After 10 years in investment banking, Serene Seah-Ma found her calling in the beauty industry, helping men and women of all ages look (and feel) their absolute best.
We love entrepreneurs and small business owners at Honeycombers, which is why we’ve created Launchpad, a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too) that encourages connection, business support and community. It’s a privilege and pleasure to learn from so many talented and inspiring folks, so we’ve decided to share the love by interviewing some of the lovely Launchpad members. Looking for inspiration? Check out how Serene Seah-Ma, the founder of Freia Aesthetics, gets it done like a boss.
What is your backstory and why did you decide to launch your business?
It was completely accidental. I grew up in a family of “professionals” – doctors, lawyers, accountants, and bankers. So I never knew anyone (other than my forefathers many generations back) who was an entrepreneur. That’s why I charted my career path along what I knew best. I eventually ended up in the corporate investment banking world during my first pregnancy.
It was during my second pregnancy that my husband broached the subject of me working part-time to have more time with the kids – and specifically to help him grow Freia Medical. Fearful thoughts flooded my mind. What if I clashed with him every day? What if we didn’t get along? Could I see my husband at home and at work?
But the positives were equally clear. The thought of getting out of my comfort zone, putting to practice the skills I developed over the years, and having the opportunity to finally call something my own – it was all highly appealing. I prayed about it at length and finally mustered the courage to bite the bullet. I bid farewell to my stable corporate life in 2017 to set up Freia Aesthetics, the medical spa arm of Freia, and grow the medical arm. It’s been the most intense, rewarding and fulfilling ride since!
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
While I can name plenty of challenges I’ve encountered, the one that stands out is growing pains.
It’s great to experience growth but the journey of getting there is long, arduous and riddled with challenges – no textbook or manual prepares us for this. During my time in university, there were no courses on running your own business; it was more mainstream subjects like accounting principles, economics, and finance.
There were also practical considerations. When do we take on more staff? How can we retain good employees? How do we compete with the big boys and manage rising costs? We spent hours finding the right talent. As we grew, creating a structure and defining reporting lines was a huge task. There are no right or wrong answers – many times, you take a chance and fail but you learn from it and try again. The road is uphill but once you find that sweet spot, you know it’s right. Now, I look back with a sense of pride.
How do you stay motivated and energised?
I stay focused on why we exist and count my blessings. As a working mum with a hubby who works punishing hours, we choose for me to be the “stable” parent for the kids. That in itself is tough and a story for another day. Add to that work stress, and sometimes, I’m ready to throw in the towel.
But, my better half is an anchor. He props me up when I’m at my lowest. He asks the hardest questions but also keeps me grounded on the “why”. On days when I see a half-empty glass, he reminds me that somewhere out there, someone has it 10 or 100 times worse than me. And that somehow clears up all the negatives and channels me back to being thankful for what I have.
Favourite places to work?
At my outlets where I am with my clients. It reminds me of our vision of why Freia Aesthetics exists. I love to chat with clients and listen to them tell me how we’ve made a difference in their lives, why we are their second home away from home, and why we are their comfort place.
One regular client said that she had such a horrible day at work but somehow ended up walking by our store. She came in flustered (no appointment or intent to buy anything), and we took the time to listen to her, offer her a drink and be a friend. She was thankful and appreciative. She texted me the next day to say that was why she’d always be our client – because we took the time to be there for her and many others. I love that.
Can you share a work mantra that you use?
Anything that’s worth doing is worth overdoing.
One thing you can keep talking about for hours?
Beauty, skincare, and aesthetic treatments.
Your go-to self-care activity?
Barre, ballet, and walks.
One piece of advice to your younger self?
Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it, learn from it, and you’ll understand why change is the only constant.
Get in touch with Serene Seah-Ma online.
Launchpad is a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too) that encourages connection, business support and community. It is designed to make the entrepreneurial journey not only easier, and more successful, but also a whole lot more fun. We offer almost daily activities for members to connect, along with weekly masterclasses, member networking roulette, small-business mentoring and media profiles on Honeycombers. Check it out and join us!