It was year 2001. The internet was at its infancy stage. Touch phone didn’t exist. Neither did digital camera! No internet banking. No PayPal. Hosting a website costed me more than $300 annually. It was ridiculously expensive but I didn’t know that.
I did everything from scratch. I was a SAHM and, all I had was determination. But I didn’t know where to start! I didn’t know who to ask for help either because there were very few online stores in those days and most are overseas! Even Amazon just started.
I knew I could only sell my items online because I couldn’t afford a retail outlet. I wanted an e-commerce store. I didn’t know how. I had zero knowledge. But I have seen online stores from overseas and, I have purchased things from them before.
So, I bought a book – “How to start an online store for dummies”. Serious! That was what the book was called! I also bought a software, Frontpage (this software is now obsolete!!)
A lot of people said e-commerce wouldn’t work in Singapore because we are so small. People would rather go to the retail outlet to try on the clothes. It worked in the USA because of their huge geographical area. I was so unsure but I knew I had to try it out!
I spent hours on my old windows desktop studying on how to create a website using Frontpage. I don’t remember how long it took me (I think months) but, I did it in the end! I was so proud of my achievements. This was despite having 2 toddlers running around the house, and I was without help. We had no helper and, my mom would only visit once every few months. She lives in Malacca so those visits were precious.
I wanted a special name and my girlfriend suggested that I used a quirky name like the famous Osh Gosh B’Gosh! I loved a song by Paula Abdul, Rush Rush – and, I thought breastfeeding is a private thing so, the name HUSH’USH was born! I thought it was a great name 🙂
It made a very simple web store. I bought a domain name, www.hushushwear.com.sg and with one expensive hosting, we went live! After we went live, I found out that hushush is linked to a porn site!!!! But it was too expensive to change so, we lived with it (LOL)…. Oh well.
The early days were exhausting. I didn’t know much about running a business. I would do something and when I came to a roadblock, I’d figure things out along the way. I didn’t have any SOP or routines. Everything was a big mess! From designing the label, to buying the fabrics, to producing it and retailing it online. I knew no one in Singapore who had a successful e-commerce store then so, everything was a big challenge.
I remember I was multi-tasking to the max! I was cooking, doing housework, taking care of the kids and working at home at the same time. I placed my older kid into childcare so I could better manage. But many a times, I forgot to pick him up from childcare because I overslept. I then had to bundle up my baby in a sling and rush to take the bus to fetch him home. He was always the last one to leave. He was always sad coz he thought that I’ve abandoned him!
Looking back, it was funny, but at that time, it was also suicidal! I was so so exhausted. And cranky all the time!
When it comes to photos, I got a few girlfriends and their kids to help model the clothes. My kids and I became models too when we couldn’t find anyone. Everything was taken with the DSLR camera. We only had 36 shots to try! It was very stressful because you cannot tell if the photos turn out right until you pay to get them developed!! I have tons of “spoiled” photo albums in storage till this day! Those were expensive times!
To save costs, I took the photos myself, or with a tripod. Sometimes, friends and family will help us out when they have time. Taking photos with kids, under any weather, is never easy. But thanks to the business, we all had some good (and lots of not so good) photos as memories!
In the earlier days, all of our clothing are made from woven fabrics that were sourced in Singapore. Manufacturing costs were high and margins were low. But the quality were very good. So, it made many moms very happy!
We tried advertising in some magazines but, most of the business we had was through word of mouth. My HDB apartment became my showroom. I had people coming to my place to try on clothes. There was no internet banking back then, so all of the transactions were done in cash. I remembered having to drive to deliver the goods whenever we had any purchase online.
Whenever I deliver the goods, I always brought along other items, in hope that I could sell more. I was a traveling sales-woman! And my kids would always come along. I met all of my customers personally back then. At each delivery visit, we will often be invited to stay for tea, and chit chat about motherhood. Lots of friendships were formed as everything was very personalised. I even offered alterations as my sister in law was a tailor.
Some of the customers became long time friends till this day. One customer who bought from me has a daughter who was 12 then. She is now a mom, and she too became my customer. So, 2 generations of customers!
Every piece of our outfits were sown locally. In those days, there were plenty of local garment factories. So things were easily produced in Singapore. We are still proudly Made in Singapore till this day because we have maintained very good and long relationships with the people who produced our clothes.
After a few good years, we came to a road block. A Japanese label – Hushush – opened a store in Bugis, much to my dismay. I didn’t have any trademark to my label name and, was advised by my lawyer friend to have a name change to avoid any legal issues. I was so disappointed. I also didn’t know what to do. So, I decided to cease operations till I could figure things out. I was also very tired from running the business solo. At that point, I needed a break.
My son was also doing badly in school. He missed me because I was so busy with the business. I worked 24/7 and having no helper at that time, made it worse. I spent all my free time on the business. I sourced for the fabrics locally and engaged local seamstresses to sew. I managed the website myself. I had zero time for my kids. Even weekends were also spent delivering the clothes. I was so tired. Those were the lost years because I cannot recall their growing up days 🙁
I knew if I didn’t stop and concentrated on my kids, I will be a mom of unhappy kids. And not only that, I will feel regretful for all the lost years! So I decided to put the business in limbo for a while till I settled the kids.
Looking back, I could have taken the business to greater heights then. But, I could also have failed in motherhood. I guessed, I chose family and as a result, I became a happy mom.
Hope you have enjoyed reading our story so far… Be sure to comment if you have any questions.
Stay tuned for part 3…