Stephanie Crespin shares the 4 must-have skills for every successful mumpreneur
"I was six months pregnant and helping the team out at midnight to organise a pop-up event."
Stephanie Crespin is a true citizen of the world. She was born in Japan and has lived in Thailand, Paris, America, Romania, Belgium, and, since five years ago— Singapore. Just months after arriving in Singapore, Stephanie founded Style Tribute, an online platform for pre-loved luxury fashion.
There’s no doubt that Singaporeans love their luxury brands, and they often like them sparkling, brand new. Pre-loved luxe fashion doesn’t seem to hold the same level of seduction — as Stephanie initially found out. So why then, did she choose to launch Style Tribute with the odds stacked up against her?
Her story is truly riveting and inspirational, and holds key lessons to leadership and business success all young women and men can learn from.
After graduating with a degree in engineering and business, Stephanie joined the FMCG giant, Procter & Gamble. At P&G, she spent a great deal of time handling fragrances for luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci.
However, fashion had always been closely intertwined with Stephanie’s life. From a young age, she was drawn to the world of aesthetics. She wanted to become an artist when she was a child! Stephanie quips that she was glad her parents pushed her in the direction of what she was good at, or she would be a struggling artist today.
Stephanie also enjoyed styling when she was younger, and she would often drift into her mother’s wardrobe looking for pieces she could borrow. But at the time, doing anything fashion-related seemed like an unrealistic dream for her.
Once Stephanie started her career at P&G, she still felt somewhat connected to fashion albeit from a business angle, rather than a creative one. Her marketing role at P&G was exceedingly satisfying and challenging, explains Stephanie.
She had the opportunity to create marketing campaigns, acquire new customers, and do brand-building. Importantly, she feels that her time at P&G gave her some essential tools, formats and structure to build the business she has today.
Throughout her early career years, Stephanie spent a significant amount of time in markets where rare vintage fashion items were sold. She enjoyed spending time at thrift stores and antique shops looking for one of a kind items that were both timeless and glamorous – delighting in the uniqueness and story behind each piece.
Stephanie was inspired by the market for pre-loved goods which was booming in the USA and Europe, and it sparked her interest to explore what Asia had to offer. So, months after arriving in Singapore in 2013, Stephanie put her idea into motion.
She soon learnt that here in Singapore, there was still stigma around anything “second hand”. However, Stephanie was confident that this was because of how pre-loved goods were positioned. Usually sold in dusty little shops and covered in plastic, there was no merchandising aesthetics behind the way products were often presented.
There was not only a gap in the market, but it was also, in fact, a misalignment with local consumer behaviour in general. So, Stephanie set out on a mission to discover how to penetrate this market– the data-driven way!
Stephanie spent hours on Orchard road surveying people. She claims that if she had made a business decision to launch based on her survey findings, she would have never started Style Tribute.
The fact that she would have to create the need for a second-hand fashion market was daunting to Stephanie, and it went against everything she had learnt. She knew that she would have to disrupt the industry to birth her idea entirely.
Stephanie’s first years as an entrepreneur were tumultuous. Without much funds, she found herself ironing, labelling, photographing and packing clothing all from the kitchen of her apartment. While she did all that, she also met with sellers and partially coded her website.
Getting the buyers and sellers in was yet another hurdle for Stephanie. She was relieved that quite a few sellers took a chance on her and were willing to sell their pre-loved items on Style Tribute. Although there are many groups on Facebook where you can sell and buy preloved items now, at the time, there was no such platform..
Stephanie found ways to persevere and make sure Style Tribute was well accepted. While growing her online collection, Stephanie also set up a storefront for the business and worked on building her brand by organising pop-up events and gatherings. In retrospect, though the initial days were manic, Stephanie says she loved every minute of it!
Style Tribute has seen consistent growth since those early days and having a physical retail store has boosted this growth. Even though the general opinion is that retail is a dying industry, Stephanie disagrees saying that she feels it is just changing and evolving. As she markets high-value items, it helps that buyers can come and check out the products before buying.
Stephanie also shares that having a physical store alone isn’t enough. There needs to be a strong online presence as well which becomes complementary to your physical presence. For Style Tribute, the perfect mix of online and offline marketing has helped drive revenue.
Having raised SGD 2 million in funding, Stephanie says that if not her grit and perseverance, Style Tribute would not be what it is today. It took years of combating her fears, challenging herself and continuously finding the courage to do it every single day!
Stephanie stresses that perseverance and grit are two of the most important soft skills young people should be building if they want to become leaders. In fact, they are the keys to business and leadership success.
She explains why this is so and also points out a few other traits you need to be fostering early in your career.
Perseverance defined is the commitment to mastering skills or completing a task; being steadfast when it comes to learning, even if this learning is repetitive. “Some of the work at Style Tribute is repetitive. I understand if anyone can quickly get a feeling that it is mundane and that they are above it. But I feel with that temperament; it is going to be very hard for anyone to arrive at their dream job,” Stephanie states.
She continues, saying, “As an entrepreneur, the ultimate dream is building a company that is profitable and has a huge market share; a company that is making a difference in people’s lives. However, to get there, one needs to endure much hardship, repetition and manual work. I. e. doing the ‘un-cool’ stuff.”
Stephanie says that without building a strong mentality, and constantly striving to find perfection or innovation, you won’t go very far. And if you don’t have the persistence to seek these things, t then that the rest doesn’t matter. “Because the rest is the easy ‘fun’ stuff; the rewarding things which you get credit for!” explains Stephanie.
She also points out that it’s easier to develop perseverance when we’re young because life gets harder and more complicated as your responsibilities increase and you get older. She adds, “If you haven’t drilled yourself early on, it will get even tougher to have to do those later in life.”
The savvy business woman uses the analogy of a sushi chef practising his craft patiently, even if it takes him years to perfect. “To reach perfection sometimes, you need that repetition. To be able to immerse yourself in an almost meditative state of getting that expertise and perfection,” she claims, saying, “There’s never a bad job! You can do it in a bad way, or do it in an innovative way.”
Resilience doesn’t show up if not for adversities. It is when we’re faced with difficult situations that we know who we are. Many entrepreneurs would agree that resilience is one of the key reasons they keep forging ahead.
“If you want to start your company, go higher up in your organisation, or be a great leader, you need to understand what’s going on below. To do that, you need to have faced difficulties and have done it all yourself at first,” Stephanie shares.
Stressing the importance of growing through facing hard times, she elaborates, “Too often I talk to people who dream of being an entrepreneur or in a certain career. They always mention their strategic goal— the “icing on the cake”. However, what is important to me is all the hardship one endures before arriving there.”
Stephanie says that that hardship is doing things that no one wants to do— the unrewarding manual stuff, the uncredited work, going out of your comfort zone and struggling and going through things that are not so amazing and glamorous. However, all of this builds resilience.
Grit means having the strength of character and courage to achieve long-term goals, forsaking short-term gratification.
Stephanie discovered she was stronger than she thought once she started Style Tribute. She had to work tirelessly, not looking back even for a second. “As an entrepreneur, you dream of the next milestone or the next big achievement.
Once I hit it, my satisfaction lasted five minutes, and then I go back to trying to improve things or thinking about the next thing.” She adds that the downside of always looking ahead is that she often forgets to take it all in, embracing what she has gone through, and enjoying the journey.
To a leader, no task should be beneath them. “If I hadn’t gone through every single process from the packaging to cleaning of the product and tagging, there would be plenty of elements about the business I wouldn’t have understood, related to or been able to optimise,” says Stephanie. She explains that failing to do everything herself at first would have made her feel disconnected from her team.
Having the humility to do anything that is required to build your business is crucial because it also empowers your team. “You can tell your team that you are the boss, or you lead by example. The moment my team was most empowered was when I was six months pregnant and helping the team out at midnight to organise a pop-up event. Those moments where I needed most my team’s support was when our company’s team spirit peaked ,” explains Stephanie.
Stephanie reminds us that at the end of the day, perseverance, resilience, grit and humility all go hand-in-hand.
However, she feels that the two skills that should be built the earliest are perseverance and fortitude. “When you are young, even before university, is when you should be building perseverance and grit. It is super-important to understand that life is not easy. If you are ambitious and you want to get somewhere, you are not going to be able to achieve that without these two soft skills,” Stephanie points out.
Today, Stephanie is relooking at the positioning and vision of her business, by studying circular economy business models and sustainable purchasing. Even though she is very proud that they are extending the product lifecycle with Style Tribute, she wishes to use her experience and skills to make a mark in the world and think about the values she wants to deliver to the next generation.
“My vision for the years to come is to dedicate myself to these circular models and build something that helps the penetration and the use of how to integrate circular consumption in our everyday life when it comes to fashion,” she reveals.
At the same time, Stephanie is also focusing on being more introspective. In conclusion, she says, “I feel what is most important at the end of the day is to enjoy the journey. In the first years, I kept looking at what was ahead and not enjoying the moment. It is trying to enjoy the day today, or else what is the purpose of life?”
Read also: These Singapore mumpreneurs began an online kids’ fashion portal!