THE FOUNDER , MONICA PHROMSAVANH
IMPORTED FROM ARGENTINA , HOME IS NEW YORK CITY
My life began in a refugee camp in a small town called Misiones in Argentina. My parents fled war in their native Laos to find a better future for themselves. We lived among many other refugees in a camp without electricity or running water. Life was very difficult and often just having a meal on the table was a luxury. When I was 14 I dropped out of school and when I was 15 I was living in a boarding house in Buenos Aires with two other girls, all of us sharing one bed. I got my first job working for a clothing wholesaler making very little money- but for the first time in my life I could afford life’s basic necessities. It wasn’t easy but my life was great! When I was 17 I boarded a plane for the first time in my life and landed at JFK airport in NY not knowing a single word of English. My first job in the States was in a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania making $5 per hour. I had to wake up early every morning to ride a company bus 2 hours just to begin my shift.
When I was ready to leave Philadelphia and I moved around a little before settling in Connecticut. I got a job working at Express where I would never refuse an extra shift or an unpopular task. I went above and beyond what was expected of my position determined to make something out of this opportunity. My bosses noticed and I was promoted to manager.
In 2006 I bought a bus ticket to NY and with $200 and the two suitcases holding all of my possessions, my life’s next chapter began. I shared a room with a friend in Coney Island and spent $73 on a monthly metrocard, budgeting the rest of my money by eating only from the dollar menu. My dream was to land a job on NY’s famed Fifth Avenue. After a couple of interviews I was hired at Burberry to work in men’s RTW.
In 2009 I started to think about having my own business. I’d met a lot of great designers and I was able to convince enough of them to let me take their merchandise on consignment. I quit my job and for the next several months I hustled all over New York City selling clothing and accessories at street fairs, sample sales- anywhere people were shopping I tried to be. One day while walking through the Chelsea section of NY I stumbled into the Limelight Shops. One of NY’s most iconic buildings, the Limelight was once a church then a notorious nightclub. After sitting empty for years, it was now a shopping galleria. I put in an inquiry about renting space and a couple months later I opened my first store, Modalistas. Well, it was really more of a “kiosk”- I started out with 100 sq.ft. As my business acumen grew, so did sales. I met more designers and manufacturers and little by little my space grew. In less than 2 years my store occupied 4000 sq.ft.
At the end of 2013 I took a trip to Asia to unwind and see where my family began. I knew I was ready for the next step and I thought taking a little break might help me to see what it should be. When I got back the idea for ModaBox was born. I wanted to take the type of personalized service we were providing in the store online to reach a larger audience. I developed a business plan, enlisted the help and advice of the great network of people I had built, and launched the company. By September of 2014 we launched our beta version and I closed the store so we could all focus on developing ModaBox. I always thought it was better to be 100% great at one thing than 50% good at two. We’ve been growing ever since and most importantly I will never forget where I came from……….