Kydra Co-Founder Jimmy Poh Spills The Secret To Brand’s Success
“I’m always very surprised whenever someone wants to speak to me about Kydra,” laughs Jimmy Poh as we make our way up to a café for our interview.
That’s not exactly something you might expect to hear from the co-founder of a thriving sportswear start-up.
After all, why wouldn’t people be interested in a homegrown label that’s doing so well, it recently opened a physical store in Orchard?
As it turns out, Kydra’s success hasn’t quite sunk in yet for the 30-year-old entrepreneur — but this modest mindset and refusal to rest on one’s laurels seems to be the key to said success, along with a never-say-die spirit.
MS News met up with Mr Poh for a chat, where we learned that while a successful brand can start with a good idea, it takes guts and grit to really keep it going.
Kydra goes from school project to life-changing Indiegogo sensation
As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s how Kydra was born.
The brand’s origin story has been covered extensively by numerous media outlets.
Mr Poh and his uni housemate-turned-business partner Wong Dingyao were lamenting the lack of functional sports shorts for their gym seshes — important cards and mobile phones slipping out of shallow pockets made up a big part of their frustrations.
So they decided to make their own.
“The business idea actually came to us while we were hanging out,” Mr Poh tells us between sips of his cappuccino.
The pair developed the Flex Shorts – famed for their secure pockets, breathable material, and a stylish look that makes them great for casual outings too – for a school project.
The item later made its debut on crowdfunding website Indiegogo in 2016, where it proved to be a hit among users, and not just in Singapore.
Mr Poh recalled receiving an order for the shorts from a customer in Dubai sometime in early 2017. Since he happened to be travelling there to visit friends, he took the opportunity to deliver the product personally.
“The guy told me that he had been looking for something like this and wondered why there wasn’t anything like them in the market,” he said. “Which is why we made them in the first place.”
About a week or two later, the same customer reached out to Jimmy to rave about how the shorts had literally changed his life.
“Honestly speaking, it really is life-changing,” he gushes proudly, referring to how the Flex Shorts’ hidden pockets give wearers a secure place to keep their items while they do anything, including working out.
Who knew such a small thing could make such a huge difference?
Kydra’s physical flagship opens in Orchard
Encouraging feedback like this spurred Mr Poh and Mr Wong to keep working on the brand, and in July 2017, they officially launched Kydra online in Singapore.
Though it was mens’ shorts that started everything, male clothing only makes up 20% of the business — the demand is overwhelmingly for ladies’ athletic gear.
The label is clearly doing very well.
By 2020, it crossed the million-dollar revenue mark. Since then, Mr Poh reports that they’ve had a year-on-year sales growth of about 50%.
While many enterprises have been shuttering physical stores to cut costs, Kydra unveiled its first brick-and-mortar boutique in the heart of Singapore itself, Orchard Road, in August this year.
“We were quite lucky,” Mr Poh muses. “We were looking for a retail space, and it just so happened that there was this opening at a decent price.”
The flagship, which he was very involved in regarding the concept and design, sits in Basement 2 of Takashimaya Shopping Centre, where a Charles & Keith branch used to be.
Having a tangible space has helped expose Kydra to a broader audience, such as tourists who frequent the famous shopping belt.
Folks who have heard of the brand but hesitated to give it a go now have the opportunity to try and feel the products before committing to a purchase.
“It was a big risk opening the store because we weren’t sure if it would make money,” Mr Poh says. “But it’s doing not bad.”
And the beauty is that the in-person store hasn’t taken any business away from Kydra.co.
“The physical store makes its own money while the online one continues to do its own thing, so there’s no ‘cannibalism’, thankfully.”
Never lets setbacks be setbacks
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Kydra. As with any other business (and everything else in life), it’s had its share of ups and downs.
For instance, construction delays almost meant that Mr Poh had to push back the opening of the Orchard shop. Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be necessary.
Mr Poh also remembers running into sizing issues for their first women’s leggings in around early 2018.
He chalks it up to the fact that he and Mr Wong were men without a design background coming up with “ambitious” leggings with pockets, something that “wasn’t really a thing” back then.
“We really liked it and wanted to make something that also looked nice, but it was very tight,” he chuckles.
Apparently, they hadn’t accounted for how thick materials tend to be less stretchy and how certain seams would make things tighter.
As a result, they received complaints about how the sizing didn’t fit. They looked into the matter, and the feedback has been positive since then.
Dealing with disapproval can be tough, but Mr Poh welcomes it.
“I’m actually very happy when people scold us because at least we will know what’s wrong!” he exclaims.
This attitude has helped Mr Poh take the company so far, along with his willingness to learn and ability to move on quickly from setbacks.
In fact, he doesn’t even see setbacks as setbacks — merely “learning points”.
“The key to anything is to not dwell on something for too long,” he shares. “If you fall down today, just get up again tomorrow.”
Resilient and practical — just like his products.
Support from parents & fiancée
That said, Mr Poh clarifies that any obstacles he faced in setting up Kydra were never that major.
At least not to the point that it felt like the entire company was going to fall apart.
He was fortunate to have support from his parents from the start, although he still applied for “conventional” jobs after graduation to appease them.
His then-girlfriend, now-fiancée, also played an important part in the early development of Kydra’s women’s products.
In fact, she and Mr Wong’s wife still give their opinion — and they don’t sugarcoat things, which is what exactly Mr Poh is looking for.
A very hands-on boss
As Kydra’s chief operating officer (COO), Mr Poh is very involved in many aspects of the company, dealing with everything from marketing to finance to staff training.
On some days, you can even find him manning the counter at the Takashimaya store, where he drops by once a week.
If you find yourself going for a job interview at Kydra, Mr Poh will be there too.
While he leaves it to his managers to assess a potential hire’s skills, he pays more attention to personality.
The ideal Kydra employee, he says, is “relatively energetic” and hopefully engages in some sport, particularly a team sport, so they can better understand the role of a team player.
Once you’re on board, you’ll enjoy a company culture that places a “deep emphasis” on an employee’s growth and happiness, which are important to Mr Poh.
Psst, in case you’re interested, Kydra happens to have a few available roles at the moment, so do look out for them if you’re keen.
Work hard, stay humble
While the success of his ‘baby’ still hasn’t quite hit him yet, Mr Poh says it feels “surreal” to get so much recognition.
Not that he’s ever going to let any plaudits or pleasing sales figures get to his head.
For now, Mr Poh is still laser-focused on expanding Kydra in terms of manpower and product range. If all goes well, he wants to bring the brand overseas within the next two years.
“Every day is a new struggle and challenge, and we’re just trying to find the best ways to bring the brand forward,” he says modestly. “We’re just a drop in the athleisure market, which is why we’re still pushing so hard.”
Well, this “drop” is already making some pretty big waves, so all we can say is: World, watch out for Kydra.
If you’re thinking of picking up some activewear for yourself, you can shop online at Kydra here or in person here:
Address: Takashimaya Shopping Centre, 391 Orchard Road #B2-12, Singapore 238872
Opening hours: 10am – 9.30pm daily
Nearest MRT: Orchard Station
Remember, if you happen to run into Mr Poh himself, do be sure to give some honest feedback on the products.
He’ll be more than happy to hear it.
Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at email@example.com.
Featured image by MS News.
Stay up to date!
Subscribe to MS News' mailing list to get the latest news updates