MU’s Center for Entrepreneurship hosted a discussion with Jenny Zhu, founder of Triangle Home Fashions and recipient of Ernst and Young’s 2019 New Jersey Entrepreneur of the Year, to celebrate Women Entrepreneurship Week on Thursday, Oct 21.
Zhu founded Triangle Home Fashions in 2008 after immigrating to the United States from China. Launching a company during the Great Recession was not an easy feat, especially with the lack of brick and mortar demand due to the unideal economic conditions.
“With the financial crisis at that time, most of the brick and mortar customers had tons of inventory that they wanted to get rid of. It was very hard to break into the traditional customer base,” explained Zhu. Instead, she chose to take a risk by pursuing a new market: e-commerce.
“At the time, e-comm drop shipping was very new and our major competitors considered it to be a major inconvenience that was not possible for them to pursue. For us, we decided to give it a shot,” said Zhu.
Whereas other companies wrote off e-comm as inconvenient and a waste of time, Zhu saw it as an opportunity to jumpstart her business. She noted that one key to success is differentiating your business from others in the field, and pursuing e-comm was how she did so with Triangle Home Fashions.
“When we started in 2008, if we had just pursued brick and mortar, we wouldn’t be here today. We knew e-commerce was emerging, but it was hard to achieve. It’s not an easy industry to get into,” explained Zhu. “At that time, we had no choice. We knew it was a big opportunity, we just hoped that we survived the learning process.”
Her risk proved to be a major success, but she also described the importance of accepting failure and having a good mindset about how you recover.
“When you start a business, you have to be prepared to fail. It’s part of the process, you can’t treat it like it’s the end of the world,” said Zhu. “There’s always going to be some sort of failure along the way. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re going to have a fear of doing things. Risk is necessary, and if you fail then you learn from it and do things differently next time.”
Zhu also discussed the importance of taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves and accepting the associated risk. She emphasized that it is far worse to miss an opportunity than it is to take it and fail.
“Every entrepreneur is always wondering if this is the perfect timing or if the best time has already passed or if there are too many challenges ahead. My advice is to just do it. It will never be the perfect time,” said Zhu. “If you think you have a plan and your idea can solve a problem, just give it a shot. If you try to wait for the perfect timing, I don’t know if that time will ever come.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented many problems for businesses, but Zhu sees this as an opportunity for growth rather than a setback. “Everybody is going to face the same thing. How you really stay ahead of the game and stay prepared allows you to use the crisis to get ahead of your competitors,” she explained.
Zhu also stressed the importance of raising expectations for your business as it grows and new opportunities arise. “You constantly reevaluate the business and your ideas are going to evolve from when you first start,” she said.
Today, Triangle Home Fashions has over 50 different income channels and dropships thousands of orders every day, with the majority of orders going out within 24 hours. The company was built with the intention of serving the up and coming e-commerce marketplace, and this business model has paid off for Zhu: Triangle Home Fashions currently dominates the home textile industry on almost every major e-commerce platform.