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What 2017 Taught Me: S'pore Entrepreneurs On Lessons Learnt, And Their Wishes For 2018

2017 is coming to an end, and to say that it has been an eventful year for the world is an understatement.

But how has it been for Singaporean entrepreneurs, and what the lessons that they took away from the year?

We got in touch with a few of them, and found out more about their thoughts about 2017, and their wishes for 2018!

James Wang, Hai Kee

James Wang (R) and his brother Joseph Wang (L)

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

The greatest lesson from 2017 would be knowing the demand and supply for the food and beverage market ‘pie’ which is getting smaller as many bigger brands are constantly expanding and smaller brands,

Being a startup/subsidiary brand, we need to maintain our current and potential share.

As consumers these days eat out a lot, digital marketing for F&B is very important. Consumers also tend to indulge and have higher spending power nowadays, so we have to constantly produce digital content to maintain our presence.

We are also looking at expansion to supply to the demands of our consumers at the other side of Singapore, since our outlets are all currently in the East.

Even though manpower is still an issue, we are constantly improving our operations via technology and the building of a cohesive team that will work towards our business goals.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

My ultimate wish for 2018 will be building a strong team for Hai Kee and grooming staff to run the business together as partners. I would also like to create a larger variety of products that a normal chicken rice shop wouldn’t have.

I admit, I do fantasise about having a “high tech chicken rice shop” where customers can have good quality soy sauce chicken rice quickly, even without the need for us to see each other.

Read more about Hai Kee here!

Vannessa Tan, Nine Fresh

Vannessa Tan

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

I learnt that I should never be contented with ‘good enough’ for myself or the company. It is definitely better to aim for excellence, and exceptional food and service in order to grow!

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

I wish to go beyond the local market to explore greater opportunities, and I also wish for growth for the brand and for myself!

Read more about Nine Fresh here!

Jackson Aw, Mighty Jaxx

Jackson Aw

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

Managing opportunities is a key lesson for us this year.

It’s great to see plenty of opportunities coming in but you have to give enough consideration individually and assess that time required to execute them.

We took on a lot more then we could handle, and that resulted in delays and also put the team in a disarray. As a result, we overhauled our work processes and now have a visual guide to see the time required to complete each opportunity!

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

We have prepared the stage for Mighty Jaxx to progress into the next level, so I am looking forward to see our strategies come into play and the doors that it can unlock.

Recently, I have been more active in the SME circle as well as in the tech space.

Many of us face similar issues and it’s encouraging to know we are not alone, so I hope to contribute more towards the community in 2018 to help one another in our challenges.

Read more about Mighty Jaxx here!

Christabel Chua, kāi

Christabel Chua (middle) and her team

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

Kindness begets kindness – work hard and be kind to the people you meet for this kindness will go a long way. Also, be ready to take risks and be ready for unexpected change that will always come your way. Keep your head afloat and your heart optimistic.

2. What do you wish for 2018?

For kāi to learn, and to grow and reach beyond our shores.

Read more about kāi here!

Bryan Choo, TheSmartLocal

Bryan Choo

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

2017 was spent improving our management and workflow processes.

That meant watching 20 hours of videos by thought leaders such as Simon Sinek and Ken Robinson and then creating audio playlists of these videos to reinforce when exercising/driving.

We also made the transition from start-up to SME. Now that our team had grown so big, it was time to level-up and introduce proper SME processes.

We implemented procedures like “exit interviews” and “clearance check lists” and even simple equipment maintenance rosters which we never had before.

In the past, the lack of these ended up causing problems for us later down the road.

Each company had different learning lessons.

For example, for Zula, we learned that no matter how female-centric your content is, 40% of your audience is still going to be guys.

For MustShareNews, we learned many readers are prone to confirmation bias, choosing only to engage with narratives they already agree with.  So it takes something special if you want to create a story around an unpopular opinion.

We felt we learned and grew a lot as a group on 2017, and we’re excited to see how we can further improve in 2018.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

My wish would be to extend the TSL brand by opening up an office overseas successfully.

Read more about TheSmartLocal here!

Keith Koh, Lad & Dad

Keith Yeo

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

2017 has been a rollercoaster ride for LAD & DAD as we took the leap and moved to a new location.

We had to attract new customers as well as retain existing ones at our outlet while juggling our catering/live station events with shortage of manpower.

We also gave up expansion opportunities due to the manpower shortage and other factors but gained experience through the process of planning and overcoming various obstacles.

2017 has also brought much positive media attention and publicity to LAD & DAD as well as the Singapore hawker scene, which reflects a quote we started with; “Don’t sell a product, start a movement.”

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

We hope to continue contributing to the Singapore hawker scene in 2018. We also hope to take the next leap and expand in late 2018 while reminding ourselves of the quote by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

Read more about Lad & Dad here!

Darius Cheung, 99.co

Darius Cheung

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

Getting it right the first time.

As our startup 99.co grows up from being a new kid on the block, testing all sort of hypothesis and trying out all sort of stuff, to being a top player today relied upon by millions of users, one of the shifts that happened in 2017 is that we learned that we need to get it right the first time when we ship something nowadays.

Not only 1) do many users get impacted directly when we ship something, and that unlike when we were small, once a feature gets miscommunicated or misunderstood, it is very hard to turn back (since we don’t have the luxury of deep-engagement anymore); 2) we as a team now have the knowledge and expertise to get it right the first time, shipping half-baked product under the guise of ‘MVP’ is just sloppy product work.

All we needed to do is to front-load the thinking process. We are already the experts in what we do, and we just need to get confident of our process and decisions – getting it right the first time, and delivering an excellent experience on first-load has become a very important objective.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

We (myself, my team and everyone reading this) are blessed in ways that some people in other parts of the world can’t begin to fathom.

What do we do with the abilities, circumstances, and choices we have found ourselves equipped with in this day and age?

My wish is to use these privileges to improve the lives of society and our fellow men through service, innovation and to bring the best technology has to offer to as many people as we can.

Everyone deserves a shot at a better and fairer life, at building a home they can call their own. I hope to be able to take them closer to that goal in 2018.

Let’s live each day being grateful, paying respect to the opportunities and privilege given to us, and not squander it.

Read more about 99.co here!

Raena Lim & Chris Halim, Style Theory

Raena Lim (R) and Chris Halim (L)

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

In 2017, we had to triple our team size to accommodate our expansion into a new market.

Navigating a new country can be tricky considering different needs and culture, and we have learnt the importance of having a strong and passionate team in overcoming such challenges.

This year has taught us that hiring fast is important, but hiring right is even more so.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

Doing right by our customers is everything, and we will continue to place an emphasis on creating a superior customer experience, refining our “Netflix-for- Fashion” experience as we prepare to penetrate new geographies and categories.

We also have an exciting pipeline of customer improvements planned for 2018, which will bring us much closer to our goal of improving fashion consumption and sustainability in SEA.

Read more about Style Theory here!

Adam Tie, The Novel Encounter

Adam Tie

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

When I started this business, my goal was to get people to fall back in love again. Not just books, per se, but in the concept of romance.

Branching out from books, we provide typewritten literary quotes, 1-minute poems (give me three words, and I’ll write you a poem in under a minute), etc. But the basis maintains that I wanted to create a platform for people to gift things to those they hold close.

So it always makes me smile when doing events, groups of friends would see our books and poems and discuss among each other, “Hey, should we get this for ___? She/he would love this!”.

Or a girl would say, “My friend is really upset about something, could you write something inspiring for her?”

That’s primarily what I wanted the platform of The Novel Encounter to be, really.

I’ve had many lessons upon partaking this incredibly rewarding and challenging role as a business owner, but I have to say that my greatest lesson in 2017 is to learn to know what to prioritise.

We are not defined by the car we drive, or the money we have, or the possessions in our disposal to impress. It’s about who/what you prioritise.

You are defined by your passions and what you love.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

The simple answer would be to increase revenue, margins, platforms and push as many channels as I can to improve my brand awareness.

That’s definitely a key objective for the new year – but the fact of the matter is, the basis of my business is not purely profit, it’s passion.

So I would like The Novel Encounter to make an impact in some way, shape or form. Whether it be a collaborative venture, participating in meaningful events, providing people with solace in a noisy world, that’s what I want for my business.

To make an impact.

Read more about The Novel Encounter here!

Victor Koh, ETTE TEA

Victor Koh

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017 ?

Believe in yourself. I stayed true to myself and stuck to my gut even when it was challenging at times.

When you do what you truly believe in, the passion will be reflected in your work and eventually people will recognise that.

2017 was the year that we started gaining traction and working with big hospitality organisations.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

I wish for a bETTEr year, where people can be more open-minded & adventurous to give local brands and artisanal products a try, rather than sticking to the same known products.

If life is a box of chocolate (tea), people should try every flavour in the box; making life more diverse and exciting!

Read more about ETTE TEA here!

Kenneth Ho & Daniel Chan, Porterfetch

The Porterfetch team

1. What is your greatest lesson from 2017?

Time moves briskly when you’re busy, and we’ve had so many great learning points and experiences that it’s hard to pick from the pool. Here are two:

Adapt. Even the best-laid plans will only ever account for half the battle. What has been equally important was to be able to shift gears, roll with the punches and be ready to deviate when needed. Expect assumptions to be challenged, even overturned. Change is the only constant, and adaptation must be a way of life.

Be good to people. Our relationship with our porters is really important to us. We affectionately call them the Fam. At scale, it’s easy to be disaffected by numbers and figures. But that personal dynamic is something we want to always strive to maintain even as we grow our community.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

In the grand scheme of things, we’re only at the start of the road. We have much much more to learn. Our hope is to keep reinventing ourselves, to never be static. To take on the challenges at every juncture with wit and aplomb. Ultimately, we do what we do for our customers, and we hope they’ll love what we have in store for them in 2018.

Read more about Porterfetch here!

Douglas Ng, Fishball Story

Douglas Ng

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

The greatest lesson for me is that family is the most important thing.

Yes, my business have been very successful this year. In 6 months we opened 4 outlets, and 2 of them are franchise outlets.

Everything has been going well and we are looking to expand further.

But on 19th August, my sister fell really sick – she has been hospitalised for almost 5 months now.

She has been diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, an inflammation between the brain and the spinal cord. She can’t walk now, has blur vision, and this illness…this terrible disease…came too suddenly.

Such a joyful person could become a disabled person who is going through so much…much more than we could imagine. She is battling this so well that she is inspiring so many people out there.

So no matter how much growth my business made, and no matter how big Fishball Story is today, I will exchange it for the health of my family.

So this year, I learnt that family is the indeed the biggest support for every successful businessman and I hope we would take one step back and take a look at them, spend more time with them, and have a good work-life balance.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

I wish that my sister will be able to stand and walk on her own!

For Fishball Story, I hope we will finally be able to franchise overseas!

Read more about Fishball Story here!

Vicky Vaswani, Better Than Normal

Vicky Vaswani

1. What was your greatest lesson from 2017?

How to become a successful failure! What I mean is that this year has seen a record number of failures in different areas of our business. But the best part is that we have come out stronger from it because we have learned successfully the lessons on what to do and what not to do moving forward.

Failure becomes fatal when you don’t learn from it.

2. What is your wish for 2018?

To become a SUCCESSFUL SUCCESS! That means that we want to use all the learnings from 2017 and apply it into the business to make 2018 a Super Success!

Find out more about Better Than Normal here!

JJ Tan, The Meatmen

JJ Tan

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

We learnt that expanding our team in a way that we maintain the culture and passion for content creation down to every member is not an easy task!

As the business grew, it’s easy to lose sight of the initial visions.

2017 has been a year where we saw plenty of possibility, ideas and distractions appear before us, but the challenge is always to choose what are the best ideas to move forward with.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

We are grateful for the growth that we had for the year and hope to reinvent ourselves in the New Year ahead.

Read more about The Meatmen here!

Felix Lee, Packdat

Felix Lee

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

Be authentic and be bold to dream big.

This has a huge impact on me because I started embracing my differences and allowed myself to dream bigger.

I think we go through a life limiting what we can do. At tough times, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s impossible but if you start with knowing who you are and how much you truly can do, the possibilities of what can become a reality is only to your imagination.

Never assume you can’t do something, push yourself to redefine the boundaries.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

In 2018, my wish is to trust my gut, take on new challenges and be inspired all over again by the people, places and the experiences from anywhere in the world.

My wish for Packdat is for us to continue growing, making a difference with what we do and sending out the strong message that we set out to tell, that every trip can be a magical experience.

Read more about Packdat here!

Lim Jialiang, Demochoco

Lim Jialiang

1. What’s your greatest lesson from 2017?

We’ve tried to shift away from conducting classes and to focus more on event based engagements. We are only 1 year old, so this year was a lot of trying – and failing!

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

Slight expansion – we are hoping to add one more retailer for Demochoco, as well as do more event-based engagements with other brands that have synergies with Demochoco.

Read more about Demochoco here!

Johnathan Chua, GRVTY Media

Johnathan Chua

1. What is your greatest lesson from 2017?

2017 has been a great year for us at GRVTY Media. We were blessed with many business opportunities, crossed paths with great minds and more importantly, witnessed the growth of our talented team.

The greatest lesson I’ve learnt this year is to make time to meet people, be it friends or other entrepreneurs in and out of your industry.

I’ve also learnt that there is no need to have a planned agenda with a fixed objective.

Through the many random catchups with the amazing people I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet, I’ve grown so much in perspectives

I often come out of those chats in higher spirits, having fresh ideas and of course new opportunities.

2. What’s your wish for 2018?

2017 saw the formation of GRVTY Media, we laid the ground work and touched base with many parts of the industry. We spent time creating case studies and helped our clients understand our capabilities.

In 2018, I hope to see the business accelerate even faster, while still building a workplace that every member of the GRVTY Media can call home.

Find out more about GRVTY Media here!

This Is Their 2017, What’s Yours?

2018 is just 2 days away, and now’s the best time for some reflection on the past year.

Here’s to a much better 2018 from us at Vulcan Post!

 

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