We talk to The Collective co-founder Vernetta Fong about running a home-based business in Singapore (and spotlight her faves!).
Ever thought of starting your own biz at home? Or know someone who has? Home-based businesses in Singapore are all the rage now – more so because of Covid. But with countless brands out there, it’s hard to sift through the offerings. Where do you even start? Enter The Collective, a mobile marketplace for local businesses across food, crafts and services. No more endless browsing on Instagram – just order, pay, coordinate your delivery and get all your questions answered on the platform.
Curious to find out more, we spoke to co-founder Vernetta Fong about her own experience running a home-based biz and how The Collective supports local lovin’.
Hi Vernetta, can you share your journey of starting a home-based business in Singapore?
Having lived in Melbourne for a few years, I fell in love with the cafe culture and have always wanted to open my own. Since I was young, I was the girl who would choose bread over rice. While all my other Asian friends were missing Singaporean food, I was embracing scrambled eggs, toast and sandwiches.
I was inspired by Aussie jaffles – also known as “tasty toast” in Singapore. Those sandwich machines you’d see your mom hastily slap on two slices of bread filled with various fillings and let the magic happen while waiting for the light to turn green. I took up an opportunity and ran two pop-up stores in the CBD selling specialty sandwiches. However, four months in, the circuit breaker was implemented and I decided to stop operations and go home-based.
What were some challenges you encountered?
Going into it without any expectations, I realised it was challenging to manage different aspects of the business myself. That includes arranging deliveries, consolidating incoming orders from different platforms, and reaching out to new buyers on top of preparing the items.
Not wanting to compromise on the quality of the sandwiches delivered, I made the difficult decision to stop it altogether. But out of adversity comes opportunities! Having first-hand experience of the challenges faced by home-based businesses, and armed with a background in UX/UI design, I felt this was the perfect time to use my skills and help solve these problems for fellow ‘hometrepreneurs’. As a result, The Collective was born.
How did The Collective come to life?
I reached out to my friends (all three who are co-founders) and they were sold! I was so excited and had sleepless nights just thinking about it. We were wide-eyed first-time founders with dreams of launching a perfect product in three months. That turned into a nine-month journey trying to develop a stable app and having sellers onboard with us without a product.
But we’re very grateful for this wonderful community we’re fortunate to meet both online and in person. With the support we’ve been seeing for our local community, and as more consumers pivot online, I believe there’s still a lot of growth for home-based businesses.
Tell us about the relationship between home-based businesses and the pandemic.
Home-based businesses have been thrust into the spotlight as a result of the global pandemic. Many offices, cafes and restaurants were forced to close, and individuals from all walks of life retreated into their homes. That was when many realised there was an opportunity to start something of their own, to turn their passion and hobby into an additional stream of income. As a result, the number of home-based businesses surged and grew at an exponential rate.
Also, with the circuit breaker implemented, there was no other way than to shop online. Many turned to Instagram and Facebook to find unique items and support homegrown businesses. This led to an explosion in the interest of home-based businesses. Even now, post-lockdown, they’re still thriving with many continuing to pursue their passions.
What are their biggest struggles?
Reaching a wider audience. It’s not because their product isn’t great, but ineffective marketing results in the lack of awareness. Also, finding reliable and reasonable delivery services so delivery prices don’t scare off potential buyers.
What’s your motivating factor to keep at it through Covid uncertainties?
For me, it’s working alongside one of the best teams, as well as the opportunity to meet talented individuals who are all passionate about what they do. Behind every business is a story, and hearing different stories of what inspired them inspires me too.
Building a product that can help solve other people’s problems is fulfilling. But ultimately, it’s believing in the reason and what we can do for the local community that drives us to push boundaries and stay motivated during difficult times.
Tell us about other home-based business owners you’ve crossed paths with.
We’re very lucky to have met some of the most passionate ‘hometreprenuers’ during our journey. Denise, owner of Re:Kombucha, started her home-brewed kombucha right after graduating during the pandemic. It helped her financially and emotionally while she began her long search for a job, and it has grown into something she still loves doing now that she’s employed full-time.
Any favourites you’d like to shout out?
I really love kombucha and found it quite difficult to find good ones here as compared to Melbourne. Until I tried Re:Kombucha – it’s fizzy and tangy with the right amount of sweetness! My personal favourite is passion fruit (can’t go wrong with that) and mulled wine. Their flavour profiles are amazing and they’re the perfect pick-me-up any time of the day. Another personal favourite is Kloudbakes, which specialises in Swiss rolls. They’re guaranteed to have you on cloud nine!
We currently have about 100 products, ranging from cakes to crispy shallots to ice cream, listed on our platform. Popular items include beautiful artisanal loaves by Marymount Bakehouse, assorted burnt cheesecakes by White’s Bakery and fruit-filled mochi by Sweetshapes.
Finally, what can we all do to support these local businesses?
Placing an order or even sharing them with friends would mean a lot. For some, it may be a hobby or passion. But for others, it’s a source of livelihood. We understand the first step is always the hardest, and we try to make that as easy as possible for anyone to start something of their own as long as they have the passion for it.
Got a home-based business in Singapore that you love? DM us @Honeycombers!