Written by Wang Fangqing Friday, November 18 2011Snapshot: Wu Fangfang, CEO, Green Box
SHANGHAI, China – Green Box is a fast-rising kids clothing B2C company based in Shanghai.
In August, the retailer signed a deal with Disney to design and sell clothing branded with three classic Disney characters – Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and a Disney Princess – exclusively in China carrying the label “by Green Box.” The deal came after Green Box said no to Disney’s offer to be its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner.
Green Box’s confidence is backed by its sales. The company earned $12.4 million in 2010, a fourfold increase from 2009. This year, CEO Wu Fangfang expects the sales to reach $38.8 million. So far, Green Box has several major brands including Miss de Mode for girls and M.I.L Boy for boys, covering shoes, clothing, and accessories.
Performance also attracted investors. In December, Green Box received $12 million from California-based investment company DCM, three months after receiving $3.1 million from Chinese venture capital company TrustBridge Partners.
A former model, Wu, 36, has a son and daughter and lives in Shanghai with her family.
Womenetics: Why are you interested in making clothing for kids?
Wu Fangfang: The initial reason is I couldn’t find any pretty, high-quality clothing for my daughter. Frustrated, I thought, “Why not design her clothing on my own?” And it later became my career.
I have always been interested in fashion design so I studied it in my spare time. Also, it is just fun to design for kids because it allows you to share part of the world with them.
The other reason is, unlike the market for women’s wear, which is crammed with competitors, there are few established brands of kids’ clothing in China, and it leaves us a great opportunity.
Womenetics: What makes Green Box special?
Wu: Design. We know what Chinese parents want for their children, and our design team catches it precisely. Every piece of Green Box is a combination of style and the uniqueness of Chinese kids.
Womenetics: What did you do before Green Box?
Wu: I had a studio with my designer friends. We designed kids’ clothing, introduced an original brand , Miss de Mode, and had our franchises and stores. The business was small, but went really well.
Womenetics: E-commerce is risky and involves a lot of work online and offline. Have you run into any serious problems?
Wu: My business was seriously hit by the financial crisis back in 2008. Basically I lost money, clients, and was pressed by creditors to sell the brand Miss de Mode. But I didn’t give up. I used my two apartments as collateral to get some money from the bank, then with the remaining three stores and my savings, I managed to revive the business at the shopping site, Taobao.
Womenetics: Do your kids wear Green Box clothing?
Wu: Of course, how am I going to sell our products to other kids if they are not even favored by my own kids? In fact, we have such a rich product line that even the most picky kid can find her favorite piece at our online store.
And since all of our clothes are strictly tested by the government agency, I don’t have to worry about the safety issue, which now is a serious concern among Chinese parents.
Womenetics: You married quite early and had your first child before you started your business. How come you can balance your family and work so well?
Wu: I don’t think I’m so good at balancing my life, and sometimes I do feel guilty that I can’t spend enough time with my family. The good thing is I have a supportive husband who always encourages me to go for things that I’m interested in.
Also, being a mother makes it easier for me to understand the needs of Chinese parents and kids, which helps my business in certain way.
Womenetics: Do you have any brands that you particularly like?
Wu: I don’t care about labels. I usually buy my attire at boutique stores, where I can find unique, gorgeous designs by independent designers.
Womenetics: What do you like to do after work?
Wu: I have a nickname called “green finger” because I really love plants. I have a small garden and enjoy spending time with my flowers and bonsai.
Wang Fangqing (Frances Wang) is a freelance reporter based in Shanghai. For the past four years, she has been writing for a variety of English language publications, including Tobacco Journal International, Soap Perfumery & Cosmetics and Securities Industry News, reporting business trends in Asia. A Chinese native speaker, she is also fluent in Japanese and English.