When former marketing executive Wu Fangfang first became a mother almost 15 years ago, she discovered, much to her disappointment, that children’s clothing in China were boring and of inferior quality. Wanting her daughter, Alice, to “live and behave like a princess”, she thus decided to create her own.
A few years later, Wu founded Greenbox, which is now the leading name in children’s apparel in China. Greenbox started out with the Miss de Mode brand, which Wu, a self-taught designer, created with her daughter in mind. Her designs became a hit on EachNet, the Chinese version of eBay, and this prompted her to open some brick and mortar stores in 2006.
Wu’s success was cut short by the global financial crisis, however, and she was forced to close the outlets. In addition, creditors told her to sell the business. Nevertheless, Wu made a different move: she set up shop on Taobao, China’s B2C and C2C giant that lets companies operate branded online stores.
This proved to be a very smart decision for Greenbox, as relocating online allowed Wu to decrease prices at just the right time, when e-commerce was starting to gain momentum in China. She realized that many of her target audience – young, middle class, working mothers – spent plenty of time online, and more importantly, wanted to dress up their children.
Aside from offering stylish garb for tots, Greenbox is paving the way for product safety, too. In recent years, clothing with hazardous levels of chemicals and heavy metals have made their way to retail stores. Wu visits Greenbox’s factories regularly to ensure product quality as well as endorses the use of materials and processes that do not harm the environment. Moreover, Greenbox is working with the Chinese government and industry associations to establish safety standards.
In 2011, Greenbox raked in more than $30 million in net revenue. And while Wu now has 30 designers working for her, she’s still very much involved in the design process, making at least 20 percent of the items herself.