Entrepreneur

Meet Velda Tan - The Former Love, Bonito Co-Founder Who Helped Revolutionise Fashion E-Commerce In S'pore

There are plenty of reasons why you should be a fan, or at least know, of Velda Tan by now.

A successful entrepreneur, fashion icon, and social media media darling – that’s how most Singaporeans view the 30-year-old.

Better known by her online moniker @Belluspuera, she has a strong following of 144K on Instagram and 10.6K on Twitter (the numbers are probably growing as we speak).

She is one of the pioneer blogshop owners in Singapore and it’s not an understatement to say that she has played an influential role in making blogshops the trend in local fashion.

Here’s a back story of how she started up her various business ventures over the years – and no, it’s not just fashion.

1. BonitoChico

From left to right: Rachel Lim, Velda Tan, Viola Tan / Image Credit: scene.sg

At the tender age of 18, Velda – together with her sister Viola Tan and best friend Rachel Lim – set up a blogshop called BonitoChico.

The three teenagers started off by selling preloved goods, or specifically, clothes they didn’t want anymore.

Over time, it gradually evolved into a ‘proper’ business and they began selling clothes sourced overseas, such as in Bangkok, where it is laden with clothing wholesalers.

They would then model and photograph each outfit to be posted on the website for sale and in the process, they built a fanbase of loyal customers and followers.

Young working women took a strong liking to their label and they were even named the “Best Blog Shop” at the Asia-Pacific Blog Awards in 2009.

2. Love, Bonito

Spurred by their success, they registered their online shop in 2010, and renamed it Love, Bonito.

As part of the change, they also decided to shift from sourcing apparel to designing their own collections.

Since none of them had any background in either fashion or design, they had to work doubly hard. They studied trends, went for various runway shows to increase exposure, and often traveled abroad to gain fashion inspiration.

One huge obstacle they faced was that e-commerce was still in its infancy back then, so people were skeptical and didn’t trust online shopping. To bridge this gap, Tan was determined to “gain the trust” of customers and make Love, Bonito a “consistent brand” by delivering quality goods and service.

The blogshop got hugely popular in 2010, and it went on to win several awards including the SME Asia Award 2013/2014 by The Asian Business Journal and The Trade and Industry Association.

The company was at the peak of success, but Tan decided to leave the blogshop as she needed a breather.

“I just wanted to take a break, take a sabbatical and figure out what I wanted because I have been working on Love, Bonito for about eight years already,” she said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia.

Image Credit: Clozette

She is no longer with Love, Bonito and the other co-founders are now overseeing the day-to-day operations.

3. Pince & Pints

Tan left Love, Bonito together with her husband (who was the brand’s managing director then) in 2013.

They took a year off to figure out what they wanted to do while traveling to New York and London. They dined at London’s famous Burger & Lobster joint and were bowled over by its simple menu: steamed or grilled lobster, lobster roll or a burger for £20 (S$35.80) each.

“In Singapore, you would have to go to a Chinese restaurant, and they charge you an arm and a leg for a lobster. So wanting to give people the experience of having a whole lobster and making it more accessible to them, sparked the idea,” explained Tan in an interview with High Net Worth.

Image Credit: Female Magazine

In 2014, the couple launched a lobster roll restaurant called Pince & Pints at Duxton Road. The duo successfully generated buzz at launch, drawing two-hour queues nightly.

Despite the success, Tan confessed that she does not have the aptitude for running a F&B business and insisted that her true passion lies within the fashion industry.

It was a struggle for her, and she only tried it out for two months before throwing in the towel and leaving her husband to fully run the business. She still remains a business partner now.

4. Collate The Label

During her time in London, Tan also took up courses in visual merchandising, pattern making, and business management at Central Saint Martins.

She eventually started working on Collate because it was “a progressive thing” to do and insisted that she did not leave Love, Bonito with plans to start her own label.

She added that when she returned to Singapore, she felt like she was no longer “on the same path as Love Bonito’s business model anymore”.

According to her, Love, Bonito were modelling after the big retailers such as Zara and H&M, creating products that worked for high-street fashion. They were targeting the mass market and tapping on trending fashion.

Collate on the other hand, is a more upmarket label that has a focus on “affordable luxe”.

Being in the fashion industry for close to a decade, she noted that there was a lack of well-designed, good quality, and affordable apparel for models and sophisticated women, so Collate was created to speak to these women.

Image Credit: Yew Jia Jun

“For Collate we put more effort into fabrication, our cut and fit, stitching and details. We really want to identify and position ourselves as a local label,” said Tan.

She also said she set out to differentiate Collate from Love, Bonito by setting up a physical store quickly.

“One of the toughest things for Collate right from the start is to move away (from being a) purely online (business) – we need to blur the boundaries between online and offline because as a new label, it is very important for customers to understand what your fabrics are like, what the fit is like.”

“It’s not easy being an online brand and telling people who you are through a single platform. Customers need time to get to know me, my label, the types of fabrics we use, the various cuts, et cetera,” she said in an interview with High Net Worth.

As such, she launched a pop-up store for the line’s debut collection at TANGS department store. The collection was presented at her very first runway show at Singapore Fashion Week – no mean feat for her first foray into fashion designing.

The pop-up store was given a target to hit within a 3-week time period and they managed to hit the target just within the first week.

Given the encouraging response, Tangs allowed them to extend their pop-up store from three weeks to three months. In fact, the bulk of their sales derived from the pop-up store.

5. GalBoss Asia

Image Credit: Be Asia

More recently, Tan, together with four other local female entrepreneurs, launched the Galboss Asia initiative, which aims to support, inspire and connect ambitious women in Asia at all stages of their career.

Other founders of this movement includes actress and founder of spa CINQ Andrea De Cruz, co-founder of Mummyfique Melissa Lwee-Ramsay, founder and CEO of Skin Inc Sabrina Tan, and IT-industry maven Tan Yen Yen.

These five women represent different backgrounds and fields, and are bound by a common desire and conviction to enable, empower, and elevate women in Asia, while creating a necessary space and dialogue to help them overcome business challenges and go from strength to strength.

It kicked off its first symposium in June last year, which saw four headliners: Aimee Song, Shannon Kalayanamitr, Tan Su Shan, and Sabrina Tan.

It delivered powerful and compelling presentations revolving around topics close to their hearts, all while sharing critical tools required for today’s businesses.

What’s Next?

Velda shared her hopes of bringing Collate to a global platform. And beyond work, Velda (and her husband) hopes to start a family soon.

And to enterprising women out there, she’d like to say: “Just do it! I’ve heard so many women musing over what they could and should have done, and how their best years are behind them. That is far from the truth.”

“I believe in making the best use of what we’ve been given now. Waking up every day with a sense of purpose, and being able to do what I love, makes me feel powerful.”

Featured Image Credit: Yew Jia Jun / High Net Worth

 

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