07 Aug 2017
Sophie – The Accidental Entrepreneur
MS DANG HIEU THAO (SOPHIE)
Master of Business Administration
University of Newcastle Australia
Graduated in 2011
Sophie never thought of starting her own business and, like most students, she just wanted to complete her MBA in PSB Academy and get a job in a multi-national company. But an opportunity opened up while she was recuperating from her medical treatment, and it started her journey as an entrepreneur – albeit accidental.
When Sophie completed her MBA, finding a well-paying job was the first thing that came to mind.
“I was lucky to have secured a job in Singapore. I worked as a technical coordinator in a chemical company in Singapore and handled customer complaints, prepared quotation, arranged plans for two teams of chemical engineers and monitored their performance.”
Although she would prefer to stay longer in Singapore, her plan was cut short after one and a half year in the company. She had to return to Vietnam to seek medical treatment.
“When I was discharged from hospital after 3 months, I totally lost my direction in life and my doctor advised me to rest at home to recover. One day, my friend gave me a pack of clay and I decided to play with it to kill time. After successfully making some Anime figurines and miniatures, I searched on Google to learn more about clay and practised making more figurines. I was doing that for half a year while recuperating.”
She liked the fact that she could put her creativity into this new hobby and, at the same time, keep her mind busy while she recuperated. One thing led to another and turning a hobby into a ‘gift’ business did not seem far-fetched anymore.
“I got this idea while searching for birthday gifts for my beloved ones. I realised that it was hard to find the unique gifts for them.”
Turning an idea into a business was a gamble. She began to do more research, and that led her to companies in Japan which supplied ‘Japanese clay’.
“I wanted to use high-quality Japanese clay as my main material because it is non-toxic, has a fine texture, is lightweight, and easy to mould into all kinds of designs. It will be as solid as plastic after baking in the oven or air-dried.”
“I had to convince my supplier in Japan to provide clay material for my business as I did not have a website to prove my business capability to them in the early days. Subsequently, I made samples of my artworks and used PowerPoint slides to present my business idea and artworks to them. Luckily they agreed, and I signed the contract to be their retailer! I must say that negotiation is one of the skills taught in the MBA course that I have applied successfully to close the deal with my supplier from Japan.”
That was the beginning of her quest to be an entrepreneur. She recently launched her own online craft shop FICLAY in August 2015 to sell limited edition clay artworks. She has no doubt that the gift receiver will feel more appreciative towards a limited and unique gift. Her business concept is that, if you want to make special gifts for your beloved ones but you have no time or the know-how to make them, have FICLAY translate your ideas into specially designed gifts. FICLAY focuses on providing limited edition or ‘one of a kind’ gifts, such as Anime figurines, customised figurines, 3-D clay pictures, and clay accessories. All items are handmade with special and limited designs.
Before Sophie launched her shop, she had done a lot of ‘trial and error’ in terms of experimentation on different kinds of clay, figurine sizes and designs, and baking process. It was a painful process but she gained valuable experience as a result. Without any help, she did everything on her own, such as sourcing for raw materials, designing and creating the artworks, packaging of the products, and designing of the business card and website. To generate publicity, she gave free zodiac figurines to people at TV stations during the Lunar New Year and sponsored more than 200 gifts to a wedding event. She hopes more people will view her business website and place their orders through word-of-mouth.
“If my business does well, I will convert it into a retail shop in both the local and overseas markets in the future.”
Sophie admits that she does not have experience in running a business and very much a ‘newbie’ in online business. What she possesses is the determination, and the resolve to make her business succeed.
“If you want to do business, just dare to do it and patiently deal with the challenges along the way.”
Article by Jeffrey Yap (Student Affairs & Industry Engagement)