Article

Career Opportunities

SOLE HEAVEN

by Graduan
 

Ask any girl and many would name shoes as their favourite accessories. And with the popularity of online shopping these days, many would also name Christy Ng shoes as a favourite online shop for their heeled possessions.

The brainchild behind the online shop is 25-year-old Christy Ng, who with just RM10,000 as a start-up capital and her living room as a makeshift “office”, has turned this into an overnight e-success. So much so that Ng now has a physical boutique that also serves as an office as well as base where she and her staff operate from.
 
So how did the idea of an online shoe store come by? Says Ng, “I’ve always loved fashion since young. But back then, my parents didn’t think that being in the fashion line would make any money and insisted that I did something technical.” With that, Ng studied biotechnology and majored in plant technology, where she did research on seeds. When she graduated, she took up a job in a pharmaceutical company as a sales/product specialist promoting a cardiovascular drug.
 
Quite a stretch from what she is doing now, isn’t it? However, the fashion fan did not give up on her style passion. While working at her full-time job, Ng also began selling shoes, first in flea markets and then on the Internet. “The pay that I was drawing at that moment with the pharmaceutical company was quite lucrative but I still wanted to do something fashion based on the side. I began buying shoes and then selling them. I had to use my house as a warehouse to stock up all my shoes! Within six months of doing that, I started my own label. I wanted to see how people would take to the brand. Fortunately, the response was very overwhelming. So I took it from there and here I am today,” says Ng.
 

STEP BY STEP

Without any formal training and very basic knowledge, Ng made simple technical drawings of shoes and produced them. But what made her the success she is today of course her passion and love for fashion, which she never once gave up on.
 
In fact, encouraged by how well her shoe business is doing, Ng decided to quit in March 2012 so she could go in full-time with her business. Despite it only being her second year of business, Ng decided that it was time to take it to a whole new level. “Fortunately, my income from my day job gave me the capital to expand my business.”
 
With that, Ng can now give her shoe business her undivided attention, allowing her to scale up as well as take it to the next level, which Ng says is to expand it not just in Malaysia but also in South East Asia. And judging from her numbers, Ng is not very far away from that reality. Today, she sells over 300 to 500 pairs of shoes per month while her website receives 20,000 unique visitors monthly. Her Facebook page has over 120,000 fans (and counting!). Aside from her boutique in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, Christy Ng shoes are also available on consignment in Parkson. “With my boutique and at Parkson, we have proper infrastructure for customers to try my shoes on so they can have a feel of the quality behind each pair,” she says. Ng also says that while she gets new customers regularly, up to 30 per cent of those who buy Christy Ng shoes are returning customers, which proves to show that she’s obviously doing something right to attract and retain her customers.

 

E-SUCCESS

Asked what she would credit for the success of her company, and Ng will gladly say it is social media that is driving it. “I have to say that my brand turned into a viral success mainly because of things like Facebook. When I asked most of my customers how they came to know about my brand, many would cite the social media as well as word of mouth. To be honest, we are where we are today because of social media,” says Ng.
 
With this useful information, Ng is focused on making sure her online boutique has a strong presence in the e-industry. Aside from updating her brand’s Facebook page regularly, Ng is also focused on search engine optimisation to ensure Christy Ng shoes pops up as top whenever someone does a search for online boutique shoe shops.
 
While her success may have come at a faster pace than most boutiques, Ng says that the journey has not been an easy one. “When I first started, I did everything! I had to take up calls during the day while I was still working, wrapped and packed the shoes myself and delivered them to the customers. Customers – especially when shopping from an e-boutique – want a voice so that they are assured the website is legit. I had to make sure to give that to them,” says Ng. “And now, even with the business taking off now, I still do everything! Fortunately I have four permanent staff and a part-timer but it is really a one-leg-kick-all job.”
 
Ng also says that with more e-boutiques now opening, her biggest challenge is competition. “We need to differentiate our brand. We do that by having our own label and our own style. Our star products are of course our high-heel shoes. We also ensure that we have good photography on our website so that our customers can have a good look at what we have to offer,” she says.
 
From sales rep to entrepreneur, surely the transition has been an interesting one for Ng? “For sure! I’ve learnt so many things. For example, my biggest lesson as an entrepreneur would be about cash flow. I have to be very good at it and have to keep it lean. Another lesson is knowing what to give to our consumers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of e-boutiques that give the rest of us a bad reputation by selling low-quality products. What you see on their website isn’t what you get. This can affect the entire e-industry. Which is why at Christy Ng, the key is to give our customers value. We don’t sell cheap stuff at our site.”
 
Surely starting out a business with a completely new format can be daunting. What advice then would Ng share based on her experience to those who want to do the same? “It is challenging but it is not really hard. The challenges make it exciting. What people should know is that they don’t have to go with what they learnt in school.
 
Take me for example. All you have to do is to just go with your passion. But you must do something you can do. For me, I’ve always liked shoes and have always been passionate about fashion and business. With this in mind, I am able to concentrate and give it my all. You have to do where your strengths lie. You have to also engage a critical and analytical thinking, which fortunately for me, my science background offered.
 
“I am happy to be able to live my dreams. This is only the beginning for Christy Ng shoes,” she concludes.

 
 

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