I never told anyone this but a few years back, this happened to Dean and I. We were on a flight to Singapore, full of hope and excitement. We were about to pitch FashionValet to a Japanese VC there, our first international VC. We were confident, numbers looked good, spirits were high, we knew we could raise funds. They met us, and seemed to like us a lot. We flew back that evening, very sure this was going to go through, they’d be crazy not to invest in us. The next few days, we anxiously waited for their email and finally, one popped up in our inbox. It was a rejection email from them. They said they were not looking to invest in us. Two things might have happened; they genuinely didn’t like us (which is weird after they wanted several calls with us) or they were just sniffing for our financial information and strategy, to invest in a competitor. Either way, we were defeated, we felt that we let the team down and it was entirely our fault.
Little did we know, this small rejection was all planned nicely by Allah swt. It was to wake us up, and since that rejection, our revenue at least doubled every year and our spirits had never been higher. Allah swt had planned it all; He didn’t want just any Japanese VC to invest in us, He wanted THE LARGEST e-commerce company in Japan to invest in us. And we didn’t even have to look for them. They emailed us out of nowhere after a research company that they hired told them they should invest in FashionValet, when they were looking for investments in our region (Need. To. Send. Them. Flowers.). This partnership is just a dream come true because they’re not just giving us money, but they’re giving us their knowledge, expertise and more than 10 years of ups and downs running an e-commerce company. God is so great, He wanted us to have all of this, but only if we were patient and determined.
As we entered the warehouse of Zozotown a few days ago, I had goosebumps. It was huge, 5-storey high, just huge. I wish I could video it to show you guys, but no cameras were allowed. They had security guards on every floor, staff working passionately, conveyor belts constantly running with parcels to deliver, boxes and boxes of fashion items, 70 studios running concurrently with flashing camera lights, railings of samples, and not a single rubbish on the floor. Everyone was so disciplined, no one was on the phone texting or instagramming, they were focused and not even fazed that we were there… with our jaws on the floor, amazed at this e-commerce heaven. They have 50,000 orders a day consistently and about 1,200 employees. Their revenue? Oh, just USD 1.5 billion a year, no biggie. And they only deliver to Japan, by the way! They don’t even need to go anywhere else to be that big. #goals
We brought our Head of Finance and Head of Marketing along, and after the tour, I think the 4 of us just had to sit down for a while. On their chair that cost 30K and their meeting table that cost 1.5 million dollars. I gulped when I put my hands on it, almost felt like I shouldn’t in case I accidentally scratch it or something. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.
We were feeling sooooo inspired and we were just blown away when we realized the potential of what FV can be in a few years if we really focus. We hung out with the CFO and listened to his stories about Zozotown in his 10 years working there (10 YEARS! And he’s not even old, btw), how he stayed with the company and built it 40 times bigger with his team. We want to be just like them! For FV, our aim is never to burn money in hopes to gain market share, we really are just following the traditional way of doing business by keeping our costs lean = we want to be profitable and hit our targets. And that’s what our investors seem to like about us. By next month, we would have hit our annual target for this year so our investors are pretty happy, phew.
6 years ago, I wrote to you about the first day that FV came to life. We were still waiting for internet to be installed in the office so we used a dongle to keep us alive. It was me and Asma’, and Dean would come at 7 am and again after 6pm after he had finished his day job at Deloitte (he quit 6 months later to focus on FV fulltime). I cried that first day feeling so overwhelmed, I was freaking out because I didn’t know how to make a receipt and I quickly googled for templates. I cried because Internet kept breaking down and I can’t process customer orders (at that time, it was just my blog readers supporting FashionValet, God bless you guys….). I cried because I was scared of the future. But mostly, I cried because I was so passionate about FV and I really wanted it to work. Because if we make it, so do the many brands under us… and these are hardworking designers making a living too. Now, we are at an 8-figure revenue, targeting to reach a challenging 9-figure revenue next year. Brands have come and go, people have come and go, competitors have come and go, but yet, the one thing that remained constant until today; the burning passion for FashionValet in Dean and myself. We’re in the midst of raising Series C round now (big plans ahead!), speaking to a few investors already so pray that we meet the right partner again.
God is great, He protects you and He recognises your efforts and hears all your doa, but you have to be patient and trust in Him. Because He’s already mapped it out for you anyway. Why waste your time worrying about the future? If it’s for you, no one can take it away but Him. If it’s not for you, then that means there’s something even more amazing in store if you just be patient. This trust in Allah swt is the only way I keep myself calm and strong in this scary business world, It’s tough being an entrepreneur. Without faith, you’d go crazy.