My apologies for not writing last week, sometimes I like to take an extra week to have more to write about!
It takes more than hard work: Timing & little luck
I’ve learned early on in my journey it’s not just hard work, perseverance, and being able to take rejection well, will make you successful. What many people don’t like to admit is that timing and a bit of luck can make a huge difference in achieving your goals. And, if you read my earlier post about how I lost my wallet multiple times, despite my clumsiness, I left out how something always good came out it. Like when I lost my wallet for the first time after arriving in Israel, that was how I met my then-boyfriend, who was incredible supportive of me and we travelled all over Israel and Europe in his caravan. What if I never lost my wallet? Who knows? But I believe entrepreneurs have to put themselves in the right place and build a network to improve their chances of success! I know that most startups and businesses fail within 2-5 years but good timing and luck can make a hell of a difference when launching products in certain markets. Some entrepreneurs do work hard, have a great team, and have a great product, but the market or society may not be ready so they fail.
Hence why I moved to Israel to learn what it takes to start a business, traveled around SE Asia then settled in Thailand because the timing for building an online natural and organic haircare platform couldn’t be better. Back in the US, the market is saturated with organic and natural cosmetics and Amazon dominates the ecommerce space (look they just bought Wholefoods for $13.7 dollars, and they appear hell-bent on monopolising the ecommerce space and taking over retail,I cannot compete with that!) so I left to improve my chances of success.
Building a network: formal and odd places I’ve met incredible people
So last week I ended my blog post stating that I have an investor(s), for those in BKK I’ve told you directly and many have asked how? I think it’s an interesting story, but before I get into that, I just want to say that fundraising as an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things. There are many online platforms to connect entrepreneurs to Angel investors, venture capitalists (VC), even how-to guides and videos of how to do a kick-starter campaign. I’ve been building Healthy Hair Asia, after 3 pivots for about 1 year and I’ve tested the market, made a lot of mistakes, learned from mentors and my customers what it takes to make this business happen. I finally came up with a solid plan to show investors or VC’s that Healthy Hair Asia is scalable and with the right team and resources, the timing is perfect to invest in an online natural and organic hair shop with an all female logistics team that will provide excellent customer service and deliver to customers all over Thailand (and within 5 years all over SE Asia). Ok, now to the story!
So I met my investor when I first moved to Bangkok in 2015, at a Halloween party, at Maggie Choo’s at 1AM. If you’re ever in Bangkok and like live Jazz music, it’s a great place to check out. Anyways, so that night I dressed up as an 80s fitness instructor and was on a mission to go out and socialise as much as I could. I experienced huge culture shock (I went from Israel, a society that was very “chutzpah” and fast-paced, to Thailand, a society were maintaing “face” is everything and moved at a slower pace) so it took me a few months to adjust and learn how Thais and expats communicate and interact with each other. That night everyone was dressed up in some really cool costumes and I met a few entrepreneurs doing business in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other SE Asia countries just passing through for holiday. I was about to leave when this tall guy introduced himself and asked: “What are you?” I enthusiastically, did a high kick and explained that I’m an 80s fitness instructor! He laughed and asked if he could take me out to eat. I wasn’t hungry, and skeptical why some tall handsome stranger wanted to go out to eat at 1AM.
At first I said let’s meet tomorrow, like at an appropriate time, but living in Israel I learned to relax (I went hitch hiking and came out fine!) and go with the flow when it comes to meeting new people. He laughed and said what’s wrong with going out to eat so late? He had a point, Maggie Choos was in my neighbourhood and had the best street food, so we left, and went off to the night market on Silom Rd. The street market was closing up so we ended up eating at the 24 hours Sunrise Tacos Mexican Grill. Eating some yummy burritos, we got to know each other and talked about what we did for a living. At that time I was still doing Natural Hair Capital so I told him about how I wanted to connect the global natural hair community of bloggers, YouTubers, entrepreneurs, and academics with natural hair who have been discussing, sharing, and running businesses to educate each other on how to take care of their natural hair. And he shared his story, oldest of seven, worked in finance, and traveled back and forth between Europe and Bangkok for business. He was surprised by my ambitions (not in a sexist way, but more admirable way) and we decided to keep in touch. So for the last 2 years through polite persistence and demonstration of progress with now Healthy Hair Asia, he decided to invest. Still a long way to go, will keep you updated!
Meeting Michael Waitze ,VC and co-founder of of Asia Tech Podcast at AKIN ASIA Breakfast Network
Bangkok is quite an international city with many meet up groups and business networking groups, so over the last 2 years I’ve learn how to navigate the social and professional scene (still a long way to go). But many events, I rarely come across investors and/or VC (I believe they are hiding lol).
Earlier this month I attended AKIN ASIA breakfast network at one of their monthly early morning breakfast meetings. I was skeptical at first because, who has the time to attend an 8AM event before heading to work? Well I did (I’m not working now), and since I’m an early riser I was happy to dress up and meet some new people over a nice breakfast. So, having no expectations, I arrived at the event to a group of about 12 people, mostly women, and the founder had us introduce ourselves, our projects, and specifically ask what we wanted to get out of this meeting. Before it was my turn to introduce myself, the man sitting next to me introduced himself as Michael Wiatze, and acknowledged his privileges as a Caucasian American male, with a successful career in finance, co-founder of Asia Tech Podcast, and most importantly was passionate about helping female founders and startups. Now the whole time he was talking, I couldn’t help laugh to myself (and a bit out loud) “What are the chances of me as a female founder sitting next to this man??” Plus, the timing couldn’t be more perfect, the universe definitely favours me!”
So throughout the breakfast we talked about the scalability of my business, natural and organic hair care in SE Asia, and my next moves for building Healthy Hair Asia. I’ve learned the importance of balancing my time so I did turn my attention to other women at the event, who worked in non-profits, ran their small business, or leaving Thailand for better job opportunities. Waitze and I had a follow-up meeting later in the week (I was super nervous!) and talked for exactly 1 hour, about realistic steps for building Healthy Hair Asia and shared my website on his platforms. The best thing out of the meeting, was when I gave him samples of shampoo bars, which he absolutely loved, and suggested I hand out my business cards along with the shampoo bars. I took that advice and within two days printed my business cards and used rubber bands to attach to my shampoo bars. And for my curious readers, if you want to learn more about the meeting with Waitze and I, listen to his podcast Asia Tech Podcast: Featuring Female Entrepreneurs from the Bangkok Breakfast Network! He talks about Healthy Hair Asia and other female entrepreneurs in Thailand. It’s quite humbling to hear my small project be discussed on a podcast!
I’m not working, so what am I doing?
I begin working as a nursery school teacher in Thong Lo (will disclose more details later) in July, so right now I am attending many networking events, selling products, preparing for Techsauce Global Summit Thailand Road Show (Friday June 23 I’ll be pitching my business!), and a few expos. Last week I attended the 6th Thailand e-Commerce Day 2017 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. Though most of the talks were in Thai, I stayed to hear the CEO of Orami, Anne Belveze discuss online shopping and catering to female shoppers, and of course give her my business card and sample of shampoo. I also attended Propak Asia 2017 exhibition at Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre, which hosted hundreds of companies from around the world selling machinery—mixers, processors, pourers—materials, packaging, and virtually everything to build a factory. Now, 2-3 years from now I hope to build a small factory so I can make my homemade products to serve customers all over SE Asia. And what I got from attending the expo was learning what types of machines and capital I would need to make my Aloe Vera & Green tea mix or Avocado & Banana Super Hair Mask and other homemade hair products. As for now, working in my kitchen using my blender and running to Chinatown for packaging is good enough. www.bitec.co.th/default-en.html
Stay tuned, my next post I will write about my pitching at TechSauce Road Show at Siam Discovery!
Listen and subscribe to the podcast!
Check out our new business cards! And pictures from the E-commerce Day and ProPak Asia