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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Marcus S Tan is the co-founder of The Carrot Patch, a co-working space which was recently named the official workspace partner for The Hungry Lab Asia, a global online platform created to help startups, future leaders and entrepreneurs.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer of AIQ, a visual recognition technology company based in Singapore.
We caught up with him to find out more on how he got everything started and how his two ventures complement each other, and more.
Here’s Marcus’ story.
“It is never too late or too old to start your own business or pursue your dreams and ideas.”
What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurship journey?
I previously held leadership roles at companies such as SpotX, Smaato, Blackberry, Nokia, Travelocity and MediaCorp before coming onboard as the CEO of AIQ. I co-founded The Carrot Patch with one of the Board of Directors.
The Carrot Patch was born from a eureka moment from the brilliant AIQ team who came up with the idea of having a co-working space from an AI-centric parent company. My aim is to target local young start-ups and student entrepreneurs who either belong to the alumnus or who are currently studying in polytechnic or university.
When was The Carrot Patch established and why use the name The Carrot Patch than something more relatable to co-working and office rental?
The Carrot Patch was officially launched on 16 November 2017. The carrot is versatile, nutritious and signifies vibrancy. The three are important elements for businesses to succeed.
What inspired you to start a co-working space?
After identifying Apex@Henderson as the ideal office location, the AIQ team decided to convert a portion of the office space into a co-working space to start a vibrant community for entrepreneurs and start-ups to come together to work and exchange ideas with one another.
We also curated a team of successful businessmen who had agreed to offer their expertise to offer business advice and ideas to help these young start-ups. Through this, I hope to cultivate a large pool of local start-ups, help uncover local talent as well as provide a community and industry support for the new players in the field.
Co-working Space is the new trend in Singapore providing a vibrant environment that supports their young business ventures with a comfortable workspace, but with rental costs that are flexible and affordable, to assist them in getting their creative juices and their commercial minds going. Most of the co-working spaces in Singapore are located within the Central Business District (CBD). The Carrot Patch wants to extend a similar vibrant working space that caters to budding student entrepreneurs with a more wallet-friendly rates at a location within the city-fringe area.
What were the initial challenges you faced when putting your plans into action?
We understand the needs of tech start-ups, as we are also one of them. Thus, we took a long while to experiment our niche offering as well as search for the right type of start-ups to join our community in building a vibrant ecosystem.
How did you overcome those challenges?
We worked on targeting AI-related and tech-curious companies, as we focused on establishing a tech-centric ecosystem. Another of our initiatives in overcoming our initial challenges was our successful efforts in reaching out and offering co-working service and advice to budding start-ups initiated by students or alumnus of polytechnics and universities.
We offer city-fringe rates which are considered the “in between” of the price rates offered by our competitors, hence a viable option for students who are at the initial phase of their business venture.
On top of that, our partnerships with industry practitioners such as The Hungry Lab Asia allowed us to offer advisory services at no additional cost, thus creating a win-win solution for all parties. These factors combine to form a vibrant ecosystem which contribute to The Carrot Patch’s unique selling point.
What sets The Carrot Patch apart from other competitions?
Here at The Carrot Patch, we live by our motto of “Cultivating a Smart Community”. Our co-working space is unique in that we are open to maximising our space to accommodate a diverse group of people. Ranging from industry veterans to student entrepreneurs, we provide one of the most supportive environments for communication and exchange of ideas to boost one another’s role in the creative and commercial industries.
What’s your vision for The Carrot Patch in the next five years?
Here at The Carrot Patch, we have set the stage for young start-ups and innovators to build a vibrant start-ups scene in conjunction with Singapore’s initiatives in gearing towards being a Smart Nation. Coupled with our partnership with The Hungry Lab Asia, we hope to jointly nurture and promote entrepreneurships within the Local Students’ community and the technology space as a whole.
Recently, The Carrot Patch has been named the official workspace partner for The Hungry Lab Asia. What’s the partnership about and what does it mean for the start-ups and businesses in Singapore and the region?
We’re most glad and privileged to have The Hungry Lab Asia to partner with us. The partnership is about creating an innovative and conducive environment for entrepreneurs and start-ups in Asia. It simply translates to opportunities for the honing and development of skills in the rising tech industry, i.e. blockchain, deep learning, visual commerce (v-commerce), mobile commerce (m-commerce) etc., as we strive to foster fruitful working relationships between the student entrepreneurs and some of the top-notch businesses and enterprises.
WeWork has been on an acquisition spree of co-working spaces. If more prominent players like them come knocking with an offer while you are still building up The Carrot Patch, what would you do?
In effort to grow our brand presence, we are open to explore possible opportunities with international brands to bring our business to greater heights, so long as we continue to keep our prices reasonable in providing co-working spaces at wallet-friendly prices for budding entrepreneurs and young start-ups to have a conducive environment to work in, as we are located within the city-fringe area providing an alternative choice of co-working space that is as appealing but just outside the CBD.
We understand that you also run AIQ, a visual recognition technology company founded in 2014. Can you share with us more about AIQ?
AIQ is a visual recognition technology company based in Singapore and established in 2014. AIQ’s proprietary Visual Recognition Technology (VRT) is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and allows for instantaneous processing of ‘live’ images and videos, even if only a portion (30%) of the image or video is captured.
How does AIQ’s Visual Recognition Technology (VRT) work and how can it apply to businesses?
With just three simple steps “Point, Capture and Interact”, our visual recognition technology will scan and interact with the particular image or video. Businesses can tap on the functions of offline-to-online (O2O) to better engage their target audience. Our technology can be used as a tool for brands to link their offline collaterals such as prints and out-of-home media (OOH) to their online media. This can be used as a call-for-action marketing tool to generate leads and drive conversions.
The following are examples of how our VRT can be applied to various industries:
Video consumption is in trend, a tool that has become very useful in processing vast amounts of information. A picture speaks a thousand words, and visuals have the power of urging the impulse to purchase. With visual commerce being the next big thing, AIQ’s visual recognition technology allows retailers to engage consumers through quick and effortless decision-making processes. This will ultimately translate to increased lead conversions.
Have your visitors enthralled amidst an immersive experience at your event showcase. With the freedom of scanning any image or booth within the comforts of the entire event space to retrieve information, AIQ’s visual recognition technology is innovative and interactive.
With AIQ’s visual recognition technology, consumers can simply point their phones at billboards, posters or videos to scan and instantly register themselves for exclusive quizzes and lucky draw contests, or to unlock prizes.
With a simple scan of their offline collaterals, marketers can promptly link their posters, out-of-home (OOH) billboards and other print collaterals to their product videos, reviews and even their full inventory to boost cross-selling across all platforms digital and physical.
Traditional forms of media comprising OOH, magazines and newspapers are facing a downward trend of advertising dollars, and that is why we are the “white label solution” aiming to be the engine for the “new growth” for traditional media owners. We are here to bridge the gap by allowing consumers to scan and utilise these print collaterals to be transported to the brand’s interactive online platforms using our visual interactive technology.
We would like to become the kick-starter of the green initiative whereby we assist our brands in their printing costs, reducing print copies while maximising the use of scanning and allowing customers to be transported to an interactive online media, eg. e-flyers, e-information kiosk link-up. What’s more, businesses will get to monitor visual analytics to analyse the effectiveness of their ad placements by adopting our visual technology.
Do AIQ and The Carrot Patch complement each other? How?
AIQ strives to nurture the tech scene in Singapore. Being a start-up itself, AIQ has had its experiences which serve as relevant pointers that can pinpoint the direction for entrepreneurs and start-ups in nurturing their businesses. We act as an advisor to them, rendering support through our expertise in AI.
Meanwhile, the budding entrepreneurs in AI and tech can be given opportunities to work with AIQ to further contribute to the offerings of the company. The collaboration is summed up as a win-win situation for both AIQ and the community at The Carrot Patch, providing a multiple-pronged approach to tap on each other’s talents and resources.
What’s your advice to Singaporeans who hope to become an entrepreneur one day?
To the budding entrepreneurs out there, go all the way out to pursue your dreams and do not fear any failures. It is all right to fail upon your many business ventures and be successful in at least one. It is never too late or too old to start your own business or pursue your dreams and ideas.
There are also many intrapreneurs within organisations and companies who are willing to help grow the business or even start a new product. Such enterprising spirit should be recognised and cultivated!
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.
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 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 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?
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?
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?
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 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?
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?
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?
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.
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!
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?
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?
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.
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?
Joanday/ Joan Kim
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.
Wong Chee Kui is the founder of Recherche, a curtains and blinds company. Before setting up his venture, he was selling curtains to businesses for his previous employer. After learning the ropes, he decided to dive into the world of entrepreneurship, something that he had always wanted to do.
So how did he get started, especially when his business has high overheads? Here’s Chee Kui’s story.
How did you get into the business of curtains and blinds, and why the name Recherche?
We wanted a unique name so that if we go into other businesses, we can still use it. Recherche means exotic here. We hope we are different than the others.
I have always wanted to do some business since young. I even thought of doing some AV rental business previously. However, I did not have the guts to start one as I lack the experience and contact. After working in my former company and learned the ropes, I decided to start this business as my first step into entrepreneurship.
Were your loved ones supportive of you starting out on your own?
My dad was very supportive of my idea and is always very concern about my business operations and profits. My mum, on the other hand, was quite unsure of the business and she would rather I work for someone than to start a business.
What were the challenges you faced when setting up the curtains and blinds business?
When we started, we had a hard time looking for end consumers to buy from us.
When you started Recherche, did you require a massive amount of capital? Can you share how much did it cost you to setup and how did you raise the amount?
We kept most of the expenses low when we started to the extent that we only bought one laptop to share among the three of us for those paper works and quotation typing. We raised about $150k to start off. The balance was used to roll the business as we believe that we should not owe any suppliers money.
We often hear people talk their business ideas but do not do anything about it because of capital. Do you think that it is a legit reason for stopping them from starting their business?
I think it is essential to have a strong capital. Although most suppliers give us 30 or 60 days credit, we believe in paying them early, either C.O.D (Cash on Delivery), cash in advance or on a 2-week credit. By paying first, suppliers are very much happy to work with us and are more efficient when we need help. However, if capital is a problem, start-ups can try to get more partners, investors or crowd-fund.
What are the challenges ahead for Recherche?
I think challenges ahead for Recherche is innovation. In terms of getting new products or unique products.
For people who want to start their own business, what’s your advice to them?
If you can, try. Entrepreneurship is fun although tiring. Watch your expenses and try not to have debts. Networking is important, talk with more entrepreneurs and learn from them.
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?
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.
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.
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.