Business Growth
Min Read

Banker Turned Trendsetter - The empowering story behind the founder of Threads.

Xenia started her career as an investment banker. But when she was sick of wearing uncomfortable, non-durable tights, she pivoted her career to launch Threads – a brand that offers high quality, sustainable and affordable tights, and hosiery.

As the world comes together to celebrate International Women's Month, DHL wants to shine a spotlight on extraordinary women who have made remarkable strides in their respective fields. Among them is Xenia Chen, the inspiring founder of Threads and one of the winners of our SME Discover Your Next Contest in 2022. Today, we celebrate Xenia's accomplishments and highlight the innovative impact of Threads in the fashion industry.

How did Threads start?

In 2018, Xenia was working in the financial services industry at the time and would go through a lot of hosiery with work wardrobe. She was getting fed up with the number of tights she was going through in a month, because of rips and pulls in the material. Xenia found that she was either spending $10 at the drugstore for a pair that sucked or spending $60 on a pair that was comfortable and luxurious, but still had some sort of shelf life before it rips or wears out. She noticed her female coworkers were also experiencing the same frustrations when it came to their tights, whether it was about comfort or how much money they were spending. And that’s when Threads was born, the experience motivated her to start doing her own research into the hosiery industry, where she learned there were virtually no companies out there who were making tights with women in mind.

Threads was created to be different in both design and affordability. They work directly with their factory in Italy, where they can cut out the middleman, so women can get luxury tights at the fraction of the price. It was important to Xenia that women had access to affordable and high-quality tights, seeing how they are a fundamental staple to women’s workwear.

Threads’ greatest challenge and success so far in the journey
Like many other small businesses, the most significant challenge (and accomplishment) for Threads was navigating the impact of COVID-19 in 2020. Operating as a young business in an industry reliant on people dressing up, whether for outings or work, posed considerable difficulties. Xenia expresses gratitude that Threads successfully re-strategized on the fly, nurtured existing customers, identified new and unexpected customer groups, launched new products, and ultimately made it through the challenging year with the entire team intact, while also establishing a new business line. A true testament that sometimes, the best ideas can come out of times of incredible challenge. 

Threads' achievements include significant media coverage from outlets such as the Today show, Fashion magazine, and Good Housekeeping. This recognition is attributed, in part, to the company's gender-inclusive policy, making Threads a popular choice within the drag and crossdressing communities, setting it apart from competitors. The brand has further diversified its product line with the introduction of fly-contour tights designed for men. Additionally, Threads has expanded its distribution network, now offering its products not only online but also in small independent clothing shops.

Xenia’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

“Just start! If you’ve been dreaming up something for awhile, start working on the idea now. There will never be a “perfect time” to start a business. This doesn’t mean you need to quit your full-time job – just start working on it on the weekends or at night (that’s what I did with Threads for the first year). Taking the first step is often the hardest step but also the most important! Lastly, failure is not the opposite of success: it’s a stepping stone to success.”

Learn more about Xenia and Threads at or on Instagram at

Business Growth
Min Read
6 Principles of Marketing for Your Business

What is marketing? Is it just a fancy word for selling?

It’s way more than that. While selling is mostly about the transaction of goods for cash, marketing concerns itself with the entire business process. It embraces product development, the people who are most likely to buy your product, your pricing structure, promotional techniques and more. If you see a pattern developing here, you’re right.

What are the 4 Ps of the marketing mix?

The 4 Ps of marketing are Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

It’s generally believed that there are four Ps in what people call ‘the marketing mix'. (Some stretch the term to include seven or even nine, but there are four main ones.) Whether you sit down and construct a formal five-year marketing strategy for your business, or tend to 'freestyle' things, you should always be thinking about the four Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

6 Basic Marketing Principles

At DHL, we always go the extra mile (excuse the pun). So rather than four, we focus on six marketing principles: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People and Packaging. That’s right, we’ve added People and Packaging into the mix. Let's take a closer look at each one:

1. Product

This is presumably why you’re here. You’ve got a good product and you want to sell it. For the sake of brevity, our use of ‘product’ also includes things like apps and services, and applies to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales. Right from the start, you need to forget that you’ve got anything to do with the product at all. Instead, examine it afresh from the perspective of a potential customer. Channel their thoughts like this:

  • Hey, that looks cool. I wonder what it does?
  • I could use something like this in my study/garage/kitchen
  • I wonder if it’s available in black?
  • Maybe there are cheaper versions elsewhere?
  • This would make me look good to my boss/partner/kids
  • Not sure about that name. How am I supposed to pronounce it?
  • Why all this packaging? Don’t they know plastic is the enemy?
  • It would make a great gift. Maybe it’s cheaper if I buy several
  • Ah, the instructions...‘Utilize’? ‘Enablement’? Who talks like this?

By forensically examining every aspect of your product – maybe asking impartial observers to do likewise – you’ll find ways to enhance it or make it more appealing to more people. You need to think ahead too. Just about everything for sale has a ‘product life cycle’, a period after which sales naturally decline. You must be ready for that, and plan to introduce new and/or improved versions of the product long before your sales curve starts to head south.

“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg, Author & Keynote Speaker

2. Price

Ever noticed anything odd about men’s grooming site, Dollar Shave Club? They’re wildly successful at what they do, but nobody’s ever bought a razor from them for a dollar. It can’t be done. Not once the cost of shipping is included. That’s just one example of how a clever pricing strategy (together with a catchy name) can reel the shoppers in. Determining the price of your product is a balancing act. Set it too low and you might appear cheap and inferior. Set it too high and people will quickly look elsewhere. There are exceptions, of course. A Dyson fan will blow the same air around your living room as a regular fan, but advanced technology and a unique design mean the company can command a cost per unit many times higher than other manufacturers.

Rather than going with your gut feeling, do some research. Look at what your competitors (if any) are charging and learn what your potential customers would be willing to pay. Consider offering bulk discounts or introductory offers, or adding value in other ways such as a user guide or club membership. Dive into the consumer psychology of pricing too – you can read more about nudge techniques around pricing, here. Then consider which pricing strategy you should implement. There’s a range of different strategies to suit different objectives and marketing environments. Some of the main ones are:

Market Penetration

This is where your initial price is set artificially low, then hiked once you’ve achieved a predetermined market share. New subscription services like TV or broadband providers typically use this model. As we’ve seen, the Dollar Shave Club is pretty much just the name on the door.

Price Skimming

Price skimming occurs when a first-to-the-market company can afford to charge a higher price, but then has to lower it when cut-price competitors arrive on the scene. Most hi-tech items are eye-wateringly expensive at launch.

Neutral Pricing

Here, you set the price to match whatever the bulk of your competitors are charging. It’s not a strategy to adopt if your products are demonstrably superior to others. Once you’ve settled on a price that brings the orders trickling in, turn your attention to how you can modify your pricing strategy so that the trickle becomes a stream, then a torrent, then a flood. Never stop testing, in other words. (But always have that other P word at the back of your mind – profit.)

3. Place

'Place' in a marketing mix context refers not to a single location but to several: where your business is located; where your customers are located; and any points in between such as warehouses, distributors and retailers. How you get your products from you to the end user is, as with most things in marketing, customer driven. You have to find out where your customers are, where they might look to find your product, where they’d feel most comfortable buying it, how long they’re prepared to wait for it to be delivered, how often they’re likely to place an order and so on. Knowing the answers will help you determine the best – i.e. quickest, simplest and most cost-efficient – method of getting your stuff out there.

Now, you could be lucky in that your business might thrive just through selling handmade watches to a handful of high net worth individuals every year. In which case, distribution is a pretty simple matter and your main concern is ensuring you have hefty insurance. But for most SMEs, a more structured system will be required. It’s no exaggeration to say that distribution can make or break a business. But help is at hand. Because when it comes to national or international logistics, whether for global corporations or bedroom-based start-ups, nobody can offer more hands-on experience or helpful advice than DHL. With offices in over 220 countries and territories, we’re the first name in crossing borders, reaching new markets and growing your business. And, as our software aligns with many e-commerce platforms, your customers can see shipping costs transparently.

4. Promotion

This is what most people think of when you talk about marketing, but promotion is just the communication aspect of the marketing process and is often one of the last steps you take.

Promotion can take many forms:

  • Advertising
  • TV and radio
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Posters
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising
  • Online banners
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media – including influencer marketing
  • Sales Promotion
  • Money-off coupons
  • Loyalty programs
  • Product sampling
  • Competitions
  • Point of salePublic Relations
  • Press releases
  • Exhibitions and events
  • Sponsorship  

5. People

It goes without saying that your customers should be at the heart of everything you do. After all, without them, there is no business. Ask yourself:

  • What do people want from your product or service?
  • Are they using it in ways you hadn’t envisaged?
  • How are they interacting with your brand?
  • What are they saying about you on social media or review sites?
  • Do you value your customers or feel they somehow ‘get in the way’?
  • How can you improve their experience of your website or products?
  • When was the last time you wrote a personal note to a customer?

And people doesn't just refer to your customers; the people who work for you are also vital to the success of your enterprise. A lot of companies claim to be people-centric, but this should always be more than a buzz phrase for your ‘about us’ page. If you’re passionate about your business, you’ll clearly want people who share at least some of your commitment. This shared idealism not only creates a happier working environment, it also helps gives you a competitive edge over less united rivals. This topic is explored in our article investigating how to build your team for success.

6. Packaging

Unlike traditional advertising like television or press ads, digital media lets you test the effectiveness of promotions very accurately. You can launch a marketing campaign online and immediately see how many people interacted with your ad, visited your website and bought a product. The trouble is, your competitors can do exactly the same thing – and their marketing budget might be bigger, meaning they can reach more people, more often. So it’s here that you balance the science of responsive marketing with creativity and impact, so that your advertising stands out from the crowd through the use of striking images or a distinctive ‘tone of voice’.

Incidentally, pay no heed to those who claim advertising doesn’t work on them. They’re often the ones who drive a VW ‘because it’s reliable’, wear Levis ‘because they’re hard-wearing’ or use Persil because it ‘washes whiter’. And finally...You may be a marketing whizz, but remember, no form of promotion has ever bettered the authenticity of word-of-mouth recommendations. But that takes time and continual investment in your product and customer service. In the meantime, focus on "the golden six"!

Lauren van Keulen talks taking the leap into starting a small business, despite the fear.
Business Growth
Min Read
How to Roll Over and Embrace the Anxiety of Starting and Growing a Business

Over the past decade, I have spent a lot of time learning about what it means to run my own business. I started a very small pet accessory company - DogDog Goose - in the fall of 2011 and have watched it change and grow more than I ever thought possible to where it is now — my passion and entire full-time focus. I never set out to start a business and stumbled into it by accident, but I have learned a few important lessons along the way that have helped me continue keeping myself on track and take things to the next level.

Starting out, I essentially knew nothing about launching or running a small business. My brand started as a small hobby that gave me a creative outlet and helped me get through university. I had been looking for a dog collar for our Dalmatian, Luci that looked great, was easy to use, and was durable and long-lasting. I was having trouble finding something like that in stores, so I decided to try my hand at making my own.

I had no experience with Etsy or other online marketplaces, and I had never built an e-commerce website. I didn’t have connections or friends in the handmade community, so attending markets and events made me feel like a fish out of water. All the vendors seemed to know each other, and I tend to avoid ‘putting myself out there’ in new and uncomfortable situations. What I learned, however, is that most small business owners remember very well what it was like starting out and are happy to share some of their expertise with others around them. I also realized that there are plenty of online forums and social media groups for small businesses and makers filled with other like-minded entrepreneurs in every single stage of their businesses.

There were so many aspects of running a business besides just making the product that I had never thought of before:

  • How should I attach prices and product information to my items and display them in my booth?
  • What are my options when it comes to payment processors, and what are the reasons to help inform my choice of one over the others?
  • When I begin to sell online, should I use an online marketplace or build my own website?
  • What shipping services should I use, and can I offer my products internationally?

Lots of the answers to these questions I found out for myself through countless hours of online reading and a lot of trial and error. However, a lot of valuable information also came from fellow makers and artisans I met along the way, both in-person and online. No one can give you all the answers when it comes to your own business (nor should they), but having some trusted friends who you can bounce ideas off of or who may have a lead on a resource or contact goes a long way. Once I became a more seasoned market participant and had spent some time in the crafting community in my area, I made a point of being approachable to all makers in an effort to be the resource that I never felt I had when I started out.

Another thing I learned very quickly is that you can’t be afraid to fail — because you will fail, again and again, but that is an important part of the process. What matters more is what you learn from those failures and where you go next. Stepping outside of my comfort zone was the only way that my business has been able to grow and scale from a very small hobby to my life’s work. The entire reason my product was created was because I was trying to design a solution to a daily problem I was experiencing in my own life, and I try to apply those same principles to the day-to-day operations of my business.

One of the biggest steps I took was when I made the decision to leave my engineering career to pursue DogDog Goose full time. It felt scary and uncertain, but the business needed more of my time in order to grow and that was the only way it was going to get it. Being able to dedicate my full attention to the business meant I could grow from having a very small product offering of leather collars to several product lines encompassing everything from collars, leashes, flannel scarves, and accessories to wellness tinctures and treats for pets and a complementary human clothing line. I understood that leaving my previous career path behind me was a potentially high-risk decision, but I trusted in my brand and my product enough to take the leap. Having the support of my family and friends (and that trusted maker community) also reinforced my decision.

Lastly, I decided very early on what mindsets and values were important to me and my business, and I have stuck strongly to those ideals throughout the entire journey so far. One of the qualities of my brand that is very important to me is that our collars and leashes are made by hand with great care in our home-based workshop, the same way they have been since the very beginning. The pandemic brought an unexpected surge in order volume at the beginning of 2020, and I found myself wondering how I was possibly going to keep up with the number of items I had to make. Rather than outsourcing the manufacturing of all our main products, we invested in bigger and more capable equipment so that I could produce more items in less time with even better consistency and higher quality than before. I was also able to bring my mom, Heidi onto the team as our full-time seamstress to handle all our textile goods, such as bandanas, flannel scarves, and waste bag carriers. The fact that we make each and every collar for our customers has always been important to me, and while we have brought on additional secondary product lines and add-ons made out-of-house to complement the brand over the years, that core value of hand making my collars will always remain the same.

No matter what stage of your business you’re in, the next steps will always come with nerves and uncertainty. Whether I was just starting out and trying to decide whether to invest in $100 worth of supplies or deciding to move into my first official dedicated workshop space to develop new product lines and order exponentially larger shipments of raw materials, I remind myself that those feelings of anxiety are a normal part of the process. They reinforce that I’m dedicated and mentally invested in the success of my business. Over the past decade of operation, I have learned more lessons than I can possibly count on two hands, but these main takeaways have really helped me take my business to the next level. Having some form of community — whatever that means to you — is so important. Being able to brainstorm and collaborate with others, especially when you’re stuck on a problem or in a rut, is a very valuable experience. Secondly, you can’t be afraid to take risks because failure is an important experience in business. And finally, once you know your core values, you can use them to guide you in all your decisions moving forward, knowing that at the end of the day, you are staying true to yourself and to your business, no matter what stage of the journey you’re in.


About the Author

Lauren van Keulen was born and raised in Calgary, AB before moving to Edmonton to complete her education in engineering. Lauren worked in her field for four years before taking DogDog Goose full time in 2016. Currently, she and her husband, Brady live in Lumby, BC with their two dogs in their home-based workspace for DogDog Goose. Their products are sold online and through a growing list of retailers and are shipped internationally. Lauren looks forward to continuing the expansion of DogDog Goose by developing new product lines and innovative designs.

Learn more about Lauren Van Keulen at or on Instagram at @dogdoggoose

Founder of Lam Beverages, Christy, speaks on the anxiety of starting a small business - and the success of giving it your all.
Business Growth
Min Read
Trust and Believe in the Daily Grind of Entrepreneurship

As I’m sure any fellow small business owner knows, coffee is something we consume when we’re tired, overwhelmed, underwhelmed and frankly, bored. Coffee is a comfort consumable, and if we were able to have an IV of it to get through the late night work sessions, we’d probably take it.

I’m not an advocate for hustle culture, but it’s certainly something ingrained in me as a child of immigrant parents. Hustle culture can be mentally exhausting, and often, you end up beating yourself up over not achieving someone else's definition of “success.” Immigrants, like my parents, didn’t have any choice but to hustle. However, as a millennial growing up in Canada, my choices looked very different.

Starting a coffee brand definitely wasn’t what I had in mind when I was growing up. Coming from an immigrant family who escaped war and terror in Vietnam, all you would hear at home is “go to university! be a doctor! be a lawyer!” I was conditioned to think that those types of careers were the only way to become successful and ensure a happy and stable future.

I don’t blame my parents at all for thinking this way. They never had a chance to go to elementary school, let alone university. They wanted to guide me in the direction of their idea of stability — a future that wouldn’t require the struggles they had to go through coming to Canada, not knowing any English or having “desirable” skills.

So, I did what I was told and went to college for AutoCad Drafting and Design and completed an 18-month diploma program. I furthered my education by attending a 2-year Interior Design program and spent an entire semester practicing drawing straight lines because we were advised we needed to know how to draw blueprints without a ruler. Then there was that class about the history of colour. Needless to say, I was uninspired and unmotivated. I knew it was time to pursue a career I was passionate about, so I started a business focusing on the one item I spent most of my days purchasing — coffee!

While most of my friends and cousins continued their education in either college or university, I spent seven months sourcing LAM Beverages’ coffee and packaging, and planning the e-commerce site, freight, and launch of the brand. I kept my head down and didn’t tell anyone about my idea. Not because I thought someone would steal my idea (every second there’s someone somewhere in the world probably thinking of your business idea), but because I didn’t want anyone to sway me from launching my business. I didn’t want to hear any negativity. I wasn’t doing what was considered normal in anyone's eyes. I knew I just needed to launch and roll with the punches.

On September 21st, 2020, I launched LAM Beverages. A few hours went by and there were no sales. I was getting worried. Did I plan incorrectly? Did I hype up my audience enough before launching? Is this why my parents told me to go to med school? I closed my laptop and decided to focus on other things. By the end of the day, I received my first 10 sales. I was overjoyed!

It still wasn’t the right time to tell my parents yet. I knew that if I told them about LAM Beverages, they’d ask me if I’d be confident surviving off a paycheque from the business — and I wasn’t even thinking about taking a paycheque for the first year. I needed to reinvest every penny I made back into the business, so the answer would have been, “no, I cannot survive solely off of the business at the moment.” I kept my full-time job instead and put in full-time hours for LAM Beverages as well.

After the first month flew by, I began to feel comfortable telling friends and family about LAM Beverages. I was honestly scared to let anyone know about my business until I had valid social proof. Most importantly, I didn’t want to disappoint or embarrass my parents. I didn’t want them to know that I had spent the past seven months planning a business that might’ve turned out to be a failure.

In East Asian culture, unfortunately, it’s very common to compare your children to another child’s success. We don’t talk about this enough because it’s taboo, but it’s a terrible and incredibly uncomfortable experience. I didn’t want to be that child who didn’t go to university AND had a side gig that flopped who my parents' friends would use to compare their child to. I wanted to make my immigrant parents proud. I wanted them to know that everything they’ve done to come to Canada and provide for their family had worked — that we are now living the Canadian dream: happy, safe, healthy, pursuing our dreams (whatever that may be), and trudging steadily toward our goals.

Fast forward a year later, my parents are happily involved; they occasionally accompany me to my trade shows and assist me with unpacking my inventory, packing my orders, and helping me with anything I need. I love being able to discuss my business with my parents every week and get their opinion on new product samples. I love being able to share this entrepreneurial journey with them.

I realized this fear that I had about being a disappointment to my parents was solely my own reflection of myself. I thought I wasn’t confident that I would do well in their eyes. This was a self-defense mechanism I had created in my own head. It wasn’t because the business wasn’t doing well, it was because it wasn’t doing well enough in my own eyes.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your family and friends don’t expect it to be. Trust in the process and believe in yourself. That is all that matters.


About the Author

Learn more about Christy at or on Instagram at @LamBeverages

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