31-year-old Trixie Khong founded jewellery brand, By Invite Only, in 2009 with only S$500 as an initial start-up investment.
Fast-forward to 2020, By Invite Only is a 7-figure annual revenue business, and fresh off a recent acquisition of a local jewellery brand, The Mindful Company.
Here, Trixie shares with us 3 strategies which has helped her turn her passion project into a highly sought-after jewellery brand.
Strategy 1: Prudent Financial Planning
As a business that started with just $500, maintaining a healthy cash flow has been a top priority for Trixie. In fact, By Invite Only achieved profitability within just two years from inception.
A huge contributor to Trixie’s and By Invite Only’s success is disciplined financial management. Despite the company raking in higher revenues year on year, Trixie continues to pay herself just a minimal salary to ensure a healthy cashflow for the business, and to reinvest the profits to grow the brand further.
To achieve that, Trixie believes in spending within her means. This means that most of her salary goes towards basic needs like rent, food and paying bills without having to depend on someone else or her parents. Next year, Trixie plans to save at least 40% of her annual salary.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Trixie advises them to save money where they can to self-fund at least a portion of their business ideas before going to family and friends for the rest if needed.
Trixie also recommends for young Singaporeans to get a credit card as soon as possible and to start building their credit history, even if it is a small ticket item of S$50 and below. She emphasises that the credit card bill must be fully paid off each month to generate a good credit history – having one will put you in the green zone when you apply for a loan (e.g., house or car loan) with a bank in the near future.
With By Invite Only, Trixie practices a similar conservative approach to financial management. Instead of forking out large sums of money for advertising or using a celebrity to endorse her brand, she often reaches out to her personal network for help on areas like photography, design, marketing and speaking to those who have more experience on how they would do certain things instead of hiring a consultant.
Additionally, she leverages free online resources to get publicly-shared tips and tricks from the likes of best-selling author Seth Godin, motivational speaker Simon Sinek, as well as personal finance guru Suzy Orman.
Being disciplined with her finances has enabled Trixie to tap on business growth opportunities. With a healthy cash flow, By Invite Only was able to acquire a fellow local jewellery brand, The Mindful Company, in 2020, to expand its offerings and enter new market segments.
By Invite Only is also hard at work at growing its digital growth channels to supplement the brand’s physical retail stores. With a strong online presence, the jewellery brand has seen an uptick in revenue despite the market challenges brought about by the recent pandemic.
“Without financial management, I will not know how much I am making, how much to charge, how much to spend and if any investment we make would be worth it. It is absolutely crucial to put this as a priority of everything you do.”
It is never too early or late to start learning about how to be more prudent with your finances, Trixie said. “If you find it hard to keep up on your savings, having a more specific goal may help to give you the reason and the ‘why’ to keep going.”
3 ways to adapt this strategy to yourself:
- Having a high monthly salary or holding onto cash may not be the main priority. Instead, seek ways to build assets and optimise existing ones through business opportunities and investments.
- Use the 50/30/20 budgeting rule to better manage your budgets.
- Reach out to those in your network who can help you, for example, a qualified financial advisor, to help you get started on your financial journey.
Strategy 2: Setting Smart Goals
As the saying goes: A thousand miles begins with a single step. Instead of lofty goals, Trixie breaks up her plans to what’s achievable in the short-term, mid-term and long-term.
For By Invite Only, instead of having a generic goal such as ‘to grow a successful business’, here are some goals Trixie sets:
- Short-term – maintain a healthy cash flow to facilitate diligent supplier payments and also invest in the right people.
- Mid-term – grow business profits to help with future financing possibilities with the banks.
- Long-term – reinvest business profits to help with fast organic growth.
“It’s important to be consistent and focused,” Trixie shares, advising youths to make short and smaller goals instead of grand and far-reaching ones. So, don’t set a general goal such as “I want a million dollars in my bank account for retirement” – have goals that are specific and time-bound. For example, a short-term goal may be to have saved 12 months of your income by age 30, then your mid-term goal would be to have 24 months of your income over the following decade, and your long-term goal would be to have six times your annual income when you reach the age of 60.
Despite the importance of goal setting, Trixie says it is important to constantly be on the look-out to grow her business and explore new segments in the jewellery industry. She believes it is crucial for her business to not only adapt to changing tides, such as COVID-19 and its hurricane of uncertainties, but also for her, as an entrepreneur, to jump through windows of opportunities as they present themselves.
For instance, when The Mindful Company had announced its closure earlier in 2020, while Trixie had not planned for an acquisition, being in a good financial standing allowed By Invite Only to tap on what Trixie describes as a “golden opportunity” which complemented the core business well.
3 ways to adapt this strategy to yourself:
- Set attainable goals such as achieving your first S$50,000 in 3 years – this can be achieved faster with a high-interest savings account like Standard Chartered’s Bonus$aver account1, which allows you to gain bonus interest if you satisfy the relevant requirements, and by investing your money into portfolios like unit trusts or structured deposits.
- Be on the lookout for new opportunities to grow your wealth, such as having an insurance savings plan with yearly cash benefits.
- Be ready to adapt to changes when life throws you curveballs. Create mini checkpoints on the way to achieving your goals, and celebrate small victories.
Strategy 3: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Starting her business at the age of 20 meant that there have been multiple learning curves over the years. Throughout the journey of growing By Invite Only, Trixie shared that there have been countless times when things did not work out or products they had designed were not selling.
It’s easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough. But for Trixie, having determination means to be in a constant process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t and then tweaking their offerings and branding accordingly. She believes in not letting “no” be a defining statement.
In the earlier days, they had trusted in the wrong suppliers who fulfilled orders poorly or who simply ran away with their money; they had also invested in the wrong employees as they were not experienced in hiring the right people for the job.
And a year ago, Trixie said that By Invite Only had planned to partner with a local, rather popular shoe brand on a collection of anklets that they thought would be a good tie up. The team worked tirelessly towards launching that collection. But at the last moment, the owner of the shoe brand axed the partnership. “This really broke our morale and was very disruptive to our launch schedule, but the team quickly turned it around and never let that ’no’ bring us down.”
Nonetheless, without these lessons, Trixie maintains that they would not be wiser now in selecting the right suppliers and partners or hiring the team they have today.
3 ways to adapt this strategy to yourself:
- Be patient. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep yourself motivated by celebrating the smaller milestones.
- Success often does not come immediately and is not defined by a singular event. Instead, it is the journey that you build for the long-term that defines your success.
- Take each hurdle and failure as a lesson and come out wiser and stronger, and ready to take on your next challenge.
With the By Invite Only brand growing nicely, Trixie’s not about to rest on her laurels. She is now setting sights on Malaysia, Philippines and the United States as new growth markets for her company in the next year. She is also aiming to infuse sustainability led practices to the brand, by making By Invite Only carbon neutral this year.
To Trixie, having determination is to do anything and everything you can to achieve your goals. “In order to play this infinite game of business where the goal is to outlast your competition, having grit or hustle will help to keep you going.”
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1Please visit https://www.sc.com/sg/save/current-accounts/bonussaver/ for more information and the Bonus$aver Product Terms.
Singapore dollar deposits of non-bank depositors are insured by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation, for up to S$75,000 in aggregate per depositor per Scheme member by law. Foreign currency deposits, dual currency investments, structured deposits and other investment products are not insured.
This article is brought to you by Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited. All information provided is for informational purposes only.