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SG Bike

SG Bike: A New Ride for a Traditional Business

What does it take to revitalise a family business? Ironically, family connections seem to be the key. Entrée.sg had a chat with Mr Sean Tay, 26, chief operating officer of SG Bike.

Like Father, Like Son

Many youths spend their school holidays playing computer games or going for outings with friends. But at the age of 13, Sean Tay was helping out at his father’s bicycle rental shop in East Coast park.

At 16 years old, he and his school friend worked to roll out a loyalty programme to sign up new customers. It was during these sessions, that he would have long conversations with his father on business strategy and philosophy. And so the seeds were sown in his teenage years.
He knew then, that he wanted to start his own business.

“Like father like son. For the longest time, I’ve always been inspired by my dad to do business,” he says with a laugh. “Through my father’s lenses, I saw the potential of this market, that there was a huge demand for bicycles.”

That was how SG Bike came to be launched in August 2017, when at 25 years old, Sean took on the role of Chief Operating Officer. The bicycle-sharing firm is a joint venture between leisure bicycle operator Cosco Recreation, and estate upgrading company ISOTeam.

At that time, it became the fourth bicycle sharing player after ofo, oBike and Mobike.

The Search for a Solution

But there were challenges that Sean had to surmount – chief among them, theproblem of indiscriminate parking.

He had considered electronic docking stations, similar to what was done overseas. But the costs were too high. At the heart of it all, he sought to answer this: Can I find a way to run a geographic allocation like a bicycle shop? It was during a university trip to San Francisco that a solution emerged.

At an exhibition, a start-up was showcasing its radio-frequency identification (RFID) solution for inventory control and stock-take. Pondering over it, Sean believed the technology could be applied to bicycles. An idea took shape: Geostations – designated parking spaces with devices incorporating RFID technology. If users do not park their bicycles within the Geostations, a built-in alarm will ring, and the user would receive a warning message on the app, risking a penalty charge.

“It’s a technical challenge to decide and design, what type of frequency are you running, what is the range, how will this be affected by the estates and landscape in Singapore? Thankfully, I was reading physics at the National University of Singapore and had some theoretical knowledge of what I was trying to look for. That helped a lot – at least I understand the concept of electromagnetic waves.”

“The other challenge is the lock. At that time, there was a boom in bike-sharing technology. There were many off-the-shelf solutions for bike-sharing locks out in the market already. But we didn’t want to just do that. We wanted to find some way for our bicycles to take advantage of our Geostation idea.”

His father then stepped in with his connections – business partners in China that they could tap on. With his father, Sean travelled to Guangzhou in search of a manufacturing solution.

Armed with the technical requirements and desired outcomes, they engaged in numerous meetings with factories.
“It’s really quite tough. We’re talking about weeks and weeks of research. We’re talking about contacting many different manufacturers. This product is really not something that’s built from one factory, in fact, it’s something that’s built up from at least ten factories. It’s quite a miracle that we managed to pull it off after at least half a year.”

And the last step of the puzzle:

“When we settled what we wanted to do, we realised, ‘wow, this is really expensive!’ We can’t do this alone.”

His father tapped on another contact for this – ISOTeam, which had expressed interest to go into bike-sharing. The organisation came to be the main source offunding for SG Bike.

Today, SG Bike employs 17 staff. It boasts a fleet of 2,000 bicycles spread out over 2,000 Geostations. Its bicycles are available in Holland-Bukit Panjang, Bedok and Sembawang. It is expanding into more areas in neighbouring towns such as Khatib, Yishun and ChuaChu Kang.

The company aims to grow its fleet and install over 20,000 Geostations islandwide by 2020.

A Mode of Transport

Sean’s vision is to expand the business so that all Singaporeans can use SG Bike as a mode of transport. 

He fondly recalls his father’s words: “He told me, ‘son, your dad has been doing business for some time. The bicycle business is one that you should seriously consider’.

“He felt that the business has been supporting our family and has become part of our lives. He said that we can’t let go of this business and hoped I can take over one day. These words have been etched in my mind. From there, fast forward to today, I am proud to say that I’m still able to keep the game going.”


Charli Prangley - CharlieMarieTV

A designer with a heart to share

Charli Prangley is a web and graphic designer from New Zealand who is currently living in London, working for ConvertKit. However, this is only the prelude to what she also does on the side.

Other than her day job, Charli also runs her brand, CharliMarieTV, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Not to mention, she does podcasts with her friend, Femke for Design Life and owns an online apparel store called Liner Note Kids.

It is incredible how Charli manages to do so much within the same amount of time we have and that we still complain about not having enough. So what is her magic to be able to do all these and still able to find time for her travels?

entree.sg speaks to Charli to find out more.

How old were you when you started your YouTube channel?

CharliMarieTV

Screenshot of CharliMarieTV on YouTube

I started my YouTube channel back in 2013 when I was 24. My younger sister had started a channel, and she introduced me to the world of vlogging. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the fact that YouTube was more than funny cat videos!

What was your aim when you started your channel and had that aim changed over time?

I started my channel because when I got interested in watching vlogs, I wanted to subscribe to a channel by a designer who didn’t just post tutorials, but talked about their life and the issues they face as well. I couldn’t find any! So I decided that was a sign that I could start producing that type of content. My aim from the start has been to showcase the life of a designer and to help young creatives learn what they need to be successful in this industry.

What was your very first side project? What gave you the idea for your first side project idea/business idea?

My very first side project was an apparel company called Liner Note Kids. I created designs inspired by music and printed them onto t-shirts and hoodies. Unlike my side projects these days that have a lot of planning go into them, Liner Note Kids evolved from something very small: posting some lyric graphics on Tumblr. I had a few people say they’d like to see the design on a t-shirt so I decided to investigate how to get them printed, and a little business grew from there! I didn’t intend for those initial designs to become a business, but they did. Once I knew the interest was there I had a great time learning more about business and things like profit margins, and about t-shirt printing too.

How did you manage your time juggling your day job and working on your side project?

I started Liner Note Kids around ten years ago when I was in university. While my studies kept me very busy, I didn’t have 9-5 hours as I would have a day job. That meant I could spend an afternoon at the printers getting shirts made, and taking 20 packages to the post office if I needed to. I spent many nights staying awake late peeling vinyl designs to prep them for print, updating my website and working on new designs. While I got pretty good grades, I probably could have done better in my classes if I wasn’t spending so much time on my business. But the way I saw it I was learning a lot through running Liner Note Kids that university wasn’t teaching me. So it was time well spent!

What were your obstacles and how did you overcome them?

In both my apparel business and now with my YouTube channel and podcast, the biggest obstacles have been entering an entirely new world and learning all the unspoken rules and the things that sometimes it seems everyone knows but you. How do I source blank t-shirts to print on? How do you get brands to sponsor videos? How do you get a podcast episode you’ve recorded into an RSS feed? I overcame them with a lot of googling!

Another struggle I’ve faced (and still face now and then) is hitting burn out. When you have so much on your plate, it’s easy to let the work/rest balance swing too far to the work side. One day you’re feeling super productive for getting everything done, but when you try to maintain fast pace overtime, you start to get very tired, stressed, maybe even ill and then you hit burn out. Reaching that point, while terrible, really teaches you the importance of rest.

Ever since you moved to the UK, you started your podcast, continue to make videos, work at ConvertKit, manage your social media profiles, maintain your Liner Note Kids store, gave talks here and there and travel. Many people always say that they have no time to work on things. How do you plan your time? Are there apps that you use to help you manage your time?

Charli at Sean Wes Conference - CharliMarieTV

Image credit: Charli Prangley

My best advice for this is something no one likes to hear: wake up early. – Charli Prangley

Everyone can make time for the things that are important to them! My best advice for this is something no one likes to hear: wake up early. I found I was always exhausted after coming home from work and didn’t have enough energy to put into my side projects, so I gave waking up early a try and spent a few hours on side projects before I left for work. It gets my day off to a productive start! And the best part is that I can then fully relax in my evenings knowing I already achieved enough that day at both my day job and on my side projects.

To fit everything in, you need to get good at prioritising and being organised. You always need to know what you should work on next. I’m continually writing lists, and last year I started using the bullet journal system to keep track of what I need to be doing each day, and it’s been an incredibly useful tool. Every evening I write two lists: one for the tasks I need to achieve for ConvertKit the next day, and one of the things I need to get done on my side projects. It means I can start my morning knowing exactly what I need to be doing. This analogue system works better for me than any app has, but I do use apps such as Trello to keep track of all my content ideas, and Silo (a Pomodoro technique timer app) on my Apple watch for those times when I need extra help focussing.

How do you stay focused when you have so many things happening around you?

I have way more side projects and ideas for how to improve them than I do time in the day, so I’ve found the best way to move them forward is to pick one particular thing per month to focus my side project time on. That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore all the rest of my projects; it means I’ll do the bare minimum on them for a month so that I can push one ahead. For example, coming up soon I’ll be giving a talk at Craft + Commerce, the ConvertKit conference. This next month my primary focus is on getting my talk finished. I’ll still produce my weekly videos and podcasts episodes, but I won’t, for example, take on my channel rebranding project or rebuild my website in the same month. If you try to do too much, you’ll end up executing on everything at a mediocre level. I’d instead do one thing well than get a bunch of really average stuff finished!

What are the challenges ahead for you?

Managing my work/life balance and staying on top of my email inbox will always be a challenge: there are so much to do and so many emails to answer! I’m also constantly struggling with imposter syndrome, but I’m trying to get over it and stop it from affecting me taking up opportunities.

What advice do you have for people who are planning to start a side business/project or a YouTube channel?

Successful side projects are formed over time, and if you can spare even just an hour in your morning to put towards your project, you’ll get somewhere. – Charli Prangley

First and foremost, you have to love what you do. If your primary reason for starting a side project or a YouTube channel is for the money or the fame you’re going to find it incredibly hard to get through those early days (or years even!) before your project starts to pick up steam. You have to be in this for the long haul, and the only way to do that is to be genuinely passionate about your subject matter. Once you’ve got the passion nailed, let it fuel your motivation and make sure you get one thing done every day (even if it’s only something small). Successful side projects are formed over time, and if you can spare even just an hour in your morning to put towards your project, you’ll get somewhere.


Joeven Soh - Founder, Cell-II International Pte Ltd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Raymond Tan_Madebettr

Designing his own keep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for you?

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

Raymond Tan_Madebettr


Josh Loh - Rehab Pro Movement Therapy

From Army Fitness Specialist to Rehab Pro

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

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

So what changed? Here’s his story.

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

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

What made you start your own business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did Rehab Pro Movement Therapy start its operations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s next for Rehab Pro Movement Therapy?

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

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

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

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


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