In this Prime Talk Podcast Sponsored by GETIDA – Kitty Lai - Founder of Me Brand - talks about the importance of brand identity for e-commerce sellers and also more information about her life's journey. #kittylai #ecommerce
About Kitty Lai of Me Brand -
Your brand is more than just a logo and a website, just imagine you are the star on your own stage. At ME BRAND we define and create your unique appearance so you can make an impact on your ideal audience.
Yoni Mazor 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of bank talk today I'm having a special guest. Today I'm having GT live. Kitty is the founder of MI brand, which is a leading branding and Design Company for E commerce sellers. So Kitty, welcome to the show.
Kitty Lai 0:19
Thank you for having me on the show, Yoni. It's been amazing. And I'm so excited to be here.
Yoni Mazor 0:24
Brilliant. So it's our pleasure to have you so today's story and the episode will be all about you the story of Kitty lie showed us everything. Who are you? Where are you from? Where did you grow up? How did you begin your professional career station to station until we get to where you are today, especially in the world of E-commerce? So without further ado, let's jump right into it.
Kitty Lai 0:43
Let's do it. Yeah, so as you can notice, I've got a very British accent. So that's kind of a giveaway. But yeah, so I grew up and I was born in England. So I grew up there and I I grew up in the south of England, so I was on the beach. Very beautiful place in Chester. Chester. Chester. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 1:08
I just feel that
Kitty Lai 1:10
It’s just as though it's at c h I c h e s t e are
Yoni Mazor 1:17
Pretty cool. Shortly, it's on the beach.
Kitty Lai 1:20
Yeah, it's not far from the beach. My, I grew up I was born in Worthing. So that's literally like on the beach, but she's just there was like about 20 minutes from there. So that's when the majority of my childhood grew up. I went to school there. And then I mean, this is where all my sort of passion and everything kicked in with the branding side of things.
Kitty Lai 1:39
So when I was 15 in the UK, we have a national insurance card. As soon as you get that you can go to work, you can start making some money. So my mom kicked me out. So let you put them find some money, make some you know, make some money. And then she introduced me to this packaging factory. Yeah, so it was for Estee Lauder, Clinique, and Aramis. And it was amazing. It was factory lines, these lines cut
Yoni Mazor 2:04
Back a little bit. So you're growing up in this small town on the shore, and your mother was interested in that factory but let me understand a little bit about the home environment, right? Your parents were an industry or they're involved with is there any relation to that a better chance?
Kitty Lai 2:15
No. Well, my mom and my dad had a Chinese restaurant in Worthing. And then when I was six, we moved to Georgia and certainly had a Chinese takeaway. So the catering business and my dad's mom and dad have always been in that my mom always was part-time. So I have a younger brother and an older sister. So she did the school runs and everything with us. And my Nan grew up with us as well. So we grew up talking. Grandmother, yes. Just random other we had a grandmother. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 2:42
I like the way
Kitty Lai 2:43
You call it. Yeah. So she brought this up. I call her Nan on that. But yeah, so I grew up speaking Chinese. So I didn't learn English until my sister went to school. And then she started coming home and started speaking English. And then I went to school and obviously,
Yoni Mazor 2:59
Let’s backtrack again. So So you grew up in Chinese now so your parents are from China, I assume. Then well, mainland, one dog
Kitty Lai 3:10
And well, they're mainly in Hong Kong. But my dad came over when he was very young, so he had a restaurant at age of 18
Yoni Mazor 3:18
Speaks Cantonese or Mandarin. Cantonese where did you grow up with Cantonese?
Kitty Lai 3:23
I grew up speaking Cantonese. Yeah, so I can speak fluently in Cantonese. So if I go to Hong Kong or cancel I can get by
Yoni Mazor 3:30
Beautiful. Okay, so they immigrated to the UK for business your mother was helping part-time and then you said that the more you were able to start working she got your job there at the packaging factory.
Kitty Lai 3:42
Yeah, yeah, that's right. So she was working part-time and then I went there and I loved it with my sister as well but I would get motion sickness because of the conveyor belts that go along Yeah, but we were packaging, lots of makeup and like the lip pencils, stickers, everything that makes a makeup brand like all the powders all the brushes that go in we would literally put them all together what line after line and in a product of the product and then just it boxed up people at the end of the line or box it up and ship it as well so I could see the whole process all the way through and I loved it. The best part was the staff shop because she can get the makeup so cheap we just like buy boxes and boxes of it.
Yoni Mazor 4:22
How's everybody like very pretty in the factory and all the employees all the team? Yeah, so
Kitty Lai 4:26
I was introduced to luxury brands and makeup brands very early on in my life. So you know, I loved all that. And obviously, I went through school and did my A levels. So that's high school. And then I decided to go into graphic design. So that's one of the things I wanted to do at university.
Kitty Lai 4:45
So I went off to study a course called brand communication. So that was split into illustration, graphic design, photography, and time-based media, which you will know as video. So it's an old-fashioned video. All the dark room was you know, dark and photography. So I need to film photography. So we'll go this
Yoni Mazor 5:05
Was already in Unit University
Kitty Lai 5:07
At unit Yeah.
Kitty Lai 5:08
Where'd you go? What were the words? That's cool.
Kitty Lai 5:10
It was good can Institute of Art and Design? So
Yoni Mazor 5:15
An institution of Art and Design you say? Yes, correct? Yeah. Where that Canada is the place okay?
Kitty Lai 5:23
Yeah, can is the garden of England. So it's a lovely place. I live in Surrey now but Kent is where I can there are free campuses, Canterbury made stones where I studied, and Rochester. So it's very sort of a lovely English, rural town as well. So I grew up there, I was like, what studied there, and then decided to specialize in graphic design. So I knew that is what I wanted to do.
Kitty Lai 5:47
And, I got into more of the packaging side of things. And through my time in university, I was introduced by my tutors to go to agencies, so actually practicing London agencies, and I loved it to do work experience, I'd still get paid a little bit.
Kitty Lai 6:05
And I was learning, in the field, making lots of cups of tea for everyone. But um, but they did give me a live project were quite a few live projects to do. And I remember one of them. I was still studying the unit so I was learning a lot. And they asked me to design a brand identity for this client. Their daughter had died from meningitis. And all they had left were handprints from the daughter, but they wanted to create a charity ball for meningitis to raise money for their foundation.
Kitty Lai 6:39
So they gave me that job to do, which was lovely. And what I did was create using the handprints because I saw they had her name, Jessica Robin. So that's what we're going to although she was she passed away about two years ago. Yeah. Yeah. So I use the handprints and got designed them. So there would be a girl's face inside that one of the handprints. So we commissioned an illustrator to do that.
Kitty Lai 7:04
And I chose all the fonts for the letterheads and the compliments lips, they created brochures, T-shirts, and everything. So it was really lovely to see, my designs get printed and used for this ball. And it was amazing. And I subsequently went back a lot of summers and Easter's as well, holidays, just to sort of go into and get experience, and everyone else was like going out drinking and stuff, you know, I'm like, I want to work. I just want to get into it. And I loved it.
Yoni Mazor 7:29
I assume that your passion and drive take you and carry you through, you know, the downtime during university.
Kitty Lai 7:35
That's right. So yeah, as soon as I came out of university, I had a good idea of what you know, agencies were so I went to a couple actually to get work experience, I just loved it. And it was just so different. And that's something you don't learn at university.
Kitty Lai 7:49
The tutors don't tell you what it is like to be in the real world, how you interact with people and communicate with people because you learn that skill, you know, you know, I was very shy at school as well, you know, I'm the shy girl and you know, I have, you know, a group of friends. But when you go out into the big wide world, you're not taught that and you have that something you have to learn. So as soon as that, yeah. So as soon as I graduated, I went to London. So that is the place if you wanting
Yoni Mazor 8:16
So now I want to kind of put a time stamp on it. Right. So when you graduated and started entering the business world, what year was that? Well,
Kitty Lai 8:24
It was 1997.
Yoni Mazor 8:27
Brilliant. So 1997, you graduate and you enter the business world, you have some experience, you know, during the summertime in the downtime, and okay to get your take us to the first question you had to write after a university? Yes.
Kitty Lai 8:40
First Nations. Yeah. So I went to London because that's the place if you want to find a job and design graphics, London, London is the place the capital of England. So went and looked for, and did quite a few interviews. And I just wanted to get into someone in London that would pay well, but I ended up in a small agency in Covent Garden. So that's literally in the right of the heart of London. And it was great because this was at the time when the in the UK internet was just about to come about. People were getting emails, and no one understood the world, you know, the World Wide Web at the time.
Kitty Lai 9:16
So it was sort of new and exciting. So we're talking about the late 90s. But you know, it was great. I was designing a lot of branding for corporate clients, working with investment banks as well doing their brand identities and photo shoots. And working with a senior designer.
Kitty Lai 9:33
I was very junior, so I didn't, I had to learn a lot. But it was good because it was a small agency. I could get very hands-on and learn a lot. And then I was only there for a year and a half because I felt I felt like I wasn't expanding my sort of my creativity enough. And I went to a party, a friend's party and they mentioned this brand, Ted Baker. And at the time it was mainly Menswear. It's a fashion brand and obviously, you might have heard of Ted Baker Yeah, they're international. So back then we didn't have stores in the US. But they were quite small. So I joined them in 1999. So we're talking for quite a long time.
Yoni Mazor 10:11
So roughly two years after graduating, you were at this agency, and you got some experience. You did some cool, you know, some banking, and some other companies, but in 1999, you hit into the fashion world with Tim Baker.
Kitty Lai 10:22
That's correct. And I just loved it. I heard about them. It was exciting. And they got me to do a project. So they had like, hundreds of
Kitty Lai 10:30
People. There. I was an employee of Ted Baker. I so I went there. As an agent or as a
Kitty Lai 10:36
Nurse, I left my other job to join Ted Baker's globe wanted in-house graphic designer. Yeah, so I wanted to work in-house for a big agency or in the fashion world. And about 200 300 applicants were dropping all their portfolios into the reception. I saw one of my friends from university, she had dropped her portfolio for I'm not going to get this chart, and she’s going to get over me. But you know, I shortlisted myself to four people, and they got Mr. Project. The day I did the project, my heating went, so it was freezing.
Kitty Lai 11:08
I was standing next to the stove, the cooker, and trying to warm my hands. And I was trying to cut these things. I was making an invitation. So the brief was to create an invitation for their wholesale trustees to come and view their new collections. So I was trying to sort of creating this thing, but my hands are so cool. But yeah, I got the job anyway. So yeah, I worked my way up the ranks in tech Baker. So from the junior designer, there were only four of us. So I and other designers, a senior designer, and the design manager. And I was with Tepic. For 10 years, I worked my way up the ranks. So I was managing the whole team, the by the time I
Yoni Mazor 11:49
Touch base a little bit on the history of Ted Baker, because you did a whole decade there. So typically as a person as a gentleman, or what's the story there? What's the narrative for Ted Baker?
Kitty Lai 11:57
Yeah, so that was quite interesting. Yeah, it's quite interesting, because the brand changed so much. And we've tried to find the brand narrative at the time. But it started as Ted Baker's fictional, he's not real. Because the owner, Ray Calvin, didn't want to stop if he felt he won't be his name. It'll be somebody. And it was a fictitious character. And we made this whole persona around Ted Baker. And for years, people thought they would always ask anything real. And it still goes on, people still ask me, if I would
Yoni Mazor 12:26
Assume Yeah, I'm like, what’s the story of Ted Baker, as you said, this is a gentleman that has, I guess, a passion for design and apparel. And you wanted to put it put in the market, it wasn't, it felt like it's a race, they didn't want to put his name on it to create this name. And then a lot of creativity and the team like, you know, the cure team you're involved with, to create a narrative where it's successful on a global level, it becomes a global brand. That's, yeah, it's quite a, you know, ambition and quite a quarter success story there.
Kitty Lai 12:55
Yeah, we'd love the idea that was ambiguous, like, Who is He? Is he real? And there are lots of questions. And back then, when they first started in 1988, is when the fact that brands established, it was through word of mouth, and they were doing lots of things like sort of trying to get noticed, you get that brand notice.
Kitty Lai 13:13
And I was told by one of the directors that, when they first launched, no one knew who they were, there was no Internet, often back then. But they take their shirts because they mainly had, they started as shut specialists, they took the shirts and put them into a department store. And then we just stand back and see who was picking out a shirt. People were taking them going to the counters, trying to pay for them to go into the tills, and it's like, we don't stop this friend. It was just being so cheeky, that they were
Yoni Mazor 13:40
they were there seeing who was doing it and taking notes, what's the profile of consumers that are attracted to these designs and try to try to buy them that was the idea there.
Kitty Lai 13:47
That was the idea of the society just being who's gone buy it whose
Yoni Mazor 13:50
Target Audience Yeah, and whether
Kitty Lai 13:52
It was whether people were going to buy them. So, people, were they were picking them out. They were trying to fight them. Obviously, after a while, the manager of the store realized someone was laughing. No, yeah, but I think in the old days, you could get away with it. And for that brand, there was a lot of word of mouth as well, you know, Baker this and you know, that's how they started as word of mouth someone will talk about it someone walked by it's like, Well, where is it? Where can I get a hold of it?
Kitty Lai 14:19
So you know, eventually, we you know, we, we grew the brand, globally and I was a part of that. So my role as a graphic designer was to work within the marketing and brand communications team. So that meant all the packaging, all the labelling all the swing tickets, for the brand, anything the logo, I would design. So all the marketing side the point of sale, they never advertised, for years and years, they've never advertised as a brand. So that was one of the things they didn't want to advertise and we were still getting sales and getting popular. And then I'd got involved in the store designs as well and the store graphics so like changing those will make some
Yoni Mazor 15:00
To work with bigger stores or the stores you sold to or both
Kitty Lai 15:02
Just the store the stores. So every store was unique to that particular place to the location they were at. So in the US
Yoni Mazor 15:13
The growth of Jamaica as a brand was mainly achieved by having its stores and selling its inventory or merchandise or by selling to other department stores.
Kitty Lai 15:23
And those both go Yeah, so they had wholesale as well. So people would wholesale there, they're in their boutique stores.
Yoni Mazor 15:32
The other the success of the store's fees, the success of the department store and vice versa, because they're exposed to the brand into the department or the department store, they'll come to the real store to get more variety, right or vice versa deceiving the stories in departments or so they pick it up as well.
Kitty Lai 15:45
They it was more successful in our stores. Because that's where you get the whole brand experience. And we will give away a lot of things with marketing giveaways as well. So yeah, I got very involved in that. And we had a lot of marketing window campaigns.
Kitty Lai 16:02
So a lot of things that have Baker was moving animated windows, and we do cheeky tongue-in-cheek windows as well. So well couple of moving things, Christmas, we'll have a lap dancing reindeers, you know, saying go the lap that, you know, there was sort of it was quite a cheeky brand to work with. And obviously,
Yoni Mazor 16:20
With that, also the ambiance of the design of the stores and everything around it or
Kitty Lai 16:24
So there was a store design team so that they will get that they will come up with the main concept with it Ted Baker himself, but I contact Ray covering himself. And Graphics will get involved if they need anything graphically like vinyl and things and door changing rooms’ sort of graphics. And, you know, so yeah, we'll get involved in that aspect as well. So yeah, there were lots of things going on.
Kitty Lai 16:48
And it's working internally with all the departments as well. So the wholesale will need like cookbooks to send off to the wholesaler's press, the press team will want press releases, and marketing will want you to know, you know, postcards and literature and things to give away. And we did look at books as well. So photo shoots were part of it as well. So yeah, it
Yoni Mazor 17:08
Seems like you're involved with the costumes. There's a robust activity for you. And one more question about the baker, then we'll move on to the next station. Yeah. But when you started, how many stores did they have? And when you left, how many stores are there I want to touch on the growth of the stores.
Kitty Lai 17:22
I can remember it a long, long while back, but I think when I joined there were less than 50 stores, there were about probably 3030 Odd stores, but there were also concessions as in department stores. So there must be about 20 3040 but I think by the time I left there must be about I don't know almost nearly 100 stores because we opened Asia, Australia, America, Europe as well. So there were just many more stores. You know, by the
Yoni Mazor 17:49
Time about 30 Plus outlets when he started and when he finished over 100 outlets around the world.
Kitty Lai 17:54
Yeah, yeah. So
Yoni Mazor 17:57
Yeah, very good. Okay, so in 2009 what’s your next move? What's your next step?
Kitty Lai 18:01
To fasten Nice. Yeah, at that point, I was made redundant, which was fine because I was ready to move on because when you work in fashion, it's spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring, and summer ultimate. You're doing the same campaigns over and over. So I was I wanted to sort of go somewhere completely new. I freelanced for a while for about to about a year and a half. I freelance. I was working with TK Maxx. So in us as TJ Maxx, TJ
Yoni Mazor 18:28
Maxx in the US what's it called new
Kitty Lai 18:29
K. TK Maxx,
Yoni Mazor 18:31
My one little change and Marshalls. TJ Maxx right. That's a company.
Kitty Lai 18:36
Yeah. It's from apart for TJ
Yoni Mazor 18:40
T Corporation. In the United States Marshals and also have I believe, I'm sorry, store. Home Goods.
Kitty Lai 18:48
I think we've got Home Sense I think it's also run by TK Maxx. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So we
Yoni Mazor 18:56
Give a twist on it.
Kitty Lai 18:57
Yeah, yeah. So I started freelancing for them as an agent. They were what they were looking for a graphic designer, they wanted me to redesign the whole store, come up with some concepts to redesign the flow and the experience of walking through the store, and what the signage would look like. So I went in doing that for them. And then they called me back to help them with lots of invitations or graphic design bits as well. So it's quite random things that I did for them. So it was mainly like a Christmas campaign base.
Kitty Lai 19:24
So TK Maxx in the UK had huge Christmas campaigns. So I'd work with them during the whole collateral. I'm helping another designer out as well. So that was I was probably there on and off for 10 months. And then I was again, freelancing for another brand and other retail brands and agencies. And then finally, we're getting there. My agent said, calf Kidston, have you heard of them? Okay, yeah, I have heard of them. They're very a female brand. It's homebred lots of home runs its polka dots. Lots of flowers.
Kitty Lai 19:58
Very English. Very British. For all I'd love to see you know, I'd love to hear more about it. So he's told me that they were looking for a packaging designer, or they wanted someone to help grow their graphic design team. There was only one designer within the marketing team, but they were on the growth path. And what I loved about that was that feels like Ted Baker when I joined it was 50 people in head office. I used to know everyone's extension numbers by the time I left were over 200 people in head office and you know, I love the idea of family, love the idea of growth with a new brand. So I joined them. So that was my last full-time job at calf Kidston. I was with them for six years.
Yoni Mazor 20:42
Although obviously, this calf was a calf
Kitty Lai 20:45
Kitson, and she is a real person. Yeah, yeah, calf Kidston.
Yoni Mazor 20:53
This is a lifestyle brand for women. Yeah, it's a
Kitty Lai 20:56
Lifestyle brand for women and kids as well. So because they've got kids wearing everything in the home, lots of homewares, stuff and clever bits of clothing.
Yoni Mazor 21:05
So the six years were from 2010 until 2016 ish. That's it. You got it. Got it. Very good. Okay. So six years take us to take a little bit of that journey. With
Kitty Lai 21:15
Caf Kidston Justin. Kid, Kid stone. Yeah. Oh, nice. Cool. Yeah, so I joined Caf Kidston, and the first thing I did, was I thought I'd go into the warehouse and have a look at their branding and their packaging. And I spent a whole day in there and picking out so many things, the second lot of photos, and nothing was consistent. It was carcass and limited, it was Caf kids, it was tough, Kidston or you know, London, so nothing was consistent.
Kitty Lai 21:44
And that drives me crazy when nothing's because of caffeine needs to rebrand and she was looking to rebrand her business. So I helped to do that. And we launched everything, packaging-wise swing tickets, all the labels, and garments in 2012. So it was around like a year and a half process, getting everything signed off, getting everything made, and is sort of getting everything repackaged, in a way. So all her packaging, and everything was being phased out from the old branding to the new.
Kitty Lai 22:16
So that was sort of huge for me sort of getting a new brand. So we'll work on the branding for the stores, those she started having much more stores around the UK as well. And so that was great. And I was also growing the team, the graphic design team. So whilst we had a team of four designers there, it was great. So again, very similar to what Ted Baker was doing. So the marketing campaigns, the postcards, the POS in store, the website, you know, involved with some of the website designs, the email newsletter, everything was like,
Yoni Mazor 22:50
That's interesting to an email newsletter, meaning you also influence the design of the Digital's activities and engagements of the company, not just the ticketing, the physical prints, but also the digital formats. All the digital stuff was that the same thing for Ted Baker or that that was an equal kid Kitson
Kitty Lai 23:04
Technically we started with email newsletters and press releases. So they were just that's digital. But you know, I didn't get so far along with them. Because when I left, it was still quite an early stage. But you know, they were Yeah, we did a lot of newsletters, to begin with. So with
Yoni Mazor 23:20
Physical and digital influence on the design, you and the team have for us all five people on the team.
Kitty Lai 23:26
Yeah. So there are five people on the team. And then, and then I had my little one. So I got pregnant, and I didn't want to go back to work full time. I didn't want to manage the team either. And I managed to negotiate a free day week, coming in at 930 and leaving at four, which was a bit you know, it was quite an ask, and they gave it to me. So it was great. So I came back. I took a whole year off from lovely maternity, which is nice I know a job
Yoni Mazor 23:55
Position for you. And then they gave me that flexibility of three days a week.
Kitty Lai 24:00
That's right. And the lady that was my maternity cover. She was the lady at TK Maxx. So she was my manager at the TK Maxx. So I thought I only had four or two people that could do my role in the business. And I thought it was either Caroline or Sarah and I thought I reached out to Sarah, and she wasn't available. And then I reached out to Caroline and she was available. Yes. And I knew she could get the job done. I knew I could just put her in.
Yoni Mazor 24:28
And she was a ticket to most of us out there and she was able to come in and support you or that is all from the company. Yeah, she
Kitty Lai 24:35
Had left TK Maxx actually by then that's why I knew she might be available. So that's why there's only
Yoni Mazor 24:39
A few days. Yeah, there are a few years down the road. So what year was that? When she comes over?
Kitty Lai 24:44
Yeah, so it was brilliant because I think she's still
Yoni Mazor 24:48
The year that you reached out to her because you left.
Kitty Lai 24:52
I reached out to her in 2012 because I was due to have a tooth 2013 Natasha reached out to you guys I'm sorry. Because I had my son that summer. So I was preparing for her to come in, and take over the reins, and I didn't want to manage when I came back. And I knew she could do that. So I came back from maternity and then she was my boss, but it was, you know, absolutely fine. And then
Yoni Mazor 25:15
Subsequently hired your boss. I like that. It's pretty cool.
Kitty Lai 25:18
I hired my boss and subsequently the other lady that I thought could do the role. Sarah came in freelance as well. So she was working at Caf Kidston at some point. So it was, you know, it's perfect. So you know, it's the people you know, in the industry, the people you know, you can trust and you know, they can get the job done.
Yoni Mazor 25:33
Brilliant, very good. Okay, so let's hop into 2016. You get about six years with a cat kitten and a cat kitten. And then what's your next question? What's the next move?
Kitty Lai 25:41
Alright, so again, I was made redundant. Because I wasn't working up to the four-day week, I just was I was after eating well, it must be about 15 1617 years of doing the same thing. I just wanted to leave the rat race. I didn't want to commute to London every day. And I had a little one. He was about to start school. And I just wanted to do something completely different.
Kitty Lai 26:03
And then my brother in law, he introduced me to the FBA world, funnily enough, so he said, Kitty, you would like to go on this course. So he did a weekend course at a company called progressive property. They called progressive success now. And I went there for a whole weekend, to learn about FBA, negotiating with suppliers, finding a product getting together to launch all those things I knew anyway, from my experience in the retail world, I knew how to do that. So I was so excited when I heard about this.
Kitty Lai 26:36
And the whole weekend on the course, my hand was up. I just had a question. I lost me I lost my voice by the day free. I think they must have been quite annoying. Yeah, yes. Barkos. What's PPC? You know, I just literally are so many things. And I was determined to get a product launched in like, two months, two or three months? Actually, no, within four months, I launched in five. But um, I decided to launch an organic baby brand. So organic baby products are small. But I want
Yoni Mazor 27:07
I want to take a pause here because I find this fascinating. So 2016, after 17 years in a working industry, you know, you feel like you're ready for another journey. And then E-commerce comes knocking on your door, right? Through brother-in-law. Yeah. And then you start listening to all these questions. But that push compelled you to become a retailer to develop your brand. What was that? What happened there?
Kitty Lai 27:29
I think it was just the excitement of being in control of your own business and your brand. And because I've worked so hard for other brands, I work lots of hours for them, and what I thought, why can I become my boss? And, the reason I, I've always felt I couldn't be my boss or my own business, you know, I just would never want to start a company because it was scary.
Kitty Lai 27:51
The thought of it was always scary, I can't do it. And you have all those negative thoughts. And it's like, well, I didn't even know what you could do. You know and excited me. And the actual turning point was, that I was learning something with my other roles, I would pass my knowledge on to my team, and I'll tell them what to do and what they need to do. But no one was teaching me I was not learning. So that's where I kind of lost the love of what I was doing. It's like, oh, you know, it's the same thing over and over. It's like Groundhog Day. And when I got to this FBA course, I was like, wow,
Yoni Mazor 28:23
You already were just rejuvenating, and you felt they gave you the confidence to go and become a retailer or a business owner in the long term brand.
Kitty Lai 28:31
And they taught you how to set up your own business from scratch as well. So it's like, it wasn't so daunting, it wasn't so scary. And I thought I can do this. And I never thought I would do it, you know, be a business owner. So that was Yeah, so that was the, you know, the catalyst and that, that made me much more confident in myself, you know, after years of doing things like, Oh, you don't feel rewarded. You're working for another brand. And I'm working so hard. And yeah, so setting up my own business, although it's small, it just felt good. And it was your baby, you know, skews the baby product.
Yoni Mazor 29:05
Are you, yeah, so you mentioned the baby product. That was the category.
Kitty Lai 29:09
Yeah, that was the category. And I decided foolishly the launch in US and UK. I was just getting greedy. But I shouldn't have done that. To be honest, I should have just stuck to one market got used to that market and learned how to sell and be a seller, and mastered that piece first before splitting and having two different
Yoni Mazor 29:31
Set of surgery headaches instead of one headache. Yeah, that's it.
Kitty Lai 29:35
And I'm in the UK. So if I needed to do anything with us, it's like, I've got to send it to you know, another company to like look after Yeah. So I decided I was going to join their academy and went from this course they upsell to a mastermind for a year. It was called The Academy so I joined it because I wanted to fast track like have mentors to help you get fast track your business and your brand. Going to get its launch. So I joined them. And within six months, they asked me to become a mentor.
Yoni Mazor 30:05
Oh, wow, nice. Yes. Did you have all these questions back then also or what was the for that upsell for that next step to absorbing more what do you think made them feel like oh, she's you can be a great mentor because they acknowledge your experience of 17 years in the marketing impact.
Kitty Lai 30:22
Yeah, that is that's absolutely what I've been working for brands and businesses for like a brand business or fashion for a very long time. And I was giving a lot on the roundtable would have like, in person, roundtable mentoring. And I'd come up with a lot of things. And I, I just knew from the back of my mind how you could do this, how you could, the substrates you use the materials I was familiar with.
Yoni Mazor 30:44
Or you're like, you know, it was amazing for them. It's probably a blessing. Yeah.
Kitty Lai 30:48
And it was really, it was, you know, sort of heart-warming that they thought I could do it for okay, I never thought of like teaching but I've always been a people's person and always loved talking and teaching people just giving free advice all the time. So I thought, well, okay, if they're gone pay me then why not? So I joined them. And I was doing that for three years until I
Yoni Mazor 31:08
Was in the same year 2016. Now there are already 217 so
Kitty Lai 31:11
We’re in 2017. They made me the mentor. So I was doing that for the last four. I did that for three years, actually three years until lock lockdown happened and I decided I wasn't going to do it so often endemic until it depends on sorry, the pan. Yeah, the pandemic happened. And then you know, everything went online, everything stopped the world stopped for a while, and I didn't want to go in so much. And
Yoni Mazor 31:34
During those three years, of course, you were your mentor was the main focus. Are you still selling on brand? What was your income base?
Kitty Lai 31:41
Yeah, so I was still selling my brand. At the same time, I was still learning as well. And I will always learn everyone's still learning. You know, regardless, you have your own business.
Yoni Mazor 31:51
The beauty of this industry is constant learning over time, and it keeps evolving. It was still the early stages of the industry. Yeah. Our perception now.
Kitty Lai 32:00
Yeah, no, it isn't. It's you know, that's the beauty of it, you can use it constantly learning so you're not bored, there's always challenges more so than the reward that you know, that's the beauty of the business but for those
Yoni Mazor 32:13
Two years, how are you paying the bills? Was that what was financial according to the mentoring or the retailing or freelance? Yeah,
Kitty Lai 32:19
So a bit of the retailing, the mentoring not so much actually because it was more you know, giving back a lot. And I was speaking as well but then I still had other clients coming to me from referrals someone would know me kisi can you design this for me? I know somebody this brand needs their, packaging, redesigned, and someone else needs the logo design. So yeah, I was getting product project-based work. And as a designer, I can freelance from anywhere. So just working from home was perfect. I could do the school run, I can mentor once a month I could do you know my other businesses while at the same time so that the main income was coming in from the referrals and recommendations from my branding from the branding business.
Yoni Mazor 33:03
Nice, nice balance so you can do your free style of work, the retelling which is you know, cars and learning evolution, but also teaching so you got all these dynamics of creativity, learning to teach, it's pretty cool. Balance.
Kitty Lai 33:15
Yeah. But let you stop
Yoni Mazor 33:20
To 2020 tickets a 2020 stop mentoring. What was it?
Kitty Lai 33:23
So 20 to 20 stop mentoring. Yeah. So the next move actually, I went on the cruise with Carlos the online sellers cruise on 2020 so
Yoni Mazor 33:36
I wanted to just work to 2020 22
Kitty Lai 33:39
It was 2020 the first cruise Yeah, so yeah, January 2020. I was on that cruise because I wanted to build my confidence in speaking so I was doing lots of I was doing some keynotes as well for the mentoring business and I was getting some sort of speaking gigs as well so I wanted to sort of up my game and be more confident speaking in public so I decided to put myself forward for Carlos is an online sales speakers cruise. And he Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 34:08
One dollar sold. That was a cruise, right?
Kitty Lai 34:13
Online sellers cruise. So I did that and that was great and meeting new people and just literally new community new networks and possibly new clients as well. So that was great fun for me coming from the UK and just on my own. I just didn't know anyone I just thought I'm just going to do it. And then and then the pandemic happened and I was keen to be on the next cruise as well but that was delayed till this year. So 2020 locked down happened in the UK in March.
Kitty Lai 34:45
So I was about to start a new business with another brand. So Mr. The sustainable clothing brand that I set up with a new business partner. And we weren't we didn't anticipate lockdown to happen. So I'm working with suppliers because it's a clothing brand working with suppliers was very difficult. We did hire some designers to help us with the initial stages of designs and ideas.
Kitty Lai 35:09
But that took a very long time to get, like moving. And so yeah, we decided to focus on that. And that was my main focus was a bit of fun branding, and business branding as well. The baby business kind of took a sidestep that could that was self-serving over a lockdown. Actually, during the pandemic, it was just selling quite well, during that time, everyone couldn't go to the shop, so they were buying everything online. So that was helpful. But for the new fashion brands, we work with overseas suppliers, so our suppliers, are mainly Turkey-based. And we wanted to use lots of sustainable fabrics, and a good supplier that we have got that we know in the industry. And we launched that in too long, just last year.
Kitty Lai 35:52
So 2021, just the end of last year, is a really bad time. And because of the delays, we were meant to be launched in August, just to catch the summer. But by the time we got a product was in October, and then what happens in October, as Friday happens, you know, and then Christmas happens and like as a new brand. We cannot afford to discount. We gave initial launch codes to people that we knew. But we could not you know, I mean being a very small brand as well. We have men's and women's wear and handmade jewellery, and sustainable sunglasses as well. They're just really cool. So we just couldn't compete with them. So we've, we've treated this year, like a prelaunch. So a lot of it's more suited for the summer. So with there's lots of planning and PR and
Yoni Mazor 36:37
Let me recap this. So the global supply disruption of 2021 interfered with the launch and put a kind of a interfere with the timing of it. So are you treating 2022 this year as basically a prelaunch? And what do you do find a prelaunch? What do you do? How does that work?
Kitty Lai 36:52
Well, because no one knows who we are. And we're an online business only. It just could only be like a launch. So not apart from lots of friends and family that know about our brand kit London. No one knows. But we've managed to get
Yoni Mazor 37:07
it was like more of a mental was sort of a warner saying 2021 was supposed to kind of be launched, whatever happened when I was going into we're still at it, we're not now cancelling our plans, we're still at it. And this is the Euro is going to happen. That's
Kitty Lai 37:18
it. So this is the year that's happened. So we've joined with third-party marketplaces, they worked with boutique brands, they've got a much huger following and well following. So they're, they have a lot of brands under their particular marketplace. But we can get more exposure like that. And we're getting more sales from them, as opposed to our website. So there are lots of things that are still to be done. We're still working, we've got a strategy that
Yoni Mazor 37:45
The distribution of your product is you sell on your shoplift store on Amazon, but also you sell to other websites. So apparel and fashion Yeah,
Kitty Lai 37:54
Yeah, so we don't sell on Amazon. So this, this is online, this is only on our shoplift store. And we've got third-party marketplaces that we're selling through at the moment as well, which is drawing more attention to our brand, which is perfect because they have a marketing team, you know, we're going to do an Instagram takeover of one of them. One of the actual third-model market part marketplaces has a pop-up shop. They haven't, they have a store in London, they've got they just launched one in you, us in LA, I've got a store in New York, but we're going to do a pop-up store in the London branch in August. So we need a reason.
Yoni Mazor 38:27
Because you want to keep some of your ambiances on the brand. That's why it's not on Amazon, what's the kind of what's going on here?
Kitty Lai 38:33
I mean, it's just managing it, we're very small. So it's just me, my business partner, and then a couple of other people that we contract, but it's like, you know if we
Yoni Mazor 38:42
Just as a recap, though, baby Brown is still going on and Amazon Yeah, that's still going.
Kitty Lai 38:46
It's still going. But it's been neglected. That's all I can say. It seemed neglected because I've had to focus a lot on this. And so that will come back at some point. But at the moment, it just, itself serves itself, but on
Yoni Mazor 39:00
It's velocity, and it is okay. But of course, if you have more of your attention, it's probably gone keep going.
Kitty Lai 39:06
Yeah, so the social media is dried up a little like, you know, not engaging so much with that niche. But so kit London, our fashion brand is that's the main focus at the moment. And because people can't see the physical product, like any online product, you know, to be in a pop-up shop. Is that the same time as us? Right, yeah. So habits such as seeing the product are good quality.
Kitty Lai 39:29
I'm not just saying it, but it is very good quality or the branding side or that all the materials we've used as well and it was all about longevity, timeless pieces that you'd want to keep in your wardrobe as being sustainable. We're not 100% there yet, but we are pretty much 90% Sustainable with everything that we're doing. And all the packaging is biodegradable, it's recyclable. If it's not, it's already recycled materials. So we're doing everything we can do with the environment. And we're also giving 1% or 1% to charity so charity called 1% for the planet, we, we donate to the forests and charity for the oceans as well, because we that's one of the causes that we want to sort of look after
Yoni Mazor 40:10
Moses seems like you took infused all that experience of all these years plus your values, your core values, you know, with nature and sustainability, and materials and everything that over the years, you fuse it into this brand. And this is where your passion and drive are right now.
Kitty Lai 40:23
Yeah, absolutely. So that's what 2022 is, for me is focusing on kit London, we've got a strategy today next week to get it up driving the map marketing because that's where it is. Marketing is really important. And you know, if any business that doesn't understand that is going to have a failed business, because marketing online, especially, online and digital,
Kitty Lai 40:45
you need to sort of really focus on that and get your brand in front of everyone get people talking about it, we've you know, we've got much more to do with these email newsletters, we've got to do a lot of ads, ad campaigns as well. So there's, there are lots we need to consider and then keep the freshness going as well with Fashion and Retail. It's always about newness.
Yoni Mazor 41:04
Holding a lot of work ahead. Yeah, stay creative. And guys keep engaging with the target audience and those them and make them you know, find your brand and stay loyal and just to keep a long, long view of the relationship and grow with them together. It's an experience, it's a lot to do. It's not it doesn't come like in the click of a snap of a finger. And you're not reliant on Amazon.
Yoni Mazor 41:25
And so you're trying to build from the ground up something real, something that's not reliant on a marketplace but is reliant on really the experience of the end user, your products, and appreciating it and growing from that point on. That's it. Absolutely. Good. Okay, I want to start packaging the episode to see what we got so far so we can get to the last round, I guess. You know, Katie was born and raised in South London. And then in 1997, she graduated from university.
Yoni Mazor 41:52
And then you know that these first few years out, she was kind of walking around getting experiences, you know what, there was some agencies in 1999, she starts working with Ted Baker, you know, apparel brand, already on a global level, she was there for about 10 years from 1999 to 2009. The company probably tripled or quadrupled, its activities, and then 2009 until about 2010. She was freelancing for about a year. And then 2010 until 2016, she was with TK Maxx helping that organization as well.
Yoni Mazor 42:22
But in 2016 something very special happened after she kind of she became like she mentioned redundant, right? That was kind of the 17 years that was kind of a thing that she was experiencing and working in larger organizations. So her friend, brother-in-law, was it my brother in law Yes, your brother-in-law mentioned you know, e-commerce or you know, things are going on with E-commerce and that's the moment we eCommerce came knocking on our door and gave her rigid, rejuvenated her, her ability to do creative things and develop a brand new career and path for her creative own path away in becoming an entrepreneur. So she took a course you know, selling on Amazon 2016.
Yoni Mazor 43:00
And she launched within five months, she launched her brand on Amazon, you know, the baby category 2017 because she was so active, active in the community issue, and became a mentor. She got offered to be a mentor in 2018 until about 2020. She did about three things, you know, serving as a mentor, you know, selling your brand on Amazon and online, but also still doing freelance work of, you know, helping with design and branding. And then in 2020 right before the pandemic, she got exposed to public speaking with the online seller crews with colon servers and the wizards of EUCOM that are based in Florida, then the pandemic hit, and then for those two easy years, 20 and 2022. She kind of did two things or three things still the freelancing, the baby product, but 2021 she launched her current brand kit London, which is really about you know, apparel and fashion and jewellery, but it's based on really great materials and sustainability and pledge to donate one back to the planet and to the environment. Did we get everything correctly so far?
Kitty Lai 44:01
We did apart from 2010 to 2016 was calf Kidston.
Yoni Mazor 44:05
Sorry cat clips and TJ Maxx was just a one year that came on so it was 10 months. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 44:14
Cat kitten? Yeah, cat kitten. So thank you for that correction. Do we get everything besides that? Yeah,
Kitty Lai 44:19
Yoni Mazor 44:22
Thank you so much for sharing that it's turning everything is exciting for me. I a lot I learned a lot of new things. So I appreciate that. Now, I want to finish up the episode with two things. The first thing would be if somebody wants to reach out and connect where can they find you? But the last thing would be is if somebody what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there,
Kitty Lai 44:39
right so they can find me at me brand global.com or they can email me at Kitty at me brand global.com I'm also on social media just typing kitty ly and you'll find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Kitty law dot brand on Instagram, and you'll find all my other links to all my other businesses as well it could London and then the brand and What I would love to give back to the, to the community,
Kitty Lai 45:03
I would say if you're an entrepreneur, and you are starting your business, I would recommend building your brand. I know I was talking about personal branding my businesses as well, but have been visible and people see you and you talking about your brand is important. So I think that's helped me find clients, you know, being on a podcast or an interview, or a video with somebody has given me a lot of clients that way, and I just don't know anyone because they see me, I think that the whole thing of building your past brand is really important, especially in this day and age when you're in digital media.
Yoni Mazor 45:37
Got it. So because I want to I think that's unique advice here. Because a lot of the players out there especially in the E-commerce and Amazon, it's a lot about you know, the numbers or seeing something that it's highly ranked as a product doesn't matter the category or whatever, just go it's very technical. So they could go and do it and try to you know, do business.
Yoni Mazor 45:54
And for many that work, which is great, but your messages further, you know, look within writing what excites you what's your passion, and then you know, you should do something with that. And that will also help you create a brand identity and brand awareness and create a much more impactful, I guess, engagement as an entrepreneur. And hopefully, that will also sustain your ability to be successful. Yeah, well worded. Yeah. Okay, great. All right, the kitty, thank you so much again, I hope everybody else enjoyed or stays safe and healthy the next time.
Kitty Lai 46:22
Thank you. Bye