waist Trainer or Luxe, but clothing has so many different products. So there are definitely some lessons I’ve been able to bring across, but also I am still learning a lot in the process.
What lessons from your last few business ventures have you been able to use when setting up Bambi?
There are a lot of things that we’ve learnt. For example, what I failed with, with my first online clothing store was I put money into inventory and the website and I didn’t put enough money into its marketing. So then no one could find my website. So, this time, I’m actively doing the opposite, spending a lot of marketing, and it does feel like you’re potentially wasting money to start with. Last time I was only using my own Instagram to promote my clothes, now I’m using influencers and other people.
So, the use of influencers is a large part of your marketing strategy, how much of your marketing budget goes into these people? Do you find the high cost sees more results?
I think at the beginning when you’re launching you do have to put a lot into it, because no one really knows the brand. Once you get the brand up, you can pull back a lot on that influencer marketing and focus more on other types of advertising.
I think in terms of getting better results it is not necessarily always in a monetary way, it can bring brand loyalty and brand awareness, which is just as important. I personally as a shopper, don’t always buy something on the first go – but if I can instantly think of a store again when I have an occasion, then I will visit it more frequently.
You yourself are also considered an influencer, how do you find it as a career move, is it something you ever saw yourself being involved with?
It did just kind of happen, but I think it has been really beneficial. I feel like it really has opened up a lot of opportunities, I have created a lot of beneficial relationships from it and met a lot of interesting people through doing it.
Do you think this trend of influencers has longevity in these very competitive markets?
I think the more people trying to enter it, the more saturated it is going to become. So, it is hard to say, but I think for now it has the strength to stick around.
Your way of business has always been very ecommerce based, tell me about why those ecommerce landscapes rely so heavily on social media.
I think it is because social media just spreads so quickly, you can post something and people will see it almost instantly as opposed to other advertising. My two favourites to use are both Facebook and Instagram, I think they often go hand in hand – it is very hard to use one social media platform and not the other.
Both Waist Trainers and Luxe stuck out from the market as they had a clear point of difference, how do you plan to make Bambi as recognisable in such an over saturated clothing market?
I think again pros and cons, the waist trainer had a very niche market, so only a specific person would buy them. Whereas with clothing it is broader, I figured there is a lot of competition, but it is also something a lot of people like. As long as you can do your branding and get your whole product offering right, I think you have a chance.
I also think in New Zealand there is not a whole lot of clothing stores, more and more people are buying from overseas. So maybe if we can get the shipping and returns specifically for New Zealand customers and make it easy, we can dominate that market a little bit more. I think for sticking out we just want to be good, in every way possible. Good customer service, speed of delivery, pricing and quality. So I think we’re just trying to be good.
You’ve gone on now to create the 'Girls in Business' Facebook page with roughly 38,000 members and given public talks and packages about how to start your own business, tell us a bit about why it’s important to pass the knowledge on, how is it beneficial to you?
First of all I think one of the reasons I wanted to start it was because for me as a business owner, I always have questions and no one to help me. So I thought why not create a community where if I need help, I can ask and may I can learn from someone’s experiences, and they can learn from mine.
I feel like I get a lot of people messaging me telling them that I’ve inspired them to do something, but then they don’t actually know where to start. I don’t hold back on information. But at the same time when I was making the course I was like this is a lot of work and a lot to take in.
Is there any advice you will always give to new business owners, or those looking to get involved?
I think a lot of things, one thing though is that you don’t need a lot of money. I’ve heard of people going to the bank and getting out a $10,000 loan, but you don’t need to and it’s also a huge risk. Just try and save money before you start.
Another one would be just try something, ecommerce is so cheap to get involved with, you may as well give it a go if it is something you have been thinking about a lot.