Inspiring Stories of Our Owners

From Refugee to Fashion Queen: How Monica Phromsavanh Built a Fashion Empire

March 3, 2018
3 min read

Monica Phromsavanh, founder of ModaBox, is a passionate serial entrepreneur creating business solutions in the industry she knows best — fashion. She is an innovative brand builder with multifaceted expertise in retail, marketing, strategy, business development, and consumer behavior.

What was your biggest discovery in 2017?

This year I was working really hard, doing the same thing and not getting the results that I wanted. Eventually, I realized that I was so attached to my own vision for ModaBox, that I forgot that at the end of the day, it’s not about what I want for the company, it’s about the needs and wants of our customers.

What hurdles did you face in 2017, and how did/are you navigate those?

As a startup, you always think that raising money is the best thing to do. I’ve rationalized this mindset by saying that with funding you can do XYZ. But by doing so, you get too focused on getting the right numbers for the investors to give you another check, and forget that the person who knows your business best is you.

When I realized this, I shifted my mindset and told myself that I’d let my customers fund the company, because they are the ones buying the product. If you center your energy and your entire work toward the customer, it’s a different outcome. So, I changed my business model to allow me to become profitable and by becoming profitable, I can reinvest in the business. Being in that position is really empowering.

I was also working long hours and I was burning myself out. So, I took a step back and looked at the big picture. I realized that you’re not always going to be passionate about your business, and that’s OK. When that happens I just remind myself of what my purpose is and helps me get through the days when my energy and drive are low.

What is getting you pumped up for 2018?

I’m setting realistic goals, and for the first time, I’m not lying to myself. As an entrepreneur, I’m often thinking best-case scenario, like: “I’m going to make $30 million by the end of the year” or “I’m going to get five new investors.” Being optimistic is great, but for 2018 I’m setting more clear and reachable goals for myself and my team.

When you’re not thinking about business, what occupies your daydreams?

For people who know my personal story, I’m extremely grateful for where I’m at. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to get to do what I love every day. As a girl from a village, my dream is to reach the next generations. No one told me that I had potential, so imagine if you give someone the power to unleash their highest potential. That’s my dream — to be able to reach younger girls and tell them that they have potential, that they can be whatever they want and inspire them to do more. And I think that comes down to being a good example, spreading the word, supporting female founders so that they can rise up and be role models for the next generation.

I was listening to a podcast with Seth Godin, and he said that if you’re on a dock and someone is drowning, you don’t think “Is the water too cold? Can I swim?” No, you just jump. So, if I’m not drowning in life, it’s my job to help someone who is.

[Editor’s Note: To read more about Monica’s beginnings as a refugee from Lao, check out Carolyn Rodz’ story for Entrepreneur magazine.]

What is in your “entrepreneurship” emergency kit?

  • Well for starters, resources and platforms like HelloAlice that help entrepreneurs are essential. I also love reading leadership and business development books (like those by Seth Godin) as well as my pocket book of meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh — it keeps me sane and living in the moment.
  • My business coach, mentors and friends are also a must — they are always there when I have my lowest moments, giving advice and keep my head high. I also exercise three times a week, which is really important, and I can’t live without coffee.
  • And lastly, my purpose is always at top of mind. If you focus on your purpose, it doesn’t matter how people react. You are going to have bad days, bad months and bad years, but your purpose is what matters and keeps you going.

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