The Moneymaker: Viola Tan, 31, co-founder of online fast fashion retailer Love, Bonito (www.lovebonito.com).
Home is: A condo in the East, where the swinging bachelorette lives alone.
Her ride: A one-year-old Mercedes-Benz C180 Coupe.
What she earns: “On a scale of one to 10, I’m a 7. A little discontent spurs me to work harder, especially as an entrepreneur with a long way to go. I was a teacher before, and if I were still doing that, I think I might be a 5.5, in terms of salary.”
8 DAYS: You set up Love, Bonito with your sister Velda and good friend, Rachel. What are the biggest lessons you learned about working with friends and family?
VIOLA TAN: Velda is still a silent partner in the company — she’s a shareholder but isn’t an active director. We parted ways amicably early last year. As the company evolved, she realised that she had her own vision. Now, she’s helping her husband with [lobster roll restaurant] Pince & Pints. It can definitely be tricky [working with friends and family] and we’ve had our fair share of quarrels, tears, disagreements and friction. But the bond we had from the start is what kept us together. At the end of the day, we know that whatever we say in a meeting — good or bad — is for the good of the company, and not personal attacks. Outside of work, we’re ultimately sisters and friends.
What are some money lessons your parents taught you?
My parents brought us up to be very prudent. They wouldn’t give us money just like that — if we wanted something, we had to earn it. I stopped taking an allowance in junior college. I gave tuition and piano lessons and earned about $700 a month. We weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths, contrary to what some people believe. My dad is 60 and is a taxi driver and my mum is 58 and is a bank officer. They are still working, but it’s just to keep themselves occupied as we’re already supporting them. [My sisters and I] wanted them to keep their work lives as stress-free as possible.
What was the last thing you bought your parents?
They’re very practical, so I usually give them ang pows. Even then, I don’t mean physical ang pows — I transfer the money to them via iBanking! If they go on holiday, I’ll usually sponsor the trip or give them some spending money too.
What kind of an online shopper are you?
I can be impulsive. I take for granted that every site takes pride in [giving consistent] sizing. I know I’m a standard UK size 8, so I don’t take my measurements [to compare with the site’s measurements of a piece of clothing]. If it’s available in UK 8, I’ll just buy it. There’ve been a couple of times when the fit isn’t right, but most international brands have good sizing.
As an owner of a fashion company and with 33,600 followers on Instagram, does dressing up feel like a duty?
It’s not a chore. I’m in Love, Bonito 80 per cent of the time. But I don’t wear it just ’cos I feel I need to, but because I like it. Rachel and I have an unofficial tagline – we must want to wear it before we will sell it. Anyway, what better way to advertise your own brand than to wear it? When we post OOTDs featuring stuff from our own label, we notice that the items do move faster. The unique part of the business is that Rachel and I are very much still our own brand ambassadors.
How much of your salary is spent on shopping then?
About 10 per cent. I don’t actively shop with other brands. If you’re talking about bags, I don’t buy them every other month. It’s a one-time splurge — for example, I’ll buy myself a bag as a birthday treat. I shop online most of the time; I hardly step into malls anymore. I usually shop at bigger online stores like Net-A-Porter and Asos. Recently, I’ve taken to some of the up-and-coming Australian designers too.
This story originally appeared in 8Days Magazine.
Text by Jasmine Teo