Fashion Forward
These stylish NTU graduates have made a name for themselves as fashion entrepreneurs, turning their passion for clothes into profitable ventures. HEY! pins them down for career advice and tips for female students to look chic this Valentine’s Day
By Winifred Tan
Hanni Wong, 25
Co-founder of allthingslovely (allthingslovely.com.sg)
School of Art, Design & Media, Class of 2010

She is a producer, graphic designer and entrepreneur all rolled into one.

“My day job is a producer at a local production house, Moving Bits. Outside the media industry, I’m the webmaster and social media consultant for allthingslovely, a business venture started during my undergraduate days. As NTU students then, my co-founders and I wanted a viable way of earning pocket money while getting our pick of stylish clothes at affordable prices.”

Trial and error makes perfect.

“Things were tough when we first launched allthingslovely. We had to juggle school work with manning flea market booths, printing and distributing flyers, and sponsoring various school activities and pageants to market the brand. We also went through many suppliers and failed business collaborations. Over time, we learnt to make better judgment calls.”

She has fond memories of her days in NTU and Hall 13.

“For four years, my hall room doubled up as my warehouse and I mailed the bulk of our parcels from the co-op at Canteen 2. Many of the design branding projects I submitted for school centred on the logo and packaging concept for allthingslovely. Thankfully, my lecturers were extremely supportive!”

The lovely taste of success.

“Our annual turnover is a modest six-figure sum, but I think the fact that our business has been around for five years speaks volumes about our achievement. The fashion start-up market is quite saturated and ever-changing, so the trick is to know your target audience and how to differentiate yourself.”

Tan Yi Fong, 24
Owner of Ministry of Retail (ministryofretail.com) and Creme & Co (cremeandco.com)
Nanyang Business School, Class of 2011

This young mum made the news for being among the top five earners in NTU’s Class of 2011.

“I was supposed to graduate with the 2010 batch but ended up taking a semester off in my third year due to my pregnancy and the launch of Ministry of Retail. That semester wasn’t wasted – I read business books and attended management courses to become more business-savvy.”

Why start a business?

“I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. Seeing me spend a significant amount of time and effort organising shopping sprees from overseas websites, my then-boyfriend (now husband) suggested that I launch an online fashion store. That was in my final year of university. We flew to Korea to find a retailer, and within four months of its launch, Ministry of Retail was doing well enough that I could work on the business full-time upon graduation.”

She was reportedly earning around S$12,000 monthly by the time she graduated. In 2011, she started a second online store, Crème & Co.

“Time management was an issue initially because of my heavy school load then. All my time was devoted to either my studies or business operations. But I’m glad the hard work paid off! Crème & Co was founded later to cater to the growing demand for stylish executive wear.”

She has put her accountancy education to good use.

“Although my field of specialisation has no direct relevance to my online fashion stores, I found modules such as Communication Management Strategies and Developing Business Information Systems useful in shaping my business processes.”

The winning formula.

“After three years of operation, Ministry of Retail has some 15,000 customers in its database and 30,000 fans on Facebook. I’m still working hard, attending industry seminars and making plans to bring my business to the next level.”

Advice for budding entrepreneurs?

“If you’re unsure about your business proposal, kick-start it anyway, but keep it small and manageable, learn from your experiences, and slowly scale up the business.”