Love List

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In talks with Ling, co-founder of ZAOZAO

Ling Cai & Vicky Wu, founders of ZAOZAO
I like to support a good idea when I see one. When Ling from ZAOZAO contacted me during the AFF period in May for a quick chat on her start-up, ZAOZAO, I was intrigued. I only met her much later in September, when she explained to me the concept behind ZAOZAO.
(Note: this interview is more based on Ling's entrepreneurship experience than about fashion.)

Naked Glory: Please describe the line of business or industry you are in (what products / services are you selling?)
Line: Funding platform for designs
Explanation: ZAOZAO is Asia’s first crowdfunding platform for emerging designers. We transform designers’ dreams into reality by helping them raise money to produce their designs. Basically,  designers upload their work onto our platform, but the designs will not go live until we meet the designers personally to decide on the product viability and its pricing. Designers decide upfront how many pieces they want to sell. If they receive all pre-orders within a certain timeframe, meaning that shoppers have prepaid 100% upfront, ZAOZAO will pass along the money to designers to produce their design.

NG: Can you tell me a particular difficult situation that you have experienced in your business? How did you deal with this situation? 
Ling: We had to work closely with a vendor that constantly overpromised and under-delivered. There were excuses for everything! It was a long and frustrating process but we learnt to remain cool, calm and collected at all times. Just because the other party wasn’t professional didn’t mean we had to be the same.

NG: What has been your greatest success?
Ling: Having 11 successfully funded designs on ZAOZAO in 5 weeks!

NG: What was a particularly good situation? 
Ling: Being featured in the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong’s premier English newspaper) a week after launching!

NG: What was critical to achieve this success?
Ling: Hard work, strong work ethic and good attitudes.

NG: What do you look out for when you bring designers onboard to ZAOZAO? 
Ling: ZAOZAO believes in discovering and supporting emerging designers who are talented, passionate and interesting. We believe in carefully curating and bringing only the best designers onboard for our shoppers. We visit university campuses, attend fashion shows, trade shows, independent designer fairs and fashion incubator centers to look for emerging designers across Asia (we have talked to over 350 designers this year but only selected about 40-50 to begin with). Upon reviewing each designer’s resume, portfolio and/or look book, our in-house curation panel discusses the potential of each designer to see if they are compatible with ZAOZAO. Our in-house curation panel then meets designers in person to find out about them and view their beautiful creations firsthand at their studios, workshops or stores. Not only does this process ensure that ZAOZAO brings trustworthy designers onboard, it also ensures that our shoppers can browse and pre-order at ease, knowing that the designs available on our website has met – and exceeded – ZAOZAO’s high standards. You will never find anything generic or mass-produced at ZAOZAO.Our interviews with our designers are also available for shoppers to read on our blog and Facebook page.

NG: What are your future plans for the company judging from the current response for ZAOZAO?
Ling: We would like to extent our services to other creative individuals around the world such as graphic artists, illustrators, photographers, product designers and so on.

For more founding stories of ZAOZAO, I suggest you read these two posts on their blog here and here. I personally feel that pre-commerce may slowly replace e-commerce as an option especially for consumer products. This is especially applicable to the fashion industry, since pre-commerce will enable designers to gauge the consumer response towards a product and produce an adequate amount without wastage. This also helps designers save on prototyping costs, since products that are not as popular would not have to go through the prototyping and production phases. Since pre-commerce share so many similarties with e-commerce - you won't get to see the physical product until it gets to you - I don't see why consumers won't be receptive towards this idea. uses a semi pre-commerce model since it allows anyone to upload their designs onto Threadless and only designs that are voted to be popular beyond a certain number gets mass printed. And its model has been running pretty well and stable over the past few years!

What do you think?

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