Iyia Liu has a pretty impressive business resume! She’s the owner of two hugely successful e-commerce businesses, Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness and is launching two new businesses in 2017. Iyia says she's been buying and selling her entire life but she found huge success when she noticed a gap in the market and began importing the now massively popular waist trainers to New Zealand and Australia. As part of her marketing, she paid Kylie Jenner to endorse the product on her Instagram and the post received 1.5m likes with Waist Trainer going on to turn over NZ $3.5m within the first year! Iyia is a true Millennial entrepreneur, aside from being a business owner she also runs the Facebook group 'Girls in Business', a community where millennial girls can bounce ideas, ask questions and be inspired by other amazing business women, it's only been going for a few weeks and already the group has more than 12,000 members. Iyia talks to Livelihood about business success, the challenges and where her entrepreneurial spirit comes from…
How do you make a Living?
Iyia Liu: Through my business earnings from my e-commerce businesses.
What is your background in business?
IL: I studied Business (majoring in Marketing and Management) at Uni. I launched my very first business, an online clothing store, the month after I graduated in September 2014 but this didn’t do well and I shut it down after five months. At the same time in April 2015, Waist Trainer was picking up so I shifted all my focus to that full time. I began planning Luxe Fitness in August of 2015 and launched that almost a year later in May/June of 2016. Prior to that, I just worked part time in retail and some cafes.
Where did your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
IL: I’ve been buying and selling products from a young age, finding things online and re-selling on Trade Me. The odd thing of course is that it was never an actual business until after I graduated from Uni. I think it’s stemmed mostly from working for other people and finding out that I really hate being told what to do, especially if one of my ideas is shut down!
How did you come up with ideas for your businesses?
IL: For Waist Trainer, I actually bought one from a US website first and really loved it. It was great for my back pain and posture. I thought since I liked it, other girls like me would like one too and they weren’t big in Australasia yet. I wasn’t the first in NZ, however I was able to become the largest in Australasia through pushing hard at marketing. For Luxe Fitness, I noticed a trend in health and fitness on social media. There weren't many supplements that were targeting the every day girl, rather only fitness professionals and athletes. Because New Zealand tends to be a little behind, a good way to find a business idea is searching overseas and also thinking about pain points. Is there anything in your life that could be improved or would make your life easier? Use that to drive your business.
You have a large following on social media, how important have certain platforms been?
IL: Social media has been crucial to our success. Instagram is really great for establishing brand awareness and getting in front of people and Facebook ads are really great for reinforcing brand awareness by reminding people over and over again. They say it takes up to seven times of exposure to a new brand before a new customer makes a purchase so don’t get disheartened if your promotions aren’t rolling in the sales immediately - it takes time to build trust.
What is the best part about owning your own business?
IL: The best part is the flexibility. I’ve still been able to travel all over the world over the past two years while I’ve run the business because I have a great team. I also love the challenge of growth! I find it so fun creating something and trying different techniques to make it grow.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced along the way?
IL: We face new challenges all the time. Things getting stuck at customs, running out of stock, sale periods where we have thousands of unprinted orders stacked up. The trick is quickly solving the problem, and moving forwards.
What have been three of the biggest factors int the success of your business?
IL: 1) Strong Branding - creating a brand that people love.
2) Lots of marketing.
3) A great team. We all work together to create new products, come up with new ideas and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Why do you think your products resonate with other millennials?
IL: I think its a few things combined. Definitely the products themselves are quite ‘in’ or in demand. The branding, we tried to make it appealing to other millennials and we pick girls who our followers can relate to and follow to promote our brand.
How involved are you in the development of your products? What is the process?
IL: We think of what else would go well with existing products, to add to the range and increase the average order size (cross-sell). There should never be one person making decisions, as everyone can be wrong at times and other people may see things that you may not so I make sure that our whole team has input on flavours, colours, packaging, new products etc.
What is the ultimate goal for both businesses?
IL: Growth! However, I am now focusing on launching two other businesses this year. The first, which I will launch in late June and incorporates my personal brand, will focus on selling online courses that will be available on www.iyialiu.com and teach other people how to start, run and grow their own business, as well as how to use social media marketing to grow a business. The second will be another e-commerce business, it will replicate the same business model as Waist Trainer and Luxe Fitness and I am hoping to launch by the end of the year..
What is the vision for the Girls in Business Facebook community?
IL: The group was only created a few weeks ago and it's already grown to over 12,000 members. My vision was to create a place where entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs can share ideas, help answer each others business questions and connect. I get emails and Facebook messages every single day from people asking for advice so I thought why not give out general business tips and advice in the group on a regular basis. I have asked Gretta Rose Van Riel, who is the 27 year old founder of The Fifth Watches, SkinnyMe Tea and a few other large international e-commerce brands to help run it with me and provide the users with value too. We will also start doing meet ups shortly which I am currently planning.
What other female, millennial entrepreneurs do you admire?
IL: At the moment, I really admire Gretta (above), her businesses are a lot like mine, but bigger - however we started at the same place. I hope to keep building more businesses and grow my personal brand.