Co-founder of FASHORY, Rena Koh decided she would live life to the fullest after experiencing a traumatic near-death incident, right before University, which she worked hard to get into, started.
Being given a second chance of sort in life, Rena wanted to pursue things which she enjoyed, much as she was happy to have made it into the University. So, she and her co-founders went to their first startup trip to the United States, right before her exams. She was in her final semester.
She is glad she made the trip, “The experience I had when I was there helped built the confidence I have now in pursuing the things I am passionate about.”
Thereafter, FASHORY was born. FASHORY is content driven fashion magazine platform that allows users to shop outfits for occasions directly on the mobile app.
She and her co-founders wanted to build something which not only solves their problem but also bring about a positive change and impact for other women out there, eventually making an impact on society.
Being an entrepreneur, she has faced difficult situations, but she refuses to be defeated. Giving up was not an option. “This too shall pass,” a quote she lives by, has helped her through difficult times.
“It is comforting to know that whatever happens in life, it will pass eventually, we just have to hold on a little longer and live through it.”
Rena believes everything happens for a reason. And not one to look back, she says, “Perhaps I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now if that did not happen. At least it has shaped me into a stronger and more confident person now.”
The New Savvy: Tell us more about your story, Rena. How has your past shaped you to be who you are now?
Growing up, I always believed that if I studied hard and made it to university, it would make my parents euphoric and proud of me. I was not the brightest student in school but somehow with my hard work and a stroke of luck, I made it into the National University of Singapore.
However, right before Uni started, I met with a traumatic near-death incident that eventually made me change my thought process. After the incident, I often found myself thinking that since I have been given a chance to live again, I should strive to live it to the fullest.
As happy as I was to be have made it into the local University, I felt that I had not been doing things that I wished to do. I started pursuing things that I enjoyed, which included joining my co-founders in their first startup and flying to the United States for a few weeks during my final semester in school. My friends and classmates thought I am crazy as it was right before my exams when all the school work were due.
Despite all that, I went ahead with the plan, and I am glad I did that, as the trip was an eye-opener for me. The experience I had when I was there helped build the confidence I have now in pursuing the things I am passionate about.
The New Savvy: Tell us more about your business.
Rena: I started FASHORY, a content-driven, shoppable fashion magazine platform that allows our users to shop outfits for occasions directly on the mobile app. Targeted at professional, working women, FASHORY features a curation of local and regional designers that focus on good design and quality.
As female co-founders, my team and I wanted to build something that not only solves our problems but also bring about a positive change and impact for other women out there. We believe that women can, and will, be given much more opportunities in their life if they are more confident about themselves.
We hope that by helping these women dress presentably, it will give them a confidence boost.
This desire gave birth to our tagline – Dress Well, Feel Great.
The New Savvy: What are the Unique Selling Points of your business?
Rena: Working with a curation of designers allow us to introduce new and exciting brands to our users that they might not have heard of. This makes our users look forward to every update of the style collection. Besides that, we also categorize our collection differently from the online commerce stores. As we aim to help our users shop for occasions, we display the set of clothes into occasions making it more fun and easier to shop.
On the technological side of the business, we have created a proprietary algorithm to understand our users’ preferences and recommending them items which they will be most interested in. This enables us to delight our users in an unexpected way.
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The New Savvy: You started the business with two friends – tell us more about it.
Rena: I have known my co-founders for almost seven years now, and we have been working on various small projects together since the first day. We all share the same belief in wanting to build something that can eventually make an impact on the society. We also feel that the way to make it happen is to create something on our own.
Over the years, each of us has had experience working in, and with, huge MNCs and hone our skills in various areas. Seeing that our skills were complementary, we decided to come together to work on something bigger while we are still young.
Coupled with the keen interest in dressing up, we then decided to start a fashion-tech startup which is how FASHORY came about.
The New Savvy: Any frictions? How do you deal with it?
Rena: I think that it is unavoidable to have friction when every one of us had put in our efforts to make this work. Many startups try to avoid conflicts with their partners, which I think is not healthy.
For my partners and I, I believe we all know that the cause of the conflicts or friction arise from the fact that we all want to do our best and make the best decision for the company, even though we might be coming from different directions. We try our best to understand each other’s point of views to come to an agreement.
When conflicts arise, we take some time off to cool down and think of things logically before moving on.
We all just have one key objective, which is to grow the company into a much stronger and better one. I think as long as we remember this, we will be able to overcome any issues and misunderstandings.
The New Savvy: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Rena: Getting people to take us seriously when we meet for the first time. My partners and I all look younger than we are and are often seen as graduates fresh from school. It does take us time to talk to people and for them to realise that we are more experienced than they had perceived us to be at first look.
Being an all female-led startup also adds on to the challenge, but once we manage to convince the other party of our abilities, they are usually really helpful and supportive of us.
The New Savvy: What is the one advice that impacted you the most?
Rena: During a difficult time, I came across this quote online: “this too shall pass”. There are many times when I am faced with difficult situations and uncertainties, and especially so being an entrepreneur. They always say that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but when one is thrown into a tough situation, it’s just hard to think about what good will come out of it.
This is a quote that has impacted me significantly and helps me through difficult times. Even though it may not sound as optimistic as many other pieces of advice you will hear from others, but I also believe that it will be hard for one to be overly optimistic during those situations.
At least, it is comforting to know that whatever happens in life, it will pass eventually, we just have to hold on a little longer and live through it.
The New Savvy: If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?
Rena: Maybe I would not have taken that stroll in the park. Then again, as cliché, as it sounds, I also believe that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now if that did not occur.
At least it has shaped me into a stronger and more confident person now.
The New Savvy: How do you decide on what to do financially?
Rena: I think that I’m someone who’s quite logical when it comes to finances, especially so since I am running a startup. I weigh my pros and cons carefully before making my decisions. Though, occasionally, I do succumb to temptations, such as shopping and travel.
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The New Savvy: What would you like to learn more financially?
Rena: Everything! I do believe that there won’t come a day where you will finish learning. I would be happy to find out more about finance related topics.
The New Savvy: Do you believe in the traditional roles of men and women?
Rena: Not really. Though I will not argue that majority of the men would still be more suited to some traditional gender roles due to the physical build that they have as compared to women. In the society that we now live in, or at least in Singapore, I see that the gender roles are blurring, where men are also taking up roles that were traditionally done by women.
I also believe that we should place people into positions that they can excel in regardless of their gender. This would help our society move towards being stronger and better as a whole.
The New Savvy: How can we improve women’s relationship with money?
Rena: I think some women are good with money, I would proudly say I am one of them. However, I do think women are much more careful when it comes to making investments. I believe that with good advice and mentors this may change the way women see and deal with money.
The New Savvy: What’s the side of you the public never sees?
Rena: Most people who know me well know that I am bubbly most of the time; it’s a trait that has stuck with me since childhood. What they do not see is the quiet moments that I take to meditate; it helps me refresh my mind and soul especially during stressful times.
If they do see, they might go “Wow! I didn’t know Rena was capable of keeping so calm and quiet.”
The New Savvy: Where do you go on a night out?
Rena: I spend catching up with my girlfriends. We’re not really heavy drinkers, so we always look for somewhere with good food, and to have a drink or two. For some fascinating and unconventional food, I recommend DIBS at Duxton. They serve food that teases your taste buds and is fun and pretty to look at, also pretty Instagrammable too!
The New Savvy: Give us a parting quote!
Rena: Dale Carnegie says: “People rarely succeed unless they are having fun in what they are doing.”
And so I say, “Go on and find some fun in what you are doing, enjoy the ride, success will come on its own!”
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