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Fri, Apr 04, 2014
The Straits Times
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Fashioning success with Love and Bravery
by Audrey Kang

Childhood friends Ms Eunyce Yap, 30, and Ms Joanna Lam, 28, went shopping for clothes together as primary school girls.

Now, they are partners in home-grown womenswear business, Love and Bravery.

Initially, Ms Yap tried operating a small online business on her own, before asking her friend to join her as the business expanded from accessories into the apparel market in 2008.

The business has since grown from a small, 200 sq ft office to a 2,000 sq ft office and warehouse, with two shops at Tampines One and Raffles Place, as well as the online shop.

They employ 20 staff.

In the early days, as two young undergraduates, they were juggling the online business with their studies.

Then, after graduating and securing their first jobs, they had to think carefully before forking out the money for the two physical shops, which ran up to more than $100,000 in total, covering renovations and rental.

They took advantage of the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, run by the Internal Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). This allowed them to build point-of-sale inventory systems at their stores, and an automated checkout on their website.

Ms Yap quit her well-paying job as a management associate after just three months to concentrate on growing Love and Bravery – a move which mystified her friends.

“It was a little bit of boredom, as well as the longing for something fulfilling, something to build on my own that really made me want to leave my job and concentrate on Love and Bravery.”

She said at that point, Love and Bravery was already doing well, but she felt that she could take it to greater heights if she quit and concentrated solely on building her business.

“At that point, there weren’t any success stories of online shops, we didn’t have any predecessor, and all my friends were quite sceptical of my decision,” she said.

It did not help when Ms Lam decided to leave the business just as things were taking off in 2009. She left Love and Bravery to focus on her full-time job as an operations executive at a local medical group.

She said: “I couldn’t handle both having a job and running Love and Bravery. Things started to get delayed, having to run the business on top of my work responsibilities.”

But her friend never gave up on her. Ms Lam said her co-owner would always ask her for opinions, and remind her that Love and Bravery would welcome her back as a staff member.

Indeed, after two years of learning the ropes of business operations at her job, and growing disenchantment with the daily grind, she returned to the business.

Their long-standing friendship has proved a boon to the business.

“I think it’s the fact that we’ve known each other for so long and there is trust that we won’t take advantage of each other that makes things work,” Ms Yap said.

This sense of camaraderie has clearly aided the business, with more than $1 million in revenue to date and an 80 per cent jump in customers since the business was set up in 2008.

“We’re two very different people, but that’s what makes things work. When we were looking at office space, we couldn’t agree on the size. I thought it was too big, but she insisted. It’s a good thing - the space enabled us to grow.”

The friends also travel to China monthly, where they manufacture the garments based on their own designs.

As they have grown older, the brand’s range has grown too.

Initially they offered clothes to appeal to the younger crowd, but Love and Bravery now features clothes ranging from casual to workwear.

They are hoping to continue growing along with the brand, and are looking to further expand their business.

This article was published on April 2 in The Straits Times.

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