Jenny Hwa Wants to Be the Martha Stewart of Green Products.
BY Dalia Fahmy
Is she trying to do too much?
The Pitch: "Environmentally friendly clothing tends to be frumpy. Loyale's mission is to merge sustainability and style. We've had a good response from the press and trendsetting boutiques. I'm also in talks with department stores. Now we would like to create a more interactive website and run an online marketing campaign. We would also like to take advantage of the economic slump and sign a long-term lease for a boutique in New York. Eventually, we want to launch a kids' and a men's collection and branch into home goods."
Owner/CEO: Jenny Hwa, 30
Location: New York City
Employees: Two interns and two freelancers
2007 Revenue: $140,000
2008 Projected Revenue: $200,000
Investment Needed: $2 million to open a boutique, build a new website, and launch an online advertising campaign
Clientele: Collection sold in 45 stores worldwide
Recent Buzz: Mentions in Glamour, Elle, Shape, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. The clothes have been worn by actresses Emily Deschanel and Courteney Cox.
The Experts Weigh In
Find a partner
This is a very timely company -- the eco-approach is very in. If Hwa can grab market share with a unique product, she can come out ahead. And I like that she wants to be the Martha Stewart of eco. Somebody's got to do it, and that's the self-confidence that will end up getting her the money. But Hwa needs to strengthen her business edge. Maybe she can bring in a partner who has financial skills. She should also build her online sales and her brand before opening a freestanding boutique. New York rents are still terribly high. Opening a store on a weak financial base could crater the company.
Lynda Davey Founder and partner Kairos Capital Partners New York City
Too much, too soon
My first reaction is, "Holy cow; she wants to do too much." Hwa is onto something -- environmentally friendly clothes do tend to be frumpy, and there's huge demand building for organic cotton. But she needs to take it slowly, and she probably won't be able to raise $2 million. My advice is to raise the amount she needs now to hire a salesperson who can sell her products at trade shows and trendsetting boutiques. She's probably too small for department stores, which will want to order large quantities. Hwa can keep the lifestyle ambition in the back of her mind, but she has to take it one step at a time.
Kylie Sachs Partner Ascend Venture Group New York City
Mind the capital gap
The apparel business is highly competitive. It sounds as if Hwa has a good pulse on the trends, and she should be commended for the exposure she has had in magazines. However, the amount she's trying to raise falls into the capital gap. It's too much for an angel and not enough for a venture capitalist. She should raise $500,000 or $750,000 now from local individuals, then prove that she's capable of making more money. Most angels are more interested in sexy technology companies, so she should look for investors who are passionate about fashion and the environment.
John Garcia Managing partner Angel Strategies Tustin, California