Interviews & Profiles

The Helix Cuff Founder Angela Pan Shares Her Success Story

How to Take Your Food Startup to the Big Leagues


Angela Pan is the founder and chief executive officer of Ashley Chloe, a San Francisco headquartered brand that just launched its flagship digital wearable accessory The Helix Cuff. Integrating a passion for functional aesthetic design with her aptitude for business strategy, Angela has a wealth of experience gained from her dual roles as startup entrepreneur and as early-stage tech investor.

Prior to launching Ashley Chloe in December 2014, Angela was instrumental to the launch and development of two startups, SweetMory and Aava USA. As co-founder and COO of SweetMory, a company providing web portal services for social media publishing and physical memory printing, Angela spearheaded business development efforts, strategic branding, and executive marketing strategy. Additionally, as co-founder and CEO of AAVA USA, a luxury lifestyle consultant firm, Angela skillfully molded the company’s business model to reflect her interest in aesthetic ingenuity.

Angela has also spent several years working in early-stage technology financing. She was head of incubation operations for Hanhai Investments, and is a principal at Haxis Labs, a venture capital firm, which provides her with deep insights into hardware product development and financial models for a hardware-related company. Angela is also a board member of the Asia America MultiTechnology Association (AAMA), one of Silicon Valley’s largest and most established non-profit organizations working with technology entrepreneurs.

Angela completed her B.M. in Business and Logistic Supply Chain Management from the University of South Australia, and has continued her studies in marketing and social media at Stanford University. When she isn’t developing her passion for design and nurturing startups, Angela delights in improving her skills as an amateur chef and in walking on the beach with her husband.

Full Name: Angela Pan
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Title & Company: Founder and CEO at Ashley Chloe, Inc.
Education: B.M. in Business and Logistic Supply Chain Management from the University of South Australia; continuing studies in marketing and social media at Stanford University
Previous Experience: Aava USA; SweetMory; Haxis Labs; Hanhai Investments; Dropkart

What has been the best moment in your career so far?

I have been an employee in a big corporation and an entrepreneur, as well as an early-stage tech investor. My background and experience helped me prepare for what I am currently doing at Ashley Chloe. This is definitely the best moment in my career so far. I feel so well prepared and being able to use what I have learnt in the past.

Which factors have helped you get to where you are right now? Whats your secret to success?

Connecting the dots and building the right team are the most important factors that have helped me get to where I am right now. There is not really such a thing as overnight success, and the secret to success is all about the preparation beforehand. I started Ashley Chloe in December 2014, and it started off so successfully that it appears to be an overnight success. However, it wouldn’t be possible without the experience I gathered and the connections I made in the past 10 years.

My team consists of talented folk whom I’ve known for years and with whom I previously worked. These people include the former lead designer at Nokia and Nest, a former senior mechanical engineer from GoPro, a supply chain and manufacturing expert from IBM, and a marketing expert who has a track record in building a successful consumer electronics company with millions of units sold.

Have you had any previous experience of being an entrepreneur?

Yes, I started two companies in the past. Previous to launching Ashley Chloe in December 2014, I launched two startups, SweetMory and Aava USA. As co-founder and COO of SweetMory, a company providing web portal services for social media publishing and physical memory printing, I spearheaded business development efforts, strategic branding, and executive marketing strategy. Additionally, as co-founder and CEO of the luxury lifestyle firm Aava USA, I molded the company’s business model to reflect my interest in aesthetic ingenuity.

More recently, I broadened my involvement to include early stage investment participation in the hardware startup firm Haxis Labs.

Have you always been an entrepreneur by your nature? How did you come up with your business idea?

Yes, I have a very strong entrepreneurial mindset. For the Helix Cuff, I came up the idea based on my own experience. What do you do with your headphones when they’re not plugged into your device? It can take minutes to unravel the knot of cords! The Helix Cuff changes that. Our goal is to make carrying headphones fashionable and convenient, which the Helix Cuff does by delivering a premium sound quality headset hidden inside a beautiful cuff.

We cater to fashion-forward individuals who crave sleek digital accessories designed expressly for the modern lifestyle. Ashley Chloe’s mission is to bridge the gap between high fashion and functional form.

What specific qualities do you look for when hiring team members?

I hire people who are passionate about their work and who show a positive attitude towards challenges. It doesn’t matter what background you have, attitude is the most important factor. I don’t hire people who just know how to talk.

For example, if you tell me we have a problem that needs to be solved — O.K. tell me a possible solution. I will listen. Also, being a team player is also another important factor. A successful company is all about the team work.

Running a business is a constant learning experience. How has your previous work experience helped you with running your company?

I started two companies before, and I have experience in investing in early stage technology companies. With this background, I understand that running a company is more than just selling a product or service. It’s more about strategic planning and the positioning of the company in the right place in the ecosystem.

Building a business needs a lot of planning, funding until its launched, what has been the biggest challenge throughout your company’s history?

The biggest challenge in building any company is to find the product-market fit. In our case, it’s the design process to find out the best user experience in a wearable product that people would love to wear and that is functional in their everyday life.

Tell us more about how you came up with your idea and about the process on how you turned the idea into an actual business.

In the research phase of the Helix Cuff, we looked at both fashion and tech the catwalk stuff and engineering. We wanted to create something new and usually new things come together from existing elements put together in a novel way. We created the Helix Cuff knowing that the human wrist is valuable real estate. We knew we would have to provide a lot of value in order to persuade people use a wearable that they will see all the time.

Its a lot different from something you would carry in your pocket or purse. We paid a lot of attention to the quality of the aesthetics and materials and created a design that looks sleek and stylish, feels comfortable, and cleverly hides its technological power. The design process consisted of multiple iterations. We went through hundreds of sketches to find the right look. 3D prints were a useful tool in testing models. Finally, we narrowed the design down to a few prototypes until we found the Helix Cuff. With a perfectly structured look and feel, we aimed to make the Helix Cuff an accessory that cleverly masks its technological power so that both men and women can wear it with complete comfort and versatility. The design celebrates functionality.

The corporate world has a life of its own, which aspects did you decide to use for your business, and which did you decide to get rid of?

Defining a good process is important to running a successful business. At the same time, we are flexible enough to adapt to new changes. Hence, we use the Agile process in our company which is commonly used in startups in Silicon Valley but still new to big corporations outside of the valley, which often use the traditional Waterfall process.

It’s a fast iteration process constantly adjusting its strategy and action items to optimize for the best results and performance. This is vital to the success of a startup because the speed is a matter of “fly or die.”

What have you learned from your success and failure that you’ve experienced during your business?

At Ashley Chloe, I have learned that having the right team is crucial to the success. It’s important to have experts in different areas who can lead the direction and execute the plan of their function. As a CEO, i have to understand the whole business picture and make a quick decision.

Meanwhile, knowing how to prioritize different action items is also very important. In a startup, you have many things to deal with everyday, and they are just keep coming. It’s very important to know what to do first and what need to be pushed back when necessary. You can’t lose your focus.

Give us some insight on how you raised investments and funds for your business.

Crowdfunding is a new way to raise capital for startup business. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two matured platforms for reward-based crowdfunding with millions of frequent backers who can provide financial support to get your business off the ground. Kickstarter is the crowdfunding platform that Ashley Chloe is using to launch the Helix Cuff.

We’ve found it provides crucial marketing feedback on your product or service to help you find the product-market fit and refine the product/service offering before it hits the market.

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