One 23-year-old is rolling in cash after making $2.5 million in her first year selling “waist trainer” corsets as an online business.
When Iyia Liu, a student at the University of Auckland, saw the opportunity to revive her ambitions and the struggling online boutique business with a hot fashion craze, she didn’t pass it up. Last year, Liu put out around $4,300, or about AUD $6,000, and found a Chinese supplier for waist cinching corsets on Alibaba.
“I set up my company in May 2014 as I was expected to graduate at the end of that year.” Liu told NextShark. My first venture was an online clothing boutique which I launched as soon as I graduated. I was very inexperienced and found it very hard, so I ended up shutting it down early 2015 after Waist Trainer NZ Australia had taken off.”
In April 2015, she began selling the product to the underserved market in Australia and New Zealand. Since then, she has sold 100,000 “Waist Trainer New Zealand Australia” corsets to customers in 90 countries around world.
In her first year of business, Liu raked in $2.5 million, or AUD $3.3 million, from consumers who hope to achieve an hour-glass look from the products.
The New Zealander hired eight staff members to process orders and utilized social media marketing platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to reach her customers. Liu also contacted famous celebrities who she paid to endorse her waist trainer.
In July, Liu reportedly paid Kylie Jenner over $200,000, or AUD $300,000, to post a photo of herself using the corset on her Instagram account.
Jenner’s post reached 77 million followers and received 1.5 million likes. Liu was able to track her sales leads from customers who used the promo code “Kylie.”
Such sponsored posts have proved to be effective marketing strategies. Liu told the New Zealand Herald:
“I thought I’d just sell a few. It just grew exponentially.”
Of the $2.5 million revenue, Liu has made nearly a million in profit. The commerce student has gained great monetary success, but she said the investment didn’t pay off right away.
“The return was not as fast as I thought it would be.” Liu said.
In addition, Liu has learned that not all sponsored Instagram posts have the same results. She once paid New Zealand reality star and glamour model Rosanna Arkle for a post only to realize later on that most of the followers on her account were men.
Liu’s products have also been met with criticism from medical experts who consider the health risks of a waist trainer corset. Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of OB/GYN at Yale School of Medicine, told Women’s Health magazine:
“Medically, it doesn’t make sense that cinching your waist tightly will make it permanently smaller. Once you take the garment off, your body will return to its usual shape.”
“It’s also uncomfortable, restricts your movements, and, if you wear it really tight, it can even make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage.”
Though Liu’s parents are business-savvy property developers, she says she didn’t depend on their connections to grow her business. Her online boutique started as a side project while she was at university.
However, Liu says she has always had an entrepreneur’s spirit at a young age. When she was 13, she started importing products from China and selling them outside of school.
Today, she’s treating herself to lavish vacations and even bought herself a Mercedes Benz G-Class with her own hard earned money. Liu is also known to be a fan of designer handbags.
Aside from the steep competition in women’s fashion, Liu also realizes that scaling her “waist trainers” is not realistic as “people only need to buy one.” Instead, she has been focused on expanding into other beauty, wellness products and activewear.
Four of her staff members are currently working across both brands including Luxe Fitness, which supplies protein powder and supplements.
While some would think that Liu is busy working day and night, she says her schedule involves more of a relaxed eight hour workday.
“It’s only the stages when we’re coming up with new products that I’m really busy.”
As for advice for people hoping to make a handsome profit out of their own businesses, Liu says “do it while you are young.”
“Entrepreneurs need to take risks, so if you have no liabilities, like a mortgage or children, you can make more flexible decisions without worrying so much about the outcome.”