How a University Grad Created a $100-Million Fashion Empire

Hello Molly models

Echo Liu has always had an independent streak. It was her idea to leave China as a teenager to study in Australia at The University of Sydney. And when she completed her double major in international business and strategic public relations, it was her idea to start a business in the living room of the apartment she shared in Sydney’s Waterloo.

Her flatmate was understanding, her parents lent her $50,000 and with a rack of clothes she launched Hello Molly in October 2012 – an online fashion retailer that would notch up revenues of AU$100 million by 2021.

Hello Molly

Success came fast. From the very start, Hello Molly delivered something its founder – and her friends – had long been looking for: something to wear on the weekend. “I was 23 then and going out every weekend – to parties, to events, just hanging out with my girlfriends,” says Liu (pictured above). “I thought, ‘I'm the biggest online shopper myself.’ My friends and I wanted clothes that were really on-trend and I saw an opening in the market.”

Liu’s business model is to analyse market data and the latest styles on social media before sourcing trending pieces from suppliers to bring to her customers around the world. To further enrich customer connection, Hello Molly introduced its own in-house design team in 2017, creating pieces from the brand’s Sydney HQ. Liu says there’s never once been a look she predicted would sell that didn’t.

“Things are changing constantly, which requires our team to test and learn and incorporate trend insights from other channels, such as on-site searches, but also what’s trending in pop culture,” says Liu.

Hello Molly

Maximise your cash flow

What’s remained constant over a decade has been sustained growth. By the end of 2014, the business generated $4.1 million in revenue, which over the next few years increased by 20 to 60 per cent year-on-year.

Although COVID-19 temporarily dampened demand for party and event dressing, the dramatic shift to online shopping ultimately resulted in expansion for Hello Molly. “In addition to changing consumer behaviour, our focus on the US market has further driven the most recent year-on-year results: up 117 per cent,” says Liu.

In 2015, Liu signed up for the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. It gives businesses access to a dynamic line of unsecured funding¹, allowing them to pay large business costs and supplier invoices without the need for short-term loans.

The Card also helps Hello Molly pay its day-to-day business expenses – everything from office supplies and utilities, subscriptions, technology costs and wholesale transactions – while being rewarded with Qantas Points. The business earns up to 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 on everyday business expenses and 2 Qantas Points per $1 on Qantas products and services.²

“I use our American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card wherever I can because we redeem the Qantas Points on travel and hotels for the business,” says Liu. The design team has previously used points to travel to China to source fabrics for collections. This year Liu and some of her team flew to the US – Hello Molly’s biggest market alongside Australia and New Zealand – to meet with key vendors, again using Qantas Points they earned through the Card.

Hello Molly model

As for what’s next, Liu says she’s most excited about the emergence of Web3, which will shift control from large technology companies to individual players. “At this stage, it’s hard to say what exactly will unfold. But we know it’s coming, that it will be the next iteration of ecommerce and we’re currently working through how to best leverage the opportunities.”

Unlock the possibilities

Unlock the possibilities for your business. Earn 150,000 bonus Qantas Points* with the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. Simply spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 2 months of your approval date. New American Express Card Members only. Offer ends 8 August 2023. T&Cs apply. Learn more.

Hello Molly

Echo Liu shares her top business tips.

• The key to… controlling cash flow

Of all the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card features, Liu’s favourite is that Card Members have up to 51 days to pay for purchases³ on the Card. “We order large amounts of products every week,” she says. “Having sufficient cash flow enables us to purchase more and therefore grow our business.”

• The key to… progressing a social media strategy

Hello Molly’s strategy has evolved as new platforms and automation have emerged. When Instagram surfaced as a way to reach Hello Molly’s customer, Liu decided to retain activity on Facebook, where the label had a strong fan base and leverage both platforms. “The most recent transition is finding that sweet spot between telling a brand story to reach new customers while focusing on conversions,” says Liu, for whom TikTok is particularly important because of the Hello Molly channel’s growth potential.

• The key to… supporting your team

Liu leads a staff of 100 in Australia, plus a small team in Los Angeles. She uses Qantas Points earned through her American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card to thank her team. For example in 2019 – before COVID-19 hit – Hello Molly awarded its employee of the year with flights and accommodation – which the business booked using points.² “Our Qantas Points go straight to travel and accommodation that will benefit the business or we use them to reward our team.”

• The key to… sustainable growth

Hello Molly

Amex Qantas Business Rewards

“It's getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Liu says of the business, which now sells in more than 100 countries and counting, across Europe, the Americas, Asia as well as Africa. Hello Molly’s rapid growth means huge expenses – setting up warehousing in the US, for example. With no pre-set spending limit¹ on her American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card, Liu's spending power increases as her business grows, freeing up funding when she needs it.

• The key to… working with influencers

“Influencers have been and will be a key part to our social media strategy,” says Liu, who’s recently invested in a customer lifetime value analysis to understand influencers’ impact on long-term revenue. In most cases, the impact of influencer campaigns on sales is immediate. The post with the largest reach last year was a Florida-based micro-influencer in a sky blue midi-dress: 1.3 million views.

• The key to… forging strategic partnerships

Liu says that being a Qantas Shopping partner has driven traffic to the Hello Molly site but also dusted the business in a little branding gold. “Qantas is a quality, international brand,” she says. “The association is very good marketing for our business.” 

SEE ALSO: How a Seachange Helped This Couple Launch a Luxe Stays Start-up

Unlock the possibilities for your business. Earn 150,000 bonus Qantas Points* with the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. Simply spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 2 months of your approval date. New American Express Card Members only. Offer ends 8 August 2023. T&Cs apply. Learn more.

Click here for terms and conditions.

*150,000 bonus Qantas Points: Offer only available to new American Express Card Members who apply by 8 August 2023, are approved and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on their new Card in the first two (2) months from the Card approval date. Eligible purchases do not include Card fees and charges, for example annual fees, interest, late payment, cash advances, balance transfers, traveller’s cheques and foreign currency conversion. Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any other Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18-month period are ineligible for this offer. 150,000 bonus Qantas Points will be awarded to the eligible Card Member's Account 8-10 weeks after the spend criteria has been met. Subject to the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card Points Terms and Conditions. $450 annual fee applies. This advertised offer is not applicable or valid in conjunction with any other advertised or promotional offer.

American Express approval criteria applies. Subject to Terms and Conditions. Fees and charges apply. All information is correct as at 1 January 2023 and is subject to change. This offer is only available to those who reside in Australia. Cards are offered, issued and administered by American Express Australia Limited (ABN 92 108 952 085). ®Registered Trademark of American Express Company.

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