In 2018, Vulcan Post wrote about a local lingerie brand, Jujumello. We followed the journey of one Mel Chai, who had muscled her way through various challenges to run the business.
She took online lessons and used her personal savings, all to keep Jujumello alive. They had big plans to get a showroom and retail space in KL, while setting up shop in Singapore as well.
Four years since the feature, though, the Mel of Jujumello has called it quits.
“Today I say goodbye to what has been something I held dear for 6 years—I shut down Jujumello for good,” Mel posted to Instagram on July 2.
Vulcan Post previously reported that the business was achieving an average of RM40K to RM50K revenue each month. However, according to Mel, she “couldn’t put stable money into her pocket” for those six years.
While Mel wrote that she’s glad to hear positive things about the brand, she wondered why the memories she had about the journey were mostly painful and exhausting, including feelings of betrayal and disappointment.
Instead of remembering the proud and happy achievements, the most memorable moments for Mel were ones of pity and resentment. Having been very hands-on with the brand, Mel found herself burnt out and unable to walk away.
No wonder I felt resentful. As a founder, you’re always the last one paid, the last one to get anything left. Whatever the challenges, I can’t be emotional and just walk away. Unwinding a business demands as much detail and formality as starting a company.Mel Chai
“Frankly, I hated my entrepreneurship journey,” she concluded.
But the final straw was not Mel’s personal struggles—it was the numbers.
Reasons for the closure
Jujumello sources its products from China, which means that the items are actually accessible to anyone who wants to sell it.
Therefore, the brand lacked a competitive edge. Furthermore, Mel was unable to control the product cost, designs, sizes, cuttings, and colours.
In short, she couldn’t control the pricing and scalability of the business.
“The unintuitive thing about figuring out if you should shut down your company is that it isn’t the path of least resistance,” she mused.
“The ‘easiest’ thing to do for a struggling company is to fall into zombie mode—neither growing nor truly dead.”
Mel explained that this is because “zombie mode” doesn’t require an active decision. It just involves doing the bare minimum to keep the company alive.
Furthermore, she expressed that shutting down is hard because it means you have to publicly admit you failed.
“I was terrified to shut my company down, even though all the evidence said it was the right decision. The thing that scared me most was that I had no idea what would happen afterward,” Mel admitted.
Apparently, Mel had considered a potential shutdown since the beginning of the year. So, she had already been looking for value everywhere, which included attempting to monetise unsold inventory.
All her efforts culminated in Jujumello’s collection in June, which marked the end of the brand.
“This may be hard to believe but shutting down releases so much tension and clears away so many burdensome expectations that it allows me to choose what I like to do with my life here onwards,” she expressed.
“I have a choice now! A choice to write a new chapter or paint a new drawing.”
Though she was painfully honest about the downs of her journey, she made it clear that there were definitely ups too, such as the sacrifices she and her team made paying off, working with industry peers who put support before profit, and more.
Mel ended her story by asking her supporters not to worry about her, saying that she feels lighter and happier than ever now. Not to mention, she’s not quite done with the entrepreneurial life just yet.
“I am still a very entrepreneurial person after all,” she concluded. “No matter where I go or what I do, I’d still be a creative yet tactical person championing new ideas and approaches. All the experiences and knowledge I accumulated from Jujumello are all still authentically mine anyway.”
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Mel C @jelitarhh / Jujumello