Running your own business isn’t a walk in a park. Entrepreneurs tell us about overcoming a fear of the unknown and finding a voice.
There are countless moving parts to starting a business in Singapore – it’s almost impossible to do it alone. That’s why we’re all about connecting with a like-minded community and finding your tribe in networking groups. Ever wonder about the blood, sweat and tears behind each successful entrepreneurial story? These business owners share the hardest thing they’ve done and their biggest takeaways.
Entrepreneurs on the hardest thing they’ve ever done
1. Chantel Kismet, 35
Founder and trauma-informed doula at Blooming Births
Finding a voice for the business and brand was a huge challenge for me. Having quit my corporate job with no stable income, making money was the only thing on my mind. I was constantly looking at what was out there and not what I wanted to build. I tried being someone I wasn’t and that blocked the business from growing.
Over time, I learnt that no matter how the business climate is or what others are doing, sticking to your true authenticity is your superpower. Being vulnerable and letting the world see you for who you truly are, your values and what you believe in – that drives the business. Learning not to waiver or take the easy way out, sticking to your principles and not compromising on quality are my takeaways. I’ve learnt that failing equals growth and it’s not the end – it allows you to pivot and be creative.
When you stick to your values and who you are, the world will see your brand for what it is. You build trust, creditability and long-lasting relationships with your consumers. Despite the many sleepless nights, working long hours and wearing many hats, I’d definitely do it all over again!
2. Jamie Choon, 36
Founder of Mooncheeks Period Underwear
The hardest thing I’ve ever done as a business owner is learning how to draw boundaries and say no. Everyone will have an opinion on how I should run my business or propose an opportunity. It’s taken effort and practice to be confident enough to trust myself and know that what I’m doing is best for me. Also, to say no to opinions or proposals that I don’t think fit my business goals.
While a potential idea or proposal may sound good, it’s always best to have a careful think-through before proceeding. Don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment and make impulsive decisions.
If I could turn back time to the day I decided to leave my job and start my own business, I’d still choose to start my own business. Any hard lesson is still a lesson learnt. And any lesson, no matter how difficult, will always make me stronger and better!
3. Wayne Yap, 32
Owner of Kosme Aesthetics
Turning a business around after acquiring it [was the hardest part]. Since the business we acquired was in a hyper-competitive space, we really had to hone our marketing chops.
I’d definitely do it again because learning to turn a business around is a really valuable skill I can use to help people and acquire more businesses for investment purposes. I’m still actively looking for deals with a focus on fitness, wellness and beauty retail services.
4. Anjuli Gopalakrishna, 47
Founder of A G Tech
The hardest thing I’ve done in my business is to pivot from my established entity as a trainer and consultant to the global fashion industry into a totally new direction of digital marketing. This required me to let go of my past, and acquire and learn new skills with zero prior experience or background.
In my 40s, I made a successful shift to becoming a digital marketing expert. Since then, I’ve coached several SMEs and startups to grow revenue using digital tools. I’m currently an adjunct faculty for Singapore’s SkillsFuture program and I’m involved in helping global MNC clients skill their marketers for the new world of digital.
I recently launched my first online course on Udemy called Instagram Influence Mastery 2022 and Beyond. It helps brands and businesses use Instagram effectively to attract followers, nurture them and convert them into paying customers.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to have the ‘beginner’s mindset’. It’s being curious about new things, asking the simplest and dumbest questions bereft of ego, and being a lifelong learner to stay relevant and updated. And yes, I’d do it again. I’m not scared of the ‘uncomfortable’ or the ‘unknown’ anymore. I embrace everything with the learner’s curious mindset.
5. Andrea Liu
Founder and kids’ life coach at Frolic for Life
Backstory: this is round two of being an entrepreneur for me. In 2013, while juggling two young kids and an Asia-Pacific marketing role with IBM, I launched a family swimwear label called Frolik. I had no experience in retail, let alone design or any knowledge of manufacturing swimwear. I just had this immense desire to create my own brand and felt I was answering this growing need for good quality and fashionable UPF50+ swimwear in Singapore.
We had five glorious years – we were in stores in Singapore, as well as some luxury hotels in Bali and the Maldives. I loved the creative process of designing collections and seeing kids and families wear them at pool parties and swim meets. It was a side hustle that got me to tap into my creative side and gave me good entrepreneurial experience – including the highs of sales and the lows of stock-taking and inventory.
But I gradually realised that, in order for me to make serious money, I needed to scale up, produce more and sell Frolik outside our little red dot. This is where the Frolik story ended. The hardest thing as a business owner was to claim defeat. I knew in my heart that my vision stopped short of Singapore; I hadn’t looked beyond that simple answer to the lack of cool swimwear in Singapore.
Ultimately, I learnt a great deal, but my biggest takeaway was never to do it alone again. That’s why I launched Frolic for Life with a collective of women coaches that provides personal and impactful coaching support for kids, parents, life and career, health and wellness, and finance. Providing a much-needed service in ’round two’ with like-minded women and one sole purpose has been rewarding so far.
Take notes, ‘cos these business owners have seen and done it all before! Want to join a community of entrepreneurs building businesses that are a force for good? Need expert advice or peer mentoring for your business? Check out Launchpad, a networking platform that encourages connection, business support and community.