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Shavonne Wong

Shooting her way to the top in the world of photography

Five months into her job scooping ice-cream, Shavonne Wong decided to trade-in the scoop for a camera. A decision that went on to win her numerous recognitions and awards for her fashion photography.

Her excellent photography skills also caught the eye of the producers for the reality television show, Asia’s Next Top Model, where Shavonne was invited to be the guest photographer last season, and for Season 6 this year.

In this interview, we check in with Shavonne to find out her story behind her successful career in photography and what she thinks makes a good photographer.

Shavonne Wong

What made you fall in love with photography?

I have always been a creative since young. Used to study 3D animation in school and as much as I loved it, it took months to come up with a 15s clip. Photography was a lot more instantaneous, plus I got to play a bigger role on how I wanted the end result to look. It also gave me the opportunity to work with amazing talents to create some beautiful work.

What was the most significant break of your photography career?

Getting to shoot for Asia’s Next Top Model gave me the biggest boost in exposure, credibility and industry validation.

What were the challenges you encountered starting up?

Like most freelancers, especially creative ones, the money was very inconsistent. It was quite difficult financially and made it hard to appreciate any non-monetary achievements.

Were your loved ones supportive of your decision to become a photographer?

I have been very blessed in that aspect! I’m sure my parents were worried in the beginning, but they were still very supportive. It was important especially during the months when the income wasn’t great, and I knew I still had a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge.

What do you think makes a good photographer and a good photo?

Someone who loves to create and does it out of passion. Honestly, gear has improved so much over the years. To stand out, you need to have good ideas and intention behind what you shoot.

You’ve done so much photography work but if you have to choose, what’s that one photo that you would call it your best work?

Shavonne Wong's favourite photo

I chose this image not because I think it’s my best work but because of how it came about. I was setting up my lighting and sunlight was shining through the windows. I considered closing the windows so it would not affect the lighting too much but was a little too lazy so I wanted to see how it’ll look. And ta-dah! I guess in a way I was experimenting… through laziness.

Gears! What are your must-have gears when you go for shoots?

Honestly, I’m not a technical person. I have a 6-year-old camera (5Dmk2) and just three basic lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm). They’re also all second hand.

Do you lug all your gears when you travel for leisure? If not, what do you bring along for your travel photos?

I don’t usually lug my gear around for travel photos, but when I do travel even on holidays, I do try to plan photoshoots while I’m there so, in a sense, I bring my gear. But not for the usual travel photos.

You’ve travelled around the world to do shoots. What’s your absolute favourite place to shoot and why?

I loved shooting in NYC. There’s just so many fantastic talents to work with and locations to shoot. The air just oozes with creativity. Plus they also have beautiful natural light.

You are the guest photographer for Asia’s Next Top Model 2018. How’s the experience like?

Shavonne Wong on AsNTM set

Amazing. It was amazing the first time they got me to shoot for them last season but for them getting me again this year and flying me over to Bangkok to shoot was a real validation. It’s fun, working with the girls and people like Cindy Bishop and Yu Tsai. Also interesting to see me actually on TV.

You have achieved so much over the years. What’s next for you?

I hope to get into videography. The world is changing, and technology is just getting more and more advanced. I feel like as long as I am not too stuck in my old ways and continuously experimenting and having fun, it should be good.

What’s your advice for aspiring photographers?

Be yourself, don’t be a second-grade version of anybody else. And find yourself a mentor or be an assistant. You’ll learn faster.

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Amalina Naser - co-founder of PINDEMIC

Pinning her passion onto the world map

Thirty-one-year-old Amalina Naser is the co-founder of PINDEMIC, which specialises in making customised lapel pins. Started its operations in 2015, PINDEMIC has turned lapel pins into a fashion statement, giving those who pin them on a subtle amplification of their real identity. Each lapel pin is original and the quality is impeccable.

PINDEMIC Lapel Pins

In her interview with entrée, Amalina shares how she got PINDEMIC started and the challenges she faced in building a brand that reaches customers worldwide, and more.

“…creatives are very stubborn people.”

What were you doing before starting PINDEMIC?

Three years ago, I was in my first year studying Communication Design offered by The Glasgow School of Art Singapore when I started PINDEMIC. It was an outlet for excess creative thoughts and a great way to apply what I have learnt in school. Before that, I was working as a designer and it was during the break in my career to further my studies which afforded me an opportunity to start something as fun as PINDEMIC.

Can you share with us what is PINDEMIC and how did the idea come about?

I remember my penchant for collecting badges and lapel pins or patterned collar pins whenever I am travelling overseas and when I was engaging in activities in the Book Club in primary school. Perhaps this childhood interest has planted the seed of starting PINDEMIC.

PINDEMIC is the alternative voice. It is the rebel in all of us. It was born of restless minds and an insatiable need to accessorise. There were many ideas and that popped into our heads that needed to take physical form. We decided to work with a product that is very versatile – lapel pins.

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

They are quite supportive now and they even help out when they can.

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

There isn’t a market for pins in Singapore. The pin culture is really strong overseas especially in the States but just not in Singapore. It went beyond making what we like to educate the market.

Have you ever thought of giving up?

No, creatives are very stubborn people.

How long does it take for you, on average, to make a pin and which pin took you the longest?

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The design process, like all creative processes, is not a fixed one. There are many things that influence and inspire us and we draw from a collective memory bank. The idea for a pin design can come from something as simple as a word that resonates with us or from a drawn-out brain-storming session where we attempt to formulate and capture our thoughts on a little 30mm space. While we are inspired by love and life and certainly pop culture, not all designs translate well into pins and we have had to abandon a few ideas that we were excited about. Once we are satisfied with the final artwork, we send it into production which takes about 2-3 weeks.

What’s your favourite pin and why?

PINDEMIC

My favourite pin is the statement pin that declares The Future is Female because I feel that if the tide should change, there is no better moment than the present.

What’s your advice to aspiring artistpreneurs?

Persevere. Young people who are talented in the field of design should have a positive spirit in creating new ideas and works of art that can be used by the community. Do not be easily discouraged by people’s criticisms.


Melissa Fann, Founder of The Wellness Insider

Her medical condition redefines her career and life

 

Melissa Fann was a veteran in the finance industry, but she decided to trade looking at figures at health instead. This week, we find out what made her change her career path from the world of “ka-ching” to start The Wellness Insider.

Can you share with us what is The Wellness Insider?

The Wellness Insider is a platform which promotes body confidence. We do that through educating our readers with opinions from experts on fitness, diet, beauty and lifestyle.

We are advocating a healthy lifestyle while also trying to change people’s mindsets and judgements about one’s health or character simply by their body.

How did the idea come about?

I have a medical condition called endometriosis, which made me gain weight very rapidly within a few months and when I was hospitalised for emergency surgery, I had quite a bit of nasty comments from colleagues. Since this is a chronic problem, many couldn’t understand why I took so many days of medical leave and the pressure to not take leave when I was in pain push me into a slight depressive state. It doesn’t help that my mum has always called me fat.

All this while, I was also researching on what foods to eat (or not eat) in order to alleviate the symptoms as well as exploring what types of exercises I enjoyed other than my usual trips to the gym. I discovered a lot of fads, be it in terms of exercises or diets, and many had little or no scientific backing. This made me really irritated because a lot of people were just following fads blindly, hoping for a quick shortcut to losing weight without understanding the health risks or simply just eating foods that they believe have some sort of benefits but are great marketing ploys. The fact that I had to continually explain to those around me about the scientific facts, coupled with many fitness trainers telling me that they too have the same problems with their clients, made me realise that there needs to be a platform that acknowledges all these fads and explain more about it so that people can make informed choices.

Interestingly, through this journey, I met a lot of people with unseen medical issues (including mental health problems) and plus-sized women, and we all had the same complaint – we felt very judged and labelled. And that was how The Wellness Insider was born.

Melissa Fann, Founder of The Wellness Insider

Left to right: Fiona Tan and Melissa Fann

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

A lot of scepticism and up till today, my parents don’t really know what I do. They still refer to The Wellness Insider as my “website”, and they were not happy that I quit my job to do my start up.

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

I had to build my network within the wellness industry from scratch, which was a great learning experience and I love how a lot of people were so open to share contacts to me. The other tough part about starting up is financial – as my business model is very traditional and with no tangible product, nobody wanted to partner up or be an investor. And with no readership initially, it was natural that nobody wanted to advertise with us. As such, I spent a year solely on building up the readership through quality content and improving on The Wellness Insider’s SEO. It definitely worked as we now average about 8,000 readers per month.

Have you ever thought of giving up?

Yes, because there are a lot of things that I wanted to do but couldn’t due to lack of manpower and money. However, whenever I feel that way, I keep getting comments from my growing network within the wellness industry about how they really like the website and what it stands for. Of course, the growing viewership really helped encourage me.

Where do you see The Wellness Insider in five years time?

I want it to evolve and have an app where people can geolocate healthy meal providers near them, or where to sneak in a quick workout either at home or even in the office!

What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start an online business?

Get good partners, plan out your finances and prepare more money than calculated. After which, network, network, network. You will eventually find your ‘tribe’ to rely on for emotional support as well as to bounce off business ideas. You may also end up finding a business mentor, who is also very important to know whether you’re on the right track.


Hashbrown Media

Hashbrown Media: Helping F&Bs get on the social media space

This week, we speak to the co-founders of Hashbrown Media, Asaph Teo and Bryan Khoo, to find out what made them start a social marketing agency and the challenges they faced when building it from scratch.

Can you share with us what is Hashbrown and how does it work?

Hashbrown Media is a social media marketing agency where we handle clients social media pages to help them brand themselves better and advertise their offerings or services better. The company was intentionally called #(hash)brown because of the hashtag, to brand ourselves as a social media company specialising in food (although we do explore projects in other industries as well).

We have a firm belief in helping new and upcoming companies to get their name out as quickly as possible with the least amount of money required. Our functions include ideation, creating content, graphic design, photography, copywriting, handling customer replies and coming up with social media campaigns.

What were you doing before setting up Hashbrown?

We were undergraduate students when we decided to start a full-fledged social media agency before graduating. During our school days, Bryan did stints with social media agencies while I worked in the digital marketing field for a renowned hotel in Singapore.

How did the idea come about?

During our days working with other companies, we saw a need in the area of social media marketing especially in the field of F&B. Despite how widely it is used, many of the older generation F&B outlets (i.e. hawkers) did not know how to harness the power of social media to their benefit. I started out managing a young hawker’s social media pages freelance (you can check them out on Facebook and Instagram at @wangbbqloklok) and saw the company’s revenue generation grow three-fold. Because of the great success of our first client, we decided to get more clients on board.

What were the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

There were challenges such as the business administration side of things. Since it’s our first time starting our own business, we had to learn everything ourselves and on our own (such as paying CPF for example). We also needed to hire staff despite not having enough revenue. The starting few months were extremely tight financially because we started the business with zero capital and worked our way through with the money we were getting along the way from our clients. Since we were also still studying at that time, we also had to juggle between running the business and handling our school projects and exams at the same time.

What were the reactions of your loved ones when you told them your plan to run your business?

We were very thankful that we had the support of our loved ones. There were no significant objections, and we always kept them in the loop about our business so that there wasn’t a need for them to worry. However, during the initial stages, my parents (being extremely traditional people) were rather persuasive about asking me to go out and get a job to gain experience first before starting out on my own.

Where do you see Hashbrown in the next five years?

We see social media becoming a more attractive platform for businesses to come on board. We see ourselves growing bigger, handling more clients, having more staff. In the next five years, Hashbrown Media also seeks to leverage on future digital marketing trends such as artificial intelligence to explore more ideas on how we can capture the interests of people.

Any tips for readers on how to better manage their social media platform?

Have good content and excellent visuals. Content that other people will want to read and want to see, and engage with. Have a plan on the kinds of content you intend to churn out and be consistent – if you’re going to use Singlish, do it with pride and make it extremely intentional. The easiest way to do it? Just give us a call, we’ll handle everything on your behalf

Hashbrown Media is currently housed at The Carrot Patch.


Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Bringing out the best self of his patients

 

In our latest interview, we spoke to Dr Chua Cheng-Yu, founder of Veritas Medical Aesthetics to find out his story on building a plastic surgery practice and his thoughts on the aesthetics industry.

Share with us what Veritas Medical Aesthetics does.

We are a doctor-led clinic that helps women look better using medical prescriptions and technology. MOH guidelines bind us so we can’t make outlandish claims and promises like non-medical entities. But every procedure here is proven, backed by medical science and administered by a certified doctor. Some of the more mainstream treatments we provide include botox and thread lifts.

Where did you practice before starting Veritas Medical Aesthetics?

I’ve been a doctor for almost ten years now at a few different places – a public hospital and a few private clinics that I’d prefer not to name.

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Why did you pick aesthetics/plastic surgery as your specialisation?

Aesthetics is a unique industry within the medical scene. Think about this: if you were going for heart surgery, and were offered the choice between a tried and tested method that was 50 years old, versus a new surgical technique that was invented last year, which will you pick? Chances are you’d choose the age-old technology. However, the reverse is true for aesthetics! Rather than being “tested and proven”, old methods are often seen as “outdated”! The patient mindset in this scene forces medical aesthetics and doctors within it to advance at breakneck speeds.

I spend much of my time reading and researching on the latest news in the medical scene, so this is probably the only industry that I wouldn’t get bored in!

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Why did you choose to start your aesthetic business than working in a public or private healthcare institution?

During my days as an employee, I learned that being a good doctor often means you’re also a lousy businessman. I was disillusioned for a while as my work made me break my ethical code as a doctor. I felt I could be doing more for the patients. In the end, the only choice left was to start my practice where I have full control over the treatment protocols.

It might not be the most profitable approach, but I believe that doctors must always stick to the ethos of doing your best for the patient, even if it’s counterproductive for business. That’s where the name Veritas Medical comes from. It means “truth” in Latin.

What were the reactions of your loved ones when you told them that you were going to venture out on your own?

I wouldn’t say I had unwavering support from family and friends. It’s never easy venturing out. People told me how hard it is to start a clinic and it’s not worth it to give up the substantial salary doctors are paid as employees in the private practice. But there’s a lot more to being a doctor than pay alone.

What were the initial challenges you faced when starting up?

I’ve been in the scene for quite some time, and have trained many other doctors before. Hence, reputation wasn’t much of an issue. My past experiences being the primary doctor at other clinics also meant I knew enough about operations to set it up right first time. Reaching out to the public and getting them to understand our difference, however, was much more challenging. I knew I had something unique to show the world, but I didn’t know how to get them to notice.

After all, doctors are wired in a way that makes us pretty poor businesspeople and PR failures (I don’t even have an IG account yet!). I tried a few outreach agencies too, but all of them gave very disappointing results.

How did you overcome the challenges?

I would say I got lucky with getting the right team together. The support of old patients (part of the team too!) acting as my advertising mouthpieces and entrusting their friends and family members to my knowledge and hands. The support of my crew who believed in my vision and made sacrifices from their routine to help me tirelessly build this.

Last but not least, the support of a close advisor, without whom I definitely would not have handled the business aspects of running a clinic as smoothly! I am grateful and blessed.

How is the aesthetic industry doing in the past few years and where do you think it would be in the next five years?

The industry has been getting more and more saturated. There is an oversupply of doctors in Singapore now, and more people are getting lured into starting their aesthetic clinic. But I think the 2000-2015 heydays are long over now. New doctors will probably struggle to catch up to the established names. Much like what happened in the dental scene, where large clinics bought up small ones and formed groups, we will likely see a consolidation phase for aesthetics within 5-10 years.

Dr Chua Cheng Yu - Veritas Aesthetics

Are you seeing more Singaporeans or foreigners? Why do you think so?

Singaporeans are still the main crowd, although I do get 10-15% foreigners. These aren’t all the wealthy foreigners too. I’ve seen domestic helpers and work permit holders here as well. Aesthetics is a very affordable industry with a mass market appeal.

However, I do hear of specific very high-end clinics that charge very high prices, targeting the affluent Chinese crowd. For the most part, though, aesthetics is affordable enough for the everyday person in Singapore.

What are the three most common treatments sought at Veritas Medical Aesthetics?

Botox and fillers are the bread and butter. Lasers are also up there as a good laser setup is exceptionally complex, and you can’t get it outside of a clinic. I probably overspent on my laser setup, having nine different lasers when most clinics bring no more than 2-3! I’m glad it worked out for my patients, and they’re enjoying the results.

What is your advice for people seeking aesthetic changes?

One of the biggest indicators that a procedure has gone well is when the face looks untouched. If it’s subtle enough to go unnoticed, it’s okay. Don’t try to change your features too much to look like someone else. Instead, try to look healthy, youthful and full of energy. That’s my approach towards aesthetics. I want patients to walk out feeling like their best self, instead of someone else.

Have you ever thought of giving up and going back to working in a health care institution? If no, why not and what kept you going?

I enjoy every single day of my work in medical aesthetics, even when I was only working as a paid employee in the private sector. Seeing happy faces every day has to be the best part of my work, and that joy multiplied when I started my clinic. Giving up never crossed my mind.

We understand that you are into fine arts, you play guitar, piano and saxophone leisurely, you are a photography enthusiast, and you regularly volunteer as a doctor to migrant workers. Not to mention, you also do research. How do you manage to squeeze out so much time for everything?

To be honest, the clinic has been keeping me very busy, so other aspects of my life are taking a back seat. As with everything, to excel in one area, sacrifices have to be made in another. I can only try to balance my life out as best I can.

Lastly, what’s your advice for medical practitioners who are thinking of starting their practice?

The most important advice I can give is that good doctors make poor businesspeople and vice-versa. Don’t lose the good heart you have as a doctor just because you’re running a business. Many doctors have this belief that they know everything better just because we graduated as the elite from the education system. That’s the furthest from the truth you can get in the real world. It’s important to find good help and assemble a team of various talents.


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