Chapter 1. The Making of Soy & Spice Lingerie

Mary Liu, Founder, Soy & Spice, Mum, yellow & green dress, Chinese girl

I’ve always loved documenting my plans and process. Reflecting back on it every once in a while allows me to see how much I’ve grown and how I’ve been executing my plans.

  

So, in this series, I will be documenting each and every step of how I started this e-commerce store from scratch. 

  

As a starter, you should all be (very) aware that although I’ve spent the past 10 years of my career in the startup and entrepreneurial space, I am completely new to the e-commerce game. I know, I am a latecomer, but it’s better to come in now than never, right?

  

I’m not going to lie, coming into this, I was scared, but the excitement of learning a completely different sphere of entrepreneurship and the challenge was way too tempting. 

  

Before we go into how we launched this store, I want to take you right back to the very beginning of my idea generation process, the 'why' I decided to make this leap of faith and share with you a part of the process that's often overlooked.

  

I was working full time as an Innovation Program Manager in a huge corporation before I decided to trust my gut and pursue my entrepreneurial journey for the 3rd time. I started my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 19, where I co-founded a charity, Msquared with my best mate in uni. When I moved to Sydney from Adelaide at the age of 21 to finish my bachelors in Psychology, I started another business, Auree, which was aimed at helping international students find the right work experience. After graduating, I worked on Auree for around 2 years full time and then spent 4 years at UNSW Founders, which is the startup hub at the University of New South Wales. While there, I was mentoring the student led startups that came through our doors. Soon, I realised that the number of male students that came through our doors was far greater than the number of female students, on top of that, the number of Asian female students was even lesser. So, under the wings of my then manager, Joshua Flannery, I decided to create a program to tackle this exact problem and named it New Wave Founders. The program consists of a 2 week long incubator program where we invited mentors and speakers to come and join a group of 30 female students in hope to further sparkle their interest in entrepreneurship and provide them with a platform to continue their own journeys post program.

  

I have a lot to thank UNSW Founders, in particular, it was there that I found what I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life working on. To encourage women with confidence and to push their boundaries, especially women of colour. 

  

As someone who is always striving to push their own boundaries, I left UNSW Founders after 4 amazing years. I then went and managed a startup co-working space to further expand my networks and then headed into the big corporate world to see for myself, whether or not I belonged there. It was always something lurking in the back of my mind, how is working for a big corporate? I had to find out for myself and as you can see, I’m here writing this article, meaning that I don’t belong there. All this happened within the span of less than 6 months (I know, I’m tad little crazy) and throughout each move, I was dying to light the fire back up in my heart and get back into the game that I love, the game of entrepreneurship. 

  

During my last month or two working full time, I started to explore what options existed for me to be able to support my daily expenses while starting another business. I had a mortgage to pay and a wedding to plan, so there was a lot of commitment. Some may say it was a really bad and really stupid time to quit. 


I’ve always been a risk-taker. Growing up in a single parent Chinese family, where the majority of my immediate relatives are either teachers or work in the government, this was not a trait that was looked upon. As many of you can also hopefully relate, Asian families can sometimes be very critical on aspects of their children's lives. I’ve always been quite petite and at every family and friends gathering, at least one of the aunties or uncles would comment on my weight, followed by shoving a mountain of food onto my plate asking me to eat more. On the other end of the spectrum, I know friends who grew up hearing their parents telling them to eat less. As you can imagine, this can be a toll on the child’s self-esteem and affect their perspectives on their own body image. I think because of my experiences, I’ve always been a strong advocate for positive body image. I wrote an article on the interviews I had with some truly beautiful women on the topic of Asian standards of beauty.

  

Ops, sorry we went off tracks a little. OK. Let’s bring our minds back to the last few months of me working full time. One day, while scrolling through LinkedIn, I noticed a missed message I had gotten from a lecturer, Dr Siran Zhang, I used to work with when I was still at UNSW Founders. The message asked if I was interested in tutoring for one of her undergraduate classes. A light bulb lit up in my head, so I immediately messaged her back. This part-time role would be absolutely perfect to compliment me starting another business. However, the message was sent around a month ago and she had already filled that role for the upcoming school term but they would be looking for additional tutors the term after. When I heard this news, I had already made up my mind on quitting but because there was nothing locked in right there and then, I hesitated.

  

I hesitated for about 3 days (I know, hesitating for 3 days doesn’t really count as hesitating. Shush). I looked at my savings account and did a simple calculation and realised without any income, I can last for around 6 months. At this stage, I was quite miserable going into work. I felt like a robot, sitting at my desk, staring at a computer, day in day out. I wanted to wake up with a purpose and feel excited about working. So, one morning, I decided to make the call. I pulled my manager into a room and broke the news to her. Seeing as I was still on probation, I left the company the following day. Walking out of that office for the last time, felt amazing but at the same time, I was scared shitless. Looking back though, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although I was surviving purely on what little savings I had, I was happy. I was and still am so excited waking up every day and can’t wait to start working. I think, that’s a really rare thing to happen in this day and age.

  

Lingerie is something that I’ve always loved but I consistently struggled to find pieces that fit me well and without it fitting well, I don’t feel comfortable nor confident. But every once in a blue moon, I do find a piece that does fit well and holy moly, do I feel an immediate confidence boost and feel like I can take on the world.  

  

Over the past few years, I’ve tried having conversations with some of my close girlfriends about this topic and while I was on the lookout to find a buddy to go lingerie shopping with, I’ve realised that hardly any of them wear it, they feel like it's outside of their comfort zones. Perhaps as faith might have it, during this exact period when I was brainstorming ideas, I was looking at creating a specific line of bralettes (because I adore them and think every woman should have a whole collection of them), it just clicked in my head that if I could create a line of lingerie with the brand message of empowering women with confidence, to love themselves for who they are and to push their boundaries and try things outside of their comfort zones, whether that’s trying lingerie for the first time, or putting their hand up for a new project at work, or even trying something that’s completely outside of their comfort zone, like entrepreneurship for example, it would be my dream come true. 

    

Apart from finding the love of my life, I never really understood when people say that you will know when you’ve found the thing you’ve always been looking for until that day. That was my moment, I found the thing I’m supposed to be dedicating my life to, I was born to do this. 

     

In our next chapter for this series, I will take you through how I came up with the name Soy & Spice Lingerie (a great topic that at least one person will ask me at any party) and how I started to survey and interview women about our concept. Stay tuned.

 

Note From The Author:

Hey! :) I hope you enjoyed reading about why I started Soy & Spice Lingerie. I always find so much joy in learning about other's motives on why they decide to do things the way they have. Hopefully, by reading this, you've gotten a little snippet of my life and understand why some people call me crazy.

Mary

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