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Archives June 2018

Chloe Chong, founder of The Enchanted Tree

Starting her floral business motivated by passion

Chloe Chong was in the financial sector for more than 15 years before she decided that it was time to go onto a different path – starting her floral business, The Enchanted Tree in October 2015. Why?

This is her story.

Just do it but be prepared. No one says it’s going to be easy. If you love what you do enough, you will find a way to make it work.

What inspired you to start your own business and why flowers?

I have always had the passion for flowers, and after my second child, I decided it was time to embark on a different journey. Like most start-ups, I had a lot of doubts initially especially in a highly competitive trade like this, but I guess one thing led to another. After taking up formal lessons, gaining some practical experiences and lots and lots of research, I found more courage to pursue the business (that’s of course after working out the sums). It came to a point where I had sufficient savings and encouragement from my husband, I gave it a shot, and here I am.

What were the reactions of your loved ones when you told them that you are starting your own business?

Everyone was pretty much supportive right from the beginning, family and close friends. But most importantly, I had tremendous support from my husband, and that makes a difference especially when we had very young kids then. So we had to juggle between a new venture and a young family, not a stroll in the park but indeed fulfilling.

What were the initial challenges you faced when setting up The Enchanted Tree? Did you require a huge capital?

The capital was substantial, but it wasn’t very huge per se, but of course, we had to spend on equipment, renovation (this took a chunk as we were starting a retail space) and the typical business set-up costs. However, up until today, there are challenges like rental costs and other expenditures on services that continue to put pressure on managing costs and operations. Also, we put a lot of emphasis on our product and service quality hence it is incredibly delicate to balance the costs of effectiveness in delivering this commitment to our customers.

Have you ever thought of giving up and find an 8 to 5 office job? Why and why not?

Not so much about giving up but rather to seek an alternative to keep the business afloat and ensuring my employees still have a job. There are challenging days/months, and these are the moments when I thought I should go back to an office job and manage the business part-time, as a way to offload some business expenses. Over time, things became better; we learn how to cope and manage the company better. I feel blessed every single day to be where I am now. We have built a healthy relationship with our growing followers, and we are ever grateful for their support. It is a form of encouragement for us to continue doing what we are doing and strive to make it better.

What motivate you and keep you going?

My family. The need to survive. Support from our regular and loyal fans. Commitment to the team and everyone who believes in us.

What are the areas that you think that you have done well and the areas that you have not?

So far I would count myself very blessed. Backed by a pretty competent and most importantly dedicated team and great support from our suppliers and vendors, we have been able to fulfil our orders well consistently. That said, we needed to limit our orders at some point conscious of not putting too much pressure on existing resources. One of the things we hope to be able to improve is to gear up our resources & efficiencies to be able to take in more orders and serve more customers. Sustainability is important to us. It’s a marathon.

As an entrepreneur, what is the advice that you would give to people who aspire to be one themselves?

Just do it but be prepared. No one says it’s going to be easy. If you love what you do enough, you will find a way to make it work. Before starting a business, usually, there will be a lot of strategic thinking of various ‘if’ scenarios. But trust me, nothing beats the real thing. You can only imagine that many situations, but when it comes to the real thing, it can be entirely different. You might find yourself focusing your energy on things you didn’t prepare for or thought of. So the bottom line should not be much of a concern. I always believe that things happen for a reason.

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Sabrina-Wang_ PINC

Her entrepreneurship journey started when she was 15

Sabrina Wang is an avid technopreneur who’s entrepreneurial path was predestined when she was 15 years old. At a young age, she had already started to dabble in businesses such as web/game hosting, web/mobile design and development and her fashion line.

Fast forward to today, Sabrina Wang, together with her co-founders, has founded a new venture called PINC, a platform where people can snap, share and earn. Like you, we are all interested to find out how PINC works, what were the challenges Sabrina faced when building the platform, and more.

Here’s the story of Sabrina and PINC.

What is PINC?

PINC

Image credit: PINC

PINC inspires style trends, one pinc at a time! We are a social commerce blockchain platform that incentivises content creators, helps brand owners understand their customers, provides a personalised experience for shoppers and empowers marketers with concrete data to quantify influence all in one place. PINC is also powered by artificial intelligence and blockchain matched with gamification logic, providing an interactive and personalised experience for its users.

How does PINC work?

PINC’s platform is incredibly intuitive and straightforward. In the next version release, users can directly upload a picture, select from a vast catalogue of products, and tag that product on the photo to make it shoppable. People who post, tag products on their content and interact on the platform gain points, which they can cash out on the PINC platform; rewarding them for their content and interaction.

PINC earns its revenue from the partnerships that it establishes with many prominent retailers. We are working with groups like Shopbop, Bloomingdale’s, SSENSE, NA-KD, YOOX and many more; to make their products visible and available to everyone. We currently have 700 merchants onboard and over two million products to be made available for tagging on our platform.

“Life’s full of ups and downs. Sometimes ridiculous reasons lead you somewhere you least expect.”

How did the idea come about and how did the founders decide to “let’s do it”?

One day, I was at Starbucks flipping Vogue Magazine when I saw a gorgeous bag and thought to myself “if only I could click and purchase”. Inspired, I created a magazine where readers could do precisely that – my previous startup, SAUCEink. It started off decently but got obsolete because of the smartphone revolution. SAUCEink pivoted, and I eventually exited at the end of 2017.

Today, most social media users do not get rewarded for generating content, period. Social media platforms that have a significant reliance on user-generated content (UGC) share an open secret: you are their revenue making machines, and you do it mostly for free (if not, you even pay for it). When you share and interact on the different platforms, the platforms can exploit your content and data then cumulatively earn tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue from it. In return, average Joes like us get nothing from the proceeds.

To address such imbalances, introduce equity into the ecosystem and ensure that society justly rewards content creators and provides respite to brand owners, we (Francis, Edmund and myself; Grace joined slightly after) decided it was necessary to create PINC.

What were the initial challenges when setting up PINC (E.g. tech skills, funding, etc.)?

We secured the initial funding to kick-start the project rather quickly. The challenge came when enhancing the platform.

Since blockchain is relatively new and untested, one initial challenge was working out the architecture. It’s a little “planning for the future” but given the current standards, achieving the transaction per second on blockchain based on the structure of our point system and the data points we’re tracking would require us to… innovate.

On top of that, good talents were/are rare. Putting blockchain aside, a good Angular plus Nodejs developer was tough to come by. In fact, we had to change from Angular to Vuejs due to the shortage of talents.

Even now, we’re still finding it difficult to fill up our positions; not just in tech but also marketing. To find a candidate with the right aptitude and skillsets is like finding a needle in a haystack (except the haystack is seemingly minimal in our case).

How long did it take to setup PINC?

Francis and I were talking about exploring opportunities together for a while. I wanted to engage his company Inspireo to help manage the tech for my then startup SAUCEink. That deal ultimately didn’t pull through. When my previous startup SAUCEink was sold, I told Francis about it, and I can’t exactly remember how the conversation went, but it ended with “let’s do it!”

 

In late January 2018, we started sounding out people and put together some materials. By February we started coding. Officially, PINC incorporated on March 30th; only Francis and Edmund were full-time. I went full-time into it when our current investor Quest Ventures committed.

We’re in closed alpha right now, give or take the MVP took roughly four months to put together.

Now that PINC is officially up and running, what’s next?

I wouldn’t say it’s officially up and running, it’s still a work in progress; though that’d probably be the case for all time.

This month, we started the #SupportLocalSG #MadeInSingapore campaign. Through this initiative, we’ve started working with numerous local brands. We target to work with and feature 200 local brands by National Day!

We’ve also launched our local marketplace, which enables FMCG merchants to list their products on the marketplace. By doing so, their products will get pulled into PINC platform’s catalogue, which enables users to tag the brand’s products on their photos.

A little background on this, earlier in this interview, we mentioned we had over 700 brands onboard. These brands, however, are mainly international brands that were more technologically and logistically sound; which enables us to connect to their e-commerce, pulling their products into our platform. However, we noticed that while there are many e-commerce sites in Singapore, the individual merchants didn’t have a sizeable amount of SKUs or a dedicated tech team for integrations. So if we were to customise and connect with every site individually, that’d be a whole new challenge on its own.

We do not plan to compete with the current giants when we talk about marketplaces, but more of providing a solution for these individual merchants to have their products visible on PINC platform’s catalogue for users to tag.

Aside from the above, same ol’ same ol’; looking out for talents, build up our community, advance our technology, attain more funding, increase revenue, repeat process.

Here’s something to watch out for! We aim to release our PINC Android app at the end of the year!

What’s your advice for people who are considering to become an entrepreneur?

“Life’s full of ups and downs. Sometimes ridiculous reasons lead you somewhere you least expect.”

I had a lot more energy when I was younger, so did a lot of trial and error. Those mistakes helped give a better perspective of what PINC is to become and what I hope our culture within the organisation can adopt. You don’t know what you don’t know, now that I do, it’s crystal what I need to focus on. Don’t be afraid of getting out there and making mistakes! Be open, share and don’t take rejections too hard.

Anything you wish to shout-out to your target audience?

It’s important to realise that what you share has value. When you post something on any platform – a picture, a story, even a simple click of the like button – you’re giving away valuable data and other tangible benefits to the platform you interact on. So why not share on a platform that rewards all your hard work and join PINC!

It is time to get paid for sharing your social content!


Andrew Lim - Drewspectives

Going underwater to pursue his passion

Andrew Lim is the founder of Drewperspectives. He specialises in commercial and underwater photography and it is the latter style of photography that sets him apart from others in the industry. At age 26, Andrew has already worked on projects that brought him to places such as Maldives, Bali, the Philippines to shoot amazing underwater pictures.

So how did he get everything started and what’s it like to be an underwater photographer? We caught up with Andrew to find out about his story.

When did you pick up the interest in photography? What was your very first camera?

When I was 17, I first witnessed my Shi-fu (Teacher), William Tan, a world-renowned underwater photographer, shooting marine life when I was on a dive trip with him. It captivated me so much that I got myself a Canon 450D and an underwater housing and started shooting.

There are so many styles of photography. Why choose to specialise in underwater photography?

Andrew Lim - Drewspectives

Image credit: Drewperspectives

Mostly due to my interest in marine life since I was little, and I love the challenge of shooting in perhaps one of the most challenging elements to shoot in. Also, the photography industry is incredibly saturated, and I believe in offering something different is always a good thing.

One of the common questions that people have about becoming a photographer is whether one needs to sign-up for a certified course to be regarded as a professional. What’s your take on this?

Disagree. Perhaps a school is good to learn about technicalities and basics of how a camera works, but anything more might limit a person’s imagination and creativity, especially when it comes to tests, teachers grade photos according to their personal preferences. Sometimes it works for them, but many a time it’s subjective, and it doesn’t mean a picture isn’t good if it is poorly graded. Right now, we are blessed with the internet and YouTube so you can learn tonnes of camera knowledge from there.

What were the initial challenges when you started Drewperspectives? How did you overcome them?

My expertise revolved around photographing marine life and not so much about humans. The initial challenge was finding a way to ease my clients into making them feel as comfortable in the water as possible. Previously, you’d probably only see supermodels doing underwater photoshoots, and that is what I am striving for each of my clients, which is with the use of water to bring out the beauty of everyday people.

What was your family’s reaction when you shared with them your ideas?

I am super blessed with a very supportive family. They thought it was worth a shot. Also knowing my personality, if I want to do something, I’d do it anyway. Haha!

Can you share with us the photograph that leaves the deepest impression in you, and why?

Andrew Lim - Drewspectives

Image credit: Drewperspectives

This image is of Danial Ashiq and his wife, taken during the maternity shoot I did for them. I grew up watching Danial in some of the local TV dramas and working with him was a great pleasure. They were the sweetest couple and were so natural underwater despite being eight months pregnant!

This particular image stays as one of my favourites because it looks incredibly ethereal. The lighting that day was perfect, the dress was beautiful, and you can almost see the love between the couple from this still image.

Has entrepreneurship open doors for you and what were your best moments?

Andrew Lim - Drewperspectives

Image credit: Drewperspectives

It has opened doors. But before all that I had to close some (significant) doors to pursue this business. For example, I was offered an attractive position at Temasek Holdings after my book got published but I knew working in an office setting would kill me. I took the plunge and went ahead with Drewperspectives soon after. To be honest, the best moments are the little things like being able to rearrange my schedules around and travel whenever I want to. The freedom Drewperspectives grants me is something I value much.

Have you ever regretted doing what you are doing now?

Never regretted, but gone through moments when there aren’t many sales, or when dealing with tough clients.

If you were not a photographer, what would you be working as now?

I would’ve pursued my other business venture.

What’s next for Drewperspectives?

World domination! Haha! I’m kidding. But I would want to reach out to more countries and offer my unique and exclusive services there.

What is your advice for people who wish to venture into underwater photography?

By all means, please go ahead! It’s loads of fun and something remarkably different from the usual photography. However, it is also not the best industry to be in if you are looking to make good money as it is too niche a service.


Jeshua Soh, founder of JRC and Startup Media SG

Connecting with people through the gears at JRC

Jeshua Soh was only 19 when he started Singapore’s first peer-to-peer camera gear and spaces rental platform, J Rental Centre (JRC), in 2015. Thereafter, he established another company, Startup Media SG, to help startups with their marketing and video productions.

At such a young age, Jeshua has accomplished a lot that people of his age are probably still wondering what they want to do with their life or the university they want to apply for their next level of education. So how did Jeshua do it and what’s his philosophy when running his businesses? Here’s his story.

JRC’s mission isn’t to make a million dollars, but to connect a million people (or more) – Jeshua Soh

How did the idea of JRC come about?

J Rental Centre (JRC)

Image credit: JRC

JRC.sg began as a Facebook page with just about 25 personal items that I wanted to share with others while I wasn’t using it. The idea then started growing organically, as customers and associates I knew also wanted to rent out their equipment. We created our first proper website in the middle of 2015 and the current site in 2016, where people can easily find and rent camera equipment from the respective owners islandwide. JRC today isn’t a traditional business, and we aim to connect people. We have been operating as a functionally non-profit company by putting revenue not spent on operations and marketing, into community initiatives such as filmmaking and photography workshops, events and competitions.

What were the initial challenges?

Having to explain the concept as well as our vision to partners and customers was and still is somewhat of a challenge. We hope that the ‘kampung spirit’ that is talked about by politicians and ordinary citizens alike will triumph over individualism and materialism in the long run.

What were the lessons learned while putting JRC together?

I have learned about the importance of focus as well as working with the right people (since that is essentially everything we do at JRC is about). The kinds of people I get to meet are very diverse, some more similar while others quite different in our background and goals. I believe that everyone has a story, and listening to another person’s needs and seeing how we can meet them should not just be a starting point, but something that may need to be done over and over again to build trust and community. On a practical note, I have also learned to keep operations lean to achieve other goals such as running the community initiatives that I mentioned above.

You run Startupmedia Singapore that helps startups with their marketing and video productions. How do you balance your schedule between work and family?

Startup Media SG

Image credit: Startup Media SG

Work-life balance is honestly non-existent for me. Thankfully, the Startupmedia.sg and JRC are quite synergistic, being in the same industry and dealing with things that I’m quite familiar with. I have to prioritise important family events, keep reminding myself of the importance of adequate rest, and take breaks to recharge. In fact, I just came back from an 18-day trekking trip to Nepal!

Speaking of your family, what were their reactions when you inform them that you are starting your own business?

My family has been generally supportive of the decisions I take, though there were differences in opinions to some degree, I am thankful that I have their support to go through this journey

There are a lot of partners listed on your website. Who are they and what’s their role in JRC?

J Rental Centre (JRC)

Image credit: JRC

Our partners are equipment/space owners and they are the community of individuals who share our vision to connect with people. They provide their items or spaces, along with their professional expertise and support us for ad-hoc promotions and other community initiatives that we embark on (more on this later). Without them, there is no JRC!

What’s the selection criteria to be one of your partners?

There are no checkboxes or rubrics, but we do have a conversation with anyone who is keen on joining as a partner. What we look out for are our core values of collaboration, service and trust. If someone is looking for a good way to connect, has a good number of kit in good condition to rent and the availability to meet others, those are typically good starting points.

Browsing through your website, we noticed that besides having more than 1,000 listings and 50 partners, there’s also the mention of 10 spaces? Are you referring to co-working?

These spaces are mainly studios at the moment – targeted at photographers and videographers. We do hope to list more creative spaces as well, which may be good filmmaking sets or places to conduct workshops, training, meetings and events. The move to list spaces was in direct response to demand from our renters, some of whom needed to use these facilities for their school or work.

J Rental Centre Studio (JRC) Studio

Image credit: JRC

Where do you see JRC and Startupmedia in the next five years?

Five years is a long time, but in general; JRC’s mission isn’t to make a million dollars, but to connect a million people (or more); Startupmedia could end up becoming a lot of things, depending on where technology advances and how we choose to adopt it. Today, we have AI video creator software, speech to text, OCR, image recognition among many new technologies already being used. My hope is that we would be helping more startups and SME’s with getting their story out to the world, and help large corporates to market with a startup mentality (move swiftly and act decisively for maximum impact).

What’s your advice for people who wish to start their own business?

I am no business guru, but I’ll say that in general, asking a lot of good questions is better than having a lot of knowledge. Maybe this comes from my background in media and interest in current affairs/economics, but when so many things need one’s attention, it is better to have a robust framework of dealing with the issue than an answer to provide off the top of one’s head.

Anything you wish to add and say?

JRC.sg is now having our second run of a community photography/video project called PictureTogether. This free competition aims to showcase what the community can achieve together and how WE see Singapore. Participants will be given three random themes upon signing up at the link above and have until 15th July to submit their entries. For the video component, this year’s theme is ‘Boring’ Singapore in 360 (Free equipment rentals will be provided for VR/photography equipment for those who are joining in the competition).

159 images (53 for Singapore’s age, in 3 canvas’) would be exhibited, together with the compiled VR/360 video at Scape from 1-9 August, in line with National Day. There would also be 115 prizes worth $14,000 given our during the exhibition as well! This competition is one of the ways that we hope to connect people- with workshops, networking sessions and the collective showcase of talents that will be happening from now through 9th August!

J Rental Centre Studio (JRC) - Picture Together


Tricia Young

Staying true to herself in front and behind the camera

Ms Tricia Young started her YouTube journey in November 2015 in her dormitory while she was studying for the Bachelor of Business Management at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Fast forward to today, even though Tricia is working full-time as a Human Resource Specialist at a local social enterprise, she continues to follow her passion for creating content for her beauty channel on YouTube. She now has almost 4,000 subscribers on her channel and 22,000 followers on her Instagram account.

In this interview with Tricia, we find out how she got into the YouTube scene, what’s her motivation, amid her busy work schedule, behind her undying passion for churning out content, and more.

Why did you start a YouTube channel on beauty?

 

Tricia Young

Image credit: Tricia Young

 

Funny enough, before going abroad for my studies, I never had interest in beauty (makeup & skincare) unless the situation called for it like prom, severe acne outbreak, etc.

When I was in university, I had severe acne and saw a Dermatologist that prescribed me potent medication that made my skin flared up and had redness to the extent that it looked like rosacea. As you probably had guessed, I didn’t go out much, and when I had to, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I had to put up a front that’s just not me.

At that time, I began to surf on YouTube a lot more since I stayed in my dormitory and I would shy away from social interaction. I eventually stumbled across ‘Estee Lalonde’ back then ‘Essie Button‘ channel. For some reason, she inspired me to make content like hers. I could relate to her older content, and I was inspired to do the same.

So I started off by learning more about makeup and skincare, practising on myself, learning techniques that enhanced the way I looked, and eventually began doing makeup tutorials on Vimeo before moving over to YouTube.

Has it opened doors for you?

I must say that it did not open doors for me for the majority of the time when I was doing it. Practising makeup techniques on myself and collecting makeup was a hobby and it still is. Only when I came back to Singapore after graduating, I got to know about the influencer scene, which was booming in Singapore. Like what an acquaintance told me, “Just throw a stone to the nearest person, and that person will likely be an influencer.”

I continued to create my content based on what I was interested in and the content I was inspired to make through the recommended videos from my friends, family and subscribers.

As most things go, with more views, more subscribers and follower count, companies of various beauty brands started to contact me for collaboration. Most of the time, I still reach out to brands and to propose content that I am passionate to make to them. The brands do not always accept my proposal. They do reject me at times. At the end of the day, it still feels like the ‘opening of doors’ is through my effort and the people who follow me on the various platforms. So it’s sort of like “multiple people pushing the door open.”

 

What was it like when you first started?

When I first started, I honestly had no clue about other people who were doing beauty-related content in Singapore or internationally, other than the YouTubers I follow.

It’s hard to describe how it was like when I first started but I can say that the person I was had no clue about the influencer scene and I just churned content that I wanted to do for myself (and no one else) with no expectation or worry of viewers not wanting to come back again.

What was your family or your loved ones’ reaction to you doing YouTube?

Haha! I laugh because my family reaction was pretty much true to what I had expected, which was full of worries, concern and anxiousness, but in a loving way, of course!

Perhaps it’s just the Asian mentality of in a cyber generation. I do not get many compliments from my family over the content I produce. But when I do get them, I’m often caught off guard because I am usually surrounded by their concerns.

Does viewership bother you?

Yes and no. I mean it is disheartening when the content I feel is really good doesn’t get many views. However, I find enjoyment in doing up my storyboards or seeing my ideas actualised. At the end of the day, I take my beauty content creating as a hobby. My real passion is in social advocacy in Singapore, which I hope to explore on creating media content in the near future.

What are the pros and cons of being a YouTuber?

Pros:

  • There’s a monetary incentive.
  • I prefer the medium of videos rather than blogging.
  • It’s an exciting platform that’s constantly evolving in the way stories are being told.
  • Sometimes, Youtube feels almost otherworldly to me with the large content types it has to offer.
  • If you find a YouTuber you trust and has the same struggles you have, more often than not the YouTube channel transforms itself into a confidant or at the other end would be like a TV series that you regularly go back to.

Cons:

  • Constant change in algorithm annoys me, especially in the beauty review content segment of YouTube.
  • The content found on YouTube can be deceiving. Majority of the time, the reviews are not honest as some content-makers don’t care about what they are promoting.
  • Many people on YouTube get started with the intent to make it big and want to be the next big thing, which makes them susceptible to do or say anything, which is not true and it can be pretty toxic on YouTube.

What is the no. 1 myth about being a YouTuber?

That is all YouTubers make content that’s authentic to what they stand for!

Many people out there dream about being an influencer, do you see yourself as one and why?

I can quite confidently say NO. I have always grown up in a religious household and I believe that the concept/culture surrounding influencer is pretty much grounded in greed, lust, envy and otherworldly perspectives, which I do not subscribe to. I try to put out content that I would give back to people who are in my position a couple of years back where I kept myself from the world due to skin issues I had. I try to have a simple perspective on it (1) do content I love based on what inspires me/ do content surrounding products I love (2) what would I want to know about beauty products as a beginner (3) where to start if I’m starting out with makeup/skincare.

Who are your favourite YouTubers? Name one that you wish to collaborate with?

  • Violette_fr
  • Lisa Eldrige
  • Estee Lalonde
  • Joanday/ Joan Kim
  • Anna Edit

For now, my favourites surround beauty content. I would love to collaborate with Estee Lalonde since she probably was the biggest influence going into YouTube.

Can one survive on just making YouTube videos?

Probably not. Never say never, but for me, it’s unlikely unless the traction is there but even then there’s no guarantee that it’ll only go up.

What is the equipment you need to make videos? What are yours?

For YouTube, a decent camera, a mic, laptop for editing and video editing software.
I use a Canon 80D with a rode mic and a ring light. My editing software is Adobe Premiere Pro and Movie Maker.

What’s next for you?

I wish to explore curate content in the area of Social Advocacy (preliminary phase is now on my current channel) in the future probably on a channel of its own.

What advice would you give to aspiring YouTubers?

Ask yourself why you are doing it. And if it’s not authentic to your personal story or if it’s not to give back to others then take time to find the real reason. Use them as the cornerstone of your YouTube journey.


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