I am thrilled to start a new year of FIO with a feature on Jane Lee who is the CEO and Founder of Silly B Intimates.
They recently launched short film based on our brand #STICKTOGETHER, a video detailing the highs and lows of two best friends. Just like that certain best friend, silly b intimates understands the importance of dependable support.
Based on this creative idea and unique marketing concept it’s clear that Jane Lee is going places. Thanks to the amazing insight she provides for budding business owners in this interview- you’re going with her!
What was the inspiration for silly b?
“I was celebrating my 25th birthday this past March and was wearing a backless dress so I was wearing a backless sticky bra. Like many girls out there, the bra kept on slipping off. I realized that this was a huge problem for girls around the world! This pain point inspired me to start silly b and create a superior product. I want to encourage girls around the world to wear what ever they wanted.”
What is the story behind the title ‘silly b’
“silly b is actually short for silicone bra! The majority of lingerie brands focus on being sexy, but I wanted to create a brand name that was down to earth, fun and light-hearted. I wanted silly b to have the same brand essence as your best girlfriend. She’s your confidante and you can truly be yourself with her. She’s is your partner in crime when you two go out. She is strong, bold and fearless. You know you will have a great time with her no matter what you get up to.”
What sets it apart from other similar businesses?
“The brand is much more relevant and modern than other functional lingerie brands. Our social presence has helped us gain a lot of traction. The product itself is amazing. It was made to be 4x sticker than competitor sticky bras and comes in 3 different shades of nude so that it is virtually invisible underneath sheer clothing.”
What type of training did you need to complete to be in the career field you’re in now?
“I am tremendously grateful for the work experience I had in the past that has given me the skill-sets to become an entrepreneur.
After graduating university (Jane attended the Schulich School of Business- York University – BBA Specializing in Marketing & Philosophy), I worked as a brand manager at General Mills. I was fortunate enough to be placed on the Yoplait Acquisition Team, where I worked on innovation and launching new products. Since Yoplait had just been acquired by General Mills, the team functioned like a small start-up within a larger company and I got to take on a lot of responsibility in a fast paced environment.
Afterwards, I joined Exact Media (At the time I joined it was only a 5 person start up) and worked on growing the business in the US. This job allowed me to be based in NYC and I flew constantly to different states to meet with various clients. Since this was a lean start-up I spent a lot of time alone. This experience helped me strengthen my B2B sales skill-set. I got tough skin from the rejections and I grew to be super independent throughout this experience as well. It really gave me the confidence that I needed to face the world on my own!
I am now the proud founder and CEO of silly b intimates. silly b intimates is a bold, light-hearted and cheeky lingerie brand that specializes in creating the most reliable underwear for the modern woman. silly b intimates makes functional underwear FUN! I started this company in July 2015 and it has really taken off! It is now in stores in the US, Australia and Canada! I’ve added 6 new products and also have grown the team.”
What did you want to be growing up/while in school
“I was actually a dancer (pop and locking/hip-hop) when I was younger. But It was hard to get my parents support on pursuing my dance career. Coming from a traditional Korean background, my parents wanted me to attend a prestigious university. I was upset for a while but one day during high school, I volunteered to start/run a non-profit talent show in. This helped me discover the business side of entertainment which I fell in love with!
After this experience, I was more open to pursuing the business side of entertainment vs actually being the entertainment. After exploring all my options in business school, I chose to pursue brand management because it was the closest thing to owning your own business. I loved the idea of working on all aspects of the business: R&D, supply chain, demand planning, finance, sales and marketing.”
What type of female would you recommend going into your field?
“A female who is a ‘generalist’ and has a general interest in all aspects of a business ( R&D, finance, marketing etc) At the beginning of the start-up you will be doing everything and anything. You have to be willing to pull up your sleeves and do things on your own. If you don’t have the skill-set, then you have to be open to actually learning it and trying it yourself.
Being savvy on social media, SEO, e-mail marketing etc will help tremendously for an E-commerce business. It is important to also be analytical as well in order to understand what is working and not working.
Someone who can get other people excited about things. When you are at a point when you start hiring, it’s important to show and communicate your vision to people. Your excitement and vision will be the biggest attraction of the company.”
What are some aspects of your job that people might not consider before entering it as a career?
“A lot of people want to start their own company. It may seem glamourous and fun but there are many aspects to it that people are not aware of.
I think that girls should always consider:
1) “The alone” aspect: It is super lonely. No one will understand how you feel and even if you hire others, you will feel extremely alone because you have to try and keep a calm, confident persona for the team.
2) “The boot-strapping” aspect: Starting your own physical goods company is very costly. You will see a huge dip in your cash flow when you buy more products. You won’t have the same lifestyle as your friends and will be making your coffee at home!
3) “Starting from 0” aspect: You will be humbled by the fact that your brand is not recognized and that you are not entitled to anything. It is up to you to build your brand from nothing to something.
4) “The importance of supply chain/manufacturing” aspect: It’s hard to find a great manufacturer that you can trust. It will take a lot of time and dollars to test out different manufacturers.
5) “You are now a book keeper” aspect: To be honest, I did not like accounting when I was in business school. I am now the book keeper and although it’s not my favourite exercise, it helps me understand exactly what is happening on my business.”
Is there a strong female representation in your field?
“Yes there is! SPANX founder and CEO Sarah is definitely an inspiration in this field.”
What websites do you utilize day-to-day that help with your business and career?
“I use Shopify for my business. They have great resources for entrepreneurs and so I’m constantly on their forums trying to improve silly b intimates.
I also follow tons of e-commerce businesses on Instagram and subscribe to their e-mail as well. This helps me get inspiration for my own business.
You can also catch me on medium reading blogs from other entrepreneurs. I like to read things that are really honest and critical so I usually spend most of my time on blogs.”
Would you change anything about your career choices now looking back on it?
“With this generation being YOLO, I want to challenge people to be very cautious before starting their own business. There are really 2 big things that people should consider:
1) Be cautious of who they start a business with- Starting a business alone is really hard and lonely. A lot of people want to also share the risk of the business so are tempted to start a company with anyone or their best friend. I would make sure that if you do end up doing a company with a co-founder have an open and honest conversation about your personal values, why you want to start a business and the changes that must happen if the company goes big or fails. It might be awkward but always make sure to have a contract between you two no matter how close you are.
2) Have enough dollars saved! Do math of how much money you will need for the future and what you project the profit of your business will be. This is extremely hard to do but be very conservative and save until you feel like you have enough dollars to last you 1-2 year without making an income.”
Who are your career role models?
“My career role models are my parents. They are both entrepreneurs and have really started from nothing. They have shown me what can happen if you are persistent and have a good support network around you. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I am really happy with my decisions and feel super blessed that silly b intimates is growing, I have an amazing team and a support system. I am so thankful and hope to give back in many ways.”