Q&A with Emma Minhui Ye '24, Founder of Flipped Lab
Flipped Lab, founded by Emma Minhui Ye, is an activewear brand embodies and confidently celebrates youth culture and attitude. We use cutting-edge fabrics, unique patterns, and inspirational art and collections to express our passion for active lifestyles.
What was the moment when you had the idea for this startup?
In my MBA application essays, I had written about my passionate determination to challenge stereotypes as my life’s biggest commitment. Despite always having enjoyed exploring different experiences throughout my life, with my finance background, I never could have imagined that I would start a brand one day. During the summer of 2019, however, I worked for a fashion startup assisting the founder with fundraising and strategy development in Miami. As an Asian woman who could not speak a word of Spanish and had few connections in the city, I spent nearly all of my free time in the gym and ended up buying an amazing amount of sportswear that summer. This experience sparked my keen interest, and I began to dig deeper into sports apparel, initially from an investor’s perspective. The more I researched, the more excited I got, and I ultimately fell insanely in love with this industry, determining it was the business area where I wanted to devote the rest of my career.
What’s the problem you’re trying to solve or the gap that you’re trying to fill?
I feel that clothes are the perfect medium to express one's uniqueness and personality. From my personal experiences, however, I saw that existing sports apparel offered only limited gym wear choices in terms of patterns, color ranges, and styles. Flipped Lab rejects the male-dominated world of street fashion and active sportswear and are committed to swaying the balance by introducing fits, colors, and concepts that showcase our power and femininity. We want to help girls take back control of their fashion expression with stylish active wear that truly speaks to their beliefs and attitudes.
Our entire design and pattern-making process is run on cutting-edge 3D virtual sampling technologies. Decisively different from traditional 2D pattern-making and grading methods, we build garment silhouettes based on digital torsos of diverse body shapes, allowing us to transition 3D perfect-fit garments to 2D patterns in real-time. This lets us precision-fit our active lifestyle apparel to the body shape instead of having to take chances with standard industry fits.
In addition, we are committed to constantly expanding our efforts to source sustainable materials and fabrics to drive the apparel industry towards a more sustainable future. All Flipped Lab packaging is biodegradable, and our digital 3D pattern-making underpins our sustainable production processes, ensuring less material is wasted throughout product development and manufacturing.
What was the most important resource Yale SOM contributed to your startup?
Nearly all of the electives I took during my second year were entrepreneurship related, including Startup Founder Studies, International Entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurship through Acquisition. These provided me a deep understanding of how to start a business from scratch, taught me invaluable lessons from the shared experiences of other SOM peer and alumni entrepreneurs, and most importantly, gave me the courage to always carry on in building Flipped Lab.
I still remember talking to Professor A.J. Wasserstein after our last class of Rollups, Consolidations, and Serial Acquisitions, about whether or not to take a gap to pursue my venture full-time in China. It was a question that had been haunting me since my business partner, a creative designer from an NYC-based sportswear brand, had come on board. During our conversation, A.J. shared his own experiences and encouraged me to follow my true feelings and aspirations. These are just a few examples of how I have continuously received support, help, inspiration, and love from my classmates, faculty, and mentors at SOM and from the broader Yale community.
What’s the biggest milestone your startup has hit?
For me, achieving almost 30% MoM growth in GMV revenue despite the huge negative impacts from Shanghai’s lockdowns on our business, and closing two rounds of VC funding in both RMB and USD are some of Flipped Lab’s largest milestones thus far. I was also very proud and excited to have launched our international website (www.theflippedlab.com) earlier this June, which now allows us to deliver our products to every corner of the globe!
Read more about Flipped Lab here!