Co-founder of members-only flash sale events company OnTheList, Delphine Lefay shares her thoughts on taking the leap into business, developing a strong team and bagging a bargain.
ALL ABOUT ONTHELIST
Launched in January 2016, OnTheList provides Hongkongers with discounts on premium to mid-range brand.
With a new spot on Duddell Street, OnTheList sales offer up to 90% off favorite apparel, accessories, wines and more.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
It starts with an idea
My partner Diego and I created OnTheList in 2016. We were both working for fashion brands and really wanted to create a company of our own.
We realized while working for our previous companies that there is no way for brands to really outsource help or partners to clear unused inventory, so we came up with OnTheList.
We want to make life as simple as possible for companies who need our help. Brands need to clear stock because the items end up sitting in a warehouse and it costs money. A lot of high-end brands end up destroying their products which is a real shame.
Start small, then go big
We started hosting one event a month in January 2016 and now we are up to one event a week –- every week we change brands. Ten days ago we signed on a venue on Duddell Street where we will hold all of our future events. It’s a huge step for us.
Provide something for everyone
We like to provide a wide range of brands to our customers -- we don’t want to solely focus on high-end luxury brands.
The most high-end client we have featured was Armani. We’ve also had Ted Baker and Hunter Boots. We want to appeal to a wide range of people.
Bureaucracy breeds patience
It is especially difficult getting international brands on board as someone in Hong Kong may agree to work with us but then they will need to get approval from New York or London so that can take time.
Most of the people making the big decisions are usually traveling, so it can be difficult to get an answer quickly! You have to stick with it, these problems become easier as time goes on.
Cultivate a strong team
We have a team meeting every week to touch base and debrief about the events and to prepare for the next event.
We also have team lunches weekly so we can really bond as a team. Our main challenge is to hire the right people, which has proven to be difficult -- we aren’t from Hong Kong so we really need people who know the ins and outs of the city.
Make big moves at the right time
This new permanent venue on Duddell Street is a big step for us. We have fixed rent every month which will really push us to up our game.
The next step will probably be to open a second venue in Hong Kong. If everything works well, we will probably expand to China.
When you import stock into China you can't export it out again, because it's expensive. This leads to a lot of stock being stuck in China, so there is huge business potential for us.
A FEW QUESTIONS
What was it like to set up a business here?
It’s very easy to set up a business in Hong Kong in terms of the contracts and papers. For us it was easier than it would have been in Paris.
People help you a lot here when you are young and want to start a business. Everyone wants to help each other, especially entrepreneurs.
Hong Kong is a city of networking which makes it so much easier, you’re able to meet the right people.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
I received good advice from the founder of my previous company -- when you want to start a business you should go for it, don’t wait for everything to be perfect.
I was advised to test things out and not to wait for everything to be perfect, which ended up being the best words of wisdom I could have gotten!
Any wisdom of your own to impart?
Networking is hugely important. It’s all about who you know.
Try to meet as many female entrepreneurs as possible and make those connections, get advice from other people, talk to women and share experiences -- these things are all very important.
A FEW MORE QUESTIONS
What do you do to unwind?
I do a lot of yoga at the Yoga Room in Sheung Wan. I enjoy having drinks with friends as well, talking about work is strictly off limits!
How do you prepare for a big day?
I like to take my time having a big breakfast. I always eat an orange in the morning; my mother told me I won’t get sick if I eat an orange every day!
Where do you like to shop for professional clothes?
Now that I run OnTheList, I get all my clothes from our events. I don’t usually go out of my way to shop but I do like going to Cos.
Do you use any productivity tools?
We use Google Calendar a lot. We are always all over Hong Kong. Our operations team are on site at events and the marketing team are in the office, so it’s a great way to keep track of where everyone is.
Where are your favorite meeting spots?