Monica Phromsavanh: From Refugee To Multi-Million Dollar Fashion Entrepreneur

The powerhouse CEO behind ModaBox, an innovative e-commerce driven shopping service that delivers personally styled outfits to your doorstep is an example of a leading woman who has taken center stage in the story of her life, alongside adversity and fear.

Laotian entrepreneur Monica Phromsavanh has come a long way from the refugee camp in Northeastern Argentina where she was born and raised, after her family was forced to flee the Laotian civil war.

Her first business, Modalistas, grew from a 100 square feet kiosk to a 4,000 square feet space within three years. Although the successful company closed its doors in 2014, it led to the development and growth of ModaBox, with a goal to reach even more people. She recently shared her entrepreneurial journey with Entrepreneur magazine, and we are inspired. Here are some highlights below.

On her life as a refugee
“We lived a life of poverty that only a refugee could know. Hundreds of families lived in a warehouse without electricity or running water. Work was sporadic and often impossible to find. We didn’t speak Spanish and the Laotian people were subject to harassment and treated with little respect.

On the early recognition of her drive and work ethic
“I took every shift that was available to me, and I never refused any task. I wanted to outwork all of my coworkers, and when I did I was promoted to manager.

On what inspired her to launch ModaBox
“I was ready to create something worthy of the business acumen I had developed over the years, and that matched the potential I knew I had. I wanted to reach a greater audience than I could through a traditional retail setting.

On the importance of empowering other women
“I get great satisfaction knowing that I can build a woman’s confidence by helping them to look and feel good, and with Modabox we can create that dynamic on a large scale. My experience growing up has made me aware of the struggles of women and girls around the world, and giving back is a huge part of what drives the Modabox team. The company has partnered with Bottomless Closet, an organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged women entering the workplace. In every box, there is a note asking members to consider donating gently worn business attire for women, and a pre-addressed envelope to use for any items they wish to contribute.”

Image: Grant Friedman

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