President/Founder, 77th Street
Elim Chew is easily one of Singapore’s most recognisable entrepreneurs. Having founded the retail chain 77th Street and bagged dozens of accolades, she revolutionised the streetwear scene and has become a driving force for local entrepreneurship.
But perhaps what many don’t know is that Elim’s dream of making it big began way back during humble beginnings. “I remember when I was 20, I wrote down on a piece of paper that I wanted to be a millionaire by 25. I was just a hairstylist then, but decided to go into fashion retail as I had an eye for it. So at age 22, I started 77th Street,” she recalled.
And yet, despite Elim’s keen eye for fashion and business acumen, 77th Street was no overnight success and took years to grow into what is today.
When asked about her secret for success, Elim explained, “My business philosophy is to always think big and think global. But it’s not enough to just think big. You have to go all out and make it happen. There’s so much you can achieve if you do. Because I believe the power to create the biggest change in our lives and in the world lies in our hands.”
But just as important as it is for an entrepreneur to have a never-say-die attitude, finding the right people who share the same passion and vision is also key.
“Without my staff, I don’t think the company will be where it is right now,” Elim said. That is why she treats all her staff like family, caring for them to the best of her ability, while always on the lookout for new people to help take the business further.
To ensure that her team of managers stay in touch with the latest trends, Elim sends them on business trips around the region to research, design and work with overseas factories to develop new and exciting products. Plus, anyone selected for a leadership role in the company begins by serving at least three months at a store. This allows him or her to make better business decisions, being in sync with the current taste and needs of consumers.
Looking back on all she has accomplished, Elim is most proud that she was responsible for introducing the trend of streetwear fashion and accessorising into Asia.
Unlike wearing brand labels where your attitude reflects those of the brand, donning streetwear gives you the freedom to express who you really are. And when you’re totally at ease, it is then you look your best too! This ability to empower people through the clothes they wear is what gives Elim immense gratification.
Offering advice to would-be entrepreneurs, Elim said, “Go out there and get a lot of experience because it’s only through experience will you know what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at. But equally as important as doing well is doing good. Always remember the less fortunate even when you’re busy chasing success.”
For Elim Chew, you could say thinking big applies to all aspects of her life.