When launching their lingerie company, Ampere, in 2012, co-founders Jiabei Chen and Yun Ah Lee wanted to change the way women think about and shop for intimate apparel. Now, as they look ahead at the second anniversary of the company, the fashion entrepreneurs are reflecting on some of major lessons they've learned along the way. They responded to my questions via email:
Q: What's the upcoming holiday season mean for your business? I imagine this is a busy time of year for you.
Ampere co-founders: Although people typically associate lingerie with Valentine's Day, we've definitely seen a trend towards gifting lingerie during the holidays. We also see a lot of women who are shopping for the perfect piece to go under a new holiday outfit or New Year's Eve dress.
The number one question we are asked when it comes to gifting lingerie is what size to order. With our Home Try-on program, you don't need to know the recipient's exact size (just an approximation). Order your best guess and we'll send multiple sizes for her to try on. Although we request our customers to return their unwanted sister sizes within 10 days, we're very flexible during the holidays as we know everyone wants to plan ahead but keep their gifts a surprise until the day of.
Q: Isn't lingerie something that's traditionally difficult to buy online, particularly for men who may not know all of the ins and outs?
Ampere co-founders: Yes, lingerie is traditionally very difficult to buy online. You never know how a particular piece will fit until you try it on in person. This can be especially daunting for men since they aren't usually as familiar with the ins and outs of lingerie. We actually created this handy "Gentlemen's Guide to Buying Lingerie." So, if you're a guy who wants to treat a special someone but feeling overwhelmed, we'd recommend you check it out!
Q: But then is lingerie something that only women in relationships are interested in buying?
Ampere co-founders: Absolutely not! Wearing beautiful yet comfortable lingerie changes your entire outlook no matter what your relationship status is. It helps you look better and feel better. Whether you're trying to close a big deal or going on a big date, wearing gorgeous lingerie is key!
Q: What business lessons have you gleaned from your prior lives in the corporate world?
Ampere co-founders: Jiabei was a corporate lawyer and Yun Ah was an investment banker before they started Ampere. In addition to being able to draft our own contracts and build our own financial models, we learned so much from our corporate jobs. The analytical, organizational and presentation skills we learned at our old jobs apply to nearly everything we do at Ampere. We did have to learn the ropes of the fashion industry from the ground up which was a challenging yet fun process.
Q: I noted that your company wasn't only founded by women, it seems to be run by women. Is there a competitive advantage you gain from having women at the steering wheel?
Ampere co-founders: It's not necessarily a competitive advantage to having women at the steering wheel, rather, it's evidence not only that times are changing but times have changed. The women on the Ampere team are incredibly bright, ambitious and courageous. If we hire a man, we would expect the same from him. There's still a long way to go in terms of gender equality in entrepreneurship, but we're optimistic that more and more women will be starting their own successful businesses in the future. We hope to be an inspiration to these women just as the women before us paved the path when it was much more difficult.