Sisters Ruby and Pauline Su co-founded Twosisters The Label in 2013 while they were 23 and 22 respectively.
Ruby used to sketch dresses on pieces of paper and one day, Pauline casually mentioned that these sketches were beautiful and were styles she’d love to wear herself, and so Twosisters The Label was born.
Ruby: I was studying accounting at university and I hated it. I knew this was not my calling and that I did not want to spend the rest of my life working a 9 – 5, crunching numbers at a desk. Some people are so great at this, but I was not. So, when the opportunity came to start Twosisters The Label with my sister, I figured I had nothing to lose.
It was really hard work at the start. We funded the business ourselves, so between Pauline and I, we worked four jobs to get Twosisters The Label off the ground.
Pauline: We couldn’t afford to pay ourselves a salary until a few years into the business, so we were lucky to still be living at home with our parents at the start because everything we earned from our other jobs went into the business. We worked our regular jobs in the day and our evenings and weekends were reserved for working on Twosisters The Label.
Ruby: This business really started as a passion project for the both of us. My main goal was to provide women with special occasion dresses, as I always struggled to find styles that I liked to wear in the shops.
Pauline: Something very important to us was to also make our styles affordable. Special occasion dresses can be SO expensive, and we wanted to give women a product that was high quality, but that didn’t break the bank.
On being women in business
Pauline: Something I didn’t anticipate when we started Twosisters The Label was the doubt that we encountered from people around us. I was told that women shouldn’t be in business because we’d regret putting our careers first once it came time to start a family and that owning a business was for men as they were the main breadwinners of the family.
Ruby: Being women, coupled with the fact that we were so young when we started Twosisters The Label meant that we had to fight hard for people to take us seriously.
Pauline: This really lit a fire under us though. It motivated us to learn, to be better and to prove people wrong. We wanted to show people that young women CAN be successful in business.
Ruby: Many people don’t know this, but I started an online boutique offering other labels when I was 21. It was a complete flop, but it was also a learning experience for us. When my sister realised that she enjoyed aspects of running her own business too, we decided to give it another shot with Twosisters The Label and I guess we made the right decision!
Pauline: From this, we learned that every closed door leads you to another opportunity, so reframe your mindset into thinking that failure is merely a setback in your journey. Perseverance is key in achieving what you want.
On leading an all-female team
Pauline: We never set out to build an exclusively female team and we’d never set parameters that meant you could only be/identify as female to work at Twosisters The Label.
Ruby: We are incredibly proud of our team, but we aren’t proud of them because they’re female. We’re proud because they’re good at their jobs and they’re good people who are driven, ambitious and respectful and supportive of one another.
There’s a myth that the fashion industry is really catty because it’s predominantly female, so I’m really proud that our workplace is so supportive.
Pauline: To be honest, I think it’s important to break the myth that a team of women is bound to result in cattiness. I don’t think this is exclusive to female dominated workplaces and our space is the perfect example of this.
On support from other women
Ruby: Many people don’t know this, but our mum was a huge source of support for us behind the scenes when we started Twosisters The Label.
Starting a business is hard and aside the fact that she was there for us emotionally on hard days, she also looked after us so we could focus on building the business. It was the little things like cooking dinner for us and steaming dresses for us at photo shoots.
Pauline: She’d also help us pack parcels late into the night and when we had an issue with styles arriving dirty from the manufacturer, she washed every single piece by hand to make sure it was perfect.
Ruby: We also received a lot of support from Studio Agency (a sales agency that represented our brand) when we started who like us, are an all female team. They were the only agency who believed in us and wanted to represent our brand then.
Pauline: Looking back, I can see why other agencies would not have wanted to represent us at the start. Our designs weren’t anywhere near the calibre they’re at now (everyone starts somewhere!) but Studio Agency took the time to give us feedback on our designs which really helped us to grow. They were also very patient with us while we developed our processes and designs. We consider them family.
Advice for women starting their own business?
Ruby: Don’t do it unless you’re prepared for the hard work and the long hours. I won’t sugar-coat it. It’s hard. Very hard. So, go into it with both eyes open and a solid plan for your business.
Pauline: Ruby is right. It will be infinitely harder than you expect, but on the days when you feel like giving up, remember that feeling you had when you achieved your first ‘win’ because the hard days and nights are worth it.