Love is the business for Paris Awong of the Paris Awong Collective! Following love to Hawaii and getting married inspired her collection of luxury wedding products.
You hail from Melbourne but came to New York via some time in Hawaii! That’s an interesting transition. What brought you to Hawaii and then to the Big Apple?
The old fashioned answer of ‘it was a boy!’ That is what drew me to Hawaii. My dream of living in New York began when I was young, travelling here many times with mum + dad for their work. This planted the seed, and after many years of planning my move, 2012 was the year. Little did I know that at that same time I had just met my future hubby Joey, who is from Hawaii.
So this developed a new and fun sidetrack adventure, and off I went and moved with him to alohaville!
After a few years my handsome Hawaiian popped the question and it was wedding planning ahoy! After 6 months of being a Mr. + Mrs. we decided to continue our adventure, and ‘New York’ was the title of the next chapter.
As the year 2016 began and my business launched, our flights were booked and over the seas we came to our new island of Manhattan.
Tell us about Paris Awong Collective, when you started and what inspired you to want to start this business?
It’s the common story of how most entrepreneurs start, they think of something they wish existed, and then go ahead and do it themselves.
Well this was my story also. During my engagement, I imagined so many products that I would have loved for myself and as gifts for my bridesmaids, that during my hectic wedding planning schedule, I also had a side business I was developing in the back of my head.
Once I was in wedded bliss and had more time on my hands, the physical planning of a business-to-be began. Ideas and designs were flowing as I let my creative urges soar, along with the marketing and PR side of it to build the brand and name before the launch.
Growing up within a creative and artistic family and studying design and graphic art, I had always known that I wanted to branch out and develop my own business within a field that I loved. I just needed to wait for the moment in my life that inspired me and fed my imagination, and my engagement was just that!
While planning my wedding, the main idea was not of a standard cliché wedding. I wanted to create an event resonant of a high-end modern yet romantic gala and cocktail party, and this is the theme I carried through to my products.
‘Luxury products inspired by modern style’.
Do you design and manufacture your products? Tell us about that and how you oversee the process?
From the moment an idea comes into my head, to the finished product arriving at my door, I am involved 200%. My favorite part is the design. I create a product, almost to the finished result, in my head, and then I source individual manufacturers whose skills are specific to each product.
Having separate manufactures for each product isn’t the most cost effective measure to take, but knowing that they have individual skill sets focused on each of my creations makes it worth it.
Launching a business can only be done once, and first impressions of the debut collection sets the stage for what’s to follow.
Do you sell online or in retail stores as well?
After designing our website, I launched the business with our online store allowing our products to be accessible worldwide. Now, after being in business for 9 months, we currently have a number of retail boutiques + online stores carrying the debut collection within Australia, NZ, USA, and Canada.
How did you go about getting your product into stores?
Many stores contacted me directly, which was amazing! I had an Australian online wedding registry website order a number of products before we even launched, which was a great sign that my marketing strategy was working!!
I then showcased our products at a trade show here in New York which grew our network and stockists to the US and Canada.
I am now currently researching stores that stock similar luxury lifestyle products to grow our wholesale client base in order to build our network for our growth in the New Year.
What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ / ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’?
I really push myself to the max when it comes to my dreams, and for this, I feel that my ‘Ah Ha’ moment is still ahead of me in the future. However, I do know that this business is growing and my dreams are being chased and caught.
Making the move to New York and launching my own business were two separate ambitions that collided and are now developing each other in ways that I am so excited by!
What have been the hardest lessons in starting your business?
The main part that was the hardest for myself, and many new business owners, was trusting in myself to take the risk. I believed in my ideas and products, however, committing financially and mentally to focus on this new endeavor within my life was tough.
Knowing that creating and owning a business was a part of my vision, and that design and marketing are my strong skill sets, made me trust in myself and drive forward with all that I have.
Some people ask how I started it all and then took my business to New York?…’I just did it!’
Do you find business to be seasonal or quite steady?
Being a new start-up with only 8 months down, it’s hard to compare the seasons at this stage.
In developing my debut collection, my aim was to design products that were universal and not seasonal. Luxury items for fashion femmes, brides, and newlyweds, which are required and desired year round.
Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?
My initial marketing began down the social media route. I developed our website to include a Blog which could also be shared through social media. The more avenues you mention your brand and have clicks and interactions, the more links will be available on the web to build your SEO and status on search engines.
Through social media, I have also been contacted by a number of magazines to photograph select items to include within their product pages. These published advertisements have been a great draw card to other customers and potential stockists.
Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?
The most amazed and inspired I have ever been, was when I saw Sir Richard Branson talk at a convention in Melbourne 5 years ago and then afterwards personally having dinner with him!! Yes, this was an insane evening, and an evening that really made me think about Richard’s struggles and failed start-ups and how much drive he had to push through. And thank god he did!!
This meeting was the basis of all my questions within myself.
In addition to that, I have many close friends who inspire me everyday that have started their own businesses and are successful. The insights and back and forth banter with someone who knows the feelings of a ‘start-up’ makes for a great therapist and career advisor!
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?
If you know what you are great at, and you have a drive in you that makes you constantly push yourself in whatever you do, then you may just have the strength to take on your own business.
Believing in your skills and talents is ultimately what keeps you confident in pursuing this endeavor.
Like I said before, ‘I just did it!’ Sometimes over thinking things has its burden and can scare you away. If you know your strengths, skills, and have developed a sound business plan, then take this risk and give it a chance!
Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?
I feel that Australians have a unique and creative sense of style and design, and this is very much noticed and celebrated internationally. This creative eye that we hold I feel is unique to us, and I feel lucky to be a part of this contribution.
What is next for Paris Awong Collective?
Behind the scenes I am growing and expanding into more avenues. Currently we have our Bespoke Weddings line, which we will continue to grow, and soon we will launch our homewares and men’s line within the New Year.
Our aim is to branch out into more stores within the US and also take it across to Europe.
Do you have an offer or promo code you would like to share with AWNY members?
Of course!! To my fellow Aussie friends take 20% off storewide with the code: AUSSIE20
Enjoy your Luxuries!! Xxx
Follow the Paris Awong Collective at:
Facebook : www.facebook.com/parisawongcollective
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