Serving customers a “whole notch better!” Luke Chong has a ‘sizzling hot’ retail business based in Singapore.
What’s your story?
During my first year stint in NUS Overseas Colleges, Stockholm, I travelled extensively throughout Europe and came across many innovative and creative products. To me, back in 2008, the gifts segment in the retail scene lacked variety, with run-of-the-mill shops dotting the city-state. I wanted to offer Singaporeans something different, bringing the best picks from the world to them. TotallyHotStuff™ was thus conceived. I started with a simple e-commerce site as a marketing platform for various local and international creative brands. Rejections were initially common, from knocking on vendors’ doors to emailing many of them, just to source the best products for the business. Eventually I opened the first TotallyHotStuff™ physical retail store in 2009, and the business has since grown to six outlets to date.
What excites you most about your industry?
I love to travel as it widens my perspectives. The opportunity to always travel and explore new and well-designed gifts and meet like-minded business and brand owners always keeps me passionate about the gifts industry.
What’s your connection to Asia?
A good range of brands we distribute and retail are brands from the Asian region, such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. Many strategic ties and business partnerships have been forged with various Asian counterparts over the years.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong. The bilingualism, eye for detail in quality of products and packaging, the bustling vibe of the city, great food and unique shopping finds, make my business travels to Hong Kong always insightful and rewarding. It’s a pleasure to work with many Hong Kongers I’ve known through my business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Whatever you do, do it with a passion and your heart and you’ll see the difference. From taking effort and care in the selection and design of products, to visual merchandizing and service to customers, it’s easy to determine whether there’s true passion that emanates through the business.
Who inspires you?
Our customers. Every compliment from them about our store and products motivate and spur us to serve them a whole notch better!
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Well, I learnt that what we fear most is often exactly the thing we should do to turn our dreams into reality! How often will we spend effort and time on what we enjoy and procrastinating on things that we feel less comfortable doing? Surprisingly there’s actually something called, ‘creative procrastination!’ It means consciously choosing which activities you can postpone or skip. Most people postpone their most important tasks but efficient people deliberately procrastinate for less valuable activities like watching TV.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Maya Angelou – I’ve learned that, ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Spending more time to manage the relationships with our customers and suppliers, rather than running a transactional business is what I should have dedicated more time on.
How do you unwind?
How else better to unwind than stepping out of our humble city-state and explore the vast, exciting world out there!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The idyllic parts of Indonesia. Good service, good food and affordable spas and massages. What more could you ask for?
Everyone in business should read this book:
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This book brilliantly rounds up surprisingly simple yet compelling truths behind extraordinary results. Everyone in business should be able to relate well to this book. I seriously believe putting into action advice from this book could almost quite quickly be a game changing milestone for anyone.
Shameless plug for your business:
Aha, I think we’re still sizzling ‘H*t’ after a good many years!
How can people connect with you?
Sure, simply drop me a mail at [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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