Bespoke E-Commerce Startup Finds Suitable Support

When Ivan Lim was working tirelessly alongside Wai Hong Fong on a startup online retail proposition called OZHut, he never suspected he’d be striking out on his own just a couple of years later.

But when he recognised a niche in the Australian market for quality, tailored suits, Lim didn’t hesitate to begin hammering out a business plan.

“I was sitting down with my girlfriend over a coffee and I realised I had to wear a suit that evening,” says Lim. “I recalled how I’d owned a tailored suit a few years previously, and lamented the fact it wasn’t very easy to get another. I thought, ‘How come people don’t do that in Australia anymore?'”

Lim went home after dinner that evening and performed the same research on bespoke suits he’d been practicing on other verticals for OZHut. Satisfied there was a market for his idea in Australia, he began the process of putting his idea in action.

“As far as a timeframe is concerned, it only took about three or four months to get Vinspi online from that point of conception,” says Lim. “There was a ridiculous amount of work involved and I decided that I would have to resign my position at OZHut. Vinspi was never going to work if it was just a pet project that I only worked on outside of business hours.”

Ivan Lim, the entrepreneur behind online bespoke suit store, Vinspi.
Ivan Lim, the entrepreneur behind online bespoke suit store, Vinspi.

Another four months later, Lim has reached another turning point in his business venture’s journey. While Vinspi has had a growing customer base and shows true potential as an online retail business, Lim realised he needed to accelerate its growth if the brand were to become truly competitive.

“I realised nearly two months ago that the bespoke clothing market would potentially take off soon,” Lim says, “and Vinspi wouldn’t survive for long if an established brand cornered the niche before I could properly do this. I realised I also needed a mentor, I needed somebody who was going to be able to give me advice, who would be able to steer me in the right direction and listen to the concerns I have. I believed that to be a primary requirement for the business as well as a reflection of my own personality. I do enjoy working with people.”

After researching various options online, Lim eventually discovered a local tech-startup incubator that was looking for its second cohort of businesses to foster. AngelCube, Co-Founded by Andrew Birt, appeared ideal for Lim’s purposes, so he tracked Birt down and gave him a call.

“AngelCube does early-stage investments,” Lim says. “They invest $20,000 into each business it accepts, with idea being to select the ‘cream of the crop’ of web startups to develop in a rigorous three month program.

AngelCube is designed to put startup ventures through their paces, providing direction and tools that enable entrepreneur’s to assess their business viability and identify potential weaknesses. Lim says that this process is largely based around testing the businesses’ assumptions and making sure they are solid.

“For Vinspi, for example, we had to look at our customers and figure out key points like, will customers return to the site for repeat business? We’re glad to find that a lot of our customers do return to the site, and so far they have indicated a score of 8.75 out of 10 for how likely they are to recommend our business to others.”

Vinspi is only one of several promising web startups that have been accepted for this year’s intake at AngelCube, and Birt says he believes there is a lot of talent among them.

“It’s very easy to get publicity and applicants because it’s a bit like we’re offering a government grant,” says Birt. “Getting applicants isn’t the hard part, but filtering and weeding down to the real quality applicants – that’s the tricky bit.”

Birt’s idea for AngelCube, based along similar lines of well-known US incubators like Y-Combinator, accepted its first intake last year. Of the group selected, only one startup failed to meet expectations.

“It’s like a job interview,” Birt says. “We need to know not only that a person has a great idea, we also want to know that they have the right experience, the right drive and dedication to see that project through. Probably the business that struggled last year didn’t have all of those things.”

But Vinspi does, according to Birt.

“The main thing is that my co-founder and I met Ivan and we thought he was just such a great guy,” Birt says. “Ivan’s really likeable, he’s super-smart, he’s worked with an online startup before and helped grow that business from nothing to 20 staff – you can’t ignore someone like that.”

Lim takes the praise with a grain of salt. He is only less than a third of the way through AngelCube’s three month program and he’s keenly aware of his responsibility to excel.

“The team here will push you hard,” Lim says. “They know they’ve selected for individuals that can handle that pressure and rise to meet high expectations. The whole process has really validated my business idea, while also really giving me the opportunity to hone my skills as an entrepreneur.”

Seeking more information on how to get an online retail venture off to a flying start? See our complete A-Z guide, Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide.

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