Behind every successful brand is a tactical leader who is quietly making an impact; duck’s Kho Min Jee speaks to Lily Ong on what it’s like to helm a brand with a cult-like following
Fate brought these two lovebirds together in marriage
When duck unveiled its own line of telekungs (Muslim prayer robes), hundreds of ‘duckies’ were awake and ready on their laptops at 4am to snap up a piece via the brand’s online store—and the products sold out within half an hour. The cult following behind this homegrown label can be attributed to a multitude of factors. First, duck uses a storytelling format to narrate the brand on social media, through the voice of a mysterious character named D, whose life journey serves as an inspiration for the brand’s array of headscarves, cosmetics, stationery, accessories plus home & living items. Secondly, its co-founder Vivy Yusof is also a superinfluencer who embodies the brand’s values by modelling them on herself: a young ambitious woman straddling the fine line between modernity and modesty. The third factor? The leadership skills of the third female force behind duck, general manager Kho Min Jee. She quietly works behind the scenes at duck, tenaciously pushing the brand forward thanks to her extensive retail experience and data-driven approach. Having studied marketing and international business, Min Jee first worked at the Catcha Group before switching over to retail at Gucci. From there, she branched out into event management as well as the entertainment industry before she struck out on her own with her agency called Maverick. “Entrepreneurship was a tough learning curve for me, but I learnt a lot, even after I decided it wasn’t for me after five years,” she says. A chance encounter with Vivy changed everything for Min Jee. “Vivy and I met at a media interview session at Astro. Who doesn’t love Vivy? She’s so charming and lovable,” she disclosed. After that first meeting, Vivy and her husband Fadza Anuar contacted her about a role in their e-commerce company Fashionvalet, but both sides agreed it wasn’t a good fit. “I had put it behind me, then they called again, this time with another idea—duck,” she says. Fascinated, Min Jee told the enterprising couple that duck could be more than just a headscarf company. “Fadza and Vivy are big thinkers. They don’t limit themselves or their employees. They have faith in the brand’s potential and welcomed my input,” she says. After coming onboard, Min Jee skilfully strategised duck’s foray into cosmetics and other categories, while keeping a careful eye over the brand’s product expansion. “duck diversifying into cosmetics was a two-year secret we had to keep because we had to do extensive research and test out products so that it’s acceptable for our brand. Nothing we have achieved with duck happened overnight. We worked hard to plant seeds in the right places and then focused on carefully nurturing those seeds in the right direction,” she elaborates. Four years after duck made its debut, Min Jee is proud at how far the brand has come. Naturally, the rapid growth of the company also meant that duck is on transition from its startup identity into a more structured corporation. “Of course, we don’t want to lose the essence of where we came from—a young brand with fresh talents. But hiring more experienced and older staff has brought more maturity and stability into our company. It helps put structure in place, in comparison to the flat management style we had prior to this,” reveals Min Jee on what lies ahead for the company.
“We worked hard to plant seeds in the right places”