At the tender age of eight when most children would be doing their homework or heading to the playground after school, Lim Bee Lian would be busy helping out her father at his sundry shop.
When she was in her teens, she decided to embark on a career in the fashion industry as she loved the aesthetics of beauty and style. But her late father had regarded her idea with scorn.
“People use soy sauce to cook meals daily. People don’t buy clothes everyday,” her father had said to her.
After completing her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations, Lim found work in several fashion houses where she became a self-taught fashionista. Her story bears testimony to the fact that true grit and hard work — and not necessarily gender and academic achievement — are the ingredients for success.
Today, Lim, at the age of 36, is the owner of Mona Boutique House in Taman Sutera Utama in Johor Baru. Her initial capital outlay for the Mona Boutique, which she started 11 years ago, had been RM200,000.
“The biggest challenge of this business is sourcing for fashionwear that will suit the different body shapes of women age from 25 to 70. In the beginning I had to travel overseas to look for the right designs, but now I just order them online after selecting the designs and receiving the textile samples.
“I am very particular about the designs, and the designers I collaborate with are from Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong who have set up factories in China. Even though my fashionwear come with a high price tag, they are durable and I have regular as well as new customers who value the fashion advice and service that my staff and I are able to provide.
“I normally order only one size, one colour for each design to create exclusivity, unless many customers request for that particular design” she said.
Mona House is open until Chinese New Year eve as some of her customers only receive their year-end bonus on the eve, so they could only come at that time.
However, success does come with a price.
Lim has to undergo Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections whenever she has excruciating pain in her ankle. PRP treatments are normally sought after by athletes.
“In my line of work I have to be on my feet most of the time. I can’t be sitting down while my customers are standing. Over the years many of my customers have become my friends,” she said, adding that to date she has been in the fashion industry for 14 years.
Lim said that at one time, she also had to lodge a police report when a scammer allegedly accepted payment from a customer, which lead the customer to see Lim as an accomplice as the customer did not receive the items which she had already paid for.
“And sometimes when I do live streams on Facebook, I will receive sales as well as lewd video clips. It’s quite scary as I’ve put myself out there because of my business but at the same time I don’t know what kind of wierdos are stalking me,” said the mother of two.
Lim said her husband had been very supportive of her business, which had survived Covid-19.
For anyone who would like to venture into the fashion business, Lim’s advice to them would be to learn everything they can about fashion such as colour combinations, how to match accessories to an outfit, and the different types of fabrics and cuts in clothing that would complement different body shapes, among others.
“And having management skills is very important for any kind of business. Time and financial management are crucial to achieve work-life balance and success in life.
“If my father had been alive today, I believe he would be proud of me,” said Lim. Lim, who was born in Selangor, was the fourth child among six siblings. The family had moved to Taman Tun Aminah, Johor Baru when Lim was still a child. Lim’s mother, 59, is also a fan of Mona House Boutique and visits the shop regularly.
MONA HOUSE BOUTIQUE
3, JALAN SUTERA TANJUNG 8/3
TAMAN SUTERA UTAMA
81300 SKUDAI, JOHOR BAHRU