The Fearless Malaysian Disrupting the Mexican Fashion Industry
The NextWomen Fashion & Retail Theme.
At their core entrepreneurs take risk, often walking away from a steady paycheck to pursue something new: an idea, a passion or a market opportunity. But what do you call an entrepreneur who walks away from the security of full-time job to start a business halfway across the world, in a country where they don’t even speak the language?
This kind of stunning risk and passion is embodied in fashion entrepreneur Wee Yen Lim, co-founder of Conspiracion Moda. Wee Yen is originally from Malaysia but started her online designer dress rental business in Mexico.
Wee Yen originally ventured to Mexico to provide business consulting to tech startups, a departure from her role in the Korean Science and Technology governmental agency.
While at consulting in Mexico, Wee Yen concluded that it was “easy to continue to advise entrepreneurs on what they should do,” but that if she really wanted to put her business, market strategy and research skills to use she should personally “feel the pain of entrepreneurship.”
Wee Yen and her business partner Michelle Gutierrez started Conspiracion Moda in July 2012. Translated from Spanish, Conspiracion Moda means ‘a fashion conspiracy.’ It disrupts the traditional high-fashion designer industry by challenging the need for a woman to own her own high-end special occasion attire. Through its e-commerce site, women from any part of Mexico can rent and wear designer dresses. It is the only company of its kind in the country.
Wee Yen’s business concept grew out of her practical nature and love of expensive, beautiful clothes. Her original business concept was to launch a fashion swap. But, women in Mexico didn’t take to the idea of bringing in their clothing and exchanging them for someone else’s. Initially, she was very discouraged, almost gave up and considered going back to the security of a corporate job in Malaysia. But, she had a breakthrough when used what she had learned and practiced as a consultant, and began to rethink her business assumptions. She knew that women in Mexico dressed up for a lot of occasions and events. She was confident that there was demand for new attire.
The “a-ha moment” came when she asked herself, “What if women didn’t have to buy their special occasion clothes in the first place? What then?”
The alternative was that they could rent clothing. Clothing rental is not new in Mexico, but the designer clothing rental that Wee Yen envisioned did not exist.
In order to pull this vision off, Wee Yen knew she had to find a business partner who understood the Mexican marketplace much better than she did. She took what she called a series of bold moves and approached several people with expertise in the Mexican fashion industry with her idea. Michelle Gutierrez agreed to meet with her. Over a cup of coffee, the two women hatched the idea for Conspiracion Moda.
Michelle and Wee Yen have been building, self-funding and bootstrapping their business since they started. Business is progressing well and they have validated their business model. They know they will encounter obstacles as they grow.
But, if Wee Yen figured out how to launch a business in country where she couldn’t even speak the language, she’s likely to figure it out from here.
Rania Habiby Anderson is the President and Founder of The Way Women Work, an entrepreneur, executive business coach and an angel investor. Throughout her professional life, Rania has been observing, researching, connecting with and guidingthe way women work. As a leading authority on business women in developing and emerging markets Rania works with business women globally and established The Way Women Work as career and business advice site for women in developing and emerging markets.
Rania is also the co-founder of the Women’s Capital Connection, the 8th women's angel network in the United States and an equity investor in women-owned businesses.
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