Cecilia Chiu didn’t set out to work in e-commerce; she was just looking for a part-time job to support herself while studying. It just so happens that job was at New Aim, an eBay seller that is now one of the biggest e-commerce companies in Australia. Chiu quickly developed a passion for online retail and abandoned her plans to become a lawyer to help grow the business. Today, she is New Aim’s co-founder and chief strategy officer. Here, she shares her advice for climbing the corpora
This article is for the Professionals
Only $5+GST for the first month
Already a professional?
porate ladder, and her favourite podcasts to stay up to date with the industry.
Inside Retail: Tell me about your career journey so far. How did you get into the e-commerce industry? Did you always imagine you’d work in e-commerce?
Cecilia Chiu: When I joined New Aim at 25 years old, I never imagined that an eBay seller based out of a small office in Melbourne would become the e-commerce giant it is today.
I was looking for a part-time summer job to support my living expenses while studying. Back in 2005, Fung [Lam, New Aim co-founder] focused on building the back-end engine of New Aim, handling all things IT, warehousing and logistics. This gave New Aim a foundation of technology and automation. I quickly took to focusing on the front end – buying, packing, photography, product listings, handling all things customer service.
E-commerce was, and still is, exciting because you can enjoy such rich and varied experiences within a single role. That doesn’t happen in traditional industries. While I didn’t set out to work in e-commerce – I actually wanted to become a lawyer – it quickly became clear this was the career for me.
IR: How did you make the leap from category buyer/manager to chief strategy officer? Do you have any tips for other people looking to climb the corporate ladder?
CC: My advice to those looking to climb the e-commerce ladder is to remember that depth of expertise is important, but breadth of interest is underrated. It’s equally important, particularly outside of non-technical roles. If I wasn’t across the entire New Aim business in the beginning, I probably wouldn’t have as soon noticed the intersection of opportunity in B2B e-commerce. We understand these small businesses, because not too long ago, we were a small business.
Having helped build New Aim from scratch, I intimately understood the pain points of small businesses trying to scale online. I had a vision that resellers on eBay could become retailers, small businesses, and e-commerce entrepreneurs in their own right. I could see it happening with New Aim. Online sellers just needed the right support and a business model that empowered them. I knew we could provide that.
We took the leap and spent $4,000 on a trade show booth in 2009, a lot of money for the company at the time – back then, Fung was driving a 20-year-old Nissan worth much less than that. I met the co-founder of DealsDirect Michael Rosenbaum at Furnitex, and we started the very first dropship model in Australia. By the end of 2009, we successfully convinced the most popular online department stores of the time to use our dropship service, including Catch of the Day and DealsDirect. This was the beginning of Dropshipzone, which has since transitioned from an inventory-led business to a B2B2C marketplace.
We didn’t have clear roles and responsibilities back then, just a shared common goal to help e-commerce expand in Australia. When the time came to define our roles and responsibilities nearly a decade later after working so many positions in the business, it felt only natural to assume the role of Chief Strategy Officer.
IR: Do you have any professional goals that you’re working on at the moment?
CC: Taking Dropshipzone to the next level. We’re Australia’s leading B2B dropship marketplace and we have so much in the pipeline. We’re laser-focused on removing barriers of entry and growth for Aussie suppliers and retailers looking to start and scale online businesses.
IR: Do you have any favourite books, podcasts, resources about business or leadership?
CC: While I may be biased, I love listening to John Barkle talk shop on The Recommended Retail Podcast (The RRP). Each month, he has refreshingly honest conversations with experts working in different areas of Aussie e-commerce. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or seasoned entrepreneur in e-commerce, you have to check it out.