Dora Lau, the president and founder of DLI, started her company because she felt that women deserved to feel confident, glamorous, and comfortable no matter their size. DLI, a global intimate apparel company that designs, develops, and helps manufacture, intimate apparel for leading brands. Lau says “Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear,” and she believes that the right foundations create an inner sense of wellbeing.
Lau began her career as an eveningwear designer for the artists in her family’s music recording business. It was there that she was frustrated with the lingerie options for women with different body types and the selection of sophisticated and beautiful intimates at price points that were attainable. Few women are in the industry and she is on a mission to change that. Lau self-funded DLI in 1996, and since then launched the first cooling bra, received awards for her multi-way design, and sells millions of bras yearly. The company has worked with leading brands including: Warners, Olga, Maidenform, Agent Provocateur, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, United Retail, Lerner Stores, TJ Maxx, JC Penney, Soma, Nordstrom, Lane Bryant, and more. DLI is a Certified Minority Business Enterprise/Women’s Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE).
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Dora to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
Growing up my family owned a popular record company in Hong Kong. Our label produced top local artists with some of the bestselling albums in the Cantopop genre. At an early age, I was involved in creating the artists’ public image—choosing fabrics and custom-designing gowns and suits for their concerts. I understood that foundation garments made all the difference in the artist’s overall appearance.
I launched Dora L. International (DLI), a global intimate apparel supplier, to help develop bras that are solution-driven. The company is known for a commitment to utilizing innovative materials and cutting-edge technologies. We are consistently raising the bar with the introduction of each new season’s intimate apparel collections. The products that DLI develops for global brands are known for unparalleled functional sensitivity, a beautiful aesthetic, and 24-hour comfort.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
The current intimate apparel and retail environments are challenging, but also ripe for new ideas and innovations. As the industry examines areas of growth, brands are seeking partners with strong technical knowledge, the ability to translate trends into consumers’ favorite products, and global capabilities that leverage the opportunities that come with change. Through great teamwork, using our contacts in academia and manufacturing, networking through virtual tradeshows, and using smart marketing techniques we are able to be flexible with our business and create opportunities for growth. I believe that a positive attitude is essential for a company to weather a challenging storm.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Dora L. International is a business to business company so we rely mostly on LinkedIn and other online industry platforms to increase awareness. A major asset to working with DLI is our ability to offer marketing support to brands that we are launching products with on a seasonal basis. This means that we help with communicating the product benefits to consumers, develop materials such as press release announcements on the launch, work with influencers to place the product in front of consumers, and offer a defined campaign for press placements. By helping clients with the marketing of the products that we helped develop, the benefit comes back to us – it’s a win, win.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
Dora L. International’s advertising efforts have mostly focused on driving traffic and awareness at tradeshows. Over the years, this has included advertising in the exhibitor guide or sponsoring a panel discussion where our customers can learn about a trending topic. Currently, we are developing content that is helpful to clients and provides insights on what they can be thinking about in terms of innovation. We are experts in what we do and have the product knowledge and understanding of the latest innovations that can grow business for international brands.
While PPC is beneficial for many companies, it’s not a tool that we use. Sponsored content is an interesting tactic that has many variables. It needs to be reviewed by a marketing team very carefully. Since we have been in the intimate apparel business for so many years and are known for our quality and capabilities, our press partners have supported us without sponsorship.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
We rely heavily on word of mouth to build our business. Our foundation is repeat business and growing our business organically. Products have been developed by DLI over the years that are still best sellers in the stores and online currently.
Our business stands out with marketing efforts that support clients through products that offer cutting edge solutions. Right now, since we cannot rely on tradeshows, we’re focused on marketing ourselves through press, virtual events, and networking. Ultimately, we believe that our strong team can truly help businesses meet the demands of their customers.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Dora L. International has had successful marketing campaigns including fashion shows, intimate apparel press events with a bra fitting component, and sponsored educational programs. Over the past few months we have been focused on content that helps our customers and communicating where innovation in intimate apparel can be found.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
I think that staffing and cashflow have been on everyone’s mind. At DLI, every member of the team is essential to the makeup of our DNA. Since COVID-19 the team has been kept intact. We understand that “teamwork makes the dream work” and that a great team is necessary to support our company’s mission. Now more than ever, teams must be dedicated to searching for newness and bringing more opportunities to brands that crave products which offer a long list of benefits to the end consumer. Hopefully, when we have a tough decision to make there is a positive outcome for the company and the team.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
I’ve always been extremely fiscally cautious and have had excellent people working for me. I would recommend that entrepreneurs keep a very steady eye on inventory. One mistake, such as having too much product or too little, can be a financially painful mistake.
What new business would you love to start?
My long-term goals are to expand our technical and manufacturing know how into new categories such as sleepwear and swimwear. These areas offer women the same excitement and sophistication as lingerie.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
Everything happens for a reason. So, it’s a process to find the best research, the best tradeshows, the best partners. If I had known all of this when I started it wouldn’t have been the same journey.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Be your best self. Meaning that you should accept who you are and all that you are capable of doing. Self-funding DLI in a male-dominated industry could have been very intimidating, but with confidence and the belief that I could succeed, it became a reality.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Keep your focus on your budget and be sure to maintain a low overhead. Consider your spending two or three times before making a decision and think about how you can justify making that spend. This will help stretch your dollar and make you feel confident in the financial decisions that you make.