By Angela Pan
I still remember the day when a well-respected man in the technology investment field told me female entrepreneurs would never succeed. Today, I stand as founder and CEO of the fashion technology brand, Ashley Chloe. In fact, in just two years I’ve taken the company to a revenue of eight figures without a single dollar of venture capital funding.
Not only does the success of our Helix Cuff Bluetooth wearable headphones mark the beginning of a new wave in wearable audio technology, it also proves the success of an immigrant female entrepreneur who overcame the odds.
Before launching Ashley Chloe, I worked at an angel investment fund with a hardware portfolio. Being in this world fueled my desire to create and I soon became a part of launching two different startups. While those startups weren’t the success I was hoping for, they taught me how to operate a company and that lesson was invaluable when I found my true calling.
I wanted to solve a real problem women face on a daily basis. At the time, wearable technology was a completely new thing. When I really took a look at the market, I realized no one was designing consumer electronics specifically for women. Of course, there were many brands who targeted male users, but solutions for women just weren’t there.
This is why I created Ashley Chloe. My mission is to bridge the gap between fashion and technology. I personally always struggle to find consumer electronic products that fit with my style, for example an attractive sound system that blends with the design of my home or headphones that compliments my outfit. Therefore, I felt that the market was missing a huge segment: consumer electronics catering to and designed for women. Two years ago, when the true wireless Bluetooth headphone space was still empty, I saw the future popularity, so I began the product category with a female focus. Today, design is the DNA of the Ashley Chloe brand and is at the forefront of every product we create.
Having the idea for what I wanted to design was only the beginning of a long journey to production. While I had years of experience in the hardware and business side of companies, I still had much to learn about technology. This world where women were so rarely seen seemed almost unconquerable. I faced challenge after challenge just trying to describe what I wanted to engineers and designers who spoke with completely different terminology. While I didn’t know all the right words to describe my specifications, I knew how to get the conversation going and that was the exact momentum I needed.
As my dream came closer and closer to reality, Ashley Chloe began to grow into a formidable team. Coming from a multinational background impressed, I knew how critical diversity would be. From being born in China to becoming a Singapore citizen and later moving to the U.S. to pursue my American Dream, diversity would be the key culture of my company.
At this time, 60% of Ashley Chloe, Inc., employees are female. Still, when I attend meetings in the Silicon Valley, I can’t help but notice that I am very often the only woman in the room. When you talk about manufacturing and hardware, the people that come to mind are men. That makes me want to change our society’s mindset and prove that women can also take on hardware, manufacturing, and engineering. It is my main priority to hire people not for their gender, but for their intelligence, knowledge, and passion.
Once Ashley Chloe continued to grow and prepare to go to market, I was met with even more challenges. I had to learn how to manage inventory, cash flow and the customer channel. Everything I wanted to design required significant capital for tooling, manufacturing, and production.
Once it was designed, I had to make sure there was enough inventory for partners, customers, and distributors. To manage this, many people turn to venture capital funds, instead, I bootstrapped Ashley Chloe with a personal investment of $200,000. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do with a very small amount of capital.
For women who feel the call to launch their own company, my best advice is to not be afraid to start something you don’t know everything about. I failed twice with previous companies, but instead of quitting, I took those as really valuable experiences and knowledge I could apply to the next adventure.
Almost every day I run into issues and decisions I’ve never encountered before. That’s just the life of an entrepreneur. You have to keep going. When you aren’t sure what to do, apply the best knowledge you have, seek advice from mentors, hire experts, and make your own judgements in the end. No one knows your company better than you do. In the end, it’s your decision to make.
After two years with a successful fashion tech brand, I’ve become a new person. Every challenge has become a thrill. I move forward each day coming closer to my vision of innovative technology with extraordinary design for women everywhere.
Angela Pan is the Founder and CEO of Ashley Chloe, Inc., established in 2015. Headquartered in San Francisco, Ashley Chloe, Inc., is a wireless audio company that designs high-quality lifestyle accessories. Its brand portfolio includes Ashley Chloe, offering beautiful technology for the modern lifestyle, and Rowkin, true wireless headphones at an affordable price point.
Angela is a visionary leader and business woman. She is passionate about creating lifestyle brands that will break the notion that technology and fashion must be separate categories. Her past experience working with entrepreneurs and start-ups as a principal at Haxis Labs continues to inspire her goal of true equality and diversity in the creative workplace today.