Dora Lau

Founder of Dora L International, Inc.

Dora Lau founded Dora L International, Inc. in 1991 and has served as its CEO and President for the past 28 years. Known for her commitment to utilizing innovative materials and cutting-edge technologies, Lau has consistently raised the bar with the introduction of each new season’s intimate apparel collections. DLI is is known throughout the intimate apparel industry for its ability to provide clients with innovative solutions and programs that are unparalleled in functional and a beautiful aesthetic.

Where did the idea for Dora L International come from?

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, a global intimate apparel supplier, to help develop bras that solve a solution for brands and for women who crave sophistication and quality. We are known as the company that can produce what you want when everyone else says that it cannot be done!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I like to get an early start and then immediately check my emails and texts that came in overnight. From there I have two lists that I use to stay organized. One is a core list of items that need to happen on a regular basis, such as budget reviews and team planning sessions. The second list is based on my emails and texts that are more pressing.

Since we are a global company, we are able to run 24/7 with a great work-life balance. During the day I work with my team in North America and Europe. After dinner, at about 8pm, I start working with Hong Kong, because it is their morning. We are able to always be focused on quality control, production, and speaking with clients with quick response times. It helps us to work faster than most companies.

In a lot of ways this gives flexibility to staff because we know what needs to get done and there are natural breaks in the day as the next group comes online. For example, we start working on Sunday night since that is Monday morning in Asia. Friday is a quieter day since it is Saturday in Asia. There is a balance for everyone which I think is extremely important.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Dora L. International is on a mission to help companies bring trends and consumer needs to market. That means that we are constantly searching for innovation. That’s done through great teamwork. Like they say about collaboration, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” It’s also a drive to keep learning by finding innovation through education and helping brands with marketing support by communicating product value to consumers and retail partners. We also bring ideas to life by networking through virtual trade shows where we learn about what’s new around the world.

What’s one trend that excites you?

That’s an easy one — sustainability. That is our company goal and the way we achieve it is through our customers. We offer them products that focus on sustainability and remain in budget. For example, we are now creating samples with 3D modeling technology. This allows the client to see a product more quickly, and reduces resources such as materials, dyeing, and printing. We are also focused on recycled and renewable materials such as bamboo, which also has anti-bacterial. Each step of the way, DLI is asking, “What can we do that makes us a more thoughtful and sustainable company?”

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Minimal resources for maximum productivity. This includes expenses, manpower, and working smarter while staying focused on quality and not just quantity.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Every mistake is an experience, and it is essential to remain positive. I would tell my younger self to believe that when you are young you can make mistakes which make you wiser as you get older. You pick up and keep going until you reach your goals. Life is a journey.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Produce a good product that makes you proud, even though it may cost more. Make whatever necessary changes so that you have the product that you want. The rule that I use is if it is a one-time charge and will enhance quality, it’s the right decision to make.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Every entrepreneur needs to work for someone else and be an employee. Get experience and learn from other people’s and your own mistakes. This way you don’t have to pay for them! Be patient and learn from your coworkers, employers, and the whole team.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

It’s all about teamwork. Listen to everyone because they should have a reason for being there. Everyone has something to contribute and can add to ideas and the overall growth of the company. At DLI, we have weekly calls to discuss new business and what types of companies are a good fit for us. We discuss the best ways that can we help them. Every member of the team is part of that discussion.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It’s hard to talk about the word failure as an entrepreneur. It’s very subjective. Failure is perceived a negative word, yet in order to be a successful businessperson you need to see it as a positive so that you can learn and grow. There are important lessons to be learned. Personally, one collection that I created was priced too high. I learned this after the product was completed. This experience taught me to price a project from the final retail price and work backwards. It also taught me to know the difference between the product and retail price point. These are valuable lessons that have had a positive impact on my business for the long term and I am glad that it happened during our first year in business.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Be unique. Ask yourself, “How unique is your product?” Ask yourself, “Why would a customer would buy it and then buy it again or recommend it to someone else?” Remember that you are ultimately selling a service. Repeat business is important for the survival of the company and service sells. Even if you are selling a physical item, how is it also a service?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently bought a Kindle which has helped me stay on top of industry trends, news, and information. It’s so lightweight and great to have in my bag at all times.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Because we always need to know about trends, WGSN is an online trending service that we value. We use it to discover global trends about fabrics, color, embellishments, functionality, and what is happening around the world. Sourcing Journal is another valuable resource because of the nature of the business. As I mentioned earlier, the 3D design software has become essential for our mission of sustainability.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recently read, “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar” by David Sandler. Among other interesting recommendations, it says that you should let your client talk 70% of the time. It also says not to go too hard on yourself if a deal doesn’t go through, since you really didn’t have it in the first place. I find this advice to be helpful both professionally and personally.

What is your favorite quote?

“Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can wear” and being able to create this powerful feeling drives me to do what I do.

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t take failure as a negative, it’s part of learning
  • Focus on your service and developing a superior product
  • Believe in growth through collaboration. Teamwork is the beating heart of the company. At DLI every employee knows that they are essential. By working together, we can weather any storm.