The Sunday Star / New Straits Times / Malaysian Women's Weekly

Malaysian Women's Weekly


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Quote from MWW:

"Sexy and Flirty Collection: Channel your inner sex kitten with this ultra-feminine set. The camisole's lace panels offer a sensuous, peek-a-boo effect while the ribbons, bows and ruffles keep it flirty."

Thank you MWW for the honor!

The Sunday Star

Leap from Figures to Lingerie 

Sunday Star, 11th February 2007 

An accountant-turned-businessman, Jerad Solomon, 33, raised eyebrows when he switched careers from crunching numbers to selling lingerie. For a man to be involved in a business dealing with intimate women's wear it certainly was a surprise to his friends and acquaintances. "Well, most people were surprised when I told them," he confesses. 

But to the people that mattered, such as his parents and wife, Hemala, there was positive feedback. 

"The first time I told Hemala, she went quiet for a bit and then she told me to go ahead," he says.

 "And that was a big motivation to start the business." 

So why did he choose to go into the lingerie business? 

While looking up business opportunities on the Internet, he says, he realised that there was a market for lingerie in Malaysia, especially selling online. This was precisely what he was looking for - an online business that would do away with the hassle of looking for a shop lot in a suitable location, hiring staff and handling other aspects of running a conventional business. 

"People here still like to buy their intimate wear privately rather than in shops," he says. And Internet buying is as private as you can get since the customer and retailer do not meet face to face. 

Solomon quit his job as a finance manager in a company sometime in the middle of 2005 and did freelance consulting work while building up his knowledge on the lingerie trade as well as in setting up and maintaining a website. It has now been six months since the lingerie business, when he set up with two partners, came online. 

Getting up close and personal with women's underwear was also another educational process for him. 

"I had to learn the jargon used for lingerie designs and also material used for the products," he explains, admitting that he had never bought lingerie for Hemala before setting up the business. 

"In retrospect, maybe I should have, but it didn't occur to me at the time," he says tongue-in-cheek.

But all that has changed, of course. Hemala likes the designs she sees on the website and also the sample items that her husband has. "It's value for money," she says. 

"Now, I buy it for her," says the boyish-looking Solomon with a laugh. 

And this is also one of the reasons why he chose to go into the lingerie business. He wants to encourage both men and women to view lingerie as something both can enjoy. As it stands now, his customer base is made up of an equal number of men and women. 

"For the men, it makes wonderful gifts for their loved ones while women love the feel of pretty, silky and soft material on their skin," he says. 

The business, Solomon says, has been encouraging especially during Christmas last year. Now, with Valentine's Day around the corner, he is offering items on discount in the "Hot Pick" selection of the website. Furthermore, the items purchased will be gift-wrapped at a cost of only RM1. The products are delivered by courier service and would arrive within one or two days at any destination in Malaysia.

"We try to send as quickly as possible, and so far we have not received any complaints from customers," he says. 

The price starts from RM129, with the silk satin pieces costing a little more than the polyester satin ones. Most of the lingerie is manufactured in Europe and America and come in various designs such as baby-doll, nightdress, dressing robe and teddies. The brand names and their make are also listed on the website, which is elegant and pleasing to the eye. 

"My partners and I wanted to make sure that we do not give the wrong idea with the website, hence the toned down look," says Solomon. 

As for the challenges of running an online business, he says the biggest issue is one of trust between the customer and the retailer. This is because many people pay for their goods by credit card and are wary of fraud. 

"But they do not realise that the onus will be on the retailer to bear the costs if that happens," Solomon explains. 

On his plans for the future, Solomon wants to maintain a strong customer base and let the business run on its own. They have had a number of repeat customers, which augus well for the business. 

"We want people to remember the name of the company when they think of buying lingerie on the website," he says. 

And does he have any regrets in his career change? 

"No, none at all. I'm happy trying something new. It is an interesting challenge," he replies.

New Straits Times

You Risk Being Successful 

New Straits Times, 4th April 2007 

Failure to land a conventional job is not the end of the road, or the world. Young people should consider the alternatives and turn that idea into something tangible.  

IT’S that time of the year when young people compete for that one thing they feel will guarantee them wealth, security and happiness. 

Some may jokingly say that thing is reality show Akademi Fantasia’s top spot, but others would argue that this issue is not one to be taken flippantly. 

What everyone is fighting over is a place in university. In the past, when top scorers failed to secure courses of their choice, they raised a hue and cry. 

Things are expected to be more or less the same this year. Even though efforts have been made to create more places, especially for sought-after courses like medi-cine, there will never be enough.

Many youths tend to take the "safe" route: Study, secure a place in university, graduate, then land a respectable and stable job. Everyone wants to be a doctor, engineer, architect or accountant. In fact, it has been said that some prefer to be unemployed if they fail to get a "proper" job. 

This attitude needed to change, said experts in the Higher Education Ministry. Young people must be made aware that there are alternatives to conventional jobs, and opportunities for them to seize, if they dared take that leap of faith.

All it takes is a good idea, and some help to turn that bud of a concept into something tangible. 

Jerad Solomon, 32, was willing to take the risk. He had a unique idea and with a little help from friends and family, he launched his business last year. He offers lingerie for sale over Internet site and is enjoying brisk sales, not just from customers in Malaysia but also from abroad. 

"I knew nothing about web programming and design before this. I picked everything up from the self-help Dummy series." 

Solomon left his job in an investment firm, raised capital with the help of friends, started his website and has not looked back since. 

"I enjoy the freedom," he said. "In a corporate setting, there are many rules. You may have ideas but can’t execute them. 

"My biggest challenge was overcoming my fears. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. I can say with conviction now that I certainly did." 

He hopes to expand his range of lingerie and may introduce sexier items, as such designs are more popular. 

Gerard Teoh is another young man who acted on an innovative idea. He set up his company, Crave Capital Sdn Bhd, with a friend two years ago. His business? Helping others do theirs. 

Crave Capital stands for "create" and "avant garde". 

Teoh said it helped companies structure business strategies. It also assists entrepreneurs to source funds. 

In the past, he said, "companies had time to make mistakes. Now, they cannot afford to do so. If they hesitate or falter, someone else will grab the idea. That is why businesses need a good execution plan". 

His legal qualification and his partner’s background in accountancy proved useful but this did not mean they had things easy in the beginning. 

"We had to prove ourselves. For a while, people were uncertain about what we were doing. But when what we did was validated by others, things got easier," said Teoh, the company’s executive director. 

Crave Capital has clients not just in the country but also from South Korea and China. It recently moved from Plaza Damas to Bangunan Angkasa Raya in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to accommodate increasing staff. 

Other youths should be encouraged to go the same way. Things may be much easier for fledgling entrepreneurs now as there are many organisations offering support. These organisations, which offer funding and mentoring, have tips for young people eager to step out on their own. 

For Junior Chamber International Malaysia (JCI) national business director Kevin Loh, those with good ideas needed to come up with a business plan. 

"A business plan will help you put your thoughts in order, determine whether your idea is viable, capable of making a profit, hit targets within a time frame, and if it can be expanded. Many people just execute their ideas without a plan. That is not the right way." 

But, Loh added, coming up with a business plan was not all. There is also need for a good mentor, help with funding and resources, and forging a network. 

JCI, a federation of young leaders and entrepreneurs, gives that support. 

The organisation, which is affiliated to JCI Inc, has members of all races between the ages of 18 and 40. With more than 3,000 members in Malaysia, it provides those starting out in business with a ready network. There are also more than 6,000 chapters located around the world. 

One JCI programme to encourage young people to develop entrepreneurship skills is its Best Business Plan Competition. 

JCI Kuala Lumpur West chapter president Shannon Lim said the competition, held for the first time this year, would enable young entrepreneurs to convert their idea into a business. 

Four finalists will be selected to represent Malaysia to compete in the World’s Best Business Plan Competition in Antalya, Turkey, in November. The winner, the one with the most innovative and viable idea, will be awarded US$5,000 (RM17,000) as start-up funding. 

For Cradle Investment Programme vice-president Kasmawati Sulong, the main challenge for young entrepreneurs was funding. "They lack experience, but then, the ability to get funds also depends on other factors, which even seasoned entrepreneurs may lack. 

"Ideas that can secure funds are usually those of quality, with strong commercial viability. There is more funding now from the government. All that is needed is for us to be convinced with an idea." 

The Cradle programme, initiated by the Finance Ministry and administered by Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd or MAVCAP, provides grants of up to RM50,000 for the development of a prototype, proof of concept or business plan. 

Kasmawati said: "Cradle provides the opportunity for people to see if they can make it as an entrepreneur. We provide people with the opportunity to dream and the funds to develop their ideas further." 

She said 217 ideas had been approved for Cradle grants since the programme started in September 2003. Most applicants are between 25 and 35 years old. 

Cradle funds technology ideas. The majority of applications received are in ICT such as the development of Internet and software products, telecommunications, and game and software engines. 

Kasmawati said 25 Cradle projects had been commercialised. Among them are an animal feed using worms called Hapi Meal; Intelliset, a software system for after-sales service; and a unified messaging system that is an all-in-one communications software. 

Cradle holds training for those keen to become entrepreneurs. They are told the benefits and pitfalls and how to source for funds. Speakers for the session on April 14 include company chief executive officers. 

Teoh said a lot of risk was involved. "Not many people can also stop taking that monthly pay cheque. It takes a certain fearlessness to be able to do that. But if one is brave enough, they should just go for it and take that road less travelled."