Motherhood is a noble calling, as mothers make all kinds of sacrifices while they devote their lives to their children.
But even more admirable are ‘mumpreneurs’ who juggle both raising kids and building businesses, as if one or the other isn’t challenging enough already.
This time, we get to know a team of mumpreneurs who understand these modern parenting struggles, and are on a mission to give parents the best of both worlds in their family-friendly coworking space.
As co-founder and CEO Dr. Elaine Kim tells us, Trehaus was born “to create a workplace environment where people do not have to choose between career and family”.
Women Making Waves
“[Many people] think women [in business] won’t be able to give their 100 per cent once they become mothers,” Elaine told The Peak.
But being a palliative care doctor with over 10 years in practice, a serial entrepreneur, and mother of three, the 37-year-old proves them wrong hands down.
She’d started exploring business since 20 years ago, by running a children’s party planning service when she was just 17.
Although Elaine jokes in an interview with SGSME that her first foray was just “something [she] did during her school days”, she didn’t stop at dipping her feet.
Instead, she took a deep dive and followed with opening a bridal business Trinity Gallery, event planner Milk and Honey Event Design, and social enterprise CRIB.
Set up as a non-profit that works to empower successful female entrepreneurs, CRIB was where Elaine met the women who would join her to build Trehaus in 2016.
One of them is 45-year-old Tjin Lee, who was also a co-founder of CRIB along with Elaine and two others.
Tjin herself has an illustrious background, and two young children in tow.
For Elizabeth, her decisions through life, like becoming an educator and later a stay-home mum, have all been spurred on by the principle to “do stuff that matters”.
Likewise, joining the Trehaus founding team naturally became her next endeavour inspired by that motivation.
Nobody Ever Says It’ll Be Easy
Despite all they’ve achieved by then, setting up a coworking space where children are welcome was a challenge on completely new ground.
To sell an idea that is the first of its kind, Elaine says “you need to have a lot of passion, confidence and grit to rise above the inevitable doubts”.
You are doing something that others cannot picture because it hasn’t been done before!
Thankfully, they found an angel investor who believed in them, and helped Trehaus take root with “half a million” in seed funding.
This enabled their vision to materialise, building the first Trehaus space at Claymore Connect Mall on Orchard Road, where people began to bring their kids to work.
It comprised of a common coworking zone where members could have their kids with them, a nursery that lets them drop off their children for playtime under caretakers’ supervision, and a child-free zone (humorously named ‘The Sanctuary’) where the adults can conduct meetings.
“I believe that the world is changing,” Elaine says as she observes that working parents have different needs for their families today.
And she goes through the very same struggles that she and her team are helping other parents cope with.
It takes a lot on anyone, to “have to give 100 per cent to your family, as well as 100 per cent to your business”, she says.
On top of that, the founders also faced troubles with failed relationships in the startup, as Elizabeth once shared with Asian Entrepreneur.
But doing the best they could in such a situation, they walked away learning a lesson to be “more careful” and seek out people who will “plough and work hard alongside [them]”.
When the going gets tough, Elaine feels encouraged by Trehaus’ members who say they’re thankful “they didn’t have to miss their child’s first word and first step and every other precious moment” even while they hustled for successful careers.
I got to benefit from that too with my own baby Nate, whom I could bring to work with me every day. That is what keeps me going through all the difficulties.
It Takes A Village To Raise A Child
With their hard work came results that paved the way for Trehaus to grow its “modern village”.
Elaine explains that “the first space at Orchard was actually a proof of concept”.
They worked on it as their startup’s minimum viable product (MVP) through which they proved the business model was sound with healthy demand.
As she looks back on their beginnings with 3 years of hindsight, Elaine says they “did better than [they] expected”.
Our dedicated desks and offices reached full occupancy by 2017, and the [nursery also hit full] capacity shortly after.
This brings them to today, when the founders are preparing to open Trehaus’ new and more sophisticated site in Funan Mall by July or August 2019.
Elaine shares with excitement that their success at Orchard has shown that they’re “ready to grow” into an upgraded space that’s “about 3 times” bigger.
Along with their move, the team will launch Trehaus School, a Silicon Valley-inspired preschool with the ambition to equip children for jobs of the future that “don’t exist today”.
Part of their early education curriculum is the proprietary Littles’ Programme that offers to teach a range of skills and attitudes, like leadership, basic coding, change-making, music, and culinary science.
In terms of business, the childcare and education arm is also a new revenue stream for them, diversifying out instead of just competing in the coworking scene.
This could help them carve out a sustainable route towards profitability for Trehaus, which will allow the founders to continue impacting young families though their work.
As we close our interview with a final question on the hopes they would like to share for working mothers in Singapore, Elaine tells us this:
[My hope is for us to] become a society that lets working mothers achieve their corporate potential and business dreams, while [they can fully] be present for their children’s precious early years.
To find out more, check out how life unfolds at the Trehaus family village here.
Featured Image Credit: Trehaus / Singapore Tatler
There are a few reasons why I’m putting off having kids for as long as I can:
- Kids are expensive to raise (the average cost hovers around $360,000)
- I’ll need to sacrifice a great deal to juggle motherhood and a career that I can be proud of
Becoming a mother is not something I see as a challenge – it’s something that I actually fear.
Of course, there are very inspirational ladies out there who constantly amaze me with their finesse in balancing motherhood and career.
Two of these ladies are the sisters behind proptech startup Ohmyhome.
In light of Mother’s Day, I chatted with Singapore mumpreneurs Race and Rhonda Wong on how they’re handling motherly duties while running a bustling startup, and also their advice to mums out there.
A Cantopop Singer And Derivatives Trader Go Into Proptech
If Race Wong looks or sounds familiar to you, it might be because she was one half of popular Cantopop duo 2R.[caption id="attachment_639480" align="aligncenter" width="603"] Race and Rosanne Wong of 2R[/caption]
The other half was made up of Rosanne Wong, her elder sister.
Active from 2001 to 2009, the Malaysia-born Singaporean sisters headed to Hong Kong for a pop career and found success, winning a slew of awards and acting projects during their active years.
Race reveals that while it was a great run, she knew that the life of a celebrity wasn’t her end goal.
“Being an artiste was quite an experience – I loved singing and acting since young,” she shared.
I appreciated the experience I’ve garnered and the fans who have always supported me, but I knew it wasn’t a lifelong career that I would want to pursue.
She then joined Maybank Kim Eng in Hong Kong as a marketing manager, subsequently growing into equity sales while studying for her MBA.
As compared to her sisters, Rhonda had always been in the Finance industry, and worked as a derivatives trader in Chicago upon graduation from university.[caption id="attachment_639466" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Rhonda Wong / Image Credit: Singapore Business Review[/caption]
However, Rhonda soon spotted a gap in the real estate market, and roped Race in to start Anthill Realtors, which sources investment grade properties from within and abroad.
For the sisters, the process of starting up was something they were familiar with since they were young, as their parents were also entrepreneurs.
Chirped Race, “Entrepreneurship runs in our genes!”
This eventually led them to launch Ohmyhome in 2016.[caption id="attachment_639382" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Race (L) and Rhonda (R) Wong / Image Credit: Singapore Women’s Weekly[/caption]
Shared Rhonda, “When friends and family who had difficulties in transacting their homes came to us for help, it made us realise that the mass market sector could very well transact by themselves in a cost-free manner, if only they had the option to.”
[caption id="attachment_639451" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Ohmyhome[/caption]
Thus, we set out to make housing transactions simpler, faster and better, putting the control back in the hands of the buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords.
“Till date, Ohmyhome has helped to simplify over 1,000 housing transactions and has successfully transacted a combined value of more than S$500 million,” gushed Rhonda.
“For Most Working Mums, The First Thing We Sacrifice Is Ourselves”
Amidst their hectic schedules as startup entrepreneurs, the sisters were also looking forward to the next stage in their lives – becoming mothers.
Still, worries filled their minds.
“There were concerns about the amount of time I am able to spend with my baby,” revealed Race. For Rhonda, she worried about how pregnancy would affect her work, and vice versa.
“But when there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Currently, Rhonda is mummy to the adorable Ashton, while Race’s daughter, Cara, is a bundle of cuteness.[caption id="attachment_639455" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Race and baby Cara[/caption]
“My priorities in life are my biggest change,” shared Race. “Now, I’ve become the lowest of my priorities!”
For most working mums, the first thing to sacrifice is ourselves.
Rhonda admits that “mummy guilt” is one of the biggest things she has to cope with.
“[Because of that,] I make sure that I don’t miss out on our daily reading time together.”[caption id="attachment_639457" align="aligncenter" width="525"] Rhonda and baby Ashton[/caption]
“I know that Ashton loves me a lot, he’s always kissing me and giving me cuddles, and this helps me deal with the fact that although I can’t be there for him all the time, our bond remains very strong.”
Race, too, ensures that the time she has for Cara is maximised.
“What I do is to give my 100% on a particular task at any point of time.”
“If I just have one hour with Cara in the morning, she has all my attention. When I’m at work, my to-do list is in front of me and I focus completely on finishing my tasks.”
More than that, the sisters gave a lot of the credit to their supportive husbands and family – all of whom have helped in lessening their burdens.[caption id="attachment_639458" align="aligncenter" width="525"] Rhonda, her husband, and baby Ashton[/caption]
“We Had To Be Cautious If Our Investors Would View Us As Less Able Founders”
Even with their success, the sisters shared that being mumpreneurs also revealed a lot misconceptions about women – especially those who were mothers.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that we are unable to give 100% of our time to the business,” said Rhonda.
Back when I was expecting, we had to be cautious if our investors would view us as less able founders. We made sure that we kept delivering strong results keep them reassured.
“I hope that one day when it is widely accepted, people will no longer distinguish between ‘mumpreneur’ and ‘non-mumpreneur’.”[caption id="attachment_639459" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: JobKred[/caption]
Reiterated Race, “Women are twice more likely to drop out of work when they reach parenthood. So, we do have a lower number of female entrepreneurs compared to males. That being said, still there are definitely a lot of successful women out there who are mumpreneurs.”
Women can excel and lead when our eco-system allows us to.
A mumpreneur figure that the sisters draw inspiration from is none other than their own mother, who “never stopped working”.
“Motherhood and having to care for her mother-in-law never stopped her from starting her own businesses and property investments.”[caption id="attachment_639454" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Race, Rhonda, Ashton, Cara, and the Wong sisters’ mum[/caption]
Having been the children of entrepreneur parents themselves, the sisters grew up “understanding the value of hard work”, and also that work and family time don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
“Both my parents were often working, but they’ll always make time for dinners together and be present during the important days,” recalled Rhonda.
“Having been through such a journey, I feel comfortable being a working mom even though I know I’ll be missing out on some precious moments with my little one.”
“But I know that it’s okay for parents to not be by their child’s side all the time.”
If you have brought them up right, your absence in their early years does not make them love you less, but instead have appreciation towards your hard work and the time spent together.
“We Need To Grow As A Person, Not Just As A Mum”
Most of all, the sisters are strong advocates that a woman’s growth doesn’t stop at motherhood – in fact, it should be a driving force to forge ahead even more.
“When a woman becomes a mum, she should be reminded that she is a woman, and not just a mum,” said Race.
[caption id="attachment_639464" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image Credit: SmartParents[/caption]
As a women, we have many roles to fulfil, manage, and grow into as we age. At the end of the day, we need to grow as a person, not just as a mum.
Race advices that being mentally prepared to embrace the roles and responsibilities as a working mother is vital.
Next, remembering to constantly communicate with kids, family, and even workmates.
“Most disagreements are pent-up anger built up over time, so solve problems before it gets too big to handle.”
Lastly, time management and knowing your priorities is the final piece to the puzzle.
Added Rhonda, “Make sure that the work that you do is meaningful and will have a positive impact on society.”
After all, you are spending time away from your adorable baby every day, so make it worth it, and make it count!
In appreciation of mothers from all walks of life, the Wong sisters and their Ohmyhome team will be going around Singapore on Mother’s Day (13 May) to distribute handmade flowers.
“It’s the Moms who makes a house a home isn’t it? This activity is a great way to show appreciation for all mothers out there,” chirped Race.
We’d like to thank Race and Rhonda for their time!