Working on a side project is not easy, especially when you have to balance it with your full-time job, which most of the time, is the main source of income. It’s tough but manageable. In the case of, Nadia Chan, co-founder of Maiko, she holds two full-time roles – general manager in a public relations agency and a mother of one – while building up her side business.
How does she do it? Here’s Nadia’s story.
Tell us about your business and how did the name Maiko come about?
Maiko is the Singapore distributor for CANVAS. It was co-founded together with my sister Sophia to provide natural and organic solutions to women with products that contain plant extracts and aromatherapy oils.
Sophia and I learnt about the profound heritage of Maiko during our holiday in Kyoto, Japan and were intrigued by Geishas. Their graceful movements in constricting kimonos, whilst balancing on traditional wooden shoes were delicate and embodied the gentle pace of life that Kyoto enjoys. Besides the relaxing vibes they exude, their beauty, youth and purity truly resonated with CANVAS products. CANVAS restores skin’s youthful complexion with natural and organic ingredients in the purest and truest form, and they are uplifting, calming, and provide an overall sense of wellbeing.
What were the challenges you faced when setting up Maiko and how did you overcome them?
It is challenging to inch our way into the crowd especially since we operate online with no physical stores. We had to learn everything, from managing finances, building marketing materials to making the right connections, and many more. Every day is a learning curve, but the key is to focus on our passion and purpose and being resilient to find joy in the journey – the good and the bad. I think for us just being almost two years old, we are doing well. At the end of the day, we put in our 100% best to deliver to our customers, be it in service or as products. I would say the key takeaway thus far is to always keep an open mind and be ready to listen. There are no rules in business or entrepreneurship –everything lies within our hands and we craft our own success.
There are many beauty brands out there in the market, why did you choose to bring in CANVAS into Singapore?
I first came across CANVAS when Sophia began raving about the brand and how the products were more than just a formula to nourish the skin’s health, it was also uplifting for the mind, body and soul because of the aromatherapy oil content. As Sophia is someone who integrates health and wellness into her life and pays close attention to the ingredients she put on her skin, I knew I had to try the products.
I tried CANVAS as a customer and started to see the true benefits of using their skincare products. Subsequently, the opportunity to distribute CANVAS in Singapore was sent right to our doorstep and needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity as we saw CANVAS as the ideal platform to educate people about the importance of incorporating mindfulness into their skincare routine which can be achieved by using natural and organic skincare products.
How’s the business so far?
We have managed to break-even and it is now a profitable business. We know there is a growing demand for natural and organic skincare products and hope to emerge as the brand of choice.
What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and what is it about skincare that made you decide that this is the business you want to venture into?
I have always dreamed of starting my own business for as long as I can remember. My parents, who are entrepreneurs themselves, have also been an inspiration growing up, encouraging me to push my limits and beyond my comfort zone, and lead by example. It became more apparent that I wanted to be like them one day after I worked full-time for an IT reseller and ran two small restaurants.
With no experience in running a business in skincare, there were definitely risks. Sophia and I decided however that we would take the leap and see where it took us, I have to say – so far, so good!
You started the business while you work full-time in a PR agency, and you also have to take care of your child. It must’ve been hectic for you to juggle all these at the same time. How do you do it?
It is definitely not easy trying to strike a balance but it is not impossible! I am driven by the “never-say-die” attitude and what I have learnt through this experience is that sometimes, it is easier than it sounds. The key to overcoming any challenges is to never let fear get in the way and just do it! It also boils down to proper planning to ensure that I have time for everything and everyone, including myself. Callum is my top priority so running a business and pursuing a full-time PR career usually has to work around the time when he is in school or in bed. In the evenings after he has gone to bed, Sophia and I will discuss ongoing strategies for Maiko and CANVAS. I make sure I have two evenings a week to do what I want. This ‘me-time’ allows me to rejuvenate my mind and continue to inspire myself on the journey ahead.
There are many people who want to start their own side projects but they hardly get started because of their full-time job. What advice do you have for them?
So often, we get comfortable with where we are now that we forget how rewarding it is to grow and push ourselves. Don’t be afraid of the unknown! Go for it. Things will fall into place eventually with perseverance, passion, and a positive mindset. Ultimately, it is all about choices, setting priorities and drawing boundaries. That said, live by your own rules and have fun throughout the journey.
Looking back at your entrepreneurship journey, if you are to change one thing, what would you change?
The only thing I would change is to START younger. It would have been amazing to start when I had a lot more time. I’ve noticed, the older we get, the less time we have!
What’s next for Maiko?
For us, it’s really about educating our customers on the consequences of putting natural or organic products on their delicate skin. In Singapore, there is definitely a growing interest in this area, but there are still a lot more opportunities for customers to make the switch.