Turning an idea into an e-boutique opportunity

 
 

Lily Wong imagePhotos by Tanja-Tiziana Burdi for NOW! Magazine.

Rose Athena is an e-boutique that allows women to put together their own personalized dresses and to purchase them online. Customers can choose from over 2,500 dress designs, each garment handcrafted from quality materials and tailored specifically to their style and form, including neckline, sleeve length, and hemline.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of Waterloo. I majored in biochemistry with a specialization in biotechnology. My decision to attend Waterloo was initially based on my eagerness and persistence to become more independent and to learn my life’s challenges.

Shortly after I began my study at Waterloo, I realized I have a lot more to gain than what I originally aimed for. The environment helped nurture not only my sense of independence, but also my analytical, thorough and forward-thinking skills. The science background has helped shaped my research mindset. “What’s better that’s out there? What have other people done?” You can pull in multiple concepts from various directions and develop something out of them.

After a few years working in the life sciences field, I did my MBA at the Schulich School of Business at York University, where I specialized in strategy and non-profit management leadership. Since I came from a science background, it helped strengthened my interpersonal skills, and more specifically, it transformed the way I think. That crosses over as well with science, because in research you often find yourself thinking outside the box. I found the entrepreneurship class at Schulich particularly interesting.

My business started when a high school friend and I were sitting and talking at a coffee shop – very clichéd, I know. It was a busy summer and we had many functions to attend, weddings and other formal events, and couldn’t find dresses that suited our preferences. When we looked into it and we realized there were no websites for women where they could customize their own dresses, we decided to start that business ourselves.

With an MBA, you become more of a generalist, someone who knows a lot of subjects but may not be an expert in all fields. I learned how to identify the different strengths in those working around me so I’m better able to utilize their talents, as well as increase productivity in my business.

The biggest challenge on the job is managing time. You often have to meet people and do things for the company outside regular working hours, which can be fun but cuts into your personal time, so working on a business really has to be something that you’re passionate about or you won’t enjoy life.

Good entrepreneurs should be flexible about their ideas and what they’re working on. Your goals are always going to be a moving target with different outcomes, so you have to have a plan B, many of them in fact. Coming out of an MBA program and often having type-A personalities, entrepreneurs can be very controlling, but you have to be flexible as well as in control.

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