Meet the phenomenal leader behind the famous clothing line Love, Bonito. Almost mum of two, Rachel Lim.
Can women really have it all? Can you really have a successful career or business and also have a thriving family life?
Well, yes. Countless women have attested to that. The key, as they say, is balance.
Easier said than done, right? When you are carrying a newborn in your arms in the last week of your maternity leave, wondering how they will be when you go back to work. Or when you are dropping off your child at the daycare as you go to the office, work-like balance seems like a myth.
But another woman boss from Singapore has managed to dominate the fashion scene and show us that it is indeed possible to have a fulfilling career and a happy family life.
Rachel Lim, the Woman Behind Love, Bonito
Unless you’re not into social media and online shops, you have probably heard of the clothing store Love, Bonito. It has made its way from being a small online store selling preloved clothes into a giant fashion business with several physical stores across Asia. Women love this brand because of its hip yet feminine style.
Not only are the clothes stylish, but they also make one feel empowered. True to their leader’s vision.
Rachel Lim, the visionary co-founder of Love, Bonito, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of fashion and entrepreneurship. With her unparalleled drive and creativity, she has revolutionised the way women connect with fashion, empowering them to embrace their individuality and celebrate their unique styles.
In 2016, Rachel was listed on Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list, and was also awarded Tatler Asia’s Most Influential for two consecutive years, in 2021 and 2022.
When she is not busy managing the unstoppable growth of Love, Bonito, Rachel is busy building her life with her husband Leo and their son Ollie (he’s turning 3 in December 2023). They also have a baby on the way. Meanwhile, staying true to her calling, she devotes some time to share her thoughts on personal growth and mental health in her podcast, RachReflects on Spotify.
In her one-on-one interview with theAsianparent, Rachel Lim talks about how her thriving business began, how she claimed her space in the men-dominated world of business, and how being a mother changed her perspective in life and encouraged her to keep pushing for her goals.
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What makes Rachel Lim who she is today?
When I was in university, my family was hit by the Asian Financial Crisis and my father went through bankruptcy as a result of the economic downturn.
At that point, I started selling pre-loved clothes with my friends for some extra pocket money and realised that customers actually wanted more. That’s when we decided to start importing more clothes from neighbouring countries but we realised that something was always off – whether it’s the fit, colour or material used for our tropical climate.
Hence, we decided to design our own apparel and eventually dropped out of school in my final year. Back then, “entrepreneurship” is not such a sexy term like it is today, and I truly listened to my instincts and deep-dived into the business.
Additionally, I was still rather young then. (So) in the worst-case scenario (if the business did not perform as expected), I can still go back to studying. This gave me the confidence to drop out of university and grow the business. Thankfully it all worked out and here I am today!
What inspired you to develop the idea of Love, Bonito and start your own business?
I was studying to be a teacher at NIE. While schooling, I started BonitoChico with my co-founders in 2005 to sell pre-loved clothes for extra pocket money.
When I was in university, I was constantly worrying about work, and vice versa, and ended up being half-hearted in both.
The business reached a point where I needed to make a decision to either double down and accelerate its growth or go forward with my career path in teaching. I ultimately chose to take the leap of faith and strike while the iron is hot because there was already good momentum being built in the business.
How do you balance your busy working life as a successful businesswoman, your role as a wife, and as a mother and soon-to-be mother of two?
I realised that the thought of “having a kid will take time away from the business” is a limiting mindset. I never knew I had that capacity to love and give until I had Ollie, and there’s finally something in my life that is so much more important than work, and there’s truly so much more to life.
Raising a child can be a handful, but there’s no need to be afraid in asking for help at home or at work. There are resources available at home, within the community and at work to accompany you in your own journey of parenting.
There’s really no right moment in our life to accelerate in our career or start a family – at the end of the day, it’s all about your priorities in the season of your life.
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Could you share some tips on maintaining a healthy mental and emotional balance as a businesswoman and mother? As we know, being a mother is not only a title but is also considered a full-time job.
Being a parent can sometimes bring out the best and worst in me. What I learned from having Ollie is that it really takes a village, both at work and at home, to raise a child. I used to have this huge fear of having to take the backseat from the business if I were to start a family. This was the main reason I held back from having a child.
This may also be cliche, but it’s extremely important to take care of your well-being. You can’t pour from an empty cup and have to first be nourished before you can take care of others.
Take the time to talk to close family members or friends about how you’re feeling, work out or simply allocate a quick five minutes a day to do things that nourish you.
How have your priorities changed since starting Love, Bonito?
Love, Bonito is my very first baby and we have grown so much since we first started! Our priorities have definitely changed since then – at our current stage today, we’re really invested in expanding internationally to empower more women around the world, and also evolve into a female ecosystem to cater to her needs in various seasons of her life.
Becoming a mother has also encouraged me to navigate how I can integrate work and life. I am constantly learning how I can find the right rhythm and adapt to the different changes. I am excited to welcome my newborn into my family as well and see how I will take care of two kids in very different stages of their growth.
Given what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out?
I would not have done anything differently as every step and decision led me to where I am today. I truly believe that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each individual is born to fulfil a unique purpose. I am so grateful that Love, Bonito has given me the platform to empower more women on their journey of self-discovery.
What were some challenges you faced at the beginning of your journey, and how did you overcome them?
One challenge I faced in my younger years was discovering my identity as a leader.
Since we started Love, Bonito when we were young females, I constantly compared myself with others and tried to emulate what other successful leaders are like, such as Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. I realised that this wasn’t me and their leadership styles were not how I wanted to lead my team.
As such, I did a StrengthsFinder test, sought out feedback from team members and peers, and started being intentional about noticing what drives and drains me – and that all helped me identify and embrace my unique self, at the same time recognise that I also need to surround myself with a team of individuals who have complementary skills and personalities.
What sets Love, Bonito apart from other businesses in the industry?
From a McKinsey 2023 study, we found that consumers today are more discerning and are interested in being part of an inclusive, supportive community. Beyond fast deliveries and low prices, consumers are looking to shop with brands that serve a larger purpose aligned with their values.
Love, Bonito is grounded in our purpose to empower the everyday Asian women and we’re not just in the business of fashion, but in the business of women. We are focused on designing thoughtful Asian-centric apparel, and connecting like-minded women through meaningful community events!
What advice would you give to women who want to become entrepreneurs?
Firstly, it’s vital to ‘know your why.’ Having a larger and solid purpose in starting a business will anchor you through tough times.
Many people face a lot of pressure from their surroundings to make a choice (for example, to conform when it comes to staying in school or starting a business). It is important for you to know what you want to do and be fully committed to your dream when the opportunity comes.
Secondly, I would advise you to have something started on the side while having a stable income so that you can make a well-informed decision to make the jump when it comes to that point.
I hold true to this principle by Jim Collins – before we fire cannonballs, fire bullets.
Do you have any advice for mothers on how to best shape their children?
I am still quite new to my journey and am still constantly learning from other mums too!
However, what I can share from a recent interaction with Dr Nicole LePera, a trained clinical psychologist, is the immense benefit for us as parents to heal our “inner child wounds” so that we can show up intentionally for our children, make new and better choices for ourselves and become the person we wish to be. You can find out more on my podcast episode with her on Spotify!
Rachel and family
You’re such an inspiration, Rachel! We hope you continue to empower more women all over the world!
Love, Bonito CEO Rachel Lim’s 10 Best Tips for Entrepreneurs and Business-Owners
Guide To The Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR) For Mothers In The Workforce (2023)
From Mom to Fashionista: How to Regain Your Style After Becoming a Mum