Ashley Lim is a Korean Australian entrepreneur who turned her shoe brand – ASHLEY LIM to success on Australian shores. Brought up in Seoul, Ashley worked as an architect in Australia before launching her footwear startup brand. Ashley used her architectural background to design stylish and comfortable shoes for women in Australia. Her shoe brand has been a huge success with some famous clientele. Now in 2020, the passionate entrepreneur has returned to her roots in Seoul, S. Korea, and is busy with her new brand, WICKED LOVER, an eco-friendly footwear line crafted from plant-based leather for both men and women. Ashley Lim’s company is also offering high quality limited edition leather shoes worth 100,000 won that are resistant to contamination and wrinkling, through crowd fundraising campaign on wadiz.kr.
She shared her story with koreatechdesk.com, editor James Jung about her passion for shoe designing and her future in Korea.
1. Please, tell us about your background and the journey as an entrepreneur?
Before establishing my unique line of luxury women’s shoes, I worked as a professional architect at several award-winning architecture firms. Working in a corporate environment, I must confess I always carried several pairs of shoes – from trainers and walking flats to office heels, and those pretty shoes that you want to wear for after-work events or special occasions but you know you can wear only for a few hours because they’re just as uncomfortable as they’re pretty. I always wondered why we women could not have it all – look fabulous and feel comfortable at the same time. That’s how my shoe brand came about – the quest for the season’s most stylish shoes that are so comfortable, they’re a pure joy to live in. With this mission, I founded Extraordinary Ordinary Day (EODstyle.com) in 2014 and rebranded it to ASHLEY LIM in 2018 in Sydney, Australia. In 2020, I am set to establish another brand – WICKED LOVER in Korea with a great emphasis on sustainability.
2. Tell us about Ashley Lim’s success in Australia.
Ashley Lim shoe brand had quite a success in Australia. We have over 100 shoe designs selling across 10 different collections from 2014 to 2019. Apart from general working women, we have many famous customers like Lucy Turnbull, Former Lord Mayor of Sydney, and the wife of former Prime Minister and Kate Mulvany, an Australian actor in Hollywood and screenwriter. We have been featured in top fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle, Grazia, Marie Claire multiple times in their Australian edition. As a designer, I also got featured in the ’10 Top Asian Fashion Designers’ by Habitus Magazine, 2018.
3. Why did you move your startup from Australia to Korea, and do you expect similar success here?
Having grown up in Seoul, I’ve always maintained a strong emotional and creative tie to East Asia. One of the reasons for moving to South Korea is my father’s health issues. Also, Ashley Lim shoes are crafted here in Seoul by some of the finest craftsmen, so I did not have to move the business’s manufacturing part. I wrapped up my stores in Australia and moved the business to online and office in Seoul. Fortunately, COVID-19 happened to post all that, and my business hasn’t been affected because of it. I am hoping that my new brand WICKED LOVER will see similar success in Korea.
4. What makes your product unique?
What makes ASHLEY LIM shoe brand unique is they are made to wear, which means they don’t really exist in warehouses for purchases, rather customized for each customer exclusively. As a former architect, I tapped into my love of structure and form to raise the stakes in style and comfort. I strive to create timeless classics that are elevated with future-thinking fashion. My designs are underpinned by an unwavering commitment to superior craftsmanship and finishes: hand-stitched uppers, high-grade ergonomic cushioning, premium leather, and fabric for maximum comfort. By leaning into my architectural background, I have been able to create shoes that provide that delicate balance between structure, form, and function. Our consumers expect a level of personalization, something unique, and with a story, and
that is what my product offers.
Now we are learning to create a product that is more sustainable and eco-friendly brand, as that is the demand of the current times. So it gives a unique feel of being responsible towards the environment even when wearing stylish shoes, and I’m excited about that.
5. Tell us about the product plan in 2020.
In 2020, we’ve been focusing on sourcing and working with sustainable, organic vegan leather, free of toxic chemicals, and I am super excited to launch our first eco-friendly collection that is good for humans, animals, and our Mother Earth. This collection is immaculately designed with a big emphasis on versatility and comfort.
While Ashley Lim shoes are designed for ambitious, busy women who want to stand tall every day in style and comfort, WICKED LOVER is designed for both men and women.
6. Can you talk about funding of the company and revenue model?
We did dabble in to crowdfunding for driving business growth initially through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. We got quite a good response. We introduced our WORKING GIRL collection exclusively for Indiegogo users. In Australia, we sold our collections in-store and currently we have transferred Ashley Lim to the online. We take orders online, even from international clients. Our revenue in 2018 was $ 0.2 million, and in 2019 it was $0.1 million because our focus was to shift our resources from Australia to Korea. We expect the company to grow to make $8 million in revenue in the next five years’ time.
7. What are the challenges you are facing in business, and how do you plan to overcome those?
Currently, we’re sourcing our eco-friendly plant-based leather from external suppliers; therefore, there’s a risk of having other footwear brands to use the same material. In response, we’re looking at developing our own material with a non-disclosure agreement in place in collaboration with our suppliers. Also, I believe our brand’s competitive edge really lies in our customer-centric designs and storytelling.
8. What, advise will you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders?
When I started my shoe business, I did it out of a pure passion for fashion design. However, I was not much aware of the manufacturing process and business planning, which I think I should have paid attention to. So my advice to young entrepreneurs is that do chalk out a precise business plan before you start any venture. It is important to understand how the business will pan out, where will the revenue be generated from, what will be the target market, etc. and update it concurrently as you move along the startup journey.
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