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Archives April 2018

Joeven Soh - Founder, Cell-II International Pte Ltd

Fourth time’s the charm for founder of Cell-II

Forty-five years old Joeven Soh is the Founder and Regional Sales Director of Cell-II International Pte Ltd, a company that develops, manufactures and sells organic skin care products. Before you make any further guesses of his previous work experiences, let us save you some time. Joeven was not in the beauty industry before his new venture. He was in a completely different field – Oil & Gas.

So what makes him look beyond the familiarity of the energy industry to beauty? Here’s his story.

When did you start Cell-II International Pte Ltd and how did you come up with the name of your company?

We started this business in 2017, and the corporate name means generating new cells for the skin.

Before you venture into this business, what were you working as?

I worked in three different companies in the Oil & Gas Industry between 2005 and 2017, where the oil slump affected the whole Oil & Gas Industry globally.

What makes you want to leave your comfort zone and what aspire you to start your own business and become an entrepreneur?

I was working for a Marine contracting firm for seven years after leaving the Singapore Navy in 1996. I started my first company in 2005. I want to create an empire for myself rather than building on someone else’s dream.

Do you have someone you approach to seek advice? Are your parents entrepreneurs as well?

No, I do not have anyone I can approach to seek advice. My parents are not entrepreneurs, but they are very supportive and encouraging, which is one of my push factors in my journey of building my business.

Of all types of business, why beauty products? Do you come up with a business plan or do any research before you decide to go into beauty industry?

We did extensive research on Organic Skin Care products and found the potential global growth rate of 5% per annum and a market size of 196 billion by 2020.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

We plant, harvest, bottle our products in a closed loop system, which guarantees our customer the best organic experience.

Have you met with any failures and how do you overcome them? What were some of the biggest lessons learned and how had it impacted the way you run your business?

I failed three times, but I got up on the fourth try. The biggest lesson I have learned from past failure is cash flow management and company growth plan.

How do you think being an entrepreneur has changed you as a person?

Being an entrepreneur changed me in a good way because it requires strategic planning and I am responsible for our shareholders’ monies. It makes me more cautious when making financial decisions and expansion plans.

What advice would you give to people who want to start their businesses? Any specific skills needed to run a business?

The rule of thumb, you need to be consistent, persistent and always remind yourself why you started the business. My favourite quote is “Successful people don’t do anything different, but they do the same thing differently” – Shabbir

What do you want to achieve for the company in the next five years?

We plan to build this local brand “Cell-II” into a global brand and bring our company public.

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Raymond Tan_Madebettr

Designing his own keep

Raymond Tan started Madebettr in 2015 after feeling jaded from climbing the corporate ladder and the constant need to justify his worth to the company. So far, it has been a great decision for him. Today, amongst his clients include Soup Restaurant and NTUC Membership. So what’s his story? We asked him.

What does your CV look like before you became an entrepreneur?

I started off as an in-house graphic designer at Challenger with no design education besides fiddling with photoshop during my poly days. A lot of stuff was self-taught from theory to technical skills. Then I realised that the job was stagnant, so I switched to a marketing role in another company, changed again to a marketing/design role, then went back to being a designer, then finally switched to the position of marketing communications.

Having a stable job is the default rule to earning a living in a structured society not just in Singapore but all over the world. What made you take the plunge to start your own business? 

I think I told myself when I was young that I want to be a boss. I realised the possibility of starting my own business is real after I got my first freelance gig, which was designing a simple catalogue. I told myself, “Hey, I can bring in more income from this!”. Eventually, I started freelancing for about five years, before finally taking the plunge. Another reason why I did it is that I was quite tired of climbing the corporate ladder, where good work and performance are just a small part of the equation. So yes, it tipped me over to starting out on my own.

What were the initial considerations you thought through before deciding to quit your job?

Lol. Money, for sure. With commitments from phone bills to insurance to saving up for marriage and future home. I also considered the worst case scenario if I had no income, how much money would I need to set aside so I can maintain my lifestyle and necessities.

Did you start your business before or after you got married? What were your wife and your family’s reactions to your decision as it also means goodbye to job stability?

I started Madebettr before I got married. My parents and my wife were supportive. My parents told me as long as I know what I’m doing, by all means, go for it. My fiancée then (wife now) was also supportive, because I shared with her my plans such as my contingency plans, and also I have set aside an amount which I think would be enough for us to get married even if my business did not work out in the end. Without her full support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

How did you start Madebettr, your thought process? Was there prior research done on a need for design services or it was driven by the passion that you want to pursue? Why?

It was purely driven by a long-burning passion. I didn’t do any prior research as my previous work experiences and industry knowledge have already told me that there are plenty of agencies around, both big and small, and those who produce high-quality work that is price-driven. So I asked myself how I can position Madebettr to make myself unique?

Everyone’s creative ideas are unique to themselves. So what I can provide is to fuse design and my experience in marketing from the client’s perspective, together with the brand’s positioning and philosophy. On top of that, I believe my quality of work is better than the agencies who are price-driven, and my charges are more affordable as compared to the bigger and more established agencies.

What were your initial struggles and how did you manage them?

My initial struggles were self-discipline and complacency. There were days when there was no work to be done or rushed, and it’s often a struggle to utilise that time to grow the business. I depended heavily on the regular clients for work and forgot to court new clients for new projects. I came to a realisation when revenue dipped in my second half of the year since I established Madebettr.

I began to worry and started to think about how I could get more clients. I did up my website, polished my portfolio, drafted cold emails and did cold calls, and got myself out there to link up with some old contacts. Thankfully, I managed to get some referrals through that.

How long did it take for you to stabilise your finances?

Depends on how you define “stable”. When you’re in a business which is paid on project basis there won’t be a moment when it’s considered stable I guess? For me, I am blessed not to have encountered any problematic moments so far, because I don’t have much overhead or operating cost, and I did plan my finances properly before I started everything.

Have you ever regretted and thought of going back to the 8 – 5 jobs? What made you shake that mindset off?

A big “NO!” Haha! I have not regretted my decision so far, and the thought of going back never cross my mind. On the contrary, it is one of the many factors that pushes me to want to succeed. I have never liked the corporate environment, or climbing the corporate ladder, as my experiences have not been enjoyable. I cannot fathom the idea of boasting about your achievement each year during appraisal to fight for that bonus and promotion, and the routine life of an 8 to 5 job. And there’s no real 8 to 5. More than often you have to go the extra mile, so if I have to go the extra mile anyway for a fixed salary, why don’t I put in the effort for my business where the profit I earn is based on how much effort I put into it?

What’s next for you?

I would like to be more active in getting my brand out there, through social media and the digital space, improve my quality of work and the ideas behind it. I would also love to expand my network through events, but I’m not an extrovert at such events, so maybe the next thing for me is also to improve my self-confidence.

Raymond Tan_Madebettr


Josh Loh - Rehab Pro Movement Therapy

From Army Fitness Specialist to Rehab Pro

Josh Loh is the founder of the Rehab Pro Movement Therapy. Taking a quick look at their Facebook page, and you will see many proven records of how the company’s Neuro-Kinetic Therapy (NKT) have helped many regained control of their body through the specialised technique.

However, long before Josh became the entrepreneur he is today, he spent seven years of his earlier part of his career serving the Singapore Armed Forces as a Fitness Specialist.

So what changed? Here’s his story.

How does your CV look like before you started Rehab Pro Movement Therapy?

I was a Physical Training Instructor with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), training men and recruits who were in the service, and I eventually became one of the Fitness Specialists in green. After my tenure with the SAF, I sold fitness equipment for a short period before moving on to managing a rehab gym owned by a Physiotherapist. That’s where I picked up my skills in rehabilitation and refined my knowledge of fitness.

What made you start your own business?

I was pushed into starting my business when my former employer decided to sell off her business. It was at that point where I began to question myself about what’s next for me since I was having my second child. What made the decision even tougher was that I am the sole breadwinner for my young family.

My professional qualification was in economics and finance, as well as an instructional designer. To stay in my field with my certificates may not be the most beneficial as local companies still tend to look at papers more than experience and capabilities. That’s when I decided to start my own business.

What were your family and your wife’s reactions when you broke the news that you want to do something of your own?

My wife prefers for me to have a stable employment so I can spend more time with her and the children. Sometimes, we do get into some disagreements because my work may at times require me to begin work at 7 am and end later than 9 pm. It’s demanding running a lean startup.

But we make small compromises here and there. I am happy that my wife supports my work by helping me take good care of our kids and the household and all I have to do in return is to allocate more of my weekends to spend time with them.

What were the considerations you had when you were planning for the business? Did you draw up the pros and cons?

I guess a good friend gave me a good nudged towards starting my own business. In a way, I was consulting with him, a serial entrepreneur, after losing my job. He reminded me that he had not had a similar experience as he had never been underemployment before.

The pros of running your own business are taking away the negative experience of being out of a job. However, it does come with other stresses. My business partner and I worked hard to keep the company afloat as we strive to get more people to experience our treatment. We are happy that those who came through our doors are happy and thankful after our therapy sessions.

I took over the space that my former employer gave up, and that, together with my existing patients helped a great deal in the beginning. It allowed me to spend less and yet able to enhance the survivability of the business.

To start a brick and mortar business requires serious investment. How did you manage to secure the funding or did you pour all your savings into the company?

I took a loan from my aunt, and I am still servicing the credit now. Thankfully, I have a strong team, and we are making enough for our operations to stay afloat.

I believe that our goal of delivering the best solution and care underlines our growth. It is also our best possible marketing strategy, which is serving the business well. This mentality has helped us grow our followings slightly, and it helps with our bottom line.

When did Rehab Pro Movement Therapy start its operations?

We begin operation in September 2016. Operating out of Camden medical centre, in the gym space that I designed and managed for my boss over the five years before calling it our own. Now we have relocated to Clarke Quay area for the convenience and accessibility of our patients. This new space is also bigger and allows us to design and deliver more innovative movement that can help in their recovery.

We are also looking at using this space to bring in more therapy-related courses that are beneficial for the industry as a whole. This helps our company stay true to continuous education and learning so that the best possible solution is provided.

What were the difficulties faced when setting up Rehab Pro Movement Therapy?

Aside from funding, we started out as a rehabilitation clinic staffed with strength and conditioning coaches. Our skills and knowledge were not the ones that people would go to for their body conditions, which limited our outreach.

When I tried collaborating with a golf coach, he commented that he is the first person people go to, and my company was not. Although I helped with resolving some pain and imbalances issues for his clients, our partnership never kicked off. It’s sad, but we eventually moved on.

We had also done subcontract work for a physiotherapy clinic with a 10-day credit term. They bullied us by owing more than six-month of debt, and it effectively transferred their risk to us. To date, they still owe my company payment, and we have to resort to legal means to recover the fees.

Moving our business to a new location was also a big challenge. We found a suitable place to settle down, but the agent backed out of the deal after we agreed to their proposed price. It is disappointing that we met people who didn’t keep their words. But we moved on, and thankfully we managed to emerge from these experiences a little wiser and stronger.

What’s so different between working for a company and owning a company?

I guess the most significant difference is that you are accountable to yourself. Running a company is challenging and stressful, but it allows me to drive ideas of care and treatment. I’d like to think that I take responsibility, whether by proxy of my employment or by running on my own, so it’s not too different in other aspects.

You have an impressive record of certifications in sports and wellness. Why did you decide to focus on therapy and not fitness training?

When I left the military, I didn’t know what my destiny was. By God’s grace, I was offered a role in a rehab gym as the manager. There, I learned and experienced the joy of helping patients get better.

In the USA, Physiotherapists are known as Physical Therapists. It was there where we learned about highly educated athletic trainers with specialised knowledge on performance. Though Singapore is still a distance away from this standard, I believe that we, as rehab coaches, movement therapists or whatever you like to call it to have a role to play in patient care.

We fine-tune and optimise individuals through highly customised programmes with the aim of getting them better and granting them pain-free movement.

Therapy is also more fulfilling. Imagine your patient telling you how your treatment had allowed her to carry and bathe her baby. Priceless.

If someone was to tell you that he/she wants to start their own business, what advice would you give them?

I’d say go ahead and give it your best shot. We all have the same opportunities ahead. It’s how we manage the opportunities and leverage them to our advantage. However, the caveat is that they have to be prepared to put in hard work. Push through, and stay true to the reasons for starting out. If that reason is that you are unhappy with status quo, think deeper. Our goal for being in business is because we believe in the modality of treatment and sincerely want to help more people get better through movement.

I originally wanted the business to be called Inspire Movement because it stands for the importance of movement. The human body is designed for moving like how we need oxygen. The other meaning for this is also that we hope in a tiny way, we encourage and inspire non-movers to start moving more.

So what’s next for Rehab Pro Movement Therapy?

Well, I guess, for now, we are trying our best to get the word out about our work. Marketing is not our strength, but I believe that our results and our patients’ testimonials speak a lot more than us blowing our own trumpet. We are also big on developing future therapists, and we do so through our internship programme where they spend a great deal of time learning from every one of us. On that front, we are actively hosting study groups and live seminars of therapeutic modalities that we use. We hope that the industry grows so more people will enjoy movement as we do.

As a knowledge-driven practice, we spend a lot of time furthering our education and that allows us to be at the front of techniques that may help us achieve better and faster results for our patients.

When things stabilise, it is my goal to spend more time giving back to the elderly population. We try to do a bit here and there, but more can be done.

So with hope, we will sustain and survive the short run!


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