like a banner, fancy It is a household name that Malaysians can shop for festive shifts, or any other day, for comfortable wear as well.
The woman behind the brand, Ciazana Suciman, started from scratch in her tailoring and design career after coming from an architectural background.
The process of building Whimsigirl into the big local brand that it is today has been a journey that has cost many huge mistakes, as I previously revealed in an article with the star.
Curious about what she’s learned, we reached out to Syazana, and she shared some tips that can be useful to (aspiring) founders of small, local fashion brands hoping to grow big.
A self-taught skill
Before starting Whimsigirl, Syazana was newly unemployed simply learning new skills at home.
“I’ve had all this free time, and I can also put it to good use. I had all of this [designs] and old fabrics I’ve collected over the years, so I bought myself a sewing machine for my birthday, bought books, and taught myself how to sew,”
I made products for friends and family, and gradually the orders started pouring in. Despite this, I realized that she was subconsciously conducting market research and testing the feasibility of her product.
I followed the request and listened to the audience. Your products are only valid when they are needed حاجة [them]. You might think you have a great product but you need a customer who pays money to make it work,” she advised.
Not the first iteration of work
The whim we know today has come a long way since its beginnings. At that time, Siazana was making clothes for children, which later attracted the attention and demands of their parents who wanted similar comfortable clothes as well.
The company started by bootstrap but took a small loan from them MyCreative projects Where it started to grow as a brand of children’s clothing. In the same The Star article, I mentioned how I got into it without a proper business plan or financial strategy.
So in these early years the brand was making costly mistakes:
1. You entered a market that you know very little about.
As a children’s clothing brand, Whimsigirl decided to enter the European and American markets without fully understanding their intricacies and how wholesale buyers operate there.
“[We] “We spent a great deal of time and money with little results in the end,” Siazana recalls, but added, “We quickly realized that [the] The B2B/wholesale model was not what we wanted, and it revolved around the DTC model.”
dictionary time: DTC stands for Direct-to-Consumer, which is a business model in which no middlemen are hired.
Looking at the experience, she said, “we definitely had to look and seek guidance from more experienced entrepreneurs, but at the time our network was limited and we certainly didn’t know better.”
I don’t think more money could have solved the problem; It was a situation where we didn’t fully understand the nitty-gritty of the market we were trying to capture.”
2. Customer data was not analyzed.
When it came to inventory management, the team didn’t have guidelines or data to work with. This means that they will produce too little or sometimes too much.
“To find this beautiful place took some time because we had to learn the purchasing power of our customers and build the data from scratch,” Siazana said.
3. She was very risk-averse with her products.
“We were so focused and down to produce just one kind of thing. I think that was a mistake and a learning moment for us,” Ciazana said.
“This decision came out of fear also like, ‘Do we have the resources to explore different product segments, if things don’t go well, are they going to affect us, do we have enough experience, are we financially, emotionally and physically equipped? “.
Then they realized that they were simply overthinking, sabotaging themselves, and making excuses. It’s something they have overcome now. Instead, Whimsigirl has learned to be more strategic and open to taking calculated risks.
Lessons learned from mistakes made
“We’re almost back to square one because of the mistakes we made with money,” Siazana admitted as she recounted Whimsigirl’s journey.
Not only were they not making sales, but they were also consuming cash reserves as well. At the same time, the small team has already lost key personnel.
“Coincidentally, I had my second son at the time, so we decided to take a few months off from work and really reflect on what we wanted to achieve as a business and redefine our goals and values,” Ciazana recalls.
After the time was up, they settled on the decision to focus on designing more for women, and relaunched the brand—which brought us to the Whimsigirl we know today. It has been profitable ever since, Syazana proudly shared.
Despite all that, she maintains a positive view of these past mistakes. “At the end of the day, no matter how costly, I appreciate all the mistakes we made. We are better entrepreneurs for that.”
They are now tools to help us better manage crises. I’m sure we’ll make more mistakes in the future, but we’ll deal with it head on, one crisis at a time.”
One such example was during Hari Raya in 2020, when they were fast enough to reschedule some production and delivery schedule. With this, they were able to weather the storm. They also made sure to reset and lower their goals last year, but overall they had a good year on their records.
Experience backed advice
“Most designers can get very attached to their art, which is important, but that holds them back [in seeing] How their decisions affect the business.”
“You should be clear that some decisions are made for passion, and some are made for business. Know the pros and cons of each and try to get the best of both if you can,” she said.
And of course, take smarter risks. Syazana would, and happily added, “We are in a position to experiment more as the company stabilizes. Our thought process now is to test many different things on a smaller scale and see what we should focus on.”
“It’s okay to make mistakes as long as we learn and grow from them.”
Featured Image Source: Syazana Sukiman, founder of Whimsigirl