Joseph Lor hasn’t gone on vacation since 2015. As the chief executive officer of Tocco Toscano, the 33-year-old has been too busy turning around the business his father ran for 29 years to indulge in such luxuries.
The straight-talker who joined the leather bag and accessories brand in 2012 says: “I questioned if there was a future for the business. I looked at the business model and saw many issues in processes and protocol.” But sentimentality for the family legacy won out and he decided he would give it his best shot. “In order to keep the company running, I had to let go of people,” says Lor, who assumed the position of CEO from his father in 2016, at a point when the company had accumulated a large amount of losses.
He has pulled out all the stops over the past few years. “I was the salesperson and delivery guy. I slept in the office for six months straight.”
Once, he even left a wedding ceremony at which he was a guest to attend to a customer request at the store. “She didn’t know who I was and later wrote in to commend us on the good service,” he says with a laugh. Indeed, Lor’s generous body of tattoos doesn’t immediately cast him as a typical C-suite figure. Even when he’s wearing a suit, a crown-shaped tattoo inscribed with his family name peeks out from under the collar.
To get younger customers interested in Toscano, a brand commonly associated with a more mature crowd, he introduced colourful add-ons such as bag straps and wristlets. This month, the brand will debut tote bags that come with such detachable inserts as a shoulder bag with hidden RFID-blocking compartments to prevent electronic pickpocketing of passport and credit card details.
While he declines to reveal specific figures, Lor shares that he managed to improve the company’s net profit position by about $1 million. He also teamed up with business partner Ryan Choy to launch Faire Leather Co – an online label featuring stylish yet functional men’s accessories – last November. The brand was launched on Kickstarter with a single bag, the Bond Travel Briefcase. “That was a bag I designed for myself. I pack a lot in my bag and it takes me ages to find anything,” he says. “I had a pretty good idea that other guys would buy it.”
Ever the savvy entrepreneur, Lor, who holds a dual degree in electrical/electronic engineering and biomedical science from the University of Western Australia, figured a crowdfunding campaign was the most cost-effective way to market Faire. His strategy worked: With $406,228 raised from 1,143 backers, it is the second most funded Kickstarter campaign in Singapore to date. The brand hit $1 million in sales within 10 months of operations.
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Today, Faire offers a range of 15 items. Lor sketches most of the initial concepts for the products, a skill born of childhood hobbies such as painting with watercolours and drawing comic characters. Not bad for someone whose childhood ambition was to become an artist. “Technically, I am an artist in some way. I’m just not selling art on a piece of paper, I’m selling a product.”
01 SIMPLE PLEASURES
“I am not atas (high-class). I don’t sit around with a cigar and talk about money. I enjoy drinking whiskies at KTV bars with my friends.”
02 MIKE UP
“I like going to Club FML, which stands for ‘Food Music Lifestyle’, in Prinsep Street. Its KTV customers sound like professional singers.”
03 MEMENTO MORI
“I’m very close to my younger brother; he is pretty much my best friend. We even have the same tattoos. We are going to get another one together, in memory of my grandmother who passed away last year.”