Meet Irene Sin - Fashion Creative Entrepreneur & Influencer 👗
This week, I’m really excited to be sharing with you guys an amazing interview with Irene Sin conducted by Talk This Talk That 你说，我谈，大家聊｜频道! The hosts have talked to her about her career, how she fights along the entrepreneur journey, and what her future goals are. She ends the interview by sharing some golden advises (tips & tricks to succeed in E-commerce business) to anyone who’s ever dreamed of starting their own company. Absolutely the sweetest of all! She is definitely the brains (founder, designer, and even model) behind Nineteen89 Boutique, which has to be one of the most chic and fashionable Women’s Clothing Store in Malaysia.
Well, I was actually first introduced to the brand after spotting Irene Sin on Instagram two years back if I’m not mistaken. Being Irene’s personal assistant for almost a year, I knew I wanted to feature her incredible line on our company website someday. I love her so much and was inspired by her story as an entrepreneur that I wanted to share with all of you more fun facts about her (behind the scenes story of a lady boss through my own remarks) besides the bunch of questions from the interview session! I knew she must be up to something really special that her 7-years personal online fashion business is truly successful today. I tried buy one on myself and could easily wear them all every day for the rest of my life. The power of 1989!!
1. When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and what was the point that really made you go for it?
Honestly, I never knew that I would be an entrepreneur. Both my parents are not from a business background or business-minded person, which means no guidance at all for me. Back then when I was in university, I was inspired by my friend and used to spend time thinking of “inventions” and “new business ideas” – from knitting crotchet dolls to phone casings to clothing. I started to enjoy the feeling of selling and I told myself since I want to invest in full time, I don’t plan to fail. So, I really figured out everything possible related to businesses and yes, I stayed the longest with the dolls business. I used to ship to USA a lot as postage was cheap that time. But after increased, the business became tougher although western people really treasure handmade as I can’t raise the price ridiculously. To me, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Anything is possible with hard work, passion and persistence. This environment certainly set the groundwork for wanting to be an entrepreneur and having the confidence to take a risk and just do it. To answer your question, I would say that for years I was just waiting for the right idea to strike me that I would have enough passion to pursue, through the good and the bad.
Nineteen89 Boutique struck me as soon as I graduated from my Bachelors of Accounting at Multimedia University. It developed out of the desire to wear certain nice clothes and not having the confidence to being good-looking that time. Since I’m not interested in getting any accounting jobs and always knitted, I decided I would just make my own clothes. I spent the days designing for styles and developing a brand. I decided to really go for it after I had made some money working on my side job. I had my own savings and thought to myself, “Okay, I can do this, I am ready.” It actually makes me laugh now thinking that I started my company with only RM2000!
2. What is the inspiration behind Nineteen89 Boutique?
Back then in 2013, online business was not so popular and many people don’t understand this kind of business. My relatives thought I don’t work and my parents still paying for my expenses. I was very angry in the beginning for being misunderstood like that but I no longer care. And most of my friends are in the corporate; they don’t understand me, I don’t understand them, hence it’s hard to have common topics. People thought I’m easy like that – no need to work and flexible hours. In fact, the amount of time I’ve spent might be more than the OT they had. I spent hours and days studying how people success in their business, also read tones of books to enhance my knowledge in being a boss, leader, customer service and etc.
First year with Nineteen89 Boutique, every design is like only 1 piece. Quantity wasn’t my game as I don’t have modal, my parents were skeptical with my decisions to do this full time. So they never give me any money to start but supporting my living until I can be independent. In 2013 to 2018, I failed many times. Who would have imagined that I bear with it and try again and again until Nineteen89 Boutique is still here today? From 1 piece to 10 to 30 to 100 - I always believed that less is more and quality over quantity. In picking my collection designs, I wanted to produce something that reflects classic women who were confident and had a strong sense of modern style. Something that we could all wear, appreciates, and stands the test of time. Never have felt so thankful to customers who like the design I picked and also my staffs who put their heart into helping me and supporting my every requests made.
3. What’s the best and what’s the hardest part about having your own clothing line?
The best and the hardest part about having my own clothing line is working for myself. I’m my own boss and I make 100% of the decisions, I decide where the company is going, design own self-manufactured collection and develop the brand. The fate of my company is completely in my own hands. I’m always been very critical of myself so I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. I’m working on learning not to be so hard on myself and just let things go. Those years, I was all alone doing everything from A – Z without any helpers and then that was the time the business started to go downwards. Things weren’t going smooth, everything was not in track, and it was hard.
And I failed badly before – I failed the websites, I failed on choosing the designs that my customers want, I failed in everything. This quote “FAILURE TO ROAD OF SUCCESS” is very true. If you don’t fail, you won’t know what’s important and also not grow up realizing all the mistakes you’ve made in the past. I’ve learnt that so many mistakes and decisions made, now I’m here to make up, be a better me for a better society! Just remember when you make a mistake, because we all do, learn from it and quickly move forward. Do not dwell on it and let it consume you.
4. I’m sure every day is different, but is there one thing you do that helps you maintain a routine?
When you work for yourself, it can definitely be hard to create structure. Developing some sort of routine is essential to getting your work completed in a timely manner. I try to work out every morning. It’s really good to sweat; I used to jog when I’m stressed. It helps me to relieve my stress and clear my mind for better critical thinking. It makes such a difference in how I feel and how I tackle the day. I don't usually drink coffee, but instead opt for a bowl of milk and cereal - sounds weird but it’s so good and helps me get my day going.
I am addicted to to-do lists, which has really helped me a lot. I have an ongoing to-do list I keep on my desktop and every day before leaving work, I create a check list for the next day on a physical piece of paper. I have found that doing this the day before makes me feel more relaxed and on top of things. I tackle one task at a time and nothing else until it is completed, unless something incredibly urgent comes up. That way I give every task 100% of my focus.
I am also crazy about folders. I need things to be sorted and kept well because action needs to be taken against them. Anything that I need to follow up with in the future, I would need them to be filed away. I actually feel out of control when I have lots of invoices, receipts and etc all over the place.
5. How do you unwind at night?
I have never loved working out at night because I found it hard to develop a routine with the changing schedules. I’ll go to sleep early so that I can wake up early, work out and still be at the office on time. You will rarely see a person who consistently goes into the office on time and is not successful right? To unwind, I like to watch Korean dramas. It can be completely mind numbing, but I love it!
When you start your own business, you need to understand that there will be sacrifices. Your social life for one. Obviously, going out and networking is a huge part of growing your business, but going out and partying every night will just not work. I could not afford to be tired because my company valued those few hours in the morning so much. I have never minded doing this because I am passionate about what I do and I genuinely enjoy doing the work. When you are thinking of starting a business ask yourself, will I enjoy working on this in five years? Am I willing to sacrifice my social life for this? If yes, why not?
6. What do you typically wear while you work?
Some important advice I received early on is to “fake it till you make it” and “dress to impress.” While I think that may have been a little extreme, I somehow agree with the underlying message. You have to live, breathe and be the person you want to become. No one will do it for you. Even if you are not there yet, you have to start now. I would say my typical outfit consists of Nineteen89 Boutique clothing – definitely a great outfit that can easily go from day to night. It’s also comfortable enough for me to sit at my desk all day and work, which my body thanks me for.
7. You started online fashion business in 2013 and 7 years later a lot has changed. Do you feel your personality has evolved together with your business? What’s the difference between the goals you had in 2013 and the goals you have now?
So much has changed the last 7 years, including myself. I started to create awareness around my personal online fashion business through outfit posts, restyling and etc. It was until my first LIVE implementation in 2018 (with Facebook & Instagram) that I realized the impact of my platform. Nowadays, social media especially Instagram is a place to be creative, inspired & updated with real stories around the good things in life. I want people to feel confident to step out of their comfort zone, so the magic can happen!
8. You’re an entrepreneur, influencer, and a fiancée of 13 years relationship to Zen Ong - How do you manage to combine all of this without losing your mind?
By doing it with great passion and a positive mindset which makes the biggest difference to me personally. Some days I get overwhelmed - I work all day on my phone and computer, on other days I’m producing countless of videos and stories, writing articles for a beauty brand or doing a personal shopping session. But then I’m really thankful for all the chances I get and the opportunity I even got to make my dream work. Also letting go of ‘the perfect balance’. It’s not achievable and it doesn’t even exist. I go with the waves and try to make the best of it. Sometimes that means being fully occupied by work for several days, other moments I’m giving my all to my other half.
Well, we don't really separate “work life” and “love life.” We can sit at home and discuss important work decisions or work on our computers and at the same time, we can take a walk or lunch break together during the day. When there is no separation, there is no lack in one or the other. Second, we have fun! Running a business with our life partner should be fun! Zen and I regularly check in with each other and ask “are you having fun?” That's how we determine if things are working. If there is a particular aspect of our work that isn’t fun for one person, we do something about it. And for us, balance comes through travel. When we travel, we’re able to remove ourselves entirely from stress and simply enjoy one another. Even if it’s an overnight trip, it works wonders for our peace of mind.
Apparently it’s the creative switch between all the professional stuff I’m doing, that keeps me challenged and keeps me going. So in a way I love this pace of my own.
9. You have already achieved so much in your career, is there something else that you dream of achieving? What development in your career are you most proud of?
Of course, there are lots of dreams and desires I have and want to fulfill in my life. Having a positive impact on those around me, is maybe the most important goal. It’s the only way I can be fully satisfied with the work that I do. I need to give back in order to feel good & be happy. I’m proud of myself for still doing what I love and for always keeping my head high when things get tough. By staying true to myself - this is something very important to me! Maybe I’m the proudest when I receive messages on social from people who follow my story and they feel inspired by my actions to realize their own goals.
10. Finally, do you have any advice for people wanting to start their own business?
Like in any sector, be sure to have an expertise. ‘I am a fashion entrepreneur’ can mean a lot of things. So find your strength, get educated or experienced and become the best in your role with these 8 important traits:
- Determination - Success doesn’t happen overnight. A business takes time to start and grow. And even more time to be successful. There should not be any rush. There will be difficult times. Things will look impossible. You will want to give up but you can’t. You need to fight off those urges, press forward, and persevere. Determination is the difference between those who quit on their dream and those who turn their dream into a great success.
- Passion - The work will be hard, the hours will be long, and to top it all off, there is no guarantee of success. Your passion will motivate you through the tough times and it needs to come from inside of you. Don’t count on money to be your motivating factor. Your passion comes from a deeper, more meaningful place. Your passion is something which makes you different from others. Be passionate about your work and no one can stop you from being successful in life.
- Optimistic - Successful fashion entrepreneurs are not afraid of failure. Things don’t always go to plan. And sometimes things completely fail. Get comfortable with the idea of failure. It will happen to you but do not feel defeated. Successful entrepreneurs see failure as an opportunity – a chance to learn from their mistakes. So when you get knocked down, you must get up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.
- Confidence - Any entrepreneur needs a self-belief. After all, if you don’t have faith in your own brand, how can you expect others to buy into it? Confidence is part of any entrepreneur’s success. You must be confident in yourself to run and grow your business, that you can manage what might come your way.
- Vision - As the creator of a brand, one must possess a clear vision of what you want your brand to be. Your vision defines who you are, what you want to do and where you want to go. Your vision cannot be unclear. It needs to be developed, detailed and definite. It needs to be clear. Your vision has got lot to do with how your journey is going to be in future.
- Flexibility - Fashion is a fast-paced industry, constantly changing. As an entrepreneur, you need to be flexible and able to adapt to the changing demands of your business. Learn to act quickly before new ideas and opportunities lose their spark.
- Effective communication - Your ability to communicate will affect your ability to influence others, your ability to develop relationships, and ultimately, your ability to produce results. So the success of your business will depend on your ability to communicate your ideas and vision to get people to buy into your brand.
- Risk tolerance - As an entrepreneur, you must be comfortable with risk. Entrepreneurs take risks, and they take action. Smart entrepreneurs are able to identify and mitigate business risk. But when the time comes, they step out of their comfort zone and engage risk by taking action.
So, my dear beloved readers, starting, running and growing a business really takes a lot of hard work! Along with long hours, compromise, sacrifice, and a lot of stress, each day brings new obstacles to overcome. Although there isn’t any secret formula for success, there are common traits that successful entrepreneurs share. And when it comes to the unique business of fashion, some of these traits are absolute necessities for our founder Irene Sin. Let’s start to be the best version of ourselves from now onward! ❤