HAVING an online presence is essential for anyone starting up a business in this day and age, but what’s equally important is the physical networking aspect.
I am a true believer in “real life”, or “physical” shopping (walking into a store, trying things on and walking out with shopping bags in hand). Being a little sceptical about online shopping, I always try to check out the merchandise offered by online boutiques when they set up temporary stalls in bazaars and flea markets.
Last weekend, over 80 online fashion entrepreneurs came together for Malaysia’s Online Fashion Entrepreneurs’ Weekend (MOFEW) 2010, held at the Mid Valley Megamall exhibition hall in Kuala Lumpur. The vendors were those who own “blogshops”.
The booths were neatly laid out, with the blogshop owner standing near to answer any questions, and to hand out his or her card with the shop’s URL printed for future surfing.
According to the organisers, 40,000 visitors stopped by the three-day event – some to shop at their favourite online boutiques, others to meet the owners behind the blogs. Just as many were curious passers-by.
Project director Jan Wong and his team got together several months ago to gather blogshop owners and get them on board with the project.
“The online fashion scene is huge, but it lacks presence in the public. Some of these blogshops have been around for five to six years and yet they are not recognised as businesses and their owners, not seen as entrepreneurs,” explained Jan.
“This event is not just your regular bazaar or flea market, it’s an event that will hopefully highlight these fashion entrepreneurs and get their brand out there, encourage aspiring entrepreneurs and instill a spirit of giving among the entrepreneurs.”
The event was also held for charity – donations collected throughout the weekend, plus 10% of the profit made from MOFEW, will be going to the Taman Megah Handicapped & Disabled Chidren’s Home in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Jan and his team e-mailed every blogshop owner they could find, and many responded immediately, expressing their interest in being part of the event.
The blogshop owners that responded were mostly between 18 and 28 years old. Many of them do not only have successful blogs, but also use Facebook and Twitter accounts to help promote their items.
“We want to rebrand blogshop owners as online fashion entrepreneurs,” explained Jan. “During the event we held a series of seminars, workshops and introductions to business opportunities at the main stage area to assist and inspire entrepreneurs.”
Blogshop owner Andrea Kee, who runs the shoe blog Tres Tresors, set up a booth with her mother Pat Kee, who runs Wow Couture, an online boutique specialising in traditional Chinese outfits like the cheongsam and qipao.
“We took part as exhibitors mainly to increase awareness on our brand, and though our sales weren’t what we expected, we’re glad that shoppers now know of the merchandise and services we offer,” said Andrea.
She was also glad to finally meet some of her regular customers for the first time.
“Shoppers really appreciate the chance to try on the shoes and to see for themselves its quality.”
As this was her first time participating in an offline event, Andrea says she realises that both an online and offline prescense are important.
“I’m bringing in a lot of ready stocks this week, trying to change my direction a little. Rather than doing everything based on pre-order, it’d be great to participate in another bazaar/exhibition!” enthused Andrea.
q To find out more about the event, head to www.mofew.com.my.