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.

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?

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!

Making the right YOLO decision

Ms Ng Lay Peng founded Bask Communications in 2016 with less than S$4,000 in her bank account and six years of public relations (PR) experience. As one could tell from the savings, you are right; Lay Peng did not put too much thought into what’s to come after quitting her stable job to start her PR agency. Was it a wrong decision?

Fast-forward to today; the 29-year-old now works with well-known brands namely, Red Bull Singapore, and Lawry’s The Prime Rib Singapore. So how did Lay Peng grow Bask Communications to the scale that it is today and continue to make progress?

Here’s her story.

When and what made you decide to be your boss and to start Bask Communications?

Surprisingly, it was more of a spur of the moment decision than anything. I love being in the communications industry, meeting people from all walks of life and learning little nuggets from them, the adrenalin from tight deadlines, etc. However, I was feeling uninspired in my previous workplace and thought hey, what’s the worst that could happen even if I failed?

At that point, I could not visualise how my career progression would be even if I had switched to a different agency or go in-house. It was a toss between going solo and leaving the communications industry altogether.

I’m glad I made the move! It’s been such a steep learning curve and every day provides a different challenge.

How long did it take for you to plan before leaving your full-time job?

Less than a month! It was a classic case of doing it now or never. The more time you spend thinking about leaving the comfort of a stable income, the less chance there is of you doing it. I had less than $4,000 in my bank account, but I thought if I spent sparingly, it would last me a couple of months while I go about finding my first client.

What were the initial challenges when setting up Bask Communications? Does it take a lot to setup?

It takes a lot of grit to be a solo-preneur. In the first month, I was texting my ex-colleagues almost every day as it took time to get used to working alone. It takes time to build up a supportive network of people around you, and I’m super lucky that my first client, Kara Bensley from The Wyld Shop was exactly the kind of person I needed. She’s a beautiful ray of sunshine and radiates so much positivity that even at my lowest, the sky’s the limit.

In the life of an entrepreneur, the highs are very high and the lows are very low. It takes a lot of time to learn to manage one’s emotional and mental wellness, especially when you are trying to “chiong” as much as you can. Regarding skill sets, I had to learn to build my company website – a task I procrastinated for almost six months as I just couldn’t figure out how to build a WordPress site, learn to hire better, be a better and more compassionate leader and an employer, manage finances, the list goes on! I’m still learning every day!

Why the name Bask Communications?

The PR answer is to let my clients’ businesses/products bask in the spotlight. I’ll let you figure out what’s the non-PR answer is!

What were the reactions of your loved ones when you told them that you have decided to leave a stable paying job to become your boss?

My father is self-employed, and I think it excites him that I’ll be able to take control of life in my own hands. On the other hand, my mother is ultra risk-averse, hated the idea of instability and wanted me to go into government agencies so that I will have a “metal rice bowl.” However, throughout the whole journey, they have been silently supportive with simple things like making sure that I remember to eat, sending me to do my media drops, allowing me to get away scot-free when I occasionally turned the house into a mini-warehouse and media library. It’s the simplest things that speak the loudest.

When a client engages a PR agency, what they are buying is the service of the executive who is running their accounts. Similarly, when a client engages Bask, they are essentially engaging me.

There’s a sea full of PR agencies already in the market even before you started Bask Communications. How did you position yourself and what did you do to get clients?

When a client engages a PR agency, what they are buying is the service of the executive who is running their accounts. Similarly, when a client engages Bask, they are essentially engaging me. What I try to bring in to every meeting and execution are positive energy and good vibes. As simple as that sounds, it helps to set the tone for your relationship with your clients and your business.

My first client was Kara Bensley from The WYLD Shop who was referred to by my friend Susannah Jaffer, former creative editor at Expat Living. Subsequent clients were also through word-of-mouth.

Ng Lay Peng - Bask Communications
Lay Peng (middle) with Loo (left) and Kara (right) at The WYLD Shop

How did it feel to get your first client?

There was the fear of the unknown, excitement and motivation to do well, and gratitude for the trust, leap of faith and support.

The road to entrepreneurship can be lonely, and sometimes one may have doubts about whether it’s the right path. Do you have those moments and how do you stop yourself from sinking into negativity?

All the time! Finding the right people to speak to is vital, so is hoping that those people have the patience of a saint! At the end of the day, it’s important to question yourself on what do you want to achieve out of this journey. Give yourself both short term and long term goals to work towards so that you don’t lose track of your achievements. Recognising one’s progress is one of the easiest things to lose track of because we are often so hard on ourselves, always trying to be better, faster.


What are the key differences between being a boss versus an employee in a PR agency?

It’s a very steep learning curve in being a self-employed person. In addition to the execution of day-to-day work, there’s also learning to manage finances, interview new hires, and learning new skills via free online tutorial so that you can save cost on hiring someone to do it. That was how I gained my knowledge on building Squarespace site and SEO! It’s important to be resourceful. Ultimately, as a boss, you are responsible for the quality of your work, your agency’s reputation and how much income you generate. As an employee, there are more windows to sit back and relax. I love to travel so the number thing I miss is being able to apply for leave and leave work behind!

What is PR and why should companies value it?

I think it is difficult to box in what is the definition of public relations as it evolves so quickly, especially since the acceleration of the digital age in the past decade. At its core, public relations is about communications and the building of relationships across the various stakeholders, be in the public, customers, management, employee engagement. We focus on earned media through crafting strategic, timely and newsworthy stories that would interest both journalists and readers. Increasingly, owned media has also begun to play a significant role in our line of work regarding generating relevant content to engage public/reader we well as increase search engine ranking or web traffic.

I’ve met my fair share of people who understood the value of PR and those who don’t. PR professionals have very little visibility in the front line, but we are the people who help to create conversations around your business and products, manage and build a company’s credibility and reputation.

Ng Lay Peng - Bask Communications
Image credit: Ng Lay Peng – Bask Communications

Are PR and marketing the same thing?

There are differences and overlaps between the two functions, but I do believe that both go hand in hand alongside digital strategies! I usually craft my PR strategies based on the business objectives, amplifying marketing strategies and brand stories, and then filling in the gaps to ensure sustained communication efforts and publicity. Where applicable, especially when it comes to marketing promotions, we will also advise on content creation and digital marketing strategies to complete the consumer journey.

What’s your advice to aspiring PR practitioners who are considering a life in PR agencies versus doing communications in a corporate environment?

It’s no exaggeration that life in the agency is a whole lot more hectic, but to those who enjoy the pace of life and having different and varied portfolios to work on any time, you’ll appreciate how dynamic agency life is. In a corporate environment, your role is more streamlined, but you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the business as a whole beyond your work function.