Net profits for 'bosses'

Net profits for 'bosses'

Two university students are using Instagram to sell their leather and fashion products

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Instagram entrepreneurs Stephanie Kie (left) and Johnny Chau
Instagram entrepreneurs Stephanie Kie (left) and Johnny Chau
Photo: Thomas Yau/SCMP

Johnny Chau Chun-kit and Stephanie Kie Sz-wing may not be Instagram gurus, but in terms of running an online shop on the photo-sharing site, they do it like a boss.

Chau, 24, sells and markets his handmade leather accessories through his handle @leatherkit, while Kie, 22, operates her women's outfitter shop via @brown_sugarsugar.

Chau is in his second year of a diploma course in social work at Caritas Institute of Higher Education. He is a leather craft fanatic. He taught himself the art by reading books and websites, then started making his own accessories.

"I first made a wallet for myself," Chau says. "My friends saw the wallet when we were hanging out, and they offered to pay me to design and make some for them."

Chau's leather wallets, purses and other small items caught on through word of mouth, becoming popular with not just his friends, but friends of friends.

One friend, named Lucy, suggested Chau set up shop on Instagram.

"Lucy gave me the idea and I thought I should give it a try," said Chau.

"Besides uploading pictures of my products, I also share my daily life and other photos related to leather art. It's not just a business; it's also a platform for connecting with other 'leatherholics'."

Kie, a Year Three Chinese major at Chinese University, started her Instagram account a year ago - also on the advice of a friend.

"Fashion is very important to me. I spend a lot of time shopping for clothes, so a close friend suggested I make good use of my fashion sense on Instagram," she recalls.

But fashion-themed Instagram accounts are not uncommon, so Kie's friend, Lai Siu-yiu, suggested Kie model the clothes herself.

"Siu-yiu told me I should show my customers how the items would look when it's on my body," Kie says. "I hesitated at first, because I was worried about getting negative comments online. But I'm used to it now."

So far both "bosses" are on the right track. On average, Kie sells about 100 items a month, mostly imports from Taiwan and South Korea. Meanwhile, Chau is fully occupied by customer orders, as well as requests for leather craft lessons.

"Even though leather products are very durable, people still want new designs," says Chau, who uses the profits from his business to upgrade his handicraft tools.

Kie has noticed a trend in people's spending habits.

"I notice I receive more orders at the beginning of the month," she says. "That's probably because people have just got their salaries."

Despite their success, both virtual shop owners hope they can "bring their business to reality" one day.

"I hope I can have my own workshop one day, because it's quite noisy doing leather work at home," Chau says. "If I had my own workshop, I could work even at night. Plus I could hold classes."

Kie dreams of having her own boutique but concedes it might take some time.

"Rent in Hong Kong is way too high," she says.

She's prepared to chase her dream though. This June, she will be going to Seoul, South Korea, with friends.

"It's partly a trip for leisure, but I am also going because I want to practise being a buyer and purchase clothing there for the first time," Kie says. "I'll see how it goes. If the response from the customers is good, that will give me the confidence to try doing it on a full-time basis when I graduate."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Net profits for 'bosses'

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