Many of us might be familiar with homegrown fashion label Love, Bonito. Since its beginnings in 2006, its founders have done well to build and engage a loyal following. However, serving a small local customer base was not enough for a company with big potential and an even bigger appetite. Love, Bonito thus chose to step foot into the Malaysian market, where consumer tastes are similar to that of Singapore.
The business’ expansion was facilitated by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, the government agency mandated to help Singapore companies go global. IE Singapore scholar Kate Lim saw to this project in her capacity as Centre Director of IE Singapore’s Kuala Lumpur (KL) office. She tells us, “We identified an ideal location of the store that was a good match for their clientele. We decided to go to an indie hangout area of sorts, instead of one of KL’s go-to malls. The business did really well! In fact, the founders were able to leverage their sales performance to reach out to a better-established mall. This led to Love, Bonito’s first brick-and-mortar store at KL’s Mid Valley Megamall.”
Groomed from the Get-Go
Having read political science in university, Kate lacked business knowledge when she first entered IE. This, however, was no cause for concern, for all new hires go through developmental programmes and workshops. Recounting a business crash course she went through, Kate tells us, “The modules are pretty rigorous and give you a good understanding of how businesses work. We attended a workshop on taxation conducted by PWC, and business strategies by SMU. This was especially beneficial for a non-business graduate like me.”
IE also believes that experience is key in professional development. This is why the organisation gives new hires the liberty to engage companies even as a greenhorn. “Contrary to common perception, new hires don’t sit in a back room crunching numbers while our seniors front engagement. We are given the full support to go out there to glean industry insights,” Kate tells us. “I also appreciate that people here are open about sharing experiences. They are collaborative in nature so there are a lot of internal platforms which allow you to learn about new companies and emerging industries.”
As businesspeople, IE Singapore officers have to adopt an inquisitive mind and be extremely resourceful. “If a solution does not work, don’t just cower in a corner. Find a window to go through,” Kate advises. She ends off by defining an IE Singapore officer’s role perfectly, saying, “We are in a unique position where we have to sell a certain market to Singapore companies, and Singapore companies to the market. There are a lot of shoes to step into and different pitches to learn how to refine. It is thus extremely important to develop a willingness to learn and to step out of your comfort zone like how I have.”
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