This Yogi's Success in Creating a Sustainable Fashion Brand
After growing up in California, Melissa Chu spent eight years in Hong Kong, where she started and has seen huge success of her startup RUMI X, an eco-conscious yoga apparel brand, named for the late 13th century Sufi theologian. RUMI X is known for the sustainability of it's manufacturing materials, and creates positive impact by leveraging recycled plastic bottles and coffee grounds to create of of its beautiful wears. We sat down with Melissa to learn abut the ins and outs of running a sustainable business, fundraising internationally, and what it takes to become a shockingly balanced entrerenuer.
Can you tell us a bit about your career trajectory? Did you always want to start a company?
No! It was actually a passion project that took flight, which is very awesome! I started my career in digital marketing for a luxury retailer, which brought me to Hong Kong from San Francisco - I had always known that I loved fashion, retail, and the digital experience. Digital marketing is instant gratification; you can measure, track, adapt and create at anytime, anywhere. I then continued on the digital path by freelancing, working with individual clients, and even dabbled in doing e-commerce/digital in the hospitality industry. It wasn’t until I realized that combined with my digital experience, I was passionate about driving and shaping brands to delight the customer.
Tell us about the Hong Kong startup ecosystem and the VC environment.
The Hong Kong startup ecosystem is booming! I think Hong Kong has always historically been a very entrepreneurial environment. As a tax-free haven, setting up the company is relatively easy, even as a non-Hong Kong citizen. The expat community is very much interconnected, and there were plenty of resources to get the answers I needed. In terms of fundraising, the Chinese traditionally also have a strong appetite for risk, although there are not formalized VC funds (due to government restrictions on tax benefits for investors), so finding Angel Investors was a conducive route and an option I highly recommend to anyone who plans to fund raise in Asia. They are interested in new and innovative projects that not only support the Hong Kong ecosystem, but can scale into other markets such as China.
How did you come up with the idea for Rumi X?
The idea came from my passions in life: yoga, nature and fashion! It came naturally to me when I was conceptualizing Rumi - there were not as many activewear options available in the Asian market, much less planet-friendly options. Coming from California, recycling was secondary to breathing. I knew I wanted to create something that was a part of the solution, and not contributing to the problem. The name RUMI X came to me when I was studying yoga in Rishikesh, India. I came across his work about following your passions in life, and it really resonated with me. I wanted to share that spirit in the brand.
Were you always focused on sustainability in fashion?
To me sustainability is a facet of being mindful. Yoga and my spirituality practice has definitely cultivated mindfulness in my everyday life. I believe I am always striving to be mindful in my thoughts, my actions, my behaviors, and sustainability is a part of that mindfulness.
How did you decide what platform to build your e-commerce site on?
I started out with Wordpress because of the limitless customization it offered, as I wished to offer a unique brand and shopping experience to my customers. But I learned after a year that customization also comes with many bugs when you try to make all the plug-ins fit together! So I switched to Shopify after a few other e-commerce store owners told me how automated and robust the platform is. I’ve been happy with it since.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a company of his/her own?
Before you decide on whether to start this company, ask yourself “can I live without this company?” If this answer is “no”, then go for it.
How do you re-invest in yourself?
As an entrepreneur, I tend to over exert myself. I’m left drained and stressed. I have found that the simple things have really helped keep me in balance, and doing everything in moderation to counterbalance the extremes of running a company. Hikes in nature, hanging out by the beach and being near water, playing with my dog, and exercising (I love kickboxing, yoga, and pilates) are all incredibly soothing. Getting adequate rest-I’m talking 8-hours of deep sleep, is heavenly. I drink lots of water, and stay hydrated. I also like to take self-improvement classes, whether it’s learning something new or to refresh on a course I’ve taken in the past, it’s really provided me perspective on being a business owner, and growing as a person.
Finally Melissa, what does FemmBoss mean to you?
It means being fearless, daring to venture out and do live out your dreams, while owning it all - the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.
Thank you Melissa!! Comment below with questions for Melissa and see more on Rumi X here!