Interview With Anthony Kwok
Describe your product or service:
“3D Virtual Fitting Room platform for online fashion stores.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Our mission is to help people gain confidence, self-expression, and happiness in life by allowing them to find their perfect fitting outfit.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We've raised $152,000 AUD [$112,000 USD] so far from family, friends, and angel investors. We're currently in the middle of our Seed Round of $600,000 AUD [$442,000 USD].”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We have three co-founders, two freelancers, and [previously] had one intern. Between the team, we have over two decades of experience in fashion retail and another two decades of experience in software engineering. Our CTO has also worked in three startups previously, with one acquired by Airstayz.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“My family has always [run] businesses from small Chinese restaurants, selling frozen food, running small shopping centre kiosks all the way to owning warehouses operating in the wholesale space. I've wanted to be a boss [since] I was a child. I've always been a daydreamer as a kid too, and that somehow stayed with me when I grew up. My imagination of all the things the world could be became the seed of my entrepreneurial life.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“The first moment I had the idea was when I was in university. I was at home trying to find an outfit for a party, and embarrassingly, my room looked like a typical girl's room with clothes thrown everywhere because I couldn't find the right one. Then my imagination kicked in, and [I] dreamt of a virtual fitting room app that had your wardrobe on it because if you can dress a video game character, why can't we save all our time and find outfits like that? Long story short, I brought the idea into an innovation class, and my team hated it — we ended up going with a portable sunscreen spray booth.
I couldn't get that idea out of my head, so I told my best friend Andrew about it, and we started brainstorming ideas on how to go about it. We came up with a virtual fitting room app that was everything under the sun: a virtual fitting room, a social media platform, a digital fashion magazine, a review platform, and an ecommerce platform as well. We brought this idea to everyone we knew, and needless to say, no one had a clue about what we were talking about because, at our core, we had no clue either.
After a few years of playing with the idea, joining Monash Uni's Incubator program, and talking with lots of people, we finally met a startup incubator group called Pitchblak. From then on, our idea became the B2B virtual fitting room platform for online fashion stores with the aim to solve the trillion-dollar 'sizing' problem in fashion ecommerce.
Maybe we were naive, but we always had the confidence that we were on the right track. Something just felt right about it, even when it felt like trying to run in a straight line with blindfolds on. Working in fashion retail also helped as well, being exposed daily to the huge extent of the returns problem in online shopping.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Our original name was Creo Ex Nihilo. It's Latin for ‘creating from nothing.’ Our mentors at Pitchblak thought it was lame, so we brainstormed about 50 other names to take its place. We came up with ZILIO because we wanted a brand that was both fashion but tech as well.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Our greatest challenge — and is still our greatest challenge — was capital. Being young and inexperienced, we had to really fight hard to get investments, and even then, we received none. The problem is that the technical complexity of our solution meant that we had to get a GUN of a software engineer to lead the way, and most of the time, they have to be paid decently as they have mortgages and families to feed — no matter how much they loved your idea. Andrew and I had saved up around 50K to kickstart the idea, and this was before paying for Pitchblak's partnership. Unfortunately, we were burnt by an investor with empty promises, and we found ourselves left with three weeks of runway until we were bankrupt, and we were only five weeks old at this point. I was about to sell my car. Andrew and I went through all [our] contacts, reaching out to every single person we knew, with no hope. This was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life, to have failed even before we have had the chance to try. My struggles and drive must have ticked something off in my family and close to the end, my family's company came in and took over the $50,000 investment that was left by our original investor. From then on, Andrew and I worked full time for years, both putting 60% to 80% of everything we earned into ZILIO to pay for our developer's salary. We did well with the chance my parents gave us. [W]e now have six investors, nine fashion labels signed and are in the talks with Melbourne's biggest angel investor groups to raise our seed and take ZILIO to market.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Our platform is targeted at Fashion Labels that have their own online store. Our target users are everyone who shops online, as everyone in the world struggles with the uncertainty around the sizing and fit of clothes when they shop online.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Currently, our marketing strategy is just to raise brand awareness with consistent posts. Once we are ready to grow and scale, we'll partner with our fashion label clients [to] do collabs with their social media to shortcut our way with brand trust and awareness. We also aim to create a presence on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook with targeted ads for users.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We've signed up nine fashion labels so far through warm introductions. Our first 100 users came from our Pilot in BY BETTINA LIANO's online store.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We look at the number of user sign-ups along with conversion rates and returns rates that are linked [to] the use of ZILIO's virtual fitting room for Fashion Labels.”
What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?
“Favourite book — ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. Favourite podcast — ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“The growth of your business will never exceed the growth of the founder.”
Who is your support system?
“My support system is my co-founders, investors, advisors/mentors, clients, the startup community, friends, and family.”
How do you stay motivated?
“My daily routines and habits are my cornerstone to staying motivated. I make sure I wake up early to give myself time to read and learn, meditate, visualise the future I'm creating, focus on self-affirmations, journal, and workout. This gives me the direction and clarity of what excites me and allows me to bring the energy and motivation I need into growing the startup.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
"Other habits would be to have a no phone rule an hour before bed and two hours after I wake up. Posting on social media has also contributed greatly to my success as well.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“Having gone through continuous battles and challenges, ones that would normally break a person, and have never had the thought of giving up.”
More on ZILIO
ZILIO, the is the newest thing in fashion tech: a 3D virtual fitting room for the ecommerce fashion stores market.
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Anthony Kwok of fashion startup ZILIO that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.