Entrepreneur Spotlight: Andrew Ngo, CEO of Stoned & Co. and IDOtshirt

Andrew Ngo comes from a new generation of young entrepreneurs that have succeeded in establishing a thriving business in the fashion and retail industry. While still in university, Andrew formed IDOtshirt and Stoned & Co.; retail businesses that specialize in producing one of Malaysia’s unique urban fashion labels today.

I used some of my savings on producing the first batch of stocks. It was a risk that I was taking, so I told myself that I must succeed and the rest is history!

Andrew NgoImage Source: Andrew Ngo

Andrew’s journey to becoming the CEO of both these companies can hardly be described as a bed of roses. Fresh out of university and without any professional experience in running a business, each step he took to realize his dream of being a successful entrepreneur was a steep learning curve for him.

TheBizJuice is honoured to have the opportunity to meet up with him as he shared his story, experiences and insights on how he managed to carve out distinct brands for his fashion labels that constantly stay in demand of Malaysians today.

What gave you the idea to start your very own fashion label; especially since you were still a student?

Back then when I was in university, I was really into fashion and I actually spent a lot on collecting limited edition apparels and collectibles. It was to that extent that one day I was like “Hey, why not come out with a fashion brand that allows teenagers and young adults to enjoy the styles that I love, with an affordable price of course.”

IDOtshirtImage Source: IDOtshirt

Being a fresh university graduate, you were limited in both experience and financial resources – how did you overcome those adversities?

When I faced these issues at the beginning, I consulted my university lecturers where they gave me valuable insights on ways I can solve these problems of running a business. Financial-wise, I used some of my savings on producing the first batch of stocks. It was a risk that I was taking, so I told myself that I must succeed and the rest is history!

 

In the infancy stages of your brands, how did you plan out to shout their name to the public and generate a demand for your products?

We focused on creating the business models first before planning the marketing efforts for the brands. As our target audience are mostly made up of those who are constantly on their social media apps, we decided that our marketing direction will have to start online first and then only offline.

 

What are the main channels you rely on to market your brands? And why do you choose to invest in them?

Our main channels are definitely the website and our social media platforms. Everything is going online these days so the competitiveness definitely motivates us to keep getting better and better as a brand and a team.

 

You currently have 2 brands (IDOtshirt and Stone & Co.) – how do you strategically ensure that both brands do not cannibalize the other?

These two brands are different in many ways which makes it quite easy for the team to separate marketing strategies and working out the brand identity for both brands. IDOTSHIRT is all about customization and its target audience are mainly families, groups of friends and teams who want to customize group T-shirts together.

IDOtshirtImage Source: IDOtshirt

Stoned & Co. on the other hand is made up of ready-to-wear apparels and are easily available.

Stoned & CoImage Source: Stoned & Co

Many brands still find the idea of marketing on social media to be daunting and dangerous – what are your thoughts?

Stoned & CoImage Source: Stoned & Co.

As dangerous or daunting as it may sound, we cannot deny that social media is the most powerful marketing tool there is today. It makes the world smaller, meaning we can communicate or even promote our brands to other parts of the world without the need to actually be there. For both brands, we are always trying to step up the game when it comes to our social media platforms. We focus on being creative and informative at the same time for our customers and fans. Instagram, Facebook and so many apps are so accessible these days that it is such a waste for brands to not be in the online scene. It can be overwhelming and intimidating at times but once you’ve got a hold of it, you will definitely enjoy the presence of your brand in the online world.

 

Do you have any advice to share with entrepreneurs when it comes to branding their own startups?

First of all, you must believe in your dream and that you are capable in doing it. Then once you are convinced, come back to reality and work hard to achieve that dream. Of course, you need to be passionate in what you want to do and never ever give up. When you start a business, focus on the quality of the products first, then only do you plan on how to market the product. Determining your target audience is very crucial too because your marketing strategies and other activities that you plan, must revolve around a set of potential customers, then only would the plan work! Most importantly, do what you really love and you will definitely get the best out of it.

Stoned & CoImage Source: Stoned & Co.

Could you share with fashion entrepreneurs like yourself on some insights on t-shirt production?

First of all, you need to know what is your ultimate goal for the brand. For both IDOTSHIRT and Stoned & Co. quality comes first before any other aspect of the production. Yes, this means our T-shirts will cost more than the regular ones out there but we can assure you a lasting and wearable product. If your goal is otherwise, let’s say you prefer to have an increase in sales in a short period of time, then you can opt for ready-made blank T-shirts which are lower in cost compared to the cut-and-sew style. We chose to use the cut-and-sew method as the sizes would be much more accurate, which in return will drape nicely on anyone who wears it. Second, you need to know your resources. Let’s say you want to do the cut-and-sew method, do you have the resources? Do you know who provides these kind of service? It is a tedious process to search for the best production house in the country as we want to ensure all our apparels are locally made. Also, the more detailed the process, the more budget is needed. This is why you need to set your goal first and then make sure you have the right resources to make it happen.

What are some of the difficulties you facing when producing your clothes? And how do you overcome them?

For us I think the most difficult part is definitely the trial and error part, especially when we are dealing with a new production house. Whenever we produce samples for the first time at new production houses, we will either get a good or bad end result. If it’s good, then we can proceed in producing the particular apparel in a larger quantity. However, if it turns out otherwise, we will have to search again for other production houses which will take up a lot of time. The only way to overcome this issue is to allow the production house to produce a few samples first so that you can know the capabilities of that production team and by then you can decide to proceed or scout around for better ones.

IDOtshirtImage Source: IDOtshirt

When running a business like yours, suppliers are an important cog in the entire operations. How did you effectively source for one that was able to work for you?

We first look around for the best suppliers in the country and we will visit their production house. Once we determine that they are using the latest technology, we ask them to send samples to us.  After gathering all the samples, we quickly decide on a few that has the best materials that we want and contact them. We will then compare prices and by then we could figure out which ones are those that are within our production budget. This process takes around two months especially if it is out of the Klang Valley.

 

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