Enter Dennis Tay, an ex-RMIT student who stepped in to provide just such a platform. We caught up with Dennis, who founded online store Naiise in 2013, to discover the vision behind his successful online design destination that’s bridging the gap between designers and connoisseurs quite naiise-ly.
Good design can often leave us speechless, delighted and inspired. This belief is what inspired Dennis to launch Naiise.
“We celebrate originality and creativity – we want to stock items the customer hasn’t seen before,” he says. “We love that discovery of the beautiful, fascinating and extraordinary. Perhaps more importantly, we want to celebrate Singapore designers and offer products that are relevant to Singapore customers.”
While he was still working at a creative agency, Dennis saw talented individuals struggle to find a place to sell their work in Singapore. So, armed with $3,000, a website he built in his bedroom and loads of conviction, Dennis started Naiise.
“These designers felt there wasn’t a market and, more importantly, they didn’t want to handle the business side of their work. Many potential customers also saw design as an alienating concept – something that was expensive or lacking functionality,” he recounts.
So Dennis took it upon himself to fill this gap. And he admits his major in entrepreneurship from RMIT helped a lot. He says: “I started planning in my final semester, so it was great to have a tutor to run ideas by. I learnt the absolute necessity of a strong business plan, market research, budgeting, marketing and hiring and maintaining staff. This helps you look at not just the idea but how feasible it is from a business perspective too.”
Thus equipped with the tools to succeed, the only thing left for Dennis to do was give shape to his passion for promoting local talent.
Today, Dennis and his team have successfully stayed true to his vision of promoting local producers. “We stock over 1,000 brands, and 800 of them are local to Singapore. As we prepare to launch the site in Malaysia, it’s great that 60 per cent of the products will be from the domestic market,” he reveals.
But Dennis believes that creating a solid platform alone isn’t enough. You also need to ask your customers if it’s working for them.
“We want to support creatives and help them flourish, and we do this through pop-up shops and regular meetings with our designers. This is how we find out what challenges they face and what opportunities they are looking for,” he explains.
Naiise also uses savvy techniques such as email newsletters to reach out to customers.
Dennis is proud of the fact that all of these efforts have shown results. Some of the first brands Naiise stocked have now grown enough to have their own store.
“We have always been more than just a marketplace – some sites don’t handle delivery and fulfilment, but we do everything. The ability to deliver means we have control over the whole customer journey,” says Dennis.
The focus on the customer has been well worth it. Naiise saw record profits last year and recently made it into the finals of the Emerging Enterprise Award.
And all it took was a unique idea and a vision to solve a problem.