Vienne Cheung is Founder of VienneMilano, a luxury hosiery brand and online boutique dedicated exclusively to thigh high stockings.
Vienne has also established two other businesses: VienneDesigns, a marketing and design company, and The Look Good Photo Studio.
Vienne’s background is in Business and Fine Arts and she has always worked in roles that allow her to envision, create, and execute her own ideas: she has previously led a non-profit, increasing its funding by over 200%; re-branded the world’s largest furniture directory; and managed the launch process for multi-million dollar products for Fortune 500 companies (Sony, BMG, Ann Taylor).
We spoke to Vienne about the women she looks up to the most; the non-profit she supports, helping homeless bilingual women; and her company’s memorable launch party.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for VienneMilano and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
VC: For the longest time, I was not able to find elegant thigh highs in the States. Instead, I found thigh highs that were either poor quality (and not comfortable) or super expensive, yet lacked the selection. That’s when I realized there was a business opportunity.
TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?
VC: My brand of hosiery was particularly designed for American women. To clarify, the United States is a very large country that encompasses all kinds of climate. Therefore, in my first collection, I use materials that are very appropriate for the cold harsh winters (eg: cashmere thigh highs). I also use materials that are in low denier range to accommodate the sophisticated women who live in the warmer climate. This is very unique, particularly for thigh highs.
TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?
VC: My first customers were career-driven women – those who needed to wear hosiery to work every day. I would say their professions include: accountants, lawyers, doctors and sales executives. It wasn’t hard to attract this group of women as they have been seeking for this product for a while!
TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?
VC: I have always looked up to women who have it all, and one particular person that I’ve looked up to is Kathy Ireland.
She is, first of all, intelligent, very business savvy, very committed to her family and amazingly beautiful. I look up to her home furnishing empire.
Another woman I’ve looked up to is Yolanda Celluccia – Wedding Guru extraordinaire. I had the pleasure to meet Yolanda and to hear about her amazing 40 years of success. It’s not common you meet someone who can tell you about their 40 years of dedication. You can’t help asking yourself: where will I be in 40 years?
TNW: Do you have any pet projects as an entrepreneur?
VC: At the moment, I am helping a young non-profit organization called Found In Translation.
This organization was founded in 2011 with a mission to empower homeless bilingual women to find jobs in the medical interpretation field.
As an entrepreneur, I think it is important to give back to the community, and since I fell in love (and can relate to) the mission for Found In Translation, I decided to join their board. Helping their organization grow is my pet project.
TNW: If you hadn’t chosen entrepreneurship, what alternative career path might you have pursued?
VC: The idea of being able to make an impact or bring relevance to the world is what I am inspired by. That is why I believe that if it were not for VienneMilano, I would have become an entrepreneur at some point.
TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?
VC: Although there’s been quite a few highlights for VienneMilano, the one that sticks most in my mind is our Fashion Show Launch Party that was held at the InterContinental Boston. The sold old launch party featured a fashion show. Models who participated in the event displayed my thigh high stockings.
Giuseppe Pastorelli, the Italian General Consul provided welcome remarks and a Hollywood Star crashed the party making it an excellent way to launch a brand.
TNW: When did you first think about selling thigh highs?
VC: In the business world, women are often required to wear uncomfortable pantyhose in an office setting. And frankly, I hate wearing pantyhose. Instead, I prefer thigh highs as they are not made with an uncomfortable waist band. After importing my own stash of thigh highs from Italy, I realized – I can’t be the only person that is having a hard time finding high quality thigh high stockings. That’s when I first thought about selling thigh high stockings.
TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our readers?
VC: Yes, and the question is: What have I found the most rewarding as an entrepreneur?
A very wise friend preaches “free is happy”. He explained this by asking: if you had three not-so-smart, not-so-caring, and not-so-good-looking men to chose from for a boyfriend, is that really a choice? And of course, the answer is NO. However, if you had 1 guy who made you very happy, then you are FREE.
Freedom isn’t about being able to choose between different options (particularly if none of them are real options). It’s about being happy and doing the things you enjoy, which is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur.
Another rewarding aspect for being an entrepreneur is the ability to meet a broad range of people and talent from all over the world. I love to travel and to socialize, which is something I get to do a lot of for VienneMilano.
TNW: What do you think could be done to increase the number of women entrepreneurs?
VC: I believe that women often feel reluctant to start their own business as a result of social pressure. What I mean is, there is a lot of pressure for a woman to “have it all”, and as a result, a lot of women may feel like they need to stay at their 9-5 so that they can be socially responsible. However, I think having a good support group and being aware of other women who are able to “have it all” while running their own business is important. I think programs such as The NextWomen and 85 Broads are really important as they provide just that.
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