My name is Oh Tepmongkol-Wheaton. I am the CEO/Co-founder of the OHZONE, Inc., a fashion tech startup based in the SF Bay Area. We offer a turnkey 3D digitization solution that creates high-fidelity, exquisitely detailed 3D garments from real garments in zoomable, rotatable images in a genuinely interactive self-contained virtual environment. Our patented 3D photorealistic ( 3DREAL™ ) technology, bridging the gap between virtual fashion and real fashion for e-commerce, AR/VR, and gaming. At the OHZONE, we aim to democratize 3D virtual fashion and make it accessible to small- and medium-sized brands to help them increase sales, lower returns, and be sustainable in the post-COVID-19 era.
We were just awarded a Top 10 Fashion Tech 2021 award by Retail Tech Insights. We presented our 3D Fashion Saves The Planet at Nvidia GTC 2020, Nvidia requested an encore presentation for GTC 2021. It’s never too late to start the fashion tech business and save the planet at 50+ years old!
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
My life reads like a classic immigrant story.
Speaking no English, I arrived in Amarillo, TX, from Thailand at the age of 15 to live with my mother, who had immigrated to the US six years earlier. I graduated from high school as Valedictorian and attended Texas A&M University. Due to our limited financial resources, I finished my degree in EECS in three years with Magna Cum Laude distinction. My first manager at Hewlett Packard’s R&D Lab hired me to check two boxes in the HR form: female and minority. I spent seven years proving my capabilities at HP while supporting my father, who had early-onset Parkinson’s. Despite considerable prejudice, I obtained HP financial support for my Master’s study at Stanford University. For the 30 years after completing my Master’s degree, I took high-risk assignments with tight schedules and limited resources, ultimately climbing to a position as principal engineer and computer graphics architect. This is reflected in the seven patents granted for which I am a principal inventor in multiple disciplines. I am a rare breed among technical women whose boots are still on the ground.
Look deep within yourself and see what drives you to entrepreneurship.
Before I started OHZONE, I had tried my hand at a franchised video game store in 2008 which ended up as an epic fail. I learned a lot about running a business and the capital required. I had two years of household expenses saved up before I started. In hindsight, that was not even close to enough.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
OHZONE was initially born from my desire to stay connected with my daughter, who went to college on the opposite coast in 2014. We were having difficulty shopping online for clothing together. The clothing we looked at together online lacked the detail and subtlety she desired in 2D imagery. I decided to apply my skills in 3D algorithms and video graphics to create a better shopping experience. My co-founders and I built our prototype and showed it to my GenZ daughter. She and her friends played with it for 2 hours during a Thanksgiving dinner. So I knew we got something.
With no external funding, I managed to pull together a superb engineering team, which has created an award-winning product with a sustainable competitive advantage and a highly defensible patent portfolio.
My co-founders and I have been required to improvise, pivot multiple times, and make progress with resources available. Together, we built the world’s first apparel 3D scanner, presented the world’s first interactive fashion show -- not a mere video -- with SFCFW.org, was awarded two patents, and launched our 3D digitization service for apparel -- an impressive feat given that 3D technology usually requires intensive capital. We presented our 3D Fashion Saves The Planet at Nvidia GTC 2020, Nvidia requested an encore presentation for GTC 2021. We were just awarded a Top 10 Fashion Tech 2021 award by Retail Tech Insights. Today, Ohzone is a fully operational company with a team of four full-time engineers and four marketing and salespeople -- all inspired by a dream to bring 3D virtual fashion to life.
At the Ohzone, we aim to democratize 3D virtual fashion and make it accessible to small- and medium-sized brands to help them increase sales, lower returns, and be sustainable in the post-COVID-19 era. We offer a turnkey 3D digitization solution that creates high-fidelity, exquisitely detailed 3D garments from real garments in zoomable, rotatable images in a genuinely interactive self-contained virtual environment. Our patented 3D photorealistic ( 3DREAL™ ) technology, bridging the gap between virtual fashion and real fashion for e-commerce, AR/VR, and gaming.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
COVID-19 has generated exponential interest in our space. Our 3DREAL™ interactive technology helps fashion brands increase click conversion rate by 650%, lower returns by 40%, and be sustainable with virtual samples (3DREAL™ Sample). Currently, we are targeting the e-commerce photography market f and the apparel samples market. We will branch out to the personal stylist market and wedding and formal wear.
We plan to market our services via B2B marketing and direct sales with a healthy presence in social media. We also collaborate with fashion shows and showrooms that desperately need virtual solutions to regain viewers and leverage them to close brands. We are raising Series Seed Round to extend our platform capabilities, expand our Sales & Marketing team, and provide working capital to scale the business.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
This quote from Thomas Edison, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” and a good sob story will get you pretty far. I learned to persist by taking small, incremental steps toward my goal. I had to piece together critical clues given by mentors, formulate strategies to navigate around challenges and make the best of the opportunities available with the resources I’ve had. I am forever grateful for my advisors and their indispensable support to my endeavor.
Social Media presence and PR should be started and maintained since inception. Don’t trust that there is a genuine organic effort you can do for PR, everything is pay-to-play.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I used mostly free tools except for Office 365 for corporate email. I took advantage of social group discounts like female founders to get a 90% discount for Hubspot and credit for AWS.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Chris Voss’s MasterClass, Tactical negotiation. Chris used to be a hostage negotiator for the FBI.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Look deep within yourself and see what drives you to entrepreneurship. There are easier ways to make a living than starting a business.
Where can we go to learn more?
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