Lily Wong: Co-founder, Rose Athena

Rose Athena is an e-boutique that allows.


Rose Athena is an e-boutique that allows women to design dresses tailored to what they like and to purchase them online, cutting out the middle man.

My undergraduate degree is from the University of Waterloo. I studied biochemistry with a specialization in biotechnology. After a few years working in the life sciences field, I did my MBA at the Schulich School of Business at York University, where I specialized in strategy and non-profit management leadership.

I was thinking, “Should I do a master’s in science or in a broader area so I can move up to a management level?”

After a few chats with those close to me, I decided to do an MBA. Since I came from a science background, it helped expand my interpersonal skills, but more importantly, it transformed the way I think and helped me see various angles. That crosses over as well with science, because in research you always have to think outside the box. I found the entrepreneur class at Schulich particularly interesting.

My business started when a high school friend and I were sitting and talking at a Starbucks – very clichéd, I know. It was summer, so we had functions to go to, weddings and other formal events, and couldn’t find dresses we liked in terms of necklines, sleeve length, colours or fabric. When we looked into it, we realized there were no websites for women where they could customize their own dresses, so we decided to start that business ourselves.

With an MBA, you become more of a generalist, someone who knows a lot of subjects but may not be an expert in all fields. I learned how to identify the different strengths in those working around me so I’m better able to utilize their talents, as well as increase productivity in my business.

People from a science background always have that research mindset. “What’s better that’s out there? What have other people done?” You can try to pull in two different concepts and put them together. A science background helps in terms of being analytical.

The biggest challenge on the job is managing time. You often have to meet people and do things for the company outside regular working hours, which can be fun but cuts into your personal time. Your business really has to be something that doesn’t seem like a chore or you won’t have a life.

Good entrepreneurs should be flexible about their ideas and what they’re working on. Your goals are always going to be a moving target with different outcomes, so you have to have a plan B. Coming out of an MBA program and often having type-A personalities, entrepreneurs can be very controlling, but you have to be flexible as well as in control.

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