From Bond Trader to Handbag Trader, Diana Nguyen Shares Her Journey
If you’re an avid Luxer, you may recognize this face as our fearless leader, founder, and CEO of Lux Second Chance, Diana Nguyen. If you’re new to the blog, then let me introduce you to the determined entrepreneur, passionate eco-conscious shopper, part-time Torontorian, part-time Parisan, and Chanel fanatic behind the success of Canada’s biggest consignment store aggregator shopping platform.
In 2015, Diana found herself moving back to Toronto, after working overseas for many years in Asia, in the banking industry. Because she was fabulous to begin with, she, of course, came with a massive closet (and suitcases!) full of luxury handbags and accessories of her own collection. Determined to declutter and trim down her “stuff” in the limited space that is Toronto condos, Diana set out to find the best option to consign a lot of her goods. Not satisfied with the offerings in Canada, Diana realized there was a gap in the luxury fashion market here. The consignment stores in Canada were not of the same caliber — lacking in quality, value and most definitely selection.
And just like that, the concept of Lux Second Chance was developed. Diana reached out to her own friends and network to figure out the steps in starting one’s own business and how she could get this concept off the ground. The financing for this endeavour was actually the endeavour itself; it began with 23 of her very own designer handbags.
Even though Diana came to the game with no fashion background herself (besides being an avid consumer), what she did have was years of training as an interest rate derivatives analyst and bond trader. Naturally, the understanding of buying and selling goods, knowing the value of said goods, and working a marketplace was nothing new to Diana and she used this to her advantage. This existing knowledge, mixed with her passion for circular, eco-conscious consumption, led to the drive and success that took her to where we are today.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, I wanted to talk to Diana about her journey as a female entrepreneur, CEO, and all around boss babe (I still cringe at this term, but I haven’t found a replacement for it). Let’s get her talking!
TH: I know we’re starting with a pretty broad question, but as a female CEO, what does International Women's Day mean to you in particular?
DN: It's about empowering women to be able to do whatever we want because we deserve it! Believe that boundaries are limitless. Women are underrepresented and under-appreciated. Women naturally are nurturers so we think of others before we think of ourselves. There is nothing wrong about thinking of others but are we thinking of ourselves first? Empowering women to have a voice and to self love ourselves. We too need to take care of our mind and our body. Nothing is more important than the love for ones self. Believe that we can do and have it all, however, we must prioritize ourselves first.
TH: When beginning on the Lux Second Chance endeavour, what was the biggest barrier to you?
DN: Besides not knowing what I was doing!? I think the biggest barrier was that I’m not a techy person, who wanted to build a tech company. I thought I needed a tech background in order to build Lux Second Chance out the way it is now. Once you break that barrier down by realizing you don't need to know how to code, you just need to find that person who understands what you want to build (same vision) that has a tech background. No one knows everything, we just have to know where to find that one thing and take it from there.
TH: Did you ever find that you came across any unique barriers presented to you as a female founder and CEO, particularly in tech or the resale market?
DN: I belong to tech incubators and I get training courses that range from business model and team to how to approach investors and VCs. What I hear all the time is that women are underfunded. Majority of the time, investors and/or VCs are males. I think women are underfunded because women start companies that men don’t use or don’t understand, so therefore, they don’t want to invest in them. Men are hesitant to invest if they don’t use the product or service so they don't understand the company. They can’t relate, therefore, they can’t relate to us.
TH: I guess this leads nicely into the next question. As a successful female entrepreneur, what advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
DN: You just keep going! Keep asking a lot of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, even if you think they’re silly questions, you won’t know until you ask. Ask for help when you need it also. Reach out to your network and ask for help or else it’s going to be a real struggle. When building a startup, you really, really need a whole village to help. And people are willing to help! Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to that person that may be 5 or 10 years ahead of you in your entrepreneurial journey, they want to help you!
TH: How do you see the luxury resale landscape shaping up to be in the next 5 years? 10 years?
DN: I actually didn't expect it to explode during the pandemic! I believe in the next 5 years it’s going to grow even faster! People get it. I think the pandemic has made people realize a lot about our Earth and wastage and how we consume. For us to spend more on high quality goods that lasts longer, I think that's what's natural now. Now for people to buy fast-fashion is what it was like to buy resale 5-10 years ago.
TH: You’re totally right. Nowadays when people say fast-fashion, they’re like “ew” and honestly, people were thinking that of resale, or even Value Village and Goodwill, as recently as five years ago.
DN: Exactly! I find that now everyone wants one piece of vintage in an outfit. All the influencers want it now! Some people can go into a vintage store and completely put together an outfit. I find I can’t do that. That’s why I like a site like mine because it’s very organized, clean and easy to find things. I can’t deal with clutter and racks, it just drives me nuts!
TH: Hold on, that brings up a good question. I have to ask this, because you literally have a whole store of luxury goods at your fingertips at any given time: do you go shopping in your own store, and is it more often than you’d like to admit?
DN: Ugh YES! During the pandemic it was so busy, so I wasn’t shopping as much, but when it’s slower I shop more! I've been shopping resale for about 15 years so this isn't new to me. It's just that I get to shop on my own website now. And you know what? I don't feel guilty about shopping, I know it will never hit the landfill. That's the beauty of luxury resale.
TH: I hate this term, but honestly female CEO sounds too specific because you don’t have to be a CEO to be a boss or the one in charge or whatever, but who are the other “boss babes” you look to for inspiration?
DN: When I started my company I started reading about similar CEOs that have companies like mine; the ones that came before me like Julie Wainwright from TheRealReal to Tracy DiNunzio of Tradesy. And then the recent one, which I actually read about her many years ago, is Bumble’s CEO Whitney Wolfe! The thing about all of them is that they all went through some kind of hurdle before they actually became who they are. When you go through a change in your life, that’s how you get the idea and run with it because what do you have to lose in a sense? I was actually reading about them to understand the business and then I read their backgrounds and what made them start their existing companies. I really believe you can do anything you put your mind to if you have the grit and tenacity, but you have to put in the work by starting!
I look back on the early days of my company. Like the days of handing flyers out at Union Station because that’s how I promoted my company. I was trying to catch the Bay Street people, the ones that I used to be, as they walked to work in the morning. I look back at those days and it’s like, “Oh man, I can’t believe I did that.” I know! I was willing to do anything!
TH: So my next question then would be: what is your proudest moment thus far?
DN: I think for me, I always thought I would build this company aggregating Canadian consignment stores for Canadians. But then it got me thinking, wouldn't it be 10x better if I had selection from other parts of the world on one website? That’s when it changed a lot in the inventory selection and in the amount of inventory. I brought other parts of the world to my website while offering it back to the rest of the world! That was my proudest moment. Every year I on-boarded new stores from a new country; 2017 was the U.S., 2018 Paris, and in 2019 it was London!
TH: That’s awesome! The last question I have here is, what is one thing that you unexpectedly found out about yourself through this journey?
DN: Ohhhh patience! Prior to Lux Second Chance I had very little patience! When I was working for the bank everything had to be done like yesterday. In working in a startup you need patience. Things take time to build. A successful company doesn’t build overnight. You have to see the small incremental changes and celebrate them. As long as you can see even a slow progression, then you’re successful! Also, learning from your failures is a form of success. Before this I was very impatient. Meditation helps. As long as you can see your vision in the horizon, with patience you will get there.
TH: I’m going to wrap this up with some rapid fire questions. Ready to give your quick answer?
Tea or coffee? Coffee 100%
Chanel or Dior? Duh, Chanel!
Red or pink? Pink
Marilyn or Audrey? Audrey!
Leather or suede? Leather
Classics or trends? Classics!
Films or TV shows? Films
Beach destination or Euro destination? Euro! I like the beach but I don’t like the sun! LOL
Influencers or classic style icons? Classic style icons
Absolute favourite piece in your wardrobe: Anything Chanel!