If The Shoe Fits

Andy’s love of shoes sparked a business that spans 17 countries. We’ve been on the journey with him for a long time.

I love shoes! I love how they are made and shaped. Whenever I see a pair of well lasted shoes with good fit and comfort, it excites me!

Shoes are the first thing Andy Chaw notices about a woman. People often spend on expensive handbags and watches, but they tend to neglect their shoes, he says. “A woman wearing good shoes is telling me that she loves herself and invests in holistic health,” he says. Wearing a good pair of shoes is not just for how it looks, but for one’s feet and health too, he adds.

The entrepreneur counts himself fortunate to be able to marry his passion for shoes with his work. He helms Star 360, marketing and distributing more than 20 brands of shoes to 17 countries. These include Cole Hahn, Birkenstock and MBT, the Swiss physiological footwear with distinctive curved soles touted to bring benefits to wearers.

Andy also designs shoes and has a couple of patents to his name. In 2010 he was named Entrepreneur of the Year in Singapore.

A self-confessed foodie with a penchant for Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian cuisines, Andy has also expanded into the food business in Singapore as well, with the franchise for Krispy Kreme donuts.

The flagship store opened to snaking queues of eager customers in the heart of Singapore’s shopping belt in 2013.

I can eat several Krispy Kreme donuts at a time. Each time I eat them, they remind me that I have made a good investment.

A “Shoe-in” for Success

I want Star 360 to be the shining star of entrepreneurship for Singapore – my vision is for the company to be a global company with best business practices from the East and West.

It is easy to look at Andy’s success today with his love for shoes and donuts through rose-tinted glasses. What most people don’t see are the many times he fell or hit roadblocks along the way, he says.

During his early teens, Andy represented Singapore in high jump and long jump at regional competitions. As a sponsored athlete, he was able to buy shoes at discounted rates which he then re-sold to friends to make some pocket money. And so began his love affair with shoes – and the business of shoes.

Andy’s teenage business venture also fired up his entrepreneurial spirit. When he was in his early 20s, he ditched a university education – the path trodden by many young Singaporeans.

Instead, he launched his business importing shoes from Korea and China to Southeast Asia. He made his first $10,000 from that first venture and has not looked back since. It was very challenging when he started his business, he says. He had no funding, no contacts, and no experience. But he kept his nose to the grindstone. At 26, when he approached Adidas Asia Pacific for the Indochina retail business, he had no illusions that they would give him the deal. But against the odds he scored the goal, and made his first million.

Life of No Regrets

If he is able to give his 20-year-old self a piece of advice right now, Andy says, it would be to not dwell on his mistakes. His guiding principle in life and business is to have no regrets. “If everyone has the privilege of hindsight, there’ll be no beggars around,” he muses, referring to a Cantonese saying.

Whenever I met a setback, I would be disturbed for a short while. Then, I would bounce back faster and stronger. Setbacks stimulate me to be always on my toes.

He also believes in staying focused and committed to his passions, and in valuing relationships and the people around him. “This is why I value the relationships I have with DBS, which I’ve been banking with for a long time,” he says. Andy has been a DBS customer for more than 10 years.

When he is not busy at work, he cherishes his family time, spending it mostly at home. He enjoys simple pleasures such as feeding and watching his koi – all 22 of them, including five award-winning ones.

Koi are like shoes to me. I enjoy looking at the shapes and colours. Good koi and shoes are pieces of beautiful art, admiring them relaxes me.

Andy says he is fortunate to be able to enjoy all the things he loves – shoes, travelling, his koi hobby and good food. His work is his passion, and going forward, he will continue to build on his shoe business. It makes him happy, he says, seeing people wearing his shoes all over the world.

“I started out wanting to be successful in business,” he says. “Now that I have achieved some success, I want to do something meaningful – make the best shoes, shoes that are comfortable and shoes that bring benefits to people.”

What I do now makes me happy. I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do.

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