The world of tech entrepreneurship was always thought to be a man’s world. After all, if you think of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, how many women show up on the list?
I’d wager not many.
In today’s world, however, things are different. While the number of male entrepreneurs is still high, more and more women are answering their calling of becoming technopreneurs. This can only be a good thing for the industry as it will bring a fresh spin on established perspectives.
Asia is a hotbed for female entrepreneurs with many of the leading regional startups being either founded, led or managed in some capacity by a woman.
e27 caught up with just one such Founder, 27-year-old Malaysia-born entrepreneur Christy Ng, whom I met recently at the Paypal booth at this year’s Echelon Asia Summit.
Ng is the founder and CEO of ChristyNg.com, an online e-commerce platform that sells custom-made and ready-to-wear women’s shoes. Each shoe is designed in-house by Christy, her mother Irene and the staff of the company.
Ng’s journey to this point has not been easy. Hers is a true rags-to-riches story and in every way represents the opportunity the tech entrepreneur ecosystem is capable of providing to people, regardless of class or creed.
She grew up with little in the way of comforts; her father cleaned air conditioners for a living and to make extra money during her school days, Ng sold flowers at the local metro station. It was this entrepreneurial spirit that saw Ng start selling shoes at the tender age of 18 at flea markets in Petaling Jaya. She procured these shoes from a source in Thailand and made a small profit off each one.
Eventually, Ng saved enough money to put herself through school where she studied Biotechnology and Life Sciences.
In 2012, after two years of working for a Swiss pharmaceutical company, Ng drank the Kool Aid and with her own money started Christyng.com, and the rest as they say, is history. The company is profitable and has 12 staff members. It is still bootstrapped and looks to be growing at a steady rate.
We chatted with Ng on her story, why shoes, funding, and more…
What is ChristyNg.com all about?
ChristyNg.com is an Internet shoe store. Our goal is to change the way women shop for shoes online by offering 3D shoe design tools on our platform that allows consumers to customise every aspect of their shoe, i.e. heel height, colour, materials, accessories and more. With over one million possible design options, we have by far more options than any traditional shoe store on the planet — women from across the globe can design their dream shoes. We aspire to be the #1 shoe destination in the world one day.
What made you launch the company?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. When I was younger, I sold flowers by the LRT station for some extra income. When I was 18, I started selling shoes which I procured from Thailand in flea markets here in Petaling Jaya. I guess it was always in my blood to do something like this. I wanted to build something so good, it would change the world.
We knew for a fact that there are many unmet demands in the global shoe marketplace and we want to fill this gap and offer shoe lovers good quality and great value footwear.
I’m utterly in love with shoes. The one and only thing that makes my world go round. I believe that if you love what you do, it’s like not having to work another day of your life.
In terms of market size, footwear export is a US$100 billion business. Taking a traditional business such as footwear and marrying it with innovation and technology, we knew for certain that we have a fully scalable formula in the making.
What is your funding story?
We bootstrapped the company from the living room of my mother’s house in Malaysia. We were lucky enough to obtain a RM250,000 (US$66,000) cash prize being the grand prize winner of the Inaugural Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge here in Malaysia in 2013. Apart from that, we are still 100 per cent privately funded as we have a positive cash flow and a triple-digit growth during our last financial year. We spent the past three years trying to ensure we have a solid cash generating business which is able to sustain itself without any funding. Now that we are confident with our model and our growth trajectory, we are aiming to raise our first round within the next 12 months.
What does the future look like for the company?
Our future is a unique one as our model is a hybrid of e-commerce and technology. We believe we have the best of both worlds. We aim to be the #1 go-to destination for women’s footwear in Southeast Asia given that we are able to cater for bespoke and ready-to-wear shoes.
Any advice for founders looking to get into the fashion and accessories space?
Be creative, and most importantly, be able to pivot when necessary, especially when things do not go as plan(ned).
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” — Winston Churchill.