Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tianpei Ma, Owner of Soft Strokes Silk, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Soft Strokes Silk is an online store. You can find us on Etsy (we launched in 2020), Shopify, and the marketplaces of major Canadian retailers. We design items from multiple product categories, but our focus is on one material: mulberry silk. SSS product selection/offerings range from bedding and loungewear to lingerie and accessories - all of our products are proudly designed in Toronto. Our customers are mostly Canadians and 90% women, but we also have a following in the US, UK, France, Australia, and New Zealand. Our designs and the silk we source truly have a timeless quality to them. They appeal to women from ages 18 to 80.
Tell us about yourself
I've always loved silk. It's been passed on for generations in my family. Since my 20's, I started collecting tailor-made silk blouses. So it's exciting to continue working with tailors and so many different types of silk (different prints, textures, and weights), sharing it, and introducing others to it. Once you try 100% mulberry silk, you'll get why I'm still passionate.
One of the most rewarding things for me is connecting with our customers. They've told me what works, what doesn't, and what new products they want. This reminds me that Soft Strokes Silk has become a brand with a community of followers. Humble brag: we've got 4,000 five-star reviews on Etsy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I don't think I've reached that milestone yet, but one of the things I feel good about is that our products have helped people with sensitive skin. And we are an inclusive brand. For example, we offer silk face masks in all sizes. Many of our customers are essential workers who wear masks all day. Their skin got irritated and broke out after wearing face masks made from other materials. Then they tried wearing our face masks underneath a medical face mask, and it really helped protect their skin.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
If you're in the retail industry, you know that sales projections follow seasonal trends. So it's hard to maintain consistent sales volume. Because silk products are great gift choices, our sales volume during Q4 is often 10 times more than in Q3.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Although your skillset might be different from mine, I think the following tips can help if you're business is just getting off the ground. What I learned:
- Develop a work routine and try to stick to it. You won't have the structure of going to a workplace to fall back on. When you're feeling low motivation, those habits will keep you going.
- Usually, after the first two years of growing your business, it's time to do some self-reflection. It's helpful to identify your pain points, and if you cannot solve those problems yourself, it's time to hire others or self-learn new skills.
- Starting a business is stressful. It's important to find healthy ways to de-stress and not to unload too much on family and friends.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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