Founder of Love, Bonito, Rachel Lim, on thriving, not just surviving, in the fashion retail world

The Singapore brand, Love, Bonito, might have begun in 2010 as a ‘blogshop’ but it has now expanded into a multi-outlet bricks ‘n’ mortar lifestyle brand with the opening of its second Singapore store in Jem. This is on top of its flagship store in 313@Somerset, and its two retail stores in Kuala Lumpur. Love, Bonito is obviously thriving, not just surviving the current troubled retail market.

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The latest collection from Love, Bonito. Image: Love, Bonito

Continuing its focus on being a ‘retail friend’ to its customers, the Love, Bonito brand has stepped easily into the new retail world of experiences and technology, its founders becoming social media influencers in their own rights, and their fans becoming loyal customers. Despite the so-called woes of retail, this disruptor fashion brand is powering ahead.

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To discover more about how the brand has grown, developed and succeeded, I got in touch with Rachel Lim, the co-founder of Love, Bonito, and the current face of the brand’s marketing, to answer a few questions. With 106K followers on Instagram alone, Lim is not only a successful business woman, she’s an inspiration to hundreds of entrepreneurial Singaporeans.

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The latest collection from Love, Bonito. Image: Love, Bonito

Did you have any female business role models when growing up?
Rachel Lim: No particular ones but there are strong females I had as role models growing up – my mom. She was a strong inspiration because even though we went through so much hardship as a family she showed a lot of grit and tenacity, all while keeping her joy and positivity, which was the key in us getting through the difficulties.

When did you know you wanted to run your own business?
RL: When I decided to drop out of my final year in university to start Love, Bonito with my Co-Founders. I knew that I wanted to create something that didn’t exist for women.

Do you think being a female entrepreneur has made a difference to how you have built your business?
RL: Not so sure if it’s because I’m a female but being a real woman creating for other real women has definitely helped shape who Love, Bonito is.

What were the factors that led you to start Love, Bonito?
RL: The clear gap in the market. There weren’t any pieces out there that really suited and fitted Asian women in a flattering way. That was how we started – by understanding the needs of other women, what they were looking for, and creating for them.

What sort of resources (besides financial) did you have when you started Love, Bonito?
RL: We had guts (haha). Because we were pioneers in the business of e-commerce back then, we had to pave the way ourselves. For example, there weren’t even any courier services who were well-versed in this format of business.

What kind of market research did you do before starting Love, Bonito?
RL: Honestly, we didn’t do much research initially. We learnt via a lot of trial and error and from making mistakes. Most of our learning was done on the go.

Did you feel prepared to start the business when you did?
RL: Back then I felt more excited than prepared. And in some way that drove me to push forward regardless of the problems that surfaced.

Have your goals and values changed since starting Love, Bonito?
RL: I have really evolved as a person. Since starting the brand I have found myself, and I continue to discover myself everyday. I have learnt to accept my strengths and weaknesses and embrace them. More importantly, I have learned how to grow and use my talents to contribute while surrounding myself with others who compliment my weaknesses.

What were some of the key lessons learned?
RL: That one can’t do it all. And one shouldn’t do it all. I wish I had known earlier to discover my areas of strength and to develop and hone them so that I could contribute strongly in those aspects.

What are your plans for the future of Love, Bonito?
RL: Right now we are empowering women and reaching out to women through fashion. The dream is to reach out to even more women through other different vehicles.

What advice, based on your own experience, do you have for women starting a business today?
RL: Don’t just start a business because it’s the sexy, in thing. I truly believe that there is no age limit to being an entrepreneur. Find and know your why and more importantly, surround yourself with people who will love you enough to be honest with you. If and when you have decided to start a business, the right team at the right stage of your business is absolutely essential.

The Love, Bonito Jem store opens on 8 December 2018, in Singapore. The Love, Bonito flagship store is located at 313@Somerset. To shop the brand online go to: www.lovebonito.com.

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