Rachel Lim is one of those most enviable success stories: A college dropout whose side hustle turned into a multimillion-dollar business.
The 32-year-old has risen the ranks of the fashion industry after quitting university at the age of 21 to co-found her international womenswear brand Love, Bonito.
But despite finding success as an academic breakaway, the business leader said it’s not a path she recommends to other would-be entrepreneurs.
“My answer is always no,” Lim told CNBC Make It, referring to the many students who ask her if they should quit college to start a company.
“What people don’t see is that we actually dabbled in this for a while before coming out to take that leap of faith to start,” said the Singaporean entrepreneur, who originally started Love, Bonito as a fashion blogshop with friends during her school years.
Indeed, it was several years of iterating the business — taking it from selling their unwanted items to importing clothes from overseas, and even fashioning their own designs — before she made the move.
“In those three, four years while in school, dabbling with the business, we learned a lot about the industry: What’s lacking in the market, if we were to come in, how we can fulfill the need,” said Lim, who positions Love, Bonito as a tech-first fashion brand for “modern Asian women.”
Eventually, in 2009, with just eight months of her teaching degree remaining, Lim quit university to take the business full-time.
That meant breaking her college bond and borrowing her mom’s five-figure life savings to pay off the debt. But the then-21-year-old said momentum had grown around her business to such a point that she was convinced the timing was right.
“It was a very deliberate decision to choose to focus on the business then,” she said.
“I knew we had to strike while the iron was hot,” Lim continued. “And if the business were to fail, back then, I was still young enough to go back to school.”
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