Yokiu: HEX Discovery/ Virtual Innovation APAC Program (November 2020)

The Hacker Exchange APAC virtual exchange programme is a fun and challenging experience to work on a start-up project, given the current conditions, an actual visit to the APAC region is not possible. We have two Program Leads – Matt and Jac. They are very good at their jobs in organising and engaging people in the programme. We have a Slack channel for easy communication and a “Command Central” page where Notion (one of the useful applications that I am introduced to in this program) is used as the management system, and the program schedule, mentor and speaker lists, and submission links for daily tasks e.t.c. are all in one place. Before the start of the programme, we also received a goodie bag with a HEX T-shirt and a pair of cardboard virtual glasses to be used in the programme.

The program runs for 2 weeks, Monday to Friday from 9am to evening. HEX is based in Melbourne and the programme is scheduled to Melbourne’s time zone as well. Most students are from Melbourne and Sydney but there are also students from other countries. For me who is in Auckland, the start time of the programme at 11am (9am AEST) is nice but the end time of the programme could be too late, ranging from 7pm to 9.30pm. Other than that, the programme schedule is very rewarding.

Every day we virtually travel to a country in the APAC region by changing our Zoom backgrounds to 1 of the 3 photos provided for that country. A part that I personally really enjoy is that we get introduced to a few common phrases or slangs in the country’s language at the start of the day. Speakers from the region that we “travel” to will come on the Zoom meeting and present their area of specialty. They are very qualified professionals and willing to connect with me on LinkedIn. I have therefore gained a lot of insights and knowledge that would help the start-up process, from marketing, AI, to legal issues from multiple speakers.

There are also mentoring sessions that I can attend by booking on Notion to talk to mentors 1 to 1, and speed networking sections in Remo. I am therefore building more confidence in talking to professionals and pitching my ideas. There are also workshops where we are being introduced to different resources and applications to aid the start-up process, such as using Pitchspot for my business model canvas and Figma for prototyping.

The project that I am working on during the two weeks of the programme is called Petite Designs. I am thinking of building a brand that specifically designs apparel for petite figures by collaborating with designers and brands who do not normally design for petites. The petite community is very underrepresented and ignored in the fashion industry. Regular women’s clothing are designed for heights of 5’5 or above, which does not fit a petite figure properly and does not flatter us. Simply cutting a few inches off the hem cannot solve the problem because the garment has to be redesigned to allow the darts, waist, patterns e.t.c. to hit the right place and hug the figure properly. It is time for the industry to start designing for petites. One of the judges in my final pitch questioned the need for this brand with the availability of customised clothing out there. However, if women of “regular” height have the option to choose from customised clothing and off-the-rack clothing, why wouldn’t petite ladies want this option too? Why are the petite community only bound to options in customised clothing, tailoring and the kids section? This problem might seem niche but the average height of women in most countries are below 5’5, including New Zealand. And in America, 50% are below 5’3. In my research survey, 93% of petite ladies agree that there is a need for more supply for petite sizing.

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