SG50 Birthday wishes for Singapore

As Singapore turns 50, I can’t help but feel thankful, for this beautiful garden city, this thriving nation, this safe country, my home.

At birthdays, we always make a wish before blowing out the candles. So I thought I would pen down some wishes for my country as she marks her golden jubilee year.

1) May Singaporean homes be a safe haven for children to return to after a long day or even after experiencing a setback. May parents’ expectations and hopes be tempered with a sense of realism that is based on an understanding of who our children really are. And may our children grow and thrive with a deep sense of unconditional love and acceptance.

2) May we stay hungry and curious. Let us never think that we have arrived. Let us never stop dreaming of what things could be, and be willing to put our hands to the plough to achieve them.

3) As technology continues to advance and improve our lives, may we also grow to become a hands-free nation. May we practise leaving our phones in our pockets, and lifting up our eyes to observe the people around us. You never know when someone might be in need of help, and two free hands are better than one.

4) May we learn to complain less, and be grateful more. May we also offer feedback that is constructive, in place of criticism that can be so destructive on the human spirit.

5) May we stop comparing ourselves with the Joneses, and always feel like a failure inside. Instead, let’s view ourselves with humility but also awe, because we are all uniquely and purposefully made by a Creator. (While we’re at it, let’s also stop comparing our children’s grades.)

6) Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, and worries and responsibilities, may we also take time to slow down, to count our blessings, and to draw close to nature, friends, and family. To draw strength for the long road ahead.

What are your wishes and dreams for Singapore?

Birthday dreams and wishes for Singapore

Inspiring mumpreneurs: Ruth Wong, life coach and founder of My Philosoulphy

I’m excited to have Ruth Wong, founder of My Philosoulphy, share her entrepreneurial journey with us. I’ve known Ruth since from our early blogging days. She’s been an inspiration to me, always reminding me how important it is to keep my focus, and to never stop working towards my dreams and aspirations.   

Here is Ruth’s story…

Ruth_landscape

1) What gave you the courage or motivation to start your own business?

I knew long ago that working for someone else isn’t for me and that living life on my own terms and doing work I really love are important to me. But it wasn’t until the sudden death of a good friend that motivated me to take action. He and his wife were both killed in a car accident while on their honeymoon. It left me in shock, yet at the same time made me realized that life is just too unpredictable and I had to start doing something about my dreams or it may be too late. That’s what got me started on a journey to discovering my passion and talents, and reconnecting with my dreams.

I value freedom and flexibility and desire to be a stay-home mom.

2) How did you decide to do coaching?

I did freelance writing for a few years around the time when my son was born. While I enjoy writing, I began to feel restless, like something was missing. I came to realise that it was my desire to do meaningful work – work that makes a difference in people’s lives – calling out to me.

I evaluated my options – I am a social worker by training but I didn’t want to go back to the sector; I value freedom and flexibility and desire to be a stay-home mom. My search eventually led me to the field of coaching and I am absolutely love the work I am doing. I help women design and achieve their goals, and work towards their ideal life. I help them to reconnect with their dreams and desires, overcome limiting beliefs, confidence and self-worth issues and expand their wealth-consciousness so that they can live with greater purpose, passion and prosperity.

A woman who wants to have it all can’t do it all.

3) Can you share with us your biggest setback so far and the lessons you learnt from it?

I started another business with a friend before going into coaching. Unfortunately, I experienced betrayal and the partnership fell through as a result. It was also during that time that I suffered a miscarriage. It was altogether a very painful time for me but a precious lesson learned. It taught me how important it is to have a contract in a business partnership. I would advise everyone who is going into a partnership to have a contract drawn up even in the early days, and even if the partner is your spouse or sibling. A business is a business and you do what a businesswoman has to do.

It took me about a year to finally let go of what happened, both the business and the miscarriage, and see the positive side of things. I am also thankful that because of this incident, I can now have a coaching business I love.

The thing with entrepreneurship is that the first business idea usually doesn’t work out for various reasons. I think statistically, the number is that 80% of businesses closed within their first two years. The important thing is not to lose sight of our vision and dreams. I always believe that when God closes one door, He will open another even better one, and it’s been true in so many instances of my life.

4) Balancing business and family is not easy. How do you do it?

It’s definitely not an easy task. I put my family’s needs as priority but it doesn’t mean I sacrifice my dreams. Instead, I learn to work smarter.

I love what my mentor says: A woman who wants to have it all can’t do it all. We have to drop the mentality that we need to do it all by ourselves. It serves no one by trying to be a martyr. One way is to delegate as much as possible – outsource the house chores; hire a virtual assistant; if you don’t have the funds to do that yet, then at least outsource on project basis to freelancers. Be resourceful and find help that meets your budget, such as going to places like Fiverr, Odesk and Elance.

I also learn to say “no” more often and not be afraid to offend people. I would periodically examine all the activities and commitments I’m involved in to see if they will move me towards my goals or distract me from them. Some activities may be fun to do but they don’t necessarily help me with my business or add value to my family life.

Ultimately, it boils down to keeping our focus on what’s most important in our lives and living in alignment with our dreams, values and desires. It’s about making smart choices with the limited time and resources we have.

 

5) Finally, what advice would you give to mums who are thinking about becoming a mumpreneur?

There are many things I would love to share but I’ll limit myself to three:

  1. Start a passion-based business that aligns with your essence

I feel this is especially important for women entrepreneurs, because many of us are more emotionally-driven and heart-centred than men. It may sound clichéd but when you start a business, the early days are going to be tough and if you don’t love what you do, it is going to be so much harder. The learning curve will be steep (unless you already have some business related experience), there won’t be anyone telling you what to do; and you will face setbacks and challenges. But when you do something you are passionate about, and which aligns with your essence and core values, your business will stand a higher chance of making it. Don’t let money be the main motivating factor.

  1. Hire a coach or mentor

For first-time mompreneurs, it is helpful to work with a coach or mentor. See it as an investment in yourself and your business. It will help collapse the timeline when you learn from someone who’s been there, done that. It also saves you from much heartache and unnecessary mistakes.

That said, take your time to find the right coach and mentor. Bear in mind that it’s important to not only work with them on the systems, structures and strategies – all these form just 20-30% of the business. The rest of it is about mindset. That’s why in my coaching, I also help my clients to examine their limiting beliefs, confidence or self-worth issues as well as wealth-consciousness. All these can have a huge impact on the success of your business.

  1. Have the right mindset and attitude

In the end, no one else but you are responsible for achieving your dreams and goals. Treat your business as a business and not a hobby; it’s either you are all in or not.

Remember, you make your life happen. It doesn’t depend on anyone else. Because if it does, you are giving your power away and you are not allowing the real brilliance in you to emerge.

I’d like to end with one of my favorite business quotes:

Entrepreneurship is not about building a great business, it’s about building a great life.

But, you will never get what you want from the way you contribute to the world until you learn how to align your actions with your essence. And you cannot do that until you know who you are.

If your work lights you up, lets you express yourself, tap fiercely into your potential, play with people you love and earn enough to live well in the world, rock on.”  – Jonathan Fields

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If you’d like to get in touch with Ruth, you can reach her via My Philosoulphy’s Facebook page! Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your story and tips with us!

Inspiring mumpreneurs: Elaine Kim, co-founder of CRIB

I met Elaine Kim briefly when a mutual friend introduced us at a meeting. When I found out she was the co-founder of CRIB, a Singapore-based social enterprise which aims to empower women to become successful entrepreneurs through networking, matchmaking and business incubation, my interest was piqued and I wanted to know more.

When I interviewed her, I found out that she was much more than just co-founder of CRIB. She is also a doctor in palliative care and co-owns bridal boutiques in Hong Kong and Singapore. She shares more about her entrepreneurial journey here…

Elaine_Kim

Elaine with her husband and their two lovely boys

1. What inspired you to start CRIB?
My co-founder Tjin and I are both entrepreneurs and at her birthday party a little over a year back, we were discussing bringing our kids on a play date on a weekday afternoon, and realised how fortunate we are to have fulfilling careers as well as flexibility and control over our time thanks to entrepreneurship. Building a successful business is very challenging however, especially for women, so we wanted to build an ecosystem to help them meet their needs.

Unless you start, nothing will happen.

2. Women tend to place limitations upon themselves, whether self-imposed or by others. How did you overcome your own mental barriers?
Women tend to have a lack of confidence in starting a business. I overcame it by just going ahead and making a plan, taking a first step and taking the plunge. Unless you start, nothing will happen. I was also very fortunate  to have a supportive and encouraging husband. In addition, a huge factor was that I had co-founders to complement my own skills and to share the workload and weight of owning a business with.

Specific to CRIB, our biggest challenge is raising the capital to fund our programmes and operations. We are a not-for-profit and aim to be financially self-sustainable, but as is the case in many a start-up, raising the initial seed funding is the hardest. But again, we have to make a plan, make our first steps and take the plunge , and I trust we will overcome any challenges.

I have learned to separate time at work and with kids to be more productive when working and give the kids my full attention when I’m with them.

3. How do you balance managing a business and family?
I’m incredible blessed to have a lot of support-  a supportive husband and family, good business partners, a great team at the hospice, good helpers at home, and 2 easy-going sons. Also I work really hard, while being committed to taking advantage of the flexibility and control I have with my time to make family a priority, eg working at the hospice while the kids are at school and planning business meetings during my sons’ nap time so I maximize the quality time I have with them.

4. How do you involve your children/spouse in the business?
My husband is a venture capitalist at Amasia, and has years of experience in the finance industry working at a hedge fund and Goldman Sachs, so I always turn to him for advice on investment and financial matters.  I try to bring my children with me whenever I can , but I also have learned to separate time at work and with kids to be more productive when working and give the kids my full attention when I’m with them.

5. How would you encourage other mums who are thinking about starting their own business?
Just take that first step and see where it leads! And join CRIB, helping women to start and grow businesses is what we are here for. Many of our CRIB society members join even when entrepreneurship is just an idea they are contemplating – and CRIB is good place to explore further.

6. What gets you going every day?
As a Christian, my faith, the desire to live according to the plans God has for me, be a blessing to others and make a positive impact through what I am doing gets me going every day.

7. What is your favourite part about working on CRIB?
The incredible people who are part of CRIB, from my passionate co-founders, Tjin, Marilyn and Mei, the growing CRIB team without whom none of our plans can become a reality, our growing community of CRIB society members, our inspiring board advisors and the panel of mentors who are successful entrepreneurs themselves.

Thanks, Elaine and the team at CRIB, for working to enhance the business environment for women in Singapore!

Check out CRIB and its offerings here!

Inspiring mumpreneurs: Christine Buyco of Human Nature Singapore

I’m really pleased to have Christine, founder of Human Nature Singapore, share her inspiring mumpreneur story with us. Christine was one of the first few mumpreneurs whom I connected with in the early days of this blog. She sent me a box of products including the kids’ natural shampoo and baby wash, and hand sanitizer, and I’ve been a loyal customer and fan of her products since then!

Read on to hear her story of how she transformed passion and opportunity into a socially-responsible and thriving business…

Christine_Human Nature

1. What gave you the courage or motivation to start your own business?

My kids are my greatest motivator. When I gave birth to my first daughter, I already knew that I would have to quit my job as an architect. As important as contributing to the household income in expensive Singapore and pursuing my career were, I suddenly felt these were not as important as spending time with my daughters and being there on their formative years. A mumpreneur friend nailed it when she said, “There is no replay button”.

I went part-time after the birth of my first daughter and then I went on extended maternity leave when I gave birth to my second daughter. This was when I chanced upon Human Nature, an affordable range of genuinely natural personal products. I believed then that I got ‘lucky’, which Oprah defines as “preparation meets opportunity”. I wasn’t tied up with work. I was on the lookout with an opportunity now to pursue.

Also, my older sister is a mumpreneur and so are a number of my friends. They inspired me that it’s possible. In this Internet age, you can definitely run a very successful business from home.

At the heart of it all, find your story.

2. What is your biggest setback so far and what lesson did you take away from it?

The biggest setback for me was losing a big chunk of start-up funds to ineffective marketing venues. It was a very expensive mistake and it took a lot of perseverance, optimism and creative juice to get us out of the pothole.

Lesson? Always do your research and any big decision deserves a good night sleep or two. I always say that passion and motivation alone won’t win the race. You have to clock in your mileage on research and learning new skills (whether in finance, marketing or networking) to stay relevant.

3. How did you balance managing a business and family?

In my experience, the word “balance” has become synonymous with “compromise”. I have this formula that out of 3 things – business, family and sleep, you can only add or do two at a time. So if I spend my time more on business and sleep for example, that means I’m not spending enough time with my family. And if I try to be a supermom and juggle both business and family, I’m definitely losing out on sleep!

This formula does not even include “me” time or social life. So you can be sure that’s almost non-existent! (Haha! Well, that’s how you get things done.) The good news is, they say the crazy juggling slows down after 3 years. When your kid is no longer attached to your breast (we are still nursing at 3 years old!) and your business has hopefully stabilized (with the help of a staff now).

If kids want to play, then they have to help so that mommy can finish up early.

4. Do you involve your children/spouse in the business? What have they learnt from it?

Oh yeah for sure. Any mumpreneur business is a family business by default. In fact, it is not voluntary but rather compulsory. Haha!

If kids want to play, then they have to help so that mommy can finish up early. If mommy needs to work extra hours, daddy has to look after the kids. Whatever dad is good at, he can use those skills in the business too. Every time and resource is valuable.

The main lesson here is that every member of the family helps. We are a team that works together.

Moms are indispensable at work. We are output-oriented, we can multi-task, and we mean business!

5. What would you say to a fellow mum who’s starting out on her own?

You can do it. I actually believe now that moms are indispensable at work. We are focused – we don’t waste time as every minute counts. We can achieve so much in a limited time. We are output-oriented, we can multi-task, and we mean business (excuse the pun)!

At the heart of it all, find your story. Everyone has a story to tell. Meaningful businesses have stories to tell, and a mother with a business is one of the most beautiful stories for me. It is a business born out of love and personal touch.

That’s the beginning. The beginning of sleepless nights and endless frustrations, but also the beginning of a happy and purposeful life.

Thank you, Christine, for inspiring us with your story!

Interview with Val of Nouri, on helping others look good

To kick off our “Inspiring Mumpreneur” series, I’m pleased to introduce Valerie De Costa, founder of Nouri Face and Body Concepts. I first got to know Val through a good friend, when I was looking around for a credible post-natal massage service provider. I learnt a lot from her regarding post-delivery care and certainly benefitted after going through some rigourous massge and weight-loss therapy with her. She’s hard-working and driven, and as you’ll find out, her family and children are her source of motivation and inspiration…

Val_nouri 1What made you take the leap of faith to start your own business?

Ever since my childhood years, I had always dreamt of being my own boss while being a part of something which I enjoy, which would bring satisfaction and a source of viable income.

I take great pride in making others look good and feeling their best, hence I decided to embark on my own journey in the beauty industry.

That was the sole motivation that spurred me to set Nouri Face & Body Concepts, then known as NouriSkin in 2001.

How do you balance your work and family?

When NouriFBC first started in 2001, I had just conceived my first child and lost my mother to cancer in that same year, so to even dream of achieving a balance between work and my personal life was unthinkable at that point in my life.

Without a trusted family member to assist in helping me with tending to my child while I was at work, it was a great challenge to keep on working hard at my newly set up business while making sure I could care for my child on a daily basis.

As with most service industries, my job requires me to work long and irregular hours. Clients mostly drop in for treatments after office hours, and quality treatments can take at least 2 to 3 hours each time. Hence, I sacrificed my personal hours to work late nights in order to build up my client base and reputation steadily.

In the past, I often had to rush for every single task. I would pick my kids up from the daycare centre, feed and bathe them, supervise them on their homework and then rush back to my job to attend to more clients. To say things were hectic is a great understatement.

When children reached the age of self awareness (around K2 or early primary), I got them involved in the business as well. I believe that training them at an early age to take on responsibility will go a long way in the future.

Of course, they only help out in simple tasks such as sweeping the floors, cleaning the rooms after appointments, etc. But their involvement made things easier, and the tasks helped foster responsibility ànd character in my kids. It also meant that I get to pack up and go home on time, without having to waste extra time on menial chores.

All those years of “drilling” my boys have actually bore fruit. I am glad that when I bring the kids out, many others have told me they are very well behaved.

Of course, I do wish they can perform better in school. During their formative years, due to my long working hours, I wasn’t able to read with them much, or encourage them to be interested in reading. Hence, they do not share the same love of books and reading as I do. I believe that good reading habits are extremely important, as it will help one gain knowledge and insight, with a desire to always learn more. That’s where I feel I could have done better as a parent.

 Val_kids

What was your most challenging period while building up Nouri?

There was a time when it was very difficult for me when I had my personal issues as a parent and a business woman. In addition to that, I did not want to worry my family and clients unnecessarily, so I kept my problems to myself.

Having to deal with high rental rates, high staff turnover, lack of reliable domestic help, and very young children to look after really took its toll on my mental and physical well being. I must have looked listless and troubled, because even my clients were starting to show concern and mentioned that I used to look good.

Getting the hint, I scheduled a trip to a hair stylist who revamped my style so much that I felt instantly revitalised and my confidence started to return. I resumed my work with a fresh new look and a vigour to match.

Everyone immediately noticed this change and said, “Val, this is the real you. Welcome back.”

I have since learnt that as women, we have to look after ourselves in every aspect. If we don’t, we can’t be a good provider to our loved ones and add value to our workplaces.

It is really not about carrying an expensive purse or jewellery, but simply put, you have to look your own personal best to perform your best. Many of my clients agree that when they look good and FEEL good, they tend to find that everything else just falls into place for them naturally.

Where do you think you got your fighting spirit? 


I attribute it to being born into a humble family background, where we made do with the little we had.

As a family of regular church-goers, Sundays were the only day we could put on presentable clothes to attend mass. Talk about looking your Sunday best, I only had two presentable outfits for outings and had to alternate them each week when I went to church. That simplicity never bothered me, but it served as the basis of my life’s motto to never take things for granted and be complacent.

It is this very motto that keeps the passion for my goals fiery and strong, to fight for what I want.

What would you say to a mum who’s thinking of starting her own business?

I would advise her to pursue her dreams and passion. Your kids will be your source of inspiration to be a better person and to strive harder for their sake.

Success is never guaranteed, but if any mum has the desire to make her mark through being her own boss – I do not see that as a bad thing as long as she can prioritise her goals and execute her plans properly.

Val & her clients

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first interview in this series. I’m on the lookout for more inspiring mumpreneurs to feature every month. If you are a mumpreneur or have an inspiring story to share, do email me!

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