Being in the fashion industry, Sarah saw a need for people to offload their unwanted clothes, she launched HULA an online marketplace for pre-owned designer womenswear.
What’s your story?
I’ve been in the fashion industry most of my working life, surrounded by the most beautiful things, beautiful people, VIP parties – until one day I noticed how much waste the industry was creating from manufacturing right through to the shop floor. My friends and colleagues (where I worked at Lane Crawford) complained of having a cluttered wardrobe, but didnt know where to offload their unwanted product – especially seeing as many still had tags or were hardly worn, yet they still wanted to buy new items. So I left Lane Crawford to launch www.thehula.com, a resale platform for designer womenswear, to give these amazing creatures a new life.
What excites you most about your industry?
Being in a relatively new space (in Asia), helping to re-educate people about the benefits of buying pre-owned and seeing it start to popularise. On down days, it helps to know that we are helping the environment, as sadly the production of fashion and textiles waste is the second largest pollution worldwide.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in the UK, but both my parents were from indigenous Hong Kong villages. I had only ever visited Hong Kong twice, so when I was offered a job at Lane Crawford I jumped to the chance. I never really expected to spend 12 years here. Now Hong Kong is my home, I am addicted to Asian food (I forced myself to eat ‘spicy’ when I arrived), I love being able to travel to so many different neighbouring countries and cultures so quickly, the hot weather suits my skin and I love living here.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is a great place to start your Asia-empire! As the business mecca of Asia as it is English-speaking, easy to navigate around the system and a great place to network. It is such an exciting, energetic place where anything feels possible. To be able to springboard your way across to other parts of Asia is easy from here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Make mistakes and make them fast! Nowadays, when I make a mistake I try not to beat myself up over it, I try to see what positive lessons I can pull and move on. One of the biggest lessons I learnt from being an entrepreneur is to be able to walk away from negative feelings, it’s tough – but you will have less white hair afterwards!
Who inspires you?
Elon Musk, his vision for the future and how he is helping to carve it – against all odds.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
There is now a company called Entrupy that has created an App to help determine if a luxury bag is authentic or not. This will be a game-changer and will hopefully stop the illicit production of fake goods one day.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Too many things! But If I had to pick one, it would be to start the business with an amazing tech partner (I am still looking by the way….!)
How do you unwind?
Apart from short breaks outside of HK and yoga, it’s the simple (and rare) things in life like chillin’ on the sofa with my hubby, to binge-watch a good series with a decent bottle of red.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! It only takes 1.5 hours from HK and is the perfect getaway for a long weekend. We got married in Hanoi and we revisit almost every year to make sure we get our authentic phở bò soup noodle fix! I also love Bali, although it is touristy I could totally see myself living there, and Tokyo, for it’s food, energy, craft and quirks.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Before you start anything read ‘The Lean Start Up’ by Eric Ries
Shameless plug for your business:
HULA is a highly curated online marketplace for pre-owned designer womenswear, with pieces in mostly New or Hardly Worn conditions at up to 95% off retail. Sellers are by-invite-only ‘fashion industry insiders’, so you can shop the best edit and be authentic-assured. We also donate 5% of our net profits to partnered charities. HULA benefits the seller, the buyer, the environment and someone who needs our help!
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.