You have a business idea. At this stage it’s a passion project, but if you could find a way to devote more time and energy to it, maybe it could work. If only you could quit your day job and find out.
Alyce Tran and Tania Liu, the two friends behind personalised-leather accessory brand The Daily Edited, did just that.
Tran and Liu met as graduate law students working at the prestigious Allens law firm in Perth. Both had worked hard to enter legal practice straight out of university. “During uni I tutored law and accounting, while working in a retail store owned by my parents,” says Tran. She didn’t know it then, but Tran’s legal experience was laying the groundwork for her own business. “Tutoring takes a certain level of confidence – you need to know your material,” she says. “Having that confidence really puts you in good stead when going out into the commercial world.”
In 2012 Tran and Liu launched The Daily Edited, a casual online side-project to their legal careers. The pair used the site to blog about fashion, food and lifestyle, and to sell items of original clothing, “to get some extra holiday cash”, says Tran. They quickly found a saturated market and abandoned the idea of starting a fashion label. But with their corporate backgrounds, what they did see was a gap in the market for luxurious and practical office essentials.
They decided to relaunch The Daily Edited as selling monogrammed leather goods, offering customisation of high-end luxury products at affordable prices. Their first collection of small-run leather accessories – a pouch, a card holder and an A4 document holder – debuted in September 2014. It sold out in three weeks.
That sounds like sudden riches. But it wasn’t as simple as one day closing the door on law and the next day shipping satchels. The pair took their time, managing the growing online business while also putting in the long hours required of lawyers.
“It wasn’t glamorous,” says Liu over Skype from Hong Kong, where she’s now based to help The Daily Edited expand globally. “We worked really hard before resigning from law last year. We were so exhausted.”
Tran gives more details about their preparation. “Our last six months in corporate law we worked hard to save money,” she says. “When we were confident we had a sustainable idea, we sat down and made a detailed plan with a realistic time frame. Then we set about saving a lot of money, so that when we made our career shift we would have enough in reserve to support ourselves and the business.”
Their hard work and planning are paying off. The Daily Edited relocated to Sydney and set up a head office in Alexandria. Liu then shifted to Hong Kong to be closer to their manufacturing process. With David Jones as their current main Australian stockist, The Daily Edited turned over more than $5 million last year. Expansion plans are in the works.
The pair’s successful career change can’t be attributed to just a yearning for fashion. Their previous work experience was crucial. Liu says having a handle on contracts and partnership agreements from their years in law was integral to running their own business, but their most transferrable skills were cognitive ones.
Prior to The Daily Edited, she had little to no experience in manufacturing. Now she manages all product development in China. “Working in law you need to be very detail-oriented,” says Liu. “You need to be good at problem-solving, balancing various demands and have an acute attention to detail. These are all traits I’ve found to be essential in working with our suppliers. Being able to speak Mandarin is pretty helpful too.”
Tran wonders if her entrepreneurial spirit was cultivated long before she started law. Her very first job was helping to sell strawberries on her parents’ farm in the Adelaide Hills. “I was in charge of selling punnets to tourists passing by,” she recalls. “I had a blackboard that I decorated on the main road that said ‘Strawberries 4 Sale’. I guess I was thinking about costs and paying attention to the trading process even as an eight-year old”.
This article is presented in partnership with Hostplus.