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  • Writer's pictureSean Wilson

“Marry an Accountant” and Other Tips for Succeeding in Retail in Taiwan

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

While a large number of entrepreneurs in Taiwan are in the technology or education industries, there are many who’ve converted a passion for making things into a way to make good money. At All Hands’ recent Retail Details event, entrepreneurs who make and sell their own products in Taiwan shared their journeys into retail.

Table of Contents

Where should I sell my products?

How to do physical retail right?

How to find the right influencers to help me advertise my brand?

How to get started selling online?

How to deal with logistics?

Should I offer free shipping?


Origin Stories

Alex Denner of Empress Hot Sauce explained how he ended up getting out of his 9-to-5 gig and into building his own hot sauce company with his girlfriend (and now business partner), Jane. “We were both working in New York City, me as an accountant and Jane as a product manager. One day we’d both gotten promoted at our respective jobs. We came home and talked about our day, and we felt very excited for each other, but not for ourselves. That was the moment we both decided that we needed a change,” said Alex. “Jane’s from Taiwan, and she was thinking of coming back to start her own international brand consultancy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted it to be in food. When I arrived, I started out making chia seed ice cream, and hot sauces were just a side project. But every day I was making ice cream, I was thinking about what flavors I could combine together to make interesting hot sauces. Eventually I had so many people asking for the hot sauce I was giving away for free that I decided to switch things up and sell it. Now we sell on Pinkoi, DCard and at pop-ups around Taiwan.”

Josh Roberts and his wife Mandy of gabi+skin have a similar story of creating their own company after finding out their friends liked their products. “Mandy was searching for coffee scrub and could only find it overseas. The shipping costs would be more than the cost of the goods themselves, and it seemed simple enough to make, so we decided to try making it ourselves. We bought the ingredients, made a huge tub of it, and Mandy tried it out; it was so good, she screamed! We had so much left over that we decided to give some away to friends. Everyone we gave it to loved it, so we thought, well, let’s try selling it, and now we’ve been selling different skincare products in pop-up shops and online for the past 2 years.”

Melody Hsu of ViaSweat, much like Alex, was successful in her own career before trying her hand at something new. Originally from Taipei, Melody went to college in America and started her career in advertising there before coming back to Taiwan. Melody wanted to do her own thing, and spent a good amount of time thinking about what that could be. “Cupcakes were all the rage in the USA when I first got back to Taiwan. So I originally thought of opening my own cupcake bakery here, but then my husband gently reminded me that I don’t know anything about baking,” Melody laughed.

“But I also had an idea about how to make a better sports bra. I’m into exercise and always hated the experience of taking off a sweaty, wet sports bra after working out. I wanted to add a zipper to make that process easier. Thankfully, Taiwan is a great place to source functional fabrics: Taiwan makes and sources these materials for large sports brands like Under Armor, so finding suitable fabrics wasn’t a problem. I started out selling my designs online on Taiwan-based E-Commerce sites like Pinkoi, Shopee, Yahoo, and Zalora. Eventually, we began getting lots of orders – my house began to fill up with boxes of product, and then my husband joined the company full-time. He helps with packaging and shipping, and since he’s an accountant, he also manages our books. We’ve been going strong for 6 years now, and now we ship internationally as well. We’ve also done pop-up shops, and had our own retail store for a while.”

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