A corporate lawyer who quit for an online retail startup thinks early stage VC funding is a waste of time

Photo: The Daily Edited/ Facebook.

When you’re make more money from a side project that’s your passion than as a lawyer, the universe is probably trying to tell you something.

This was reality for Alyce Tran, co-founder of The Daily Edited (TDE). She did the sums and the winner was clear.

“I make more here in a day than I do in a month as a lawyer,” she said.

After five years in law, she was on around $120,000, working in M&As with a focus on project finance.

“So after you pay your taxes it’s five or six thousand dollars a month. I’m definitely making more a day than that now.”

The Daily Edited sells customised leather accessories such as clutches and soft laptop cases. After just a year, the startup has between $200,000 and $250,000 per month in sales, but it took a few years to shape the idea into a success.

“TDE started in 2011… as a blog with a small online store with a line of clothing, and that just didn’t work out” said Tran.

“We peddled it along for like a year and then shut that down, and I kept TDE as a blog and that went OK,” she said.

But it was her creative outlet from the pressures of corporate law.

Co-founder Alyce Tran.

“Then I wanted to do these products (the customised leather goods) and we bought in a really small run of products, maybe only $10,000 worth of stock last September. It sold in three weeks. That’s when I was like ‘Oh, this is interesting’,” she said.

The product’s popularity had caught her by surprise.

“I thought last December for Christmas was crazy when we did nearly $100,000 worth of sales, but since it has been growing month-on-month.

“I was still working full-time as a lawyer… wrapping orders till like three or four in the morning. I didn’t have a staff member and was just doing it by myself.”

The business has now grown and Tran has two employees.

While there’s a warehouse for stock, the head office is still the ground floor of Tran’s home.

She attributes her success to keeping costs down and self-funding The Daily Edited. What’s more, Tran thinks venture capital (VC) raising is a waste of time for entrepreneurs starting out, calling it “fashionable” trend.

“I don’t think there is enough being written about how you can just go out there and make money,” she says.

“You can raise $500,000 probably really easy in Sydney if the idea is sound and you are a presentable person, with a professional background. But then you’re selling down a 25-30% stake and you have to deal with another person.

“If you can’t get it off the ground with say $10-20,000 [of your own money] then how is the $500,000 going to make a difference?”

Tran and co-founder Tania Liu, invested around $50,000 each since the project started in 2011 as an online clothing store, with any profit invested back in the business.

Photo: The Daily Edited/ Facebook.

“As a lawyer I work in the VC and PE (private equity) space and every day I see investments into these businesses that don’t even have revenue,” Tran says.

“I’m of the school that you work hard and see what you get, and I work extremely hard. It’s not glamorous schlepping boxes, filling up my neighbours bins because my bin is too full. But now we can afford to do anything in this business. Like we’re running a pop up shop in Westfield for five days in the second week of August which is costing $80,000 to stage. We have no debt and I haven’t had to raise any money or sell of any equity.”

Her advice is to “try to sell the idea to your friend and family first”. But be wary of the friends, family and fools conundrum — just because a few people you know like the idea doesn’t necessarily mean it has wider market fit.

The duo are now planning to take on some segments of the Asian market.

“By the end of the year our presence here in Australia will be done, I feel we may have reached saturation point. So what we would like to do next year is focus on international markets and roll our similar formulas we did here in terms of marketing,” she said.

Singapore and South Korea were on the cards, as well as the US.

“Tania is moving to Hong Kong… where we’re setting up our Hong Kong hub. [That way] we’ll be closer to our factory, start to build better relationships and start dispatching our international products offshore.”

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