The Tatler 10: Sarah Fung
The founder of HULA talks to us about the perks of running your own business and why you should never give up, even when the odds are against you
A graduate from London’s Central Saint Martins and after almost a decade at Lane Crawford, Sarah Fung is no stranger to the fashion industry. She previously owned and managed her own lingerie and swimwear company that counted Colette, Browns and Selfridges among its clientele. However, after years spent in the industry on the frontlines and behind the scenes, Sarah along with the help of her sister, founded HULA, a chic online community where members consign items they no longer need, without ever having to lift a finger. We speak to Sarah about the importance of smart shopping and why her mother is her biggest inspiration:
Although I was born and raised in the United Kingdom, it felt right to return to Hong Kong to connect with my roots. Like many people who moved back, I didn’t think I would be here permanently. I love having everything at my fingertips in Hong Kong, and it brought my sister and I even closer together and felt like the perfect place for us to launch HULA.
HULA is a new marketplace for the resale of designer womenswear, where sellers are recruited on an “by-invitation only” basis by industry insiders. Five percent of our profits are donated to partner charities and HULA benefits the buyer, seller, the environment and someone who needs our help.
My proudest accomplishment to date is HULA, even though I previously owned and ran a lingerie and swimwear business, founding HULA has been a drastically different experience and more challenging in many ways.
The best aspect about running your own business is the agility of it all and having the freedom to move at my own pace, and largely being able to personally contribute and make a difference to people’s lives.
My advice to budding entrepreneurs is to really believe in what you’re doing and to be persistent and never, ever settle. I remember when I lived in London and was running my previous lingerie and swim business, the factory I was working with told me a month before my deadline that they were going under. Knowing I wouldn’t secure another factory at such short notice, I hired a van, took a crash-course in sewing and constructing lingerie and sewed day and night with the help of a friend to make that order. The moral of the story? Don’t take no for an answer.
I believe HULA is not just an online boutique selling fashion, but more of a community that offers a new shopping experience and a different way of life. We have a number of exciting features and services in the pipeline at the moment which I’m excited about.
My biggest influence has to be my mother, she wasn’t fortunate enough to have a proper education and she began working when she immigrated to the UK in her early teens as a part-time singer and hairdresser. Later, she was able to study beauty therapy and finally had her own salon in the heart of Chinatown in London, and I believe that I inherited her persistence and her can-do attitude. I will never forget the sacrifices she made and how hard it must have felt to run a business with two young children and little income.
Looking back, I wish I had learned how to code!
My end goal is to create a social change, especially in Asia with how people are so quick to consume and discard fashion, I hope to encourage people to value and purchase fashion for its craft and longevity as opposed to whats hot right now.
My words to live by are: “make mistakes, make them fast and learn from them!” It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re on or how much experience you have, I find that a business benefits from its failures, so long as you’re able to spot them quickly, you’re receptive to feedback and you can always pick yourself up.
Photography by Michaela Giles