#ResiliencePersonified Series: AGVA Chats with Luke Chong
In the upcoming weeks, we will be featuring stories of several local entrepreneurs and the little known facts about their journey. We reached out to a few who are using AGVA bags and got them to share what they do to keep going during challenging times, and how they are able to manage their time efficiently despite having a million things screaming for their attention.
This week, we chat with Luke Chong, founder of homegrown retail gifting brand - TotallyHotStuff. TotallyHotStuff has been around the retail scene for the last (gasp) 10 years, and it was conceptualised during Luke’s internship stint in Sweden when he was in university. During his time in Stockholm, he travelled extensively throughout Europe and came across many innovative and creative products. According to Luke, he felt that the gifts segment in the retail scene lacked variety back in 2008. He wanted to offer Singaporeans something different and bring the best picks from around the world to them. TotallyHotStuff™ was thus conceived.
He started out with a simple e-commerce site as a marketing platform for various local and international creative brands. During the initial period, rejections were common as he went about physically knocking on vendors’ doors and sending out cold emails to many just to source the best products for the business. He opened the first TotallyHotStuff™ physical retail store in 2009, and currently has 3 retail fronts now.
A: We saw that you are carrying our Roadtripper Bag! How do you like bag so far?
L: I really like it! I think that It’s an ideal bag to bring for travelling as I can easily slot it on luggage handles. I also like it that the bag has a zipped compartment to stash away items like clothes, so it is easy for me to access frequently used items like my laptop, mouse etc. :D
A: Yay that’s great that you’re liking it and finding it useful! Tell us more about what you do?
TotallyHotStuff at Bugis+
L: I started TotallyHotStuff in 2009 as a retail store selling unique and interesting items that could be bought as gifts for others. Throughout this decade and with the changes in demands and needs of our customers, I have expanded the services of TotallyHotStuff to beyond a retail gift store, but to being a corporate gift provider. Besides having 3 retail stores at the moment, we are also marketing our clients' brands through creative and catchy corporate gift strategies and ideas that resonate their brand values and message.
Gifting is not simply a customary tradition, but an opportunity to communicate something meaningful and inspiring to make a lasting impression. Complemented by our decade-long experience in the retail industry with a relentless focus to delight our customers, we seek to make getting corporate gifts similarly easy and fun!
A: Wow, 10 years! Happy 10 years anniversary! We’re sure that in this decade, there were periods which were really tough. Could you share with us how did you cope during those challenging times?
L: Oh yes, there were indeed so many tough moments. During the tough periods, I prayed, and continued praying till the tough period was over. Having walked out of many tough moments myself, if it’s of any consolation to others, and a reminder to myself, it’s that these tough periods don’t stay.
Just to share a funny but stressful story that happened recently. I had a customer who ordered 10,000 corporate gifts with her company’s logo printed on it. The shipment came and the logo was super badly printed. It looked really terrible. And because it was such a last minute order, there was no time for the supplier to send a new batch as the customer needed it within the next 2 days. Can you imagine how horrified I was and how stressed I felt?
This was when I had to harness every bit of my creativity and resourcefulness to the fullest to find a solution for this so that I can deliver what the client wants in time. I managed to find a solution to this problem and thankfully I had the weekend to rectify it. When I finally delivered the items to the client after the weekend, she couldn’t tell that there was anything wrong, and was so happy with the items! I was so relieved and proud of myself at the same time. Hahaha.
I believe in staying positive and continuing to focus on solving customers' problems which in turn, will improve sales. And I also hold on to this belief that in every challenge, there is an opportunity. So far, it has always been like that for me.
A: Thanks for sharing! That must have been such a terrifying experience. And yes, it’s indeed about choosing what we want to believe in, ain’t it? We can see challenges as opportunities or we can see it as an obstacle. Thanks for the wonderful insight!
We also know how busy a business owner can be with many things screaming for our attention daily. Can you share with us one tip to increase our efficiency, or one method you are using to help you be more efficient and productive?
Luke shared that automation is his key to efficiency
L: Digitize and automate. If a manual work can be automated, then automate it. It really saves me a lot of time to focus on other work. I just have to spend the initial hours automating the system, and that’s it! With the various free or cost-effective apps and software solutions readily available these days, they can help to streamline a lot of processes, improve work organisation and enable you to scale up more easily as well.
A: Ok last question just because we are curious. What are the top 10 essential things you put in your bag?
L: These are what I packed in my Roadtripper Bag when I was travelling for work over the weekend. But what I always have in my bag are my laptop, mouse, keys, thermal flask, wallet, coin pouch, tablet, stationery, headset, and power bank.
Thank you Luke for your wonderful sharing :) You can find TotallyHotStuff at Bugis+ / Orchard Gateway / One@KentRidge or you can also shop online at www.totallyhotstuff.com.