Boutique Owner- Soft Spoken With Determination
We did a little Q & A with Judy Li Boutique Owner of Sincerely Sweet
What/who inspired you to start in your company?
I have always been a shy, quiet, soft-spoken, introverted girl growing up. What most people didn’t know inside my head was this magical, whimsical world, bursting with colors, fantasy and life. I put that creativity to work and became a graphic designer. In college, I started a fashion/beauty blog with creative and unique ways for hair styles, makeup, nails, lifestyle and fashion. I would cut, tie, pin, sew, dye, draw on old clothes to create new styles. I also did a lot of researching for fun, cute, whimsical styles that were affordable for me and my readers. At that time, there were not a lot of feminine and cute styles that you can buy online in the states, so I always had to find them when I was traveling overseas or buy it from an oversea store online, pay a hefty shipping fee, and wait forever for it to be delivered. If you were to find something in the US, it was not really affordable. So I started this boutique and made it my mission to scour the world for cute, feminine, whimsical, unique and most importantly affordable fashion and accessories so that girls in the US can venture out of their safe zone of black, plain and unflattering styles and try colorful, fun styles that will make them feel and look pretty.
I also believe in the art of soft power. I often tell people, do not mistaken soft femininity for weakness as even water can pierce a rock. So to be feminine is not to be weak. Women should embrace their femininity. Even though people think of me as soft, gentle and sweet, those that knows me know that I have a strong mind and will. I’m not easily swayed or influenced by peers. I do what I think is right and when if comes to pursuing what I want, I will not budge until I achieve it.
Do you have a hero/role model?
Yes my grandmother is both my hero and role model. I was raised by my grandparents and so my grandmother was pretty much a mother figure to me. Mothers and daughter often have this love hate relationship but for me and my grandmother it had always been pure love and high respect. My grandma nurtured all my creativity and taught me kindness and compassion. She was a principal at an orphanage during WWII. It was a school that had taken in and looked after children who had either lost their parents in the war or were soldiers fighting in the war. She often comforted the children by playing the piano and singing happy songs to them to temporarily relieve their fear and sadness. She was strong in the sense that she protected the children and the school with all her might when faced with danger (when they were treated by enemy soldiers) but she was also soft and gentle with the kindest heart when dealing with the children and her staff. She changed the world for those children and their parents who dedicated their lives to protect their country but I don’t think she really knew that. I don’t think she knew exactly how much of an impact she had on those people. I always sought to be just like her and hope to make a change in the world in my own small way. I want to create moments of happiness, whim, and positivity that brings a smile and confidence in someone though fashion, especially in this world full of chaos, violence, social unrest and negativity. I want to remind people of the good in this world.
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
I was born and raised in Taiwan, a small but beautiful island next to China. My childhood was full of laughter and love. I was nurtured and encouraged by my grandparents. They were so proud of everything I did. My grandma would walk me and my sister to school everyday and my grandpa would take me to the local street market on his bike. We enjoyed the simple and content life together and I think that really shaped me into the person I am today. My parents had came to the US to head start a better life for us while my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was suppose to be temporary (1-2 years) but the dream and pursuit of happiness in the US unfortunately, was not as easy as my parents had imagined. After much hard work and struggle, it was not until 6-7 years later I was reunited with my parents in the US.
Tell us a story/incident that has happened in your company that may have made you feel defeated. Now tell us how you overcame that.
We are lucky that we have not yet had any crazy incidents that made me feel that way or maybe I’ve always been the optimistic type to not have feel defeated by anything. But there was a time where we were transitioning and migrating our site to a new checkout system and my husband and I did a straight week of non-stop work and data entry to meet our deadline for launch and sure enough, the system crashed. We didn’t have a chance to back up our progress and all our work for that week was lost. That day I felt utterly defeated because I had almost no sleep for a week, hardly ate, lost about 10 pounds in a week just from fatigue and I just broke down, curled up in a fetal position on the couch and cried for 20 mins. Then my husband comforted me and I told myself “I will not let anything stop me”. Fate can throw obstacles in my way but I know I will never quit because this is my passion. I wiped my tears and got up back to work and reentered everything and we met our launch date. Tell us something fun/unique about you that most people don’t know.
I love to play drums. I’ve always wanted to be in an all girls rock band. I am soft spoken but I like to play loud instruments.
Have you ever been underestimated simply for being a woman? Tell us how.
Yes, all the time but never really too bluntly. It was more subtle. For example I would attend a trade show or fashion show overseas with my husband and people would automatically assume he was the CEO or decision maker until he lets them know that i’m the one call the shots.
What are your goals for your company?
My current goal right now is to become a more socially and environmentally conscious company.
Environmentally, we are currently in the process of switching all our packing and shipping material to 100% recycled and recyclable post-industrial/consumer waste. We want to use sustainable packaging alternatives that will help reduce waste and our dependence on non-renewable resources. Our new packaging will either be recyclable or biodegradable. Our new hang tags will be made of seed paper in which our customers can plant to grow beautiful flowers.
Socially we have sponsored various school charity fashion shows and benefit galas that benefited organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter in Northampton, and Shining Hope for Communities, an organization dedicated to providing schools and education for impoverished girls in Kenya.
I have a different approach when it comes to my business compared to a lot of other companies. As I’ve mentioned I believe in the art of soft power. My business approach is paralleled to the philosophy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War in that I believe success comes from collaborated development, building mutual trust, and a win-win approach. In another words, instead of seeing competitors as enemies, I often see opportunities for collaboration where both brands can succeed and grow by working together. Business helping business!
I want our company to be not just a profitable company but also a company that cares about our customers, employees, community and the environment. I truly believe one’s moral philosophy matters in one’s business. I transfer my own creed and life philosophy into my business and I know because of that, our company philosophy and corporate value can help make a difference in the world. I hope people who love our style and share the same passion and value for the world will become loyal customers to us.
Last note, from a shy, reserved, introverted girl to a woman who has learned to take risks to make my dreams a reality. I hope to inspire all the women in the world who are #girlbosses or those who are working their butt off to get there. Keep on pushing forward and dream big. Let your passion and creativity guide you and you will see that every baby step forward feels like a world of accomplishments because YOU worked for it. Be inspired and inspire others.