Over 93% of start-ups fail in the fight to secure a piece of the multibillion-dollar beauty industry. Despite the odds, Jane Weng, CEO and Founder of Floroma, a leading perfume brand in Hong Kong has thrived even during the pandemic-induced economic downturn. As her business crosses the five-year milestone, you can’t help but notice the fighter behind the guise of a petite young woman.
From finance to founder
Jane Weng | Founder of Floroma
“Growing up, I would help my father make medical oils. It was something I did for fun. I never thought it would help me later in life.”
At the time, her father, an experienced manufacturer of Chinese medical oils, was contemplating retirement. Jane wondered about her family “legacy”. She knew she could not “unleash her full potential” in finance, but she also knew that her father’s business would soon become a mere memory of the past.
Bringing traditional thinking into the new millennia
Floroma Customers Attending a Perfume-Making Workshop
The idea behind Floroma came to Jane unexpectedly. At work one day, Jane walked in on her colleague, sniffing pungent medicinal oil in the office washroom. When she probed into her secrecy, Jane’s colleague revealed her embarrassment.
“She didn’t want to apply medical oil in public because it’s very old-school. She thought others would think she was sick, but, for her, it was a good way to re-energise.”
At that moment, Jane knew she had the perfect problem on her hands.
“I started thinking whether I can transform this traditional product into a more appealing version that even teenagers would love”.
As a millennial herself, Jane could relate only too well to the stigma around the age-old remedy for stress. She needed to give her family legacy a stylish upgrade. Jane combined the lessons from her childhood and her love for French haute couture to create Floroma’s first perfume line.
Breaking the start-up fairytale
One of Floroma’s Best-Selling Perfumes
“If a customer doesn’t like one of our products, we just cut it and ask them what do you like?”
The launch of Floroma’s first perfume, White Orchid Perfume, was a runaway hit. The intriguing twist on a traditional product garnered mass media attention in Hong Kong.
“I was very lucky that I got a lot of media coverage because it helped me win a lot of publicity. Some chain stores, like 7/11 even asked me to feature my products on their shelves!”
Survival of the fittest
“I didn’t have any resources. I had no money and no connections. It was all trial and error. The biggest challenge was to my mental health. All my former colleagues were getting promoted and earning a decent salary, while I was putting all my money into product development. It was quite stressful.”
Challenges have been key to Floroma’s growth. Jane discovered that each hardship forced her team to be resilient and embrace novel ways of thinking. She believes that the recent COVID-19 crisis came as a test to their survivor mentality.
“At the start of the pandemic, my business suffered a lot. All our perfume classes were cancelled. All our products in chain stores were off the shelves. Nobody was going outside. Business dropped to nearly 80%”
The plunge in sales caused many business leaders to panic in Hong Kong. Jane, too, was one of them. She believes that her biggest achievement to date was her determination to evolve.
“I’m happy we persisted and persevered. I still kept learning how to transform my business from offline to online. Now 90% of my sales are online, up from only 10%.”
Keeping entrepreneurship alive
Invited to Speak at an Entrepreneur Event Hosted by AXA Hong Kong
“In my secondary school years, I won a market stall competition. We had to create a little business and sell products in the Lunar New Year market. I didn’t have any mentors or family background in business. Instead, I just kept reading books, joining online courses and observing how other businesses worked.”
For those seeking to follow in her footsteps, Jane says founders must remain positive and determined. Rather than being motivated by financial gain, she emphasises the importance of an internal mission in sustaining your entrepreneurial drive.
“You need to train up your mentality to expect uncertainty because business is not like working as an employee. It’s not like a flatline. There will be ups and downs, but you need to remain faithful as gradually you will see yourself moving upwards.”
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