Handing over delayed

We got a call last night that the landlord cannot finish the renovation until this evening. Therefore we have to postpone the handing over of the keys till Saturday because tomorrow is my husband’s 30th birthday! Damn, I am really not good in being patient especially when I am so looking forward to something. That also means that we have to delay our move from Saturday to Sunday. I hope we can finish everything in one day. There are sooo many things to move. I will need a holiday after this weekend.

And just to make the situation (and my patience) worse we tried to sign up for a business internet connection with Hutchison and they told us they won’t be able to come before 15.4.!!! Are they crazy? How can I work without internet for 2 whole weeks? They are nuts! So my husband kept pushing them and finally they agreed to come on 7.4.08. So that means I have to figure out how to work without internet in the office and use the computer at home instead. My last hope is that I can get some free access to a wireless internet connection from a neighbouring company for that week. ;-) A customer from Australia also made an appointment to see our showroom on the same day so I hope these guys set up my internet before I welcome my first official visitors to our showroom.

Starting the “real” business

As I mentioned before, I started my own business after finishing my studies in Hong Kong in 2005. Of course, at the beginning I didn’t register my company because I was just doing lots of research to find out what I could sell. I also didn’t earn any money yet, just putting in my own money. In 2007 my business started growing significantly, especially because we started doing wholesale business as well. Therefore, I decided that it is really urgent now to register my own company here. My German friend Philipp recommended an accountant to me who is taking care of such things for a good price. I sent him an email, filled out the paper he sent me (one single page!) and he prepared the documents for registration for me. He sent me the documents by courier, my business partner and me signed everything and sent it back. A few days later I got a call that our company is registered and I should pick up the original documents at his office! Now tell me, isn’t that the easiest and fastest way to open a company? I am really impressed! I even got a set with 2 different company chops, a “pressing thingy” to make a seal (no idea how to call that), a statutory book (man, that looks professional :-) ) and a really cool box with our company name’s on it.

First registered customer

I found out that just one day after we released our online-shop www.modes4u.com our first customer signed up for an account (incl. newsletter). The customer is from Italy where we have many customers from our eBay business already, especially for our Tenshi Neko bags. They are really popular in Europe. Unfortunately no one has ordered anything from our shop yet but I must be patient as our shop is totally new and just less than 1 week old.

Tenshi Neko
one of our bestsellers from the Tenshi Neko bag collection

Looking for an office & warehouse

Until now we had an home-office and we also stored all our products in our home aka “warehouse” ;-) . But we do get more and more requests from wholesale customers asking if we have a showroom in Hong Kong as they are visiting Hong Kong and want to see our products. I always had to deny and offered them instead to visit them in their hotel and bring a huge (and heavy) suitcase full with samples with us. Additional, our stock is getting bigger and bigger and we run out of space. Hong Kong apartments are already sooo small and not really suitable for fitting in a business with stock.

Therefore, in January ’08 we started looking for an office with warehouse space so we can set up a showroom, our office and have enough space for storing all our products. We had quite a lot of requirements including:

- 1000-1200 sqf
- reasonable price (what is reasonable in Hong Kong?!?)
- close to the MTR (subway)
- quiet (no machines/factories on the upper/lower floors)
- must have its own toilet (I can’t imagine using the public toilet in these industrial buildings)
- at least 3-4 rooms (“boss”-office, showroom, warehouse, etc.)
- renovated (walls painted, clean floor)

Based on these requirements it was really hard to find a suitable place, but good news everyone:

WE FOUND IT!!!

It is 1,200 sqf big, has 3 rooms (2 “boss”-offices, 1 big room) plus 1 storage room plus a big corridor plus a toilet, reasonably priced, very close to my home (~15 mins by bus plus 5 mins walking) and very close to MTR (~5 mins walking). The offices around it are trading companies, so they are usually not really noisy. ;-) The landlord also agreed on painting the walls, cleaning the carpet and the air-conditioners. Furthermore, there is a new big Yoga-studio within 5 mins walking distance ;-) Great for working out after work. We met the landlord last Sunday 23.3.08, and we will get the keys this Thursday! That’s quick! So in other words: JUST PERFECT!

We will convert the corridor into a showroom, Alan and I get each one of the “boss”-offices and our future employees will work in the big room. I found a part-time employee (Alan’s brother) already who will start working next week as well.

I will post some photos of our great new office as soon as possible. In the meantime, here is a picture from Google Earth in a bird’s eye view…

Office Picture
picture of our office including surrounding area (shopping mall, yoga studio, bus stop and MTR station)

Anyone, who is visiting Hong Kong and interested in our products is welcome to visit us. Please call for an appointment. Here is the address:

modeS Group Limited
Room E, 10/F
On Fook Industrial Building
41-45 Kwai Fung Street
Kwai Fong
Hong Kong

phone: (+852) 901 869 82

Directions: Here is a map where you can see how to get to our office:

Office Map

Online Shop released !!!

FINALLY, our online shop www.modes4u.com is online and ready for orders, just in time for the Easter holidays. The shop was officially released on Thursday, 20.3.2008. We have quite a lot of products online now but there are still items missing because we got new stock that we haven’t taken pictures of yet. So visit our online shop frequently for updates and new products. ;-)

We have a great offer for our online shop customers: Shipping costs for small (low weight) items are just 3 Euro per item, big items (heavy weight) cost 5 Euro. This offer is valid to any country worldwide. Additionally, for any order worth 60 Euro or more we offer FREE SHIPPING! Isn’t that great? ;-)

I wish you Happy Shopping and lot’s of fun in our online shop!

xoxo Sandra

Some extra income

While I was searching for the right products I got the opportunity to earn some extra cash. In November 2006 Sony released the Playstation 3 in Japan and therefore it was available in Hong Kong as well. Almost everything on sale in Japan is imported to Hong Kong too. So I grabbed this opportunity making some money in selling PS3s to Europe on eBay. I could sell them quite well because there were not too many competitors and the demand was huge. Additionally, I also offered PS3 games and accessories for a very good price.

PS3 delivery
customer orders including PS3s, games & accessories

PS3 games and accessories
PS3 games & accessories on sale on eBay

In March 2007, the PS3 was released in Europe and eBay got some crazy restrictions on who is allowed to sell the Ps3. We were not allowed to anymore. So I quit selling them and focused on my main business: fashion.

The money I earned from the PS3s and games I invested in manufacturing clothes and fashion accessories in China and ordering bags from Thailand as well. I was finally able to stock up on more items and increase our sales. We also used some of the money for a Christmas holidays trip to Austria to visit my family there. :-)

Finding the right product, part 3 “finally the right product”

So how did I finally find THE right product?

In summer 2006 I met a german, Philipp, who moved into the block next to us. He also has his own business on eBay, selling electronics like mobile batteries, USB cardreader, MP3 player etc. So we sat together quite often and discussed our ideas. I told him my ideas about selling fashion to Europe and he convinced me to check out Thailand. So we flew together to Bangkok and went for hours and days around Bangkok to find interesting suppliers. I found a few different manufacturers, all selling totally different fashion, so I bought some samples and put them online. Ebay is great for testing new products and see the response if a product could be sold or not. At the end, the products from one manufacturer were successful and we now order from him frequently. He has a huge range of products related to Japan, kawaii style and other cute items. It is a lot of work to find a new product or supplier, running around from company to company, negotiating, buying samples, putting them online and testing them. But in the end, I was successful and found one good supplier for me.

Tenshi Neko
Tenshi Neko bag from Thailand

But that wasn’t enough. I need more suppliers with different products. I wanted to have a bigger collection and variety. So I kept searching in Hong Kong and China for interesting looking fashion. It drove me almost nuts, every time when I went shopping, I just kept looking for suitable products. I couldn’t stop thinking about it anymore. I went to many wholesale markets, trade fairs, wholesale malls, companies my friends recommended etc. Finally, in the beginning of 2007 I found another supplier, a manufacturer from China who is manufacturing garment and accessories with styles like rockabilly, emo, gothic, rock etc. So I ordered some samples, tested them and found out that they sell really well. Now, we order from them very often and our wholesale customers love the items as well.

Stars bag
cool bag with stars from China

But I cannot stop searching for new products. I have to keep searching for the next hot item that could fit into our collection. When I find the next one, you will definitely find it in our shop. :-)

Finding the right product, part 2 “my mistakes”

I was looking continuously for new products that I could sell in my eBay shop. I tried out many different things and of course I also made some mistakes.

I got cheated by a wholesaler selling me “authentic” Emily the Strange T-Shirts. I didn’t know the brand in 2005, so I couldn’t recognize that they are fakes. I just liked the designs and quality of the shirts. The wholesaler advertised them as leftovers from the factory and “proved” that by the cut labels inside the t-shirts. They said, leftovers in the factory are marked with this cut to make sure, no one can sell them as “new” items in a shop anymore. That was b**s**, but I believed them. :-(

Later on, a company sold me some fakes from Juicy Couture, Miss Sixty and Rock & Republic. I was too excited that I found a hot brand supplier to realise that the prices are way too low for these brands. Luckily, I could get rid of the Emily shirts, the Juicy Couture and Miss Sixty items quite quickly (of course eBay cancelled my Emily auctions, too many fakes there). I dropped the Rock & Republic Jeans into a container for poor people in need. I hope they are happy with getting some brand new jeans ;-) At least I did something good to humanity, though I lost some money with them. I also bought some Harrods bags in the market as they were so popular among Hong Kong people. They sold quite well, but I decided that I don’t want to have anything to do with fakes anymore, so I stopped buying and selling them as well.

Juicy Couture Hoodie
Juicy Couture Hoodie

Emily the Strange shirt
Emily the Strange t-shirt

Emily the Strange label
small cut in the label (through the name “Emily”)

Harrods bag
Harrods bag

In 2006, I heard about shops selling leftovers and overstock from factories in China. Many people confirmed that they are authentic items, so I started hunting around Hong Kong to find something suitable. Indeed, I found shops selling some branded stuff, but they also had fakes. So it was really hard to figure out which item is authentic and which one is a fake. I tried out some items from American Eagle, Scary Mary, Pucca, Paul Frank and Phat Farm. That stuff wasn’t suitable for selling because I wasn’t sure about their authenticity, so I quit this idea very quickly.

Scary Mary
Scary Mary t-shirt

Coming Up:
How I finally found the right products for my online shop and for my wholesale business.

Finding the right product

I read it in many books: “Finding the right product is the hardest thing of starting your business and being successful”.

I totally have to agree with this. It is really hard to find a product that you can sell. There are many factors to be taken care of, like popularity (is it a popular product?), originality (am I the only one selling it or are there already hundreds of other sellers?), price (can I buy it for a reasonable price and sell it profitable?), sources (where can I buy it?), etc.etc. I planned to start selling on eBay, as its the easiest and fastest way to find customers worldwide.

So, I started looking around to find THE product in Hong Kong.

While I spend time in Hong Kong during summer university, the ESPRIT outlets were very popular among my female classmates. ESPRIT is a Hong Kong company and producing a lot of their clothes in China and Hong Kong. They have some great outlets where they sell leftovers, overstock and last season items for a very low price. So I started going to these outlets and buy hundreds of t-shirts, tops, trousers and jackets, take pictures of them and put them on eBay (Summer-Autumn 2005). As the competition of ESPRIT items is very though on eBay and our profit margin was too low, I stopped selling ESPRIT clothes and started looking for new products.

Anyone who is visiting Hong Kong and wants to check out their outlets, here are the addresses:
KAISENG Commercial Centre
4-6 HANKOW ROAD
TSIMSHATSUI
KOWLOON
Hong Kong

CITYGATE
SHOP 201, LEVEL 2
TUNG CHUNG
NEW TERRITORIES
Hong Kong

Esprit Tanktop
black ESPRIT tank-top

Esprit trousers
beige ESPRIT trousers, was one of our best sellers

During that time (End of 2005) Apple released their new product iPod nano and that product was HOT. it was released later in Europe than in Hong Kong and the price was much higher than here. Additional, Apple’s iPods were sold out, so I thought, this could be a profitable income. I started selling on eBay iPod nanos and was quite successful with it. The only problem was that some customers had trouble with customs and had to pay extra tax. After a while, there was more competition on eBay and the profit margin was reduced, so I started looking for new products again.

iPod Nano
that was our first “bulk” shipping of iPod nanos

Sony released their very first SONY PSP (End of 2004). Hong Kong was one of the first markets to get these new popular game consoles because many wholesalers import from Japan and so you can get almost everything that is available in Japan immediately. As the sales of iPod nanos wasn’t attractive anymore, I started selling Sony PSPs. The Japanese versions were very popular in Europe because of the special white colour and because you could play copy games with it. I sold PSPs for a very long period of time but after a while (around a year) the market was saturated and not attractive to me anymore.

white Sony PSP
selling Japanese white SONY PSPs with one of our eBay accounts “hk-trends”

Coming up:
What other products I tried to sell and how I found THE product.

The Beginning

How did i start this whole adventure?

Well, I will start right from the beginning. In 2004 i finished my Master studies in Computer Science at the Fachhochschule Vorarlberg in Austria. Now I could call myself Dipl.Ing.(FH) Sandra Boch. ;-) During my last semester I was invited by a Hong Kong university (Polytechnic University Hong Kong) to join their 2004 summer school program. Since High School I always wanted to study/live abroad for a while. As i haven’t had any plans yet, I decided to join this summer university. The program was conducted in Hong Kong for 4 weeks and after that we flew to Beijing for another 2 weeks. The classes were about Chinese language (Putonghua) and Chinese culture.

Summer University
my classmates and me at our Putonghua class during summer university

During that time I realised how desperately I wanted to go abroad and started looking for suitable interesting study programs while being in Hong Kong. As it was summer already, the number of choices were very limited. I was looking for a marketing/business management course for 1 year (including a degree). Luckily, I found one called Business Management and I would get a Bachelor degree in Business Management at the end of one year. The course was conducted by Northumbria University in the UK, but classes were hold in Hong Kong. During that year I learned a lot about Hong Kong people and culture, studying in china (such a difference to Austria) and so on. I started thinking about my future and what I should do after finishing this degree. I successfully graduated as a Bachelor of Arts with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in Business Management in May 2005.

Classmates and me
with my classmates (Weny, Yan, Cybill and me)

I didn’t like the idea of looking for a “normal” full-time job as i hate paternalism and restrictions and love the challenge. So i decided to try and start my own business right after leaving university. During that year i also met my future husband Alan. He also had his own company and supported me in the idea to start my own business.

That’s how my adventure started….

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