Kate at her home and workspace in Yishun, Singapore
Can you walk us through a typical day for you?
The day usually begins just before 7am. The first thing I do is reach for my phone and check the orders that have come in during the night. Half an hour for a quick shower and breakfast before I’m off to work.
Lunch time is usually packed with customer meet ups or to buy supplies (we are using up pretty pink ribbons at an alarming rate!!) for the business.
I try to do Iyengar or Hatha yoga at least twice a week after work. That gives me comfort and confidence that I’m not turning into a blob of fat.
When I reach home, it is usually 10pm, and that’s when I have dinner and pack orders for the day. The day has to end by midnight. Sleep is too important to give up in order to sustain this pace for the long run.
Weekends at home, what are we most likely to find you doing?
Hosting customers for fitting sessions over the weekend. I really like this because I get to meet some of my customers in person. Some of them have become my friends, which is great!
Else, I would be at my workspace packing orders or taking pictures for Instagram.
Of course, there are house chores. I’m sure fellow home owners understand and share the pain.
To chill out, a good read or a good nap always works. Naps, preferred.
When did “Perk by Kate” go live?
10th February 2012.
Why did you decide to start selling lingerie?
It arose from a decision to start something, and I chose lingerie out of a personal obsession and need.
For small retailers like ourselves, I strongly believe that the owner’s personality and energy has to permeate the brand. And I could only be that devoted if I liked what I was selling.
What is the concept of your store?
I want Perk by Kate to be recognised as a lingerie retailer with a heart. And I want my customers to associate us with happy thoughts.
I made the decision early on that everything I do would be about the customer.
Free courier delivery in Singapore regardless of purchase amount. And if I can figure out how to enable free shipping worldwide, I would gladly do that too (suggestions welcome!).
No questions asked returns and exchanges – and I really mean this because I rather refund a purchase than live with the thought that someone is unhappy about her purchase.
I pack every package and include a hand written note. Once in a while, I sneak in some lacy surprises for my customers, which makes them really happy. My favourite part about this is receiving thank you notes from happy customers.
Which brands do you stock? What do you look for when deciding which brands to stock?
At the core of the business, we sell comfort. And so the lingerie pieces I carry have to be comfortable.
I also have to be able to identify with the brand’s vision – I do not go for big brands that focus on fast lingerie or mass production.
It also has to be unique – if a brand is commonly available in the local departmental stores, I will not bring it in.
Visual appeal and brand quality have to be of a certain standard. Every shipment is a potential heart attack for me – if the lingerie pieces are not up to mark in terms of fit or comfort, its all money wasted. I have been very lucky so far. The brands that we carry on the site have so far surpassed my expectations in terms of quality! Only on one occasion did I make the painful decision to not put up a shipment for sale.
Currently, I stock US brands like Eberjey, Commando, Honeydew Intimates, and UK brands like Mimi Holliday and Timpa. Three other brands which have great followings on Instagram – Gooseberry Intimates, Lonely Lingerie and For Love and Lemons, are also available on the site.
I am also working with an independent designer (Handmade by Elma) for beautiful handmade pieces.
And finally, there’s the Perk by Kate label, which I just launched recently. This was the culmination of many baby steps over the last three years.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start an online retail business?
Start small and build your way up.
It may be daunting to commit money and resources to the unknown. But you have to start somewhere.
If, at the start, you make some money, put it back into the business. It is very satisfying to see it grow.
Always do the right thing for your customers. If you treat them well, the business should take care of itself.
Talk to us about your humble abode. How is it decorated?
We went against popular opinion and knocked down most of our walls. Since the home was to be our sanctuary, we wanted to do it the way we like and not be influenced or pressured by others or trends. And so the walls came down, even though the approvals did not come easy.
If we have to identify some guiding principles, it would be minimalist, wood and white.
Minimalist because we both hate clutter. Minimalist because that would allow us to project a more spacious look. And minimalist because it is a good excuse to save on furniture cost.
Wood because we like the warm and earthy tones. It creates a home that feels like a sanctuary to us. For consistency, we bought our furniture mostly from the same source.
White because we think it matches minimalism and wood. Clean and uncluttered.
What drew you to the location of your home?
We managed to find a unit that fit the size and layout we wanted. That was key. The fact that it is close to our parents’ place is a huge bonus.
Of course, there’s the usual stuff like proximity to train station, two supermarkets and about half a dozen coffee shops within walking distance. There’s even a very good prata shop nearby which we visit almost every weekend.
What of your personalities can we see in it?
Just look at the fridge and our shelves! The fridge is packed with milk – staple of the dairy-loving husband. The fridge is alsopacked with kiwi punnets – staple of the kiwi-loving me.
The already-minimal me wants to keep my cocoloco bottles, cider bottles and magazines, but the very-minimal husband allows only travel memorabilia on the shelves.
Pink perks me up while the husband thrives on monochrome.
That said, we both believe in keeping the house clean and free from clutter. That keeps us happy.
Do you have a favourite piece of furniture or object in your flat?
Definitely the Blu Dot mesh bar stools at the kitchen counter. The husband wanted Hay’s wooden bar stools. I won.
If your walls could talk, what would they say?
Please remember to water your plants more often.
Four things that make you happiest:
Travel, massages, the husband, yoga. (The husband is watching me type this.)
Any plans for the future?
I don’t set super ambitious global domination plans. Just trying to grow Perk by Kate (and my label) a step at a time.
There is more to be done to grow our presence in Singapore further before reaching out to some of the neighbouring countries.
Famous last words?
Stay simple, stay inspired, stay hungry.
Spend a lot less than you earn. And spend the same amount even after earning more.