Luminary

Gen Y Steps It Up: Young S'porean Rebuilds Company In Memory Of His Father

Singapore is fast becoming a hotbed for young startup owners. With the country becoming dubbed the next Silicon Valley, many Singaporean youths seek to make their own mark in the world, building businesses from scratch to make their fortunes, looking for newer and better ways to solve the world’s problems and break new boundaries.

While many look at Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Ma for their inspirations, 26-year-old Morgan Yeo is looking to his roots, or more specifically his father, for inspiration.

Instead of working with a big corporation or starting his own company, Morgan said that he had always wanted to take over the business that his father, Roger Yeo, had started years ago. After being retrenched, Roger had built up his own company, what was then called JR & P Industries Pte Ltd, that specialised in creating system furniture and included a custom furniture arm that catered to both corporate and residential spaces.

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Morgan Yeo (far left), hopes to follow in his father Roger’s (far right) footsteps

Morgan said that despite going through rough patches in building the business, his father never failed to put food on the table, and he aspired to be like him. He prepared himself by taking Business Studies in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Business Management in Singapore Management University. After graduation, he worked with a property developer, looking to get the experience needed to eventually help his father’s company grow.

However, when things took a turn for the worse, plans changed.

“I graduated from SMU last year and wanted to have a few years of working experience before helping my dad, but my dad was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the year. Upon knowing the diagnosis, I quit my job immediately and told my dad that I am taking over the company so that he can fully concentrate on fighting the cancer.”

Sadly, Roger soon lost his fight to cancer later that year. He left his life’s work, JR & P Industries Pte Ltd, to Morgan.

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Morgan with his father Roger, his mother Maisy, and two younger brothers, Lincoln and Ryan.

“I was a blue horn and I knew really little. My Mandarin and Hokkien are not up to the standard I’d like them to be. And with our craftsmen and some of our dialect-fluent partners, sometimes it poses a challenge. But you know what they say, 10,000 hours of practice. It’s no secret that the renovation and construction industry is very rough.”

However, Morgan’s passion and his source of strength, according to him, comes from his family. Despite having their own paths and commitments, his mother and two younger brothers have come together to work in what is now the family’s company, newly dubbed “Roger&Sons” in Roger’s memory. Lincoln, 23, is in charge of Product Development and Marketing, while Ryan, 19, helps out in the operations on top of completing his final year in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Their mother, Maisy, is affectionately titled the “Accounting & Care Officer”.

“I was really lucky that though my brothers had their own commitments, they decided to also come in and support the business and help it grow together. I think the fact that we want to work together as a family to keep this business, and by deciding to rename the company, shows that we are in this for each other as well.”

New Beginnings

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Since then, Morgan has grown into his role, and is still learning on the job. Taking over a company at the young age of 26 is no mean feat, but he’s hit the floor running. With a brand new makeover, a new website, and a snappy new catchphrase (“We don’t cut corners, we make them!”), he’s excited to bring quality carpentry to Singapore, which he sadly admits is a dying trade with young Singaporeans.

“I’m learning from the ground up, and often get my hands dirty, be it cutting the wood, fabricating the furniture, delivery, amongst other things. I’m learning a lot, through being involved in running the business, sales, admin work and operations. I don’t believe in the whole top-down approach. I’d rather be in the trenches with everyone. We’re a team after all.”

Nowadays, Morgan is busy working closely with clients and relocating the company to Woodlands, where people can visit the workshop to watch their furniture being made, something he likens to “going to Breadtalk and seeing the chef make your bread”. But even with these changes, Roger&Sons still stays true to the roots with a sincerity that is evident in its beginnings. According to Morgan, Roger&Sons is all about the personal touch. A family working together, after all, should know the true meaning of home, something he said the big corporations have lost touch with (take note, IKEA).

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“My mum buys her groceries from the market in Bedok every Sunday and she knows all of the stall owners by name. I would like to be able to provide that service to my clients. We want to build our company on values which our parents brought us up with – honesty, sincerity, integrity, trust and good communication,” said Morgan.

A New Kind Of Gen Y

There has been much talk that Gen Y, those born in the 1980s and early 1990s, are often apathetic and privileged. TIME has been noted for calling this group the “Me Me Me Generation“. However, youth like Morgan seem to be the outlier to this story, being dedicated to reach success while staying rooted to what’s important. At the end of the day, family is an integral part of the Roger&Sons equation, as much as Roger&Sons is an intergal part of the family’s. The business has been the key to helping the family heal after its loss, and even grow more as a result.

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From left: Morgan Yeo, with his brothers, Lincoln and Ryan

“Losing a dad is never easy, but this business keeps the family going and bonds us together. A usual day would be myself heading down to the office with my mum and at night my brothers and I would discuss on the direction of the company and business decisions. We discuss everything together. By keeping the business alive and going, it feels like my dad is still around us. We have got so much closer as a family and my dad would be so proud that the family is now united towards a common objective of wanting to grow the company and continue his legacy.”

So if you’re in the market for great furniture, check out Roger&Sons and see what they have to offer. And if you do visit Roger&Sons’ brand new website, drop a visit to their team’s page, where you would see Roger’s photo still present, the founder and inspiration behind it all.

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