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25 November 2016

Mastering the Art of Holding Fast and Letting Go

Josie Tam (MSc in Information and Technology Management 2011) is a woman who stands 3 ft. 11 tall. With her knowledge of information technology and after a chance encounter, she became the co-founder of Techpacker, a cloud-based fashion tech pack platform for designers to facilitate better communication and cooperation with manufacturers. One of her admirers is Alibaba Executive Chairman Mr. Jack Ma. Josie believes that life is a series of tests in holding fast and letting go, where one gains from making sacrifices and finds one’s self value by adapting to surroundings. The sky is her limit, not her height.

Josie (right) poses with her classmates during a primary school trip

I Didn’t Choose Fashion —
Fashion Chose Me

Born in a working class family, Josie rose to hold several IT positions in the fashion industry. She has more than 10 years’ experience in enterprise resource planning and business process improvement, with expertise in supply chain management.

Josie always says: “I didn’t choose to go into fashion. Fashion chose me.” She entered the industry by chance and at some point considered quitting because of the fear of being pigeonholed in this small industry. Fortunately, an industry veteran enlightened her by explaining: “Name one person on Earth who doesn’t need to shop for clothes? The fashion industry will never die out.” It made Josie realize that as soon as she set her eyes on the world, she could see that globalization had become a huge part of the fashion industry. Proper management of mega supply chains was needed, which could immensely benefit from software — the part where her IT expertise came in handy.

Josie (2nd row, 2nd from right) poses with former CUHK Vice-Chancellor Prof. Charles Kao (front row, 3rd from left) and Director of MSc in Information and Technology Management Prof. Jeff Yeung (front row, 2nd from right) during an exchange trip to the United States.

Turning a Tech Pack into a Business Plan

Josie and her two business partners had years of experience in the fashion industry. The same age-old phenomenon caught their eye: The boom of the Internet should have made finding the right garment manufacturers much easier for designers. But why do problems always arise?

In order to produce a product sample, a designer needs to prepare a ‘tech pack’, which lists out specific requirements including materials, cutting, stitching methods and so on for a manufacturer. Communications are carried out via email if any clarification is needed. However, many designers put creativity as first priority and overlook details. Without the details, manufacturers have a hard time meeting the standards. Miscommunication is the culprit.

Techpacker won the ‘Big Dream award’ voted by the audience during Nan Fung Group's The Mills Pitch Day 2015 start-up competition. Josie (2nd from right) and another Techpacker co-founder (1st from right) receive the award.

Josie and her partners saw through the root cause of the issue and developed Techpacker, the cloud-based platform to generate fashion tech packs. It offers simple templates to designers and helps them prepare tech packs that describe their requirements to manufacturers in clear terms. The two parties can also communicate simultaneously online anytime to speed up the production process.

Techpacker’s creative proposal has received cash subsidies and tech support from many incubation funds and schemes. Since its launch in 2015, the market response has been overwhelming beyond expectation. It now has more than 8,000 users, with a strong user base in freelance fashion designers based in the United States. The company launched a paid plan in May, and it is expected to break even within a year.

Josie (3rd from left), other young entrepreneurs, and Alibaba Founder and Executive Chairman Mr. Jack Ma (3rd from right) share their experience of starting their businesses at the ‘An Evening with Jack Ma’ forum.

A Master’s Education That Sows
Seeds of Entrepreneurship

In retrospect, Josie realised that a desire to build her own company was instilled in her heart during her master’s studies at CUHK Business School from 2009 to 2011. She initially enrolled in the Information and Technology Management Program because she wanted to learn more about IT and equip herself with management skills to increase the commercial values of IT projects. “When I actually went ahead to start my own business a few years later, I dug up my old notes and found that they were really practical and useful!”

Josie is grateful for the tremendous help she received from two CUHK insiders when Techpacker was still an unknown newcomer in the business. One of them is her supervisor Prof. Jeff Yeung, who has given her valuable suggestions and guidance on looking for funding sources. Another is former Project Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Mr. Mingles Tsoi, who has been actively spreading good words about Techpacker. He also recommended Josie to attend the ‘An Evening with Jack Ma’ forum last year, where Mr. Ma expressed his admiration for Techpacker’s business model.

Looking forward, Josie hopes to expand Techpacker into a one-stop fashion manufacturing platform. By digitalising the whole design, development and manufacture process, designs can be transformed into products at much lower cost in much shorter time.

Passionate about information technology, Josie (front) completed her master’s studies with flying colors. She poses with her friends on her graduation day at CUHK.

The Art of Holding Fast and Letting Go Enriches One’s Life

Due to a congenital gene mutation, Josie is barely 4 ft. tall. Watching her classmates grow taller every year was saddening to her as a child, and being rejected by the volleyball team was a bitter blow. However, as she grows older, she becomes more immune to the way people look at her. She understands that letting go is part of life and every gain comes with a loss. “It’s true that being small is inconvenient in some ways, but it has its bright side. Once I went to Ireland to promote my business, the audience stopped chatting and turned their eyes to me as soon as I took the stage,” she says. One’s perspective determines whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. Josie now hopes she can have the fluidity of water to stay true to herself and maximise her potential while adapting to her surroundings.

Life is about knowing when to hold fast and when to let go, so is entrepreneurship. “Initially I did go through some internal struggles: Should I keep working for someone else for a stable income, or should I follow my dream even though I may fail?” These days Josie revels in the joy and challenges that come with being an entrepreneur. She thinks meeting senior management of other companies helps her become braver and stronger. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to contemplate on their potential gains and losses. “Many people dream of the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, but business owners need to have even more self-discipline and work even longer hours.”

Life is an accumulation of every decision to hold fast or let go.

Video ― Messages from Our Alumni

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