EUNYCE YAP, 31, AND JOANNA LAM, 29, CO-OWNERS OF FAST-FASHION BRAND, LOVE AND BRAVERY
In 2005, Love and Bravery was one of Singapore's first fashion blogshops. It did not even have its own domain and was hosted on the popular microblogging portal Livejournal.com.
Ten years later, co-owners Eunyce Yap, 31, and Joanna Lam, 29, have built it into a popular womenswear brand with its own online shop at loveandbravery.com and three shops across the island. Prices range between $30 and $40 for a dress.
The label has also gone from selling mass-manufactured dresses and tops to producing its own prints and designs catered to the young and fashionable working woman.
The brand now boasts 15,000 people on its mailing list and more than 31,000 fans on its Facebook page. Its bi-annual warehouse sales also attract thousands of women eager for 40 to 50 per cent discounts on its clothing.
Still, the scale of the business today - it brings out more than 50 new designs every month - is not something Ms Yap says she could have ever imagined.
The oldest of three daughters in her family, Ms Yap was the one who started the business to sell accessories in 2005, with an initial investment of about $3,000. At that time, she was a mass communications student at Nanyang Technological University.
Later, when business started to get better, she roped in Ms Lam to help and the duo began travelling to China together to source for more clothes to sell.
"Back then, it was just for some extra pocket money," recalls Ms Lam, who is married with no children. "I would help Eunyce out as the sunglasses-wearing model and she paid me with free clothes. It was a win-win for both of us."
Gradually, the friends became close working partners. Three years on, their online store became so popular that the clothes were selling out fast, sometimes within the day.
This prompted Ms Yap, who is married with no children, to quit her $3,000-a-month job at a trading company within just three months of joining to focus on Love and Bravery full-time.
For two years, she went at it alone, while Ms Lam decided to focus on her full-time job in business operations at a local hospital.
But by 2011, Ms Lam too had tired of the nine-to-five grind and joined the business full-time as a co-owner.
The duo moved out of Ms Yap's home, which had been serving as their office and warehouse space, into a 200 sq ft office.
Over the next few years, they moved office a number of times to accommodate the company's rapid growth and finally ended up at its current space, a 4,000 sq ft workspace in Geylang Lorong 23, comprising a reception area, conference rooms, a warehouse space for inventory and its own studio for photoshoots.
The founders have also been opening brick-and-mortar stores, starting with the brand's first outlet in Tampines One in 2011, a city store at Hitachi Towers in Raffles Place in 2012 and, most recently, a new branch at Bugis Junction last October.
Ms Lam, who has a younger sister, says that the physical stores allow the brand to reach more customers and makes it easier for online buyers to collect their orders there.
The brand's growth has also given them the opportunity to work with better manufacturers in China and to produce their own designs and prints that they come up with together.
The business hit $1 million in revenue in 2013 - the same year it became a GST-registered company. Revenue since then has grown by 50 per cent.
The duo plan to spend this year growing the brand's online presence before continuing to expand in Singapore.
Says Ms Lam of the journey: "We really got our hands dirty and did everything ourselves to slowly build this business from the ground up.
"Watching our clothes and our brand evolve as we grow older has been the best part for us - it's like we can see our own journey through our clothes."
This story was first published on The Sunday Times, 19 April 2015.