Fight­ing stereo­types and shap­ing her own des­tiny

Not con­tent to sim­ply yield to ar­chaic con­ven­tions, a for­mer ac­coun­tant-turned-house­wife em­braces her busi­ness acu­men to set up her own shapewear com­pany

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By YU RAN in Shang­hai

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Dong Chun­ling knows all too well the strug­gle against gen­der stereo­types and dis­crim­i­na­tion, hav­ing spent the past 10 years jug­gling the roles of a house­wife and an en­tre­pre­neur who owns a com­pany de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing high-qual­ity women’s shapewear in Changzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince.

Her emo­tional link to the in­dus­try can be traced back to her child­hood when she would play with threads and sewing kits as her grand­fa­ther was a tai­lor.

“I grew up mak­ing hand­i­crafts and clothes for my dolls and now I fi­nally have the chance to fol­low my child­hood dream to de­sign clothes and cre­ate my own brand,” said the 37-year-old.

Dong had

worked

as

an ac­coun­tant be­fore quit­ting the job in 2006 to be­come a full­time mother. It was a de­ci­sion that she said was forced upon her by fam­ily mem­bers who be­lieved that she should not be work­ing but in­stead be de­vot­ing all her time to the fam­ily.

Stuck in her apart­ment and over­whelmed with bore­dom, Dong re­sorted to sell­ing baby prod­ucts on­line to kill time. This was when she no­ticed the boom­ing shapewear mar­ket, largely driven by young moth­ers like her who were keen to look good and dress up in beau­ti­ful clothes. Dong ex­cit­edly pitched her busi­ness idea to her fam­ily but the re­sponse was still the same — stay home and be a re­spon­si­ble wife and mother.

“It was very tough to go against this tra­di­tional bias. The older gen­er­a­tion seems to think that women only have two roles in life — a wife and a mother, and noth­ing else. I didn’t be­lieve in that, so I chose to fight it,” said Dong.

One of her first steps was work­ing with a sup­plier di­rectly for her on­line shop. This helped her lower the costs and re­duce the risks as­so­ci­ated with hav­ing a brick and mor­tar store. Dong priced her shapewear prod­ucts rel­a­tively low, with most of the pieces cost­ing be­tween 50

Dong Chun­ling,

($7.65) to 60 yuan.

“I slept only three to four hours ev­ery day but it’s some­thing I never re­gret­ted. I was so keen to fight against the prej­u­dice,” said Dong.

Af­ter two years, Dong was re­ceiv­ing more than 2,000 yuan worth of or­ders ev­ery day.

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully jug­gled her fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and her on­line busi­ness, Dong had proved to her fam­ily that she was in­deed ca­pa­ble of man­ag­ing her pri­or­i­ties. When her child started at­tend­ing kinder­garten, she was able to de­vote more time to her busi­ness and this was also the time when she de­cided to take her small en­ter­prise a step fur­ther.

Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing con­nec­tions with var­i­ous fac­to­ries, Dong founded her own shapewear brand, Ziyan­lier, in 2008, which was stocked in sev­eral shop­ping malls across Jiangsu prov­ince.

Again, she faced dis­crim­i­na­tion, only this time it wasn’t from her fam­ily mem­bers. Dong re­called how trade fairs would re­ject her ap­pli­ca­tion and how land­lords would not lease a space to her as they be­lieved she would not make any money.

“Many peo­ple don’t think that fe­male en­trepreneurs can be as good as their male coun­ter­parts. The men are al­ways deemed more trust­wor­thy and are doubted less,” said Dong.

But Dong never re­lented. She per­se­vered with the help of a small sales team and proac­tively ap­proached nu­mer­ous man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers to pro­mote her ideas and brand. By 2012, Ziyan­lier was al­ready a rel­a­tively well-known brand in the mar­ket that had an an­nual rev­enue of more than 3 mil­lion yuan.

In the same year, Dong launched Magic Vi­o­let, a high-end prod­uct line fea­tur­ing ex­pen­sive and cus­tom­ized shapewear tar­geted at wealthy cus­tomers. To en­sure that Magic Vi­o­let prod­ucts are of the high­est qual­ity and com­fort­able to wear, Dong’s de­sign team uti­lizes high tech ma­chin­ery as well as fab­rics im­ported from Ital­ian sup­pli­ers.

The new prod­uct range looks to have been a hit with the con­sumers as she man­aged to post a 200 per­cent growth in rev­enue in the past two years.

Dong’s goal now is to es­tab­lish Ziyan­lier as China’s lead­ing shapewear brand within five years. She is also plan­ning to turn Magic Vi­o­let into a global brand.

“I’ve no­ticed that as time passes, more peo­ple now are be­gin­ning to fo­cus on the ad­van­tages of my prod­ucts in­stead of my gen­der,” said Dong.

“I’ve never re­gret­ted be­com­ing a busi­ness­woman. Af­ter a decade of chal­lenges, I am fi­nally on track to achiev­ing suc­cess now.”

It was very tough to go against this tra­di­tional bias. The older gen­er­a­tion seems to think that women only have two roles in life — a wife and a mother, and noth­ing else. I didn’t be­lieve in that, so I chose to fight it.”

37, owner of Ziyan­lier shapewear

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Shapewear com­pany owner Dong Chun­ling is aim­ing for her brand to go global in the near fu­ture.

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