This interview was initially published on Singapore based Online Magazine Executive Lifestyle
My professional journey began in earnest 19 years ago when I moved to Singapore. I arrived on a contract with Nokia, entrusted to build the StarHub mobile network. It was a one-year contract. I never left. Back then, StarHub was little more than an idea on a scrap of paper. It had no work premises and just a handful of staff. My husband and I were the first engineers hired to work on the project from the Nokia side.
When the network was ready for launch in April 2000, my boss suggested I take a new path, training as a GPRS Engineer. When the first flurry of data was sent from the StarHub mobile network to the internet, I was there to make it happen and witness the moment. This was a life changer for everyone – suddenly we could browse the internet on the move!
I was hugely dedicated to my work and especially loved the customer interaction. Then in 2006 my life took a fresh turn – I finally fulfilled my entrepreneurial destiny, co-founding Lemom. At first, my business partner and I intended to build a hobby-based company, but clearly I wasn’t programmed to do something ‘small’. We ended up building a company that designed, produced and sold fashion accessories. Materials were sources from around the world, jewellery was produced in Singapore and goods were exported to Europe for selling. We grew a network marketing organisation with more than 200 consultants who bought our fashion accessories via the e-commerce we’d built then sold them on. Later, we also launched online shops for consumers.
While building and operating this business, I mastered digital marketing skills and came to see that my true calling was to help fellow entrepreneurs develop their online presence and drive inbound marketing.
So here I am helping small business owners build a strong digital presence in the form of a modern website or e-commerce, combined with inbound marketing. Inbound marketing covers digital marketing strategy, search engine optimisation, social media management, email marketing, blogging and many other services related to being digital. Between us, my husband and I bring to the business 55 years in the IT sector. We have the skills to fix any computer-related issue brought to us by our customers.
What are the three main factors that helped you with your decision to start a business?
I believe entrepreneurship is holistic – a way of life – so the decision isn’t just yours to make but involves the whole family. My husband fully supported me during the time that I was considering leaving Nokia to found Lemom.
There’s a common assumption that we’re born with certain abilities, intelligence or talents, but I’ve always believed you can develop skills through effort and persistence. From the start, I had a quiet confidence that I’d learn whatever was necessary to run a successful business. So growth mindset is more than what you think – it’s how you think.
I’ve always felt success to be dependent primarily on interpersonal skills – and luckily for me, I’m an extrovert and I connect with people easily. I learned a lot from my entrepreneur parents about social relationships and how important it is to get along with people.
What’s your favourite aspect of running your own business? And your least favourite…?
My favourite part of the business is seeing that I’ve made a positive difference to a client’s life and business. I give clients a more prominent existence in the digital world. I also free up their time from managing social media to run their core business. A second favourite is running my business from a home office. I feel privileged that I’ve had the chance to both work and stay close to my children.
My least favourite aspect of running the business is laying off people during the downturn, and finding ways to cut costs to avoid layoffs. Also, sometimes I get annoyed when I have to work long hours – being desk-bound is no fun when you should be with your loved ones.
How would you describe your work environment? Are you strict and disciplined, fun and flexible, or somewhere in between?
Because we run several businesses simultaneously, I need to be disciplined to stay on top of my responsibilities and still stay sane (or almost!). But when it comes to working with my clients, I’m flexible and try my best to fulfil their needs. And when it’s time to celebrate, I’m the life and soul, dancing all night and laughing with friends.
Describe a time when a customer made your day.
In several instances, our customers have praised our way of doing things – I firmly believe in practising what you preach. This means I do whatever I can to use work methods and tools on my own business before I recommend them to our clients. So on top of our live online shops and social media channels, we run several development sites (test beds) where we try out new technologies and tools. Integrity is one of our core values and it gives me great pleasure to hear that we’ve impressed a client with our modus operandi.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
If I’d started active networking earlier, I would have found my true passion earlier. Singapore is perfect for networking – five-million people all sharing this tiny island, giving tremendous opportunities to mingle. There are also plenty of quality networking groups like Athena and Connected Women where you can meet likeminded and inspired people. I’ve also been positively surprised about not encountering any ill will. People are genuinely supportive, recommending each other’s businesses to their contacts and introducing to people. Such a fantastic attitude!