Of Cups and G-Strings
Brandon Lee has an unusual occupation.
This 26-year old is the proud owner of Closet Lingerie, an online commerce site which deals with, ahem, ladies’ intimates. Yes, this young man sells bras and panties for a living.
*Gasp* A man selling women’s innerwear? Preposterous, you say.
In fact, it was the first question we posed to Brandon. His reply was a very wide grin.
Brandon started the site with his younger brother in September last year when together they identified that the lingerie business would be an explosive market. “Over the years, women’s lingerie has grown from being a pure necessity to a fashion statement,” Brandon reasoned, “There’s since been a proliferation of specialist boutiques such as Blush! to cater to this need.”
“We wanted to tap this growing market,” he added. Together, they invested $10,000 in the business.
If there’re already so many players in the market catering to this segment, how does Closet Lingerie compete?
“Of course there are a lot of shops and brands out there, but we provide alternative brands that are famous in other countries which unfortunately are not carried in shops here. We can make them affordable to the masses too, because we don’t have physical stores which require us to pay rent,” Brandon pointed out.
We’re also purely online, which means that we are available 24/7. So we’re accessible to our customers all the time.”
Wouldn’t the fit and feel be important to the buyer for a product like women’s intimates, I asked. Brandon acknowledges that there are some disadvantages to buying lingerie online, which is why Closet Lingerie has a 14-day return policy. He also makes it a point that when a purchase is hand-delivered to a customer, Closet Lingerie brings along various sizes ‘in case the size of the purchased product does not fit them’. He thinks that his customers would appreciate such gestures, and will ultimately help to generate more business through word-of-mouth.
Beginnings of an Entrepreneur
Unlike many kids, Brandon had always worked since he was young. Even at a tender age of 12, he was already working part-time selling bed linen and mattresses.
When he graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Electronics, Computer & Communication Engineering, Brandon joined a (now-defunct) network marketing company. â€œI must say that although multi-level marketing (MLM) has a bad reputation, the time in the company was good motivation for me. They were selling a dream and it gave me the desire to own my own business,â€ Brandon reflected. However, he left the company after a few months when he had to enlist for National Service.
Closet Lingerie wasnâ€™t Brandonâ€™s first foray into entrepreneurship.
During his National Service stint, Brandon had a casual chat with some friends and stumbled on a business idea. So in 2002, the then 21-year old (the legal age to do business) started a business which dealt converting content from VHS tapes into the newer VCD format with three partners. â€œMedia conversion was a roaring business at that time, as many people wanted to retain the content of their VHS tapes to the longer-lasting VCD,â€ Brandon said.
Brandon and his partners also made theÂ smart move of tying up with Photofinish, one of the largest chains of film processing stores in Singapore. This ensured a healthy stream of business for a while, but it wasnâ€™t to last. Not only was there a saturation of competitors in the market, the demand for such conversion services soon petered out.
Brandon and his partners closed the business in 2006.
It has been less than half a year since Closet Lingerie was set up. Brandon admits that there is a need to increase awareness of his e-commerce site, so he’s looking at exposing his brand at various bazaar sales and other outdoor promotional activities to drive sales.
“Of course there are challenges. For example, shipping goods from the US is very expensive!” he complained.
Brandon recently joined AsiaCube – which runs various e-commerce sites – as a partner, handling sales and marketing. One of these sites is MenStyle, which deals with men’s personal grooming products such as skin care and hair styling products. The enterprising young man believes that the move complements his women’s lingerie business.
Has he ever regretted being an entrepreneur? “I’ve actually gone for interviews,” he replied wistfully. “But it has been four years since I left poly, so I lack industry experience.”
“Initially my girlfriend was against me starting my own business, but today she’s behind me especially since I do get paid for my work at AsiaCube.”
“We’ll see how things work out.”
All the best, Brandon.
You can reach Brandon at brandon[at]closetlingerie[dot]com.
Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.