5 Critical Startup Lessons

What I learned about moving to a foreign country and founding a bikini startup.


Lesson #1: Start Small and Grow Based on Customer Feedback

There are many things that could go wrong when starting a business. You can do all the planning to mitigate risks but, at the end of the day, you need to get started — which usually means going with the flow.

I was venturing into e-commerce so obviously needed an online platform to host my transactions. However, building a website to sell my goods was not a fast and easy process if I wanted to get everything just right. So instead, at the beginning, I was selling the bikinis through a locally major online fashion e-commerce site. It showed me which styles were selling well, and gave me my first taste of starting a real life business.

5 Critical Startup Lessons

Lesson #2: Connect With People

The first steps of my business venture really laid down the groundwork. The bikinis were selling but the most valuable outcome was the interaction with customers. I learnt about customer behaviour: what they liked, what put them off and what I could do to improve my product offering.

The whole idea behind why I started this business was not to encourage women to be ‘sexier’, but to love and be proud of their bodies: i.e. to feel sexier. This was something I picked up during my time in Brazil. The Brazilian women carried themselves with confidence and loved showing off their gorgeous curves that we in Asia would perhaps scoff at. They believed that they were beautiful. I learned that when someone has such a belief about themselves, everyone around them believes it too. Because of the message behind the brand, my initiatives were very well accepted by my audiences in Malaysia and I was featured in mainstream media with no issues.

You need to be sensitive to the context that you are operating in, understand the issues of those that will influence your business and work with them. Find a message that they can connect with and have this reflected in your brand and content.

5 Critical Startup Lessons

Me, in one of my Fit Rebel creations

Lesson #3: Be Flexible

Given my aspirations of becoming a bikini tycoon, I was hit hard by a reality check. Despite the toil of growing my business, I noticed a trend. At that time, I was offering both beach and fitness wear and I noticed that sales of my fitness wear was doing much, much, better. Regardless of how passionate I was about the bikinis, my venture was about my customers. If more people wanted to purchase my fitness wear, then that was what I needed to focus on. So eighteen months after my launch, I put my initial business plan aside and sales grew exponentially.

You may need to take out that business plan you drew up at the beginning of your venture and give it a thorough edit. If you want more growth, you need to capitalise on where you find it. After all, this is a journey and it will almost certainly be one that will take a few unexpected turns.

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Avatar of Nadia Hasbi

Ex-corporate suit turned fitness entrepreneur. As a person who leads an active lifestyle, Nadia enjoys yoga, weightlifting and running. Decked in active wear almost all the time, she understands the pains and joy when it comes to shopping for movable and breathable clothing and vows to offer exquisite and affordable apparel through her company,

Reader Discussion: 55 Comments

  1. Avatar of Ashley Thompson

    Adapt! Overcome! Improvise! These would take any company startup to a stable business in no time. Just follow these tips.

  2. Avatar of Stefanie Tyson

    I’ve always wanted to be a fashion entrepreneur. It’s very intimidating to think of leaving my job and investing so much money into something that could fail. Thanks for giving me hope!

  3. Avatar of Anna Kaplan

    Anna Kaplan

    I needed a loan to startup a small business in my town that had a specific need, but I had not yet gotten a high enough credit score to qualify with my bank. However, thanks to this website, I did a little research and found a local entrepreneur who regularly sponsors small businesses he thinks have a shot. Now, thanks to my angel investor, I am up and running.

  4. Avatar of Celine Carter

    Celine Carter

    It takes a special person to try to make a start up business work. They are creative and they have ideas, but like the article talks about, the one thing they lack is financing. Sometimes, speaking from experience, it can be a challenge to figure out where to turn to to get the money you need to take your ideas and make them work. It’s nice to have an article like this where a lot of ideas are compiled on one page. Even if some of the ideas are common sense ones, just being reminded of them from time to time is a good thing.

  5. Avatar of Teresa Tanner

    Teresa Tanner

    Very nice, well-rounded list. Too many people think that you need hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a business off the ground. That may be true in some industries, but some types of small businesses can make do with the basic credit card. Once the income starts coming in, it’s not too hard to expand.

  6. Avatar of Gwen Keaton

    Gwen Keaton

    The thrill of running a startup is offset by the challenge of finding funding. The well-developed array of nontraditional lenders and types of funding for a startup along with practical advice make this a must read for entrepreneurs.

  7. Avatar of Janet Roper

    Janet Roper

    This is an excellent resource for those who are just starting to think about funding a startup. Of course, we’d all love to have angel investors but your information is useful in the event that we don’t.

  8. Avatar of Monica Collins

    Monica Collins

    Great tips! All I can say is the absolute most important thing you can do before you start any business is to have a business plan with at least a 1, 5 and 10 year goal.

    • Avatar of KYLE


      ….and find a great location. A really good location dictates how long or how quickly it takes you to attain those goals.

  9. Avatar of Gerry Carlton

    Gerry Carlton

    The art of getting people talking about your brand can be the make or break for any start up. Many remain low lieing for many year because not enough time is invested in getting this right abd yes correctly said it’s not confined to the Internet…. alone… great piece

  10. Avatar of Brenda Nelson

    Brenda Nelson

    I have always advocated for the importance of a unique ‘Idea’. Innovation happens only one time and cannot be repeated. This is the reason why people remember the one who scores first position and not the one who is second or other. Strive for greatness and just use these tips. I found the insightful and complete. Thanks for sharing wisdom ?

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