Luxury goods without the luxury markup – that was the dream that led Roman to resign from his job and start up his own company, Linjer, with his partner Jennifer. Linjer works with the same factories as top luxury brands to produce high-quality leather goods, but cuts out marketing costs by selling directly to customers online.
Roman decided to use crowdfunding for his business for several reasons: crowdfunding would enable them to maintain control of the venture without taking investors on board; also offered opportunity to raise cash for the first purchase order; and enabled them to find out what colors and styles would sell best before placing the order with the factory. Linjer became one of the first HKUST alumni startups in Hong Kong to make use of crowdfunding, successfully raising US $144,000 on Indiegogo in 2014. Their second campaign, launched on Kickstarter in 2015, raised over US $350,000 in just over one month.
However it was a long and arduous journey to success. Roman and Jennifer spent several years sourcing materials, finding a supplier, building a potential client base, developing their brand and designing their collection. One of the biggest challenges the pair encountered was finding a manufacturer who was willing to work with Linjer’s production quantity, which was much smaller than those of the major brands they worked with. Many trade fairs around the world and endless cold-calls later, the pair was finally able to work out an agreement with a manufacturer and take another step towards realizing their dream.
Prior to starting his own company, Roman was the pioneering staff hired by Rocket Internet to expand Zalora in Hong Kong – an experience which gave him much of the know-how and expertise to run his own online business. From being the first and only employee in an office with a broken toilet, Roman quickly worked his way to become Director and Co-Head of Zalora Hong Kong, and later the Managing Director of Lazada, another eCommerce company owned by Rocket Internet.
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