Interview with Tina Wong

With a degree in Computer Information Systems and 10+ years in the Information Technology industry, Tina Wong sounds like the most unlikely candidate one would think of to start her own shoe line. Although an IT geek by trade, fashion and beauty is something she has always been interested in. She even attended FIDM for a couple semesters after high school, but the industry is cut throat and somewhere along the way fashion took a back seat to a career in technology that would guarantee a stable income. BellaSole Shoes was started as a hobby, the concept of a foldable shoe for people to wear after clubbing seemed like fun. But this hobby of hers has turned into a real business. Aside from working her full-time job in IT, Tina is responsible for all of BellaSole Shoes operations from research and design to sales and marketing, and most importantly consumer and client support.

When did you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

After working in a field that I have never felt passionate about for the last 10+ years, I decided the only way I was ever going to have the flexibility to do what I want, when I want, the way I want, would be for me to start my own business and be my own boss.

How did you know your business idea was the right idea?

Fashion and style aside, BellaSole’s folding flats are COMMON SENSE. Every woman who wears stiletto shoes is going to have sore feet at the end of the day. That’s just physics, and there’s no way around it. Women have come up to me at every showcase I’ve done, telling me they thought about a product similar to ours at one point in their life, but just didn’t pursue the idea any further.

What was the most difficult part in getting started?

The most difficult part in getting started is finding the right resources to help make your vision come to life. I’ve worked in the IT field for 10+ years, and made many contacts there, but barely knew anybody in the fashion apparel/merchandising industry. So here I was, with a bunch of sketches of this shoe I have conjured up in my mind, and didn’t know how to make it into something wearable. I spent hours searching design websites and forums to find out how shoes are designed and manufactured, and what resources were out there to help facilitate each process. It was like going to school all over again.

What is the top skill (or skills) needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Be confident in yourself and your brand. If you aren’t confident about yourself and your product, most likely you won’t be able to convince others to do the same.

Don’t be afraid of failure, because there will be roadblocks and not so successful outcomes. You just gotta work through it, learn from it, and move on.

What motivates you and/or keeps you motivated?

My motivation comes from knowing that I have a great product that is unique from my competitors. From there, I draw motivation from my family. My father was a very successful business man in Vietnam, he started his own lumber mill. That was all lost during the Vietnam war, and the communists took it all away. Our family was forced to start over in the US, but with hard work and determination, our family was able to overcome these hardships and once again find success.

What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

The stakes are higher when you are an entrepreneur, because the success or failure of your company falls on you. When you work for somebody else, you are guaranteed a paycheck for showing up, whether you do a good job or not. When you own your own business, you got to bring you A-game every day, and the pay off might not be immediate so you just got to keep doing it and be patient.

What has been one of your failures, and what have you learned from it?

I think the biggest failure, if I can even call it that is not doing this sooner. I’ve had the idea for a couple years now, and I would always talk about it, but nothing ever came out of it.

Henry Ford once said that "A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one." What are your thoughts on that quote?

Have you ever watched infomercials late at night? I think a few of those products can be applicable to that quote.

Walt Disney once said that "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." What are your thoughts on that quote?

Working in corporate America, my days were filled with meeting after meeting on projects that always took way too long to complete because we spent most of our time talking about what we wanted to do, instead of actually doing it. I never feel the need to talk just to pontificate. The proof of my skills is in my work and my contributions to the company and team. I learned this lesson with BellaSole. I talked about BellaSole for a good 6 months to a year before I started the ball rolling. I tinkered with the idea, and just kind of let it marinate and lost some valuable time and market share because of that.

Zig Ziglar once said "If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner." What are your thoughts on that quote?

It’s all about confidence. As I mentioned earlier, if you are not confident in yourself or your business, it’s going to be a hard sell to others to believe in you too.

What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?

Right now, I am a traveling shoe salesman. I do tradeshows and participate as a vendor in events that I know will draw consumers in my demographic to raise brand awareness. The strategy behind this is to garner enough interest and brand recognition. Being out there, and accessible to the consumers is so important to build that relationship with your potential clients.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Don’t let people push you around. When you are a newbie starting your first company, people will try to take advantage of you if they think you are green. Act like you been in business for years and own it!

Company Description:

BellaSole Shoes offers a stylish line of super cute, foldable ballet flats for the fashionista on the go. You will find BellaSole folding flats in the season’s hottest colors and prints that will go with any outfit with some added flare. Everything you need for a night out, all in a sleek package. Although originally designed for the party girl in stilettos, the functionality of BellaSole flats are also great for metro commuters, airplane travel and even comfy shoes to wear around the office during the work day.



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