After a corporate career in advertising and public relations, Andrea Liu decided to eventually take the plunge. You know it is never easy when you are used to the stability of a corporate career, and have also taken a break for five years as a stay-at-home mum.
But, Liu knew she had to do it some day. She founded the swimwear brand Frolik a few months ago. I met her one afternoon, to understand what it’s like to start a business from scratch, and understand the tricks of managing a one man show.
The timing just felt right. Her kids were busy with school and she was in Singapore, perhaps one of the most ideal weathers to promote swimwear. Originally from London, Liu has spent time working in Asia, living in Australia and now Singapore.
Liu saw the gap in the market for good quality fashionable swimwear. Her conversations with expat wives confirmed her views, who admitted swimwear was one of the top list of items that were added to their shipment containers.
The brand is here, but Liu knows it is not going to be an easy ride. She believes her experience with some of the big ad guys like BBDO, TBWA and M&C Saatchi (London), and more recently IBM Singapore will stand in good stead, as an entrepreneur.
Liu is working with the mindset of a startup. She has taken help from the network around her to create everything in a cost effective, yet tasteful way. For instance, photography to showcase her brand was done by a close friend. Likewise, her kid’s friends offered to be models for the photo-shoot. Her daughter and her are always doodling and preparing lists for prints that might work!
Liu works with an outsourced team of talented people around the world to create everything – her website design, logo et al. “There is so much freelance talent out there, and its great to know that someone is working on a design for you in some corner of the world, while you are sleeping,” she quips.
We love her designs. From shells to seahorses, we love the way she juxtaposes colour and print. Despite being from a creative background, she always worked on the client side. Which is why she has paired up with a graphic designer in London to bring her creative brief to life.
A visit to the Chinese Sourcing Fair (Hong Kong) put her idea on wheels. She found a manufacturer who works for designer Stella McCartney and agreed to make small quantities without compromising on quality.
It is hard to not fall in love with her debut range of kid’s swimwear (for age 2-9 years).
Her vision is to create a family brand. Imagine dad and baby matching their swimwear. Think Vilebrequin!
“Getting the right cut for swimwear for women requires years of R&D. As a startup, I do not have the bandwidth to do similar research, she admits. For mums, she hopes to stay away from the slinky cuts that brand like Sea Folly have mastered. Instead her designs will be more protective with full sleeves and zippers.
How does she think she will fair against the big boys of swimwear like Roxy, Quicksilver? Or even the casual ones like Cotton On. She wishes to position her products somewhere in between, to appeal to mums who are willing to pay a small premium for a unique design.
She is testing the waters by participating in exhibitions and boutique shows, and eventually might consider brick and mortar. Online retail, particularly for swimwear (where people want to make sure the swimwear fits right!) is no easy feat. However, once the brand gains more traction, this might change.
We wish her venture, bucket loads of luck!