Meet Karen, 1/2 founders of LEZÉ the Label, a sustainable, Vancouver-based brand that is set out to provide anti-wrinkle garments that feel like wearing pyjamas all day long! From raising $250,000 via Kickstarter to being featured on Forbes, read on to learn more about how Karen got started with her journey and her biggest tip to those just starting out.
What is your story?
I was born in Hong Kong and grew up in East Vancouver to parents who gave me the regular spiel of a Chinese immigrant — “Get into university, get a good job and save up for retirement.” I studied Communications (because honestly, that was the easiest faculty to get into) and navigated the world of restaurants, bars and real estate development. But I found myself ho-humming at work. I knew that I wanted to work for a company that helps others and I wanted to be creative, so I tried looking for jobs with non-profit organizations but I didn’t have the experience.
So, after reading one chapter of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, I quit my job and started my first business in wedding proposal planning in 2015. I never had the desire to start a business. I was (still am) bad at math and didn’t study Business. But my ego kept me going because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Three years later and two business projects later, LEZE was born.
What inspired you to start your business?
It started with a (rude) phone call. Tanya called me, totally pumped, and was like, “I’ve been inspired by the fact you’re such a hobo.”
First off, she wasn’t wrong. I was known among my friends to wear PJ’s in public — and not the silky, fashionable kind, but like cotton, Superman ones. Tanya and I had just exited a start-up project that required us to wear a ton of hats, so she suggested, “Why don’t we create a clothing line that’s comfortable, presentable and sustainable for our hectic lifestyles?”
At first, I was apprehensive to the idea. Neither of us had fashion design or retail experience. I didn’t even see myself as a stylish person. But after talking through it, it wasn’t about fashion but creating comfortable living through recycled garments as our vehicle.
So we launched our first product on Kickstarter to validate the idea. After crowdfunding $250,000 USD, we realized that other people wanted to wear pajamas in public, too!
What is your mission with your platform?
Motivate all women to rebel against the traditional norms of workwear and find freedom no matter where they are in their career journeys.
What does a typical day look like?
It usually starts around 8:30AM with my phone off until 10AM. During this time, I try to have quiet time, pray and listen to music to get grounded. Then I work out and dedicate each day to a ‘category’, such as creative, meetings, finances, etc. Next, I allocate 1-1.5 hour time blocks for each task. I usually have to cap it after 4 tasks, or I stop being productive. Then I wind down by watching a silly sitcom like 90 Day Fiancé or Brooklyn 99.
Favourite part of your job?
Relating to women. I get the most joy reading funny comments and messages from our community. It’s like I’m chatting with friends and we’re bonding/complaining over similar work-related nuances. We can be in different walks of life, but I find that there’s always something that we have something in common.
Most challenging part about running your own business?
Being content exactly where I am. I’m an Enneagram #3 and can run myself to the ground just for the sake of being busy. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty details — the numbers, the lost shipments, the malfunctioning website — that my purpose can take the backseat at times. So, I have to set constant reminders to recalibrate my vision.
If you weren’t running your business, what would you be doing?
Napping :) Just kidding. At the moment, I can’t see myself doing anything but this. But if I got to choose a dream job, I’d be a food critic so I can get paid to eat!
What has been one of the most rewarding experiences being in your line of work so far?
I get to wear PJs to work. That’s probably one of my proudest accomplishments.
Best piece of advice to others that are wanting to start their own business?
Do your research — talk to as many people as you know that might be in your demographic. Get clear on your why. Set mini goals to hit and be prepared mentally to be frugal. I think there’s a lot of glamour to starting a business, but you have to be ready financially. Even though I quit my job on a whim, I was still living at home and that’s how I was able to make my situation work personally.
Life motto you live by?
Everything that you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.
What’s next for you and your business?!
This year, we’re working on expanding our size range, creating more original content and exploring virtual fitting experiences. Oh, and recycle 16,940lbs of abandoned fishing nets. LET’S GO!!!!
Loved hearing from Karen and want to learn more? Check out their site and use this exclusive code for 15% off: MALA15 :)