The unseen costs of being an entrepreneur: How much does it cost to run a business in S’pore?


Paying employees on time has become harder due to the pandemic, lamented Matthew Shia, owner of home-based bakery ONLYKAI. Due to supply chain and shipment delays, supplier deliveries are often not received on time and this affects the business’ ability to pay its staff.

“Production gets delayed. The constant worry about not having sufficient cash flow to tide us over bulkier supplier payments is always there,” said Matthew.

Matthew is not alone in facing the daily stressors of managing finances. Raynald Zhang, founder of local eyewear business Foptics, said that because its business’ sales come from various online and offline sources, keeping track of finances becomes difficult.

“We try to use digital means to make transactions as much as possible so most transactions are recorded correctly. There must exist a solution that can consolidate them for accounting to be done smoothly.”

onlykai foptics
SMEs ONLYKAI and Foptics say managing cash flow is crucial amid Covid-19 / Image Credit: ONLYKAI, Foptics

A small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner usually wears multiple hats — from managing manpower, to paying for rent, marketing the business, and investing in research. All these are tasks and expenses that one has to account for day in and day out.

A study by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Singapore last year showed that almost seven out of ten small businesses had to cut or stop their spending due to pandemic woes. In another study, cash flow mismanagement was cited as a major reason why small businesses fail.

Several businesses Vulcan Post spoke to agreed that the biggest bugbear to business owners is cash flow. Without that, businesses have a low survival rate.

At times, even the most prudent business owner may run into cash flow problems. For example, he/she may not have received payment from the client, but has to still pay suppliers to keep the next project going.

“Salaries come into our consideration when cash flow gets tighter. As a business, we can’t have our employees working for us knowing that they couldn’t be paid on time. Even though we wish to increase our revenue generally and scale the business, we do not consider doing it at the expense of not making timely salary payments,” said Matthew.

How Flex and ipaymy help small businesses solve cash flow problems

Fortunately, the fintech boom in recent years has led to new payment and cash management offerings that give smaller firms greater access to working capital, like Flex and ipaymy.

Since incorporating ipaymy and Flex into his business, Matthew said ONLYKAI’s cash flow issues are better cushioned. 

“Everyone chooses to remain on the safer side of things now. With financing and credit line solutions like the one ipaymy and Flex offer, we can safekeep our cash reserves for rainy days while staying open to venture into business deals that could possibly require more capital.”

Flex and ipaymy have helped ONLYKAI better cushion cash flow issues / Image Credit: ONLYKAI, Vulcan Post

Flex, in partnership with Finaxar Capital ll, provides small businesses with a line of credit, approved in under 48 hours. This line of credit can be used through a Flex Visa physical or virtual card, with payments easily consolidated via a single platform.

Meanwhile, through ipaymy, SMEs can tap on their lines of credit to pay for expenses previously not possible via credit cards — such as rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax. This gives them an added option to not touch their cash resources at all.

Flex helps SMEs flex their cash flow

Launched in 2021 by Singapore-based Finaxar Capital, Flex is a spend management solution jointly developed in partnership with leading payments technology company Visa.

Helmed by Group CEO Dr Tan Sian Wee, the business — which is currently in the process of obtaining a licence with Singapore’s central bank — is backed by many venture capital firms, including Monk’s Hill Ventures, 500 startups, and Cathay Venture.

“We digitise finance and provide an all-in-one spend management platform that enables businesses to regulate and manage their spending, and track their transactions,” said Flex.

“Business owners can also use Flex to dispense Visa cards to staff for work-related expenses like transport allowance.”

flex visa card
SMEs can issue unlimited virtual cards, and up to 20 physical cards with Flex / Image Credit: Flex by Finaxar

Traditionally, workers would have to send receipts and file a claim with the company, and that would take a few business days for the claims to be cleared before the worker is reimbursed. With Flex, small business owners can empower their staff to manage their own expenses, with the peace of mind that spend controls and full visibility provides.

Today, SMEs can issue unlimited Visa virtual cards, and up to 20 Visa physical cards with Flex. Transactions made can also easily be tracked on the app by an administrator, which ensures transparency on finances. 

Business owners can also set spending limits on the Visa cards or freeze cards when required, the fintech firm said.

“Payments made with a Flex card can be drawn down from the credit lines extended by Flex through its partner, Finaxar Capital ll. This service, also known as Flex PLUS, is interest-free for up to 35 days, a credit line that small business owners can tap on,” added Flex. 

“The amount of credit can range from S$3,000 to S$100,000, with approval given as fast as 24 hours, or within 48 hours depending on the amount required by the business owner.”

If a customer is unable to make payment in full, a three per cent monthly interest is charged on the outstanding amount. This is similar to credit cards at traditional banks.

flex visa card
Image Credit: Flex

Flex has plans to roll out an app version supported by both iOS and Android by the end of this year or early next year.

Tapping on ipaymy to unlock “funds”

ipaymy is a Singapore-based firm that has presence in other countries like Australia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

It lets customers pay their largest expenses by credit card. This eases the burden on payments that usually require cash only, like shop rent, workers’ salaries, and tax payments.

SMEs get to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, ipaymy said. 

“For example, office rent is usually collected in cash. With ipaymy, users can tap on the service to unlock cash to pay for shop rent,” said ipaymy. 

“What they need to do is to simply input their credit card information, choose a payment category, fill in the required information, and have the payment dedicated for rental made in as little as two business days.”

Image Credit: ipaymy website

While the payee receives the funds from ipaymy two working days later, the payer only needs to settle the amount once their credit card statement is due.

Paying with their card also enables users to tap on credit card rewards and cashback from banks. 

“The best way to manage cash flow is to know where all your cash is going and budget accordingly. Always plan ahead and make sure you have a steady runway. Having a credit card helps as you’ll be able to have a longer timeline to work with,” said Tze Hing, founder of e-commerce business Subtle Asian Treats.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

SMEs that set up a business account can also get a dedicated account manager, and the manager can help as an extended service line to quickly address businesses’ everyday needs. 

Other benefits of ipaymy include being able to schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status in a single dashboard.

Why Flex and ipaymy are the all-in-one financing solution for SMEs

Through Flex, SMEs can manage and track the expenses of workers by issuing them Visa virtual or physical cards. They can also set limits to payments to prevent overspending.

What’s more, by tapping on the credit line with Flex via Flex PLUS, this interest-free payment term of more than 35 days helps give an additional boost in cash flow. 

Business owners can go a step further with ipaymy by placing their Flex Visa Cards on the platform to free up credit for cash-only purchases. 

SMEs can also tap ipaymy’s all-in-one dashboard to ease their operational tasks. They can schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status via the one-stop platform.

Most importantly, the resources for working capital are expanded and there’s more cash liquidity.

flex ipaymy
Image Credit: Flex

From setting up a Visa physical or virtual commercial card to managing business workflow, tracking business expenses, to paying suppliers, both Flex and ipaymy are complementary as they provide businesses better cash flow.

Ipaymy and flex are having an ongoing promotion right now. Users who use both ipaymy and Flex can get lower transaction fees of 1.5 per cent by making payments with a Flex Visa card through ipaymy. This deal will be valid until the end of March 2022.

Interested SMEs can sign up for Flex in just 10 minutes here.

This article was written in collaboration with Flex (ipaymy).

Featured Image Credit: Flex ipaymy, Vulcan Post

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with Vulcan Post weekly curated news and updates.


Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)