Photo by Hamin Lee

RAY CAO

FOUNDER & CEO

LOOSE BUTTON INC., TORONTO

Employees: 16 | Age: 25

When Ray Cao first went into business almost two years ago, he had big plans to shake up the world of apparel e-commerce. But plans change. Almost eight months after launching Loose Button, he realized he was on the wrong course. "The space was becoming incredibly saturated," he says. "So, we decided to make a pivot."

The redirect landed Loose Button in the burgeoning beauty space, an underserved niche in which the fi rm has achieved rapid growth-likely with much more to come.

The company's flagship offering is the Luxe Box, a package of brand-new, highend cosmetic samples mailed monthly to makeup junkies who've paid a $12-a-month subscription fee. (Cao says the subscriber base is in the five figures.) The concept is a hit, in large part because consumers crave the opportunity to test the generous samples of rare and/or luxury cosmetics contained in each month's Luxe Box. Loose Button customers tend to be enthusiastic and proactive; within 48 hours of each mailout, Cao says, he'll find upward of 60 web videos and blog posts in which subscribers review the products.

But makeup manufacturers are big fans, too-and they pay Loose Button to include their products in the Luxe Box. Current clients include Procter & Gamble, L'Oréal and Coty, who love getting information on Loose Button's hyper-engaged end-users.

Much of Cao's success stems from his networking skills. He has built an impressive Rolodex by getting involved with the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, running peer-networking lunches and befriending influential web personalities.

These efforts have helped him create a boffo advisory board, whose members include Harry Rosen and former Star Media Group president Jagoda Pike, among others. Their advice has proven invaluable. In fact, it is what helped Cao realize that he had to change the firm's direction.

Today, Cao has perspective that belies his 25 years. By tapping the insight of seasoned pros, he has developed a pragmatic business philosophy that he believes will keep his venture prosperous-however it may change. "Many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking their idea is the be-all and end-all," he says. "You have to be passionate about your idea, but you can't be in love with it. You have to be willing to adapt."

Information is current as of the original date of publication.

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