When Alyce Tran jumps on the line for our interview, she’s a flurry of excited energy. She has just wrapped up her Monday morning meeting with her online and retail teams before going to see her builder onsite to discuss her latest concession store, before returning to the office to discuss career progression with two of her staff. She’s taking our call from The Old Clare Hotel where she is art-directing the campaign imagery for a collaboration with Tome the label – a partnership she is “very excited about”. After our call, she’ll head back to the office to pump out her seven Instagram posts for the week before going to dinner with one of her colleagues to celebrate her side project – the dinner is a thank you for all of Alyce’s support.
Rewind 18 months and a day in the life of Alyce Tran was a far cry from being the co-founder of The Daily Edited (tde.), a hugely successful affordable luxe accessories start-up, with a monthly turnover of $1 million in sales. She went from a stressed corporate lawyer to a successful self-made entrepreneur. We had to know, how did she do it?
Born in Adelaide to Vietnamese immigrant parents, Alyce’s upbringing instilled a strong sense of worldliness from a very young age. “I went to a very small all-girl private school. I was taught basically that I could be whatever I wanted to be. There were no limits even though we were in a small town. I think I was provided with a global outlook early on. My parents are immigrants as well as refugees from Vietnam. So I never thought the world was just Adelaide. I always knew there was a lot more out there.” With her two parents and younger sister, Caroline (whom she is “obsessed with”), Alyce had an idyllic “small town” upbringing in the City of Churches. Raised with an incredible work ethic, it’s little wonder that both Alyce and Caroline (who’s an editor at Harper’s Bazaar) are such high achievers.
“My parents are obviously amazing people. I often can’t get over how good they are. They came to Australia with nothing on their backs and they built an empire, in terms of real estate and business … [work is] very natural to us.”
Reflecting on her relationship with her family, Alyce is evidently proud of her parents and the values they instilled in her and her younger sister. “It’s like when you see Syrian refugees – that’s exactly what my parents did. They got onto a boat that was rickety and went to Hong Kong [and arrived at] a refugee camp and here they are. That was the first risk they took when they were 18 years old,” says Alyce. “A lot of people think that what I do is risky or what I have done is risky, but I don’t consider it like that at all because this is what I have grown up with.
“My parents have taken risks their whole life. I have kind of just grown up around that and I consider everything to be a calculated risk. I just have a natural feel for deciding what’s going to be good or bad.”
Having always been very academic and having a close-knit circle of friends who were all “high achievers”, Alyce says her initial career path was neatly mapped out for her. “If you did well at school, you were presented with three options: engineering, law or medicine. So I actually just chose law because I prefer writing things to calculating.” Upon completing a law degree at the University of Adelaide, she promptly moved to Sydney to take on a junior lawyer position in acquisitions and mergers at international law firm King & Wood Mallesons.
Working in such a large-scale corporate environment, Alyce quickly found herself “a small cog in a huge machine” and wasn’t flourishing in her role. “I worked quite hard and what’s interesting for me now when I think about it is that it never came naturally to me. There were some peers in my cohort who were really good at creating documents and drafting contracts, but I had to spend double the amount of time doing anything to get it right.”
In 2011, with fellow lawyer and friend Tania Liu, Alyce launched a fashion and accessories blog called The Daily Edited. Their first foray into business was the tde. fashion line, which was not a success. “The reason we decided to kind of wind down our clothing label was in the end we didn’t enjoy the product. It was so hard to keep producing original quality, different to what everyone else was producing, when you’re running quite a small business.” In 2014, they decided to test a different range of products. This time, they started small with three leather products: a pouch, a cardholder and an A4 document holder with the added touch of “luxury” – monogram customisation. Alyce explains that the inspiration for the highly coveted range came from her love of high-end clothing and design.
“I was looking around and there wasn’t a product that was of the ilk we had created, at an attainable price point. It seemed to as though if the bag was cheap, it looked cheap. So why does it have to look cheap? There is no reason behind that.” These initial pieces were promoted on their Instagram account and sold out within a couple of weeks, and the business really exploded from here.
In a world where the term “slashie” has entered the corporate vernacular, it’s quite acceptable within a workplace to have your day job from 9-5 and your “side-hustle” from 5-9. And as tde. wasn’t a conflict of interest with her job at the law firm, her boss was fully supportive of the venture. “It was really hard for about five months of my life. I don’t really know how I lived. But I mean, having lived through that, I can do anything,” says Alyce. “It’s funny how efficient you can be with your time, I used to take all the orders I had packed in one of those huge IKEA bags and then take them in to work, and then trundle down at lunchtime to the post office to have them all lodged and scanned in and shipped out to the customer. So really I was just using every bit of time that I had.”
Eighteen months ago, Alyce and Tania took the plunge (without the risk – they each saved a year’s salary as a back-up plan) and left their positions to run tde. full-time. “It was actually when my accountant told me, before I quit my job, that The Daily Edited was churning over two hundred thousand dollars in a month. Our growth rate had been ridiculously significant and so he said, ‘You realise you’re selling a lot of stuff. You could quit your job and work on this if you really want to. It could be something’. I didn’t realise! I was just doing it all, just trying to get through everything, not knowing where I was going.” They needn’t have worried about the back-up plan – tde. is forecast to net Alyce and Tania $15 million by the end of the year.
When asked to reflect on the success of the business, Alyce’s response is direct and to the point. “It’s weird. It’s really weird,” she exclaims. “We have just gone through a huge hiring phase because we’re opening four new stores. So we have 70 people on our Australian books, it’s become quite significant. Not all of them are full-time with retail and casual staff, but it’s 70 names (of her employees) that I never thought that I would have issues with having to learn. Times have changed.” Having historically been an e-commerce brand, tde. has extended its flagship bricks and mortar offering in David Jones Sydney to four more stores nationally.
“One of my passions with the business is the intersection between online and bricks and mortar. I feel like no one has really hit the nail on the head with how to integrate the two. The two should definitely sit more side by side,” explains Alyce. “We’re really excited about working with brands like UBER to drive more efficiencies between the two channels of the business. So, click and collect is not the answer, but we’re exploring options for the brand and how we make the two sides of the brand work together.”
Form meets function
Alyce’s other passion is design and products, and this is where her skills really come to the fore. “Products are obviously what I am very obsessed with because I basically drive that and look at what we should bring out next,” says Alyce. “I’m always looking globally at the market and looking at what people are after, you know – is it a backpack? So we’re always looking at trends. We respond to our consumer. If people are asking for something, we’ll make it.”
The customer experience really sits at the heart of the .tde business, and it is evident that this is what really motivates Alyce to continually innovate both the product and brand experience. “Being very close to our customer in an in-store environment and being so passionate about our customer online means that we’re really listening to our customers and we’re like ‘we need to make that!’ We were like, we need to make a baby bag. So many women were asking us about this baby bag, so we brought it out,” says Alyce.
“I think sometimes when businesses grow, the leaders of those businesses can lose sight of what is important. And what is important is the experience of our customer and responding to their needs. I never let go of that. I go in store and I serve customers to see what they’re going to say to me. I think it’s really important that you do that.”
They have evidently got the tde. formula right – their most popular product, their simple classic black leather pouch, has brought in over $1.5million in sales since the business launched. At $89.95 each, the math is fairly mind-boggling.
For someone who lives by the words “never give up”, the world is really Alyce’s oyster. It’s no surprised that, when asked what is next for .tde, Alyce is straight down to business. “We’re going to continue to grow our business and really cement our position in the Australian market. Really do the best we can for our customers. I’m sure if a customer reads this, they will think ‘well actually, there was a time when …’ I never want there to be a disappointed customer ever.” And personally for Alyce? “I definitely need to do more travel, to places I haven’t been. I’ve travelled a bit, but there is always more! Places like the Galapagos Islands! When am I going there?” We have no doubt Alyce is definitely going places, conquering the world while she’s at it. One black leather pouch at a time.
Connect with Alyce here.