Lady bosses in S’pore on how to balance motherhood and run a successful biz


In Singapore, only about one out of five entrepreneurs are women. The business world has not seen many females enter the road less travelled.

Although women in Singapore make up 44 per cent of the nation’s workforce, the number is less equal in the entrepreneurial world. That’s understandable, as it’s already not easy to be a working mom to begin with, let alone take on another challenging task of running a business.

Women oftentimes take on many roles in a family unit – they need to juggle their careers as well as take on the bulk of family caring responsibilities, from the elderly to the children.

We chat with some successful female bosses who are also mothers to share more with us about how they do it, and some tips on balancing the heavy responsibility of motherhood while keeping their businesses in top shape.

Funlah

Founder of balloon business Funlah’s Dora Lee is turning 33 years old this year, and has a baby girl who is five months old.

Funlah has been in operation for three years and it earns five figures per month. Its best-selling balloons include its balloon garlands and balloon gifts for baby showers, anniversaries, and proposals.

“Prior to giving birth, I was working every day as Funlah operates seven days a week. Being a mother, I took a halt that I needed to balance all the different aspects of my life. You have to really let go of roles that you hold tightly to and trust your team on this,” shared Dora.

Image Credit: Funlah

The founder said that she initially started the business for the thrill of it but goals shifted a lot and that’s when she started enjoying the process. “The business gives so much value to our customers and even provides bread and butter to our employees. It’s when you know you are doing something good and right for your own soul and to society that you want to do it even better.”

Today, Funlah is profitable and has grown from a handful of customers to thousands of frequent customers.

Q: How do you juggle being a mother and running a business?

A: While it can be challenging at times, I find that having clear priorities and setting goals helps me stay focused on what’s important. Whether it’s spending time with my baby, working on my business, or taking care of myself and my health, I always make sure to prioritise what matters most to me.

Get all the help you need or hire someone to help you. At the end of the day, running a business while being a mother is all about finding that work-life balance and making time for what truly matters. You gain some, you lose some.

Q: How do you find time for self-care while running a business and being a mum

A: I have to say that I’m extremely passionate about my work especially running my own business because it gives me the flexibility and autonomy that I absolutely love what I do. I cannot imagine doing anything apart from that. And because of that, it doesn’t feel like work to me. It’s something that I enjoy doing and am very dedicated to. As I don’t sleep a lot I always take lots of power naps.

Q: Do you have any advice for new mums who want to start a business

A: My advice for new moms who want to start a business is to just go for it! Business is all about selling. It’s never too early or too late to start your own business. If you’re passionate about something and you have the drive to make it happen, there’s really no reason why.

Q: Share with me how the pandemic has changed the business

A: The pandemic has pushed the business to be more agile and proactive to manage its operations. Pivoting quickly is the key to success during this tough period. We have halted big celebration parties and instead focused on more gifting options. We are very fortunate that this pivoting has helped the business to grow during this period. We are constantly working on improving our service and offerings to ensure that we remain relevant and top of mind for our customers.

Q: Should more women become entrepreneurs? Why or why not

A: There’s no one answer to this question as it depends on each individual woman’s situation, skill set, and interests. However, overall, I believe that more women should become entrepreneurs as it can be a great way to achieve professional and financial success while also having the flexibility to manage your own time and work-life balance.

Q: Can you give me a quote to encourage other women bosses/working moms out there

A: Every flower has a different blooming time, believe in yourself.

Bodyslick

The mother-daughter business is run by 29-year-old Hannah Lai, and her mom Caroline, who is 59. Bodyslick has been around since 2018, and the business’ bath bomb vertical turned six figures within its first six months of launch.

Its popular products include the Bath Bombs and Bubble Baths, which are priced from S$13.90 to S$14.90. This Mother’s Day, Hannah shared that customers are getting Bodyslick’s bath essentials to accompany their staycations. There are also at-home foot soak bombs and muscle-relaxing salt sets for mums to have a simple yet pampering foot soak in the comfort of their own home.

Bodyslick began when Caroline started crafting soaps at home because commercially-bought soaps were not cutting it for her son who has eczema. Around the same time, Hannah was getting burnt out from her then-corporate job and started appreciating her only self-care time which was in the shower at home.

Image Credit: Bodyslick

“Using the soaps mum crafted for us, I felt like I was in a spa with the amazing scent blends, and looked forward to my showers again every single day. While it felt like I was literally washing the stresses of my day, I also noticed that my skin was no longer feeling tight after a bath. As a skincare junkie myself, I geeked out on why mum’s soaps improved my skin’s hydration instead of feeling stripped and tight. I fell in love with the idea of combining skincare with bath products and wanted to do further research and development on this,” said Hannah.

The rest is history. Hannah soon co-founded the soap business Bodyslick with her mother, Caroline, who grew up with a family business background. The business turned profitable in the first three months of launch.

The online business relies on delivery partners like GrabExpress to deliver its orders to customers. The business also runs pop-up stores in Singapore every year to capture more customers.

Q: How is it like running a mother-daughter business?

A: The both of us had to collaborate very, very closely and have the mindset to stomach disappointment after disappointment. Working this closely with each other with a seemingly endless loop of failed batches for a long time definitely resulted in clashes and tears. It all worked out in the end and we mutually learned perseverance, tenacity, and willpower from one another. This process was truly “team bonding” on another more emotional and mental level.

Q: How do you juggle being a mother and running a business

A: Mum (Caroline): I’m blessed to have a supportive family. Regardless, I prioritise my family and I love that having my own business means I get flexible time to drop everything and attend to the family if needed. My daughter manages most things and my husband helps with chores while he WFH. I always still make time to cook for the family and am thankful that they are easygoing with food. I’m just really thankful my family is supportive of my work especially when there are very long days, and I do not need to worry about my independent children.

Q: Share with me how the pandemic has changed the business

A: Having to close our studio temporarily at the start of the circuit breaker was definitely scary, as we could not bring our production to be run as a work from home (WFH) situation. But we didn’t see it as a setback but as a challenge – and I’m grateful that both mum and I have the same never-say-die mindset. We didn’t see a hurdle, we saw an opportunity.

With the pandemic travel restrictions, Singaporeans would turn to staycations locally and many look forward to the availability of a bathtub in hotels as it’s rare in apartments in Singapore.

Image Credit: Bodyslick

Thankfully, our permit to operate safely from our studio was sorted in good time and we could get started on starting a bath bomb vertical in the business! We’re extremely grateful that our business survived and thrived through the pandemic.

Q: Can you share with me why your mom inspires you

A: Mum works from the heart – be it in the business or back in her corporate job. I’m very “Type A” at work, so seeing how mum effortlessly gives her personal best to our customers now or her patients back then truly inspired me to rethink and reshape the way I’m used to working. She’s also incredibly driven, fuelled by the love she has for her kids and family. 

Hard work has never fazed her, even at her age. I hope to still have the same vigour at her age!

Q: What makes you want to work hard and run a business instead of finding a 9-5 job role

A: I’ve always known that running my own business would be my future. Life is too short to not do the things that make your soul truly happy and aligned – and this is my happy place.

Besides, when the opportunity came along to start a family business with my mum, I couldn’t pass it up.

Q: Should more women become entrepreneurs? Why

A: YES!!! The list is endless as to why women make fantastic entrepreneurs. But I truly love how women are especially empathetic and are great, deep listeners. These traits are such assets in business because empathy and listening are key essentials in building a successful customer experience and relationship. 

The ability to put oneself in the customer’s shoes allows an entrepreneur to gain a higher quality of understanding a customer’s needs and wants – which is the foundation for creating successful products that serve them. At Bodyslick, we take the approach of always seeing things from our customers’ point-of-view; and start conversations to listen to what they have to say so that we can innovate and do much better with each experience that the customer journeys with us.

Q: Can you give me a quote to encourage other women bosses/working mums out there

A: Women have the tenacity, emotion, and embrace failure, being underestimated. “The biggest hurdles for me as a woman in business were also my greatest strengths — and that was being underestimated.”

Porcelain Skin

Co-founders of the beauty brand are Pauline Ng, 36, and her mother Jenny Teng, 60.

Customers’ long-time favourites are its HA+ Hydrating Serum from the Essentials range. The brand has also launched new products such as its RevitalEyes Concentrate and Bio-DNA Defence Aqua Gel, shared Pauline.

“We have always believed in helping people (men and women) have the confidence to embrace imperfections and to help them get healthy skin from within by solving the root of the problem,” she said.

“Although skincare is a predominantly women-centric industry, we have about 20 per cent of male clients who believe in the same philosophies. We will continue to work towards being a gender-neutral brand and skincare solutions that are suitable for all.”

Image Credit: Porcelain

The pandemic affected Porcelain Skin’s business the most when its spas were closed for three months. Fortunately, Porcelain was already on the path of digitalisation, hence the transition to cloud systems and online programs for its staff was smooth. The company made full use of the time to roll out training programs and further enhanced its digital products like Virtual Skin Education and the Porcelain mobile app. 

The business is working on an omnichannel vision to suit customers and plans to bridge operations, marketing, and services seamlessly. It tapped on digital and online payment modes like credit cards and GrabPay as flexible and cashless options for clients.

During pre-pandemic times, it fetched six-digit revenues annually. The brand has won awards for its services and products.

Image Credit: Porcelain

Q: Can you share with me why your mom inspires you

A: Growing up with my mother’s contagious passion for helping others achieve healthier skin was the inspiration for Porcelain! Seeing her do that throughout the years encouraged me to develop trust-worthy skincare solutions to empower someone’s confidence through healthy skin.

Q: What makes you want to work hard and run a business instead of finding a 9-5 job role

A: I sometimes wonder to myself. Running a business is akin to building a dream from scratch – each product, each service, and each spa has been intentionally designed to help achieve that vision of helping more people get great skin.

The satisfaction comes when we see customers feeling happy with the results, and the team working towards a common goal. I have worked in corporate environments before, and it is a different kind of satisfaction.

Q: What are some ways you feel your relationship with your mother has changed/improved since the pandemic?

A; We are grateful for all the small things, like being able to have a meal together. We are more patient and tell each other we love each other more than before. We have healed together, getting past our traumas with each other and growing as a mother-daughter duo. It’s amazing.

Q: Should more women become entrepreneurs?

A: Every entrepreneur will have their own story to tell. Being an entrepreneur will provide more flexibility and fulfilment in finding what is most meaningful to you. That being said, it also comes with its struggles and adversity, it depends on the individual – men and women alike.

Q: Can you give me a quote to encourage other women bosses/working mums out there

A: Dream big, start small. Be humble always, surround yourself with positive people who can lift you as much as you can lift them.

Featured Image Credit: Funlah, Porcelain, Bodyslick





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