Fashion

5 things about this 34-year-old entrepreneur who is making resort wear available all year round

For Yacht 21 founder Jaren Ho, quitting school turned out to be a decision in the right direction
 

Photo: Yacht 21

Yacht 21 founder Jaren Ho

 

At 34, Jaren Ho has been running her own businesses for 13 years. The founder of local label Yacht 21 tells us how she went from reading engineering in university, to hawking knick-knacks at school bazaars, to setting up a wacky traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)-themed label, then a shop called Hurs, before she finally founded Yacht 21 and fine-tuned the formula for its success.

 

Photo: Yacht 21

 

I dropped out of university to start my own business

“In 2005, when I was already in my third year of a civil engineering course in Nanyang Technological University, I made the decision to drop out because I didn’t like what I was studying, and I saw no point in continuing to study a subject I don’t intend to pursue in the future.

Back then I would skip lectures to sell stuff at school bazaars. I didn’t study hard but I worked very hard for my bazaar stalls. I was seen at every school bazaar – NTU, NUS, the polytechnics – wherever there was one, I would be there too.

We sold handmade jewellery, batik dresses, and even once sponsored a school pageant. One Valentine’s Day, we bought plain tiles, then sold them to customers to decorate and draw on. We baked the tiles on the spot and our customers would collect them after their classes and give it to their girlfriends. Valentine’s Days were good days for us. From those days, I also learnt quickly that to be successful, our business has to stand out. We would bring our own hanging lights and standing lamps. We were the only stall that had lights – that's how we differentiated ourselves.

I really enjoyed the feeling of working hard, and being able to count the cash I earned at the end of the day. So when I was running my stalls, I subconsciously fell in love with managing a business. This led me to quit school and start my first business.”

 

Photo: Yacht 21

 

My first business was a TCM-inspired fashion label

“The year I left school, I started Folk’s Leaf, a TCM-inspired clothing and accessories label. We sold t-shirts with ginseng prints on them, earrings made out of lotus seeds and rosebuds and etc. My intention was to spark an interest in TCM among young people. My grandparents used to own a TCM medical hall along Kim Tian road, which had to close when the entire row of shophouses along the road was cleared to make way for a new property. The name of my label was a play on the name of my grandparent’s shop, which was called Fook Lee.

With no experience and no one to turn to, I learnt to build and manage a business from scratch with Folk’s Leaf. When I first started, I had no idea where to manufacture my clothes, how to look for factories, or even where to print name cards. I was learning new things every month then. I started with a store at level two of Bugis Street because that was the only place where I could afford the rental for. We got a lot of quirky customers who shopped with us, and also supportive ones who followed us when we moved to Far East Plaza, then Raffles Xchange.

I got some media attention for Folk’s Leaf back then, which was also the reason why my initially unsupportive family came around. I was cunning too – I thought that if I were to do something related to my family, they would support my decision to quit school.”

 

Photo: Yacht 21

 

Yacht 21 is not nautical-themed

“After closing Folk’s Leaf, I had another label, Hurs, which I also later folded to start Yacht 21 in 2009.

The concept of Yacht 21 is inspired by a boat trip I once took with my friends. On that trip, I observed that the girls were mostly dressed in tank tops and denim shorts – not exactly the nicest attire for the occasion. I realised that there wasn’t any retailer in the market talking about cruise wear back then, so I did some research and learnt that luxury brands would launch cruise wear only over a short season every year. Yacht 21 was therefore launched to make cruise wear available throughout the year.

When we first started, our customers didn’t really understand our concept. They assumed that we sell nautical-themed fashion, and expected to see stripes and navy blue clothing. We had to explain that cruise wear is intended to be worn on holidays and travels to countries with warmer weather. But now, we are happy to see that most customers understand the concept without us having to explain.

At Hurs, we sold vintage-themed apparel and handmade accessories by local crafters targeted at the younger crowd. So when Yacht 21 was launched, we didn’t want it to be another brand for just teenagers and young adults. We wanted it to be ‘ageless’.

Our clothes are meant to be worn on weekends, holidays, and for work. That is, if you don’t work in an environment with a formal dress code. We wanted to target customers who dress semi-formal for work, so they can get more value out of our clothing – they can wear them on both weekends and weekdays.

We consider ourselves ‘indie fast fashion’. Our clothing are not designer nor mass produced, but they are of good quality and priced from $50-$100 – affordable but not super cheap.”

 

Photo: Yacht 21

 

Shop at our store and get your shopping delivered to your doorstep for free

“At our flagship Wheelock Place store, we offer complimentary delivery services. If you have purchased something from us in store and would like for it to be delivered to your home, we can arrange that for you. We can even deliver it together with your purchases from other shops as long as they are not too bulky. It’s a value-added service we provide upon request.

Customers can also shop online on yacht21.com and pick up their orders at the Wheelock store. They can try their buys and make an exchange on the spot if they do not fit.”
 

Photo: Yacht 21

 

You can book a yacht on yacht21.com

“We’ve partnered Bob Marine, a Singapore yacht charter company, so you can charter a yacht on our website for $1,200 on weekdays and $1,500 on weekends. The yacht will come equipped with Yacht 21 branded towels and cosmetic pouches, and we sometimes also step in to decorate yachts when there are requests for a fashion or nautical-themed yacht.”

 

Yacht 21 is located at Bugis Junction, Wheelock Place, Great World City, City of Tomorrow at Citylink Mall, and in all Robinsons and Tangs stores. Shop the label online at www.yacht21.com.sg.