Women’s Day Feature 2020; Celebrating Wonder Women

It’s that time of the year again! Pretty much like Christmas, but to celebrate progression made on women empowerment, gender equality and the likes. I am sure that like me, you get asked why it feels great to be a woman? The list is endless! One of the traits I admire in women is the ability to do it all..

This Women’s Day, we want to celebrate women entrepreneurs with both a full time career and a startup! It is difficult enough launching a startup, but doing it whilst in a full time employment? Or being a full time Mom? Next level wonder women! This is probably something close to my heart as I have been in the same shoes for the past 2 years.

We asked 6 women what inspired them to embark on their startup journey, how they juggle both a full time gig and a startup, and any tips they can share with you out there. Scroll to read on, there’s a surprise awaiting you at the end of this post.

Agnes Leong, Brand Manager at Telecommunications + Co-Founder of DIYKL

Image Credit: Ashraf Shamsul
Get to know Agnes @onceoverlightly

What inspired you to start DIYKL? Tell us about your full time employment.
DIYKL came about when I needed another creative outlet (besides photography) back when I was a telecommunications engineer. Saran and I were both dabbling in small DIY crafts, so it felt natural to channel our hobbies into a part-time business. I left engineering a couple of years ago, and currently I’m in growth marketing: planning campaigns, optimising digital marketing pushes, and driving digital transformation initiatives.

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup?
Absolutely! I taught myself bits and pieces of digital marketing when DIYKL was established (mostly late nights after work), and the skills I’ve learned enabled me to pivot my career from telecommunications engineering to growth marketing without starting over from the bottom. My project management skills were already honed when I was an engineer, so that trickled down naturally to DIYKL, especially when we’re fulfilling large orders for corporate gifts. To boost DIYKL’s ranking on Google, I first taught myself search engine optimisation (SEO) and with that, I managed to land myself a full-time SEO position at a broadcasting company. After that, I spent 2.5 years at the region’s biggest fashion e-commerce company as a campaign manager, delving further into digital marketing and it was where I gained valuable insights into each country’s market, customer profiles, and the tech and operations of a company of such scale.

Would you encourage having both? What tips and advice do you have to share in your success in managing both?
Definitely, as long as you’re willing to put in the hours to learn the theoretical aspects and then get your hands dirty to put whatever you’ve learned into action. It’s actually quite sad if your skills and knowledge remain as ideas and are never brought to life. DIYKL is proudly bootstrapped since Day 1, so that flexibility allowed us to learn the ins and outs of running a business on our own terms and pace. We’re accountable only for ourselves.

What resources did you depend on when managing both?
Can’t live without my G Suite! It has made collaborative work such a breeze, especially when Saran and I are managing and running DIYKL remotely most of the time. We’re also extremely lucky to have found amazingly responsive suppliers and vendors to work with, who are always contactable via WhatsApp and email. For urgent deliveries of samples and supplies, we use GrabExpress quite often as well.

Saran Tagal, Senior Associate at Humanitarian Organisation + Co-Founder of DIYKL

Image result for saran tagal
Get to know Saran @vorlotwen

What inspired you to start DIYKL? Tell us about your full time employment.I was working as a lawyer at the time before we started DIYKL, and working in a law firm is a big stress trigger on its own. I needed an outlet that was not related to my work and so I looked back at how I coped in university: crafting and making my own jewellery. This eventually led to Agnes and I starting DIYKL based on our mutual interest in Do-It-Yourself! I’ve since left my corporate legal job, and currently work in a humanitarian organisation. 

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup?
My full time job can be emotional and challenging even if the work is purposeful and fulfilling. It is therefore not surprising that statistics show that many humanitarians around the world suffer from mental health problems and are suicidal. When my stress bucket starts to become overwhelmingly full, having this creative outlet allows me to pour the stress out to keep myself in balance. It helps me to emotionally regulate myself, to be in the present and focus. This then benefits me at work because I am a better employee and a better colleague. 

Would you encourage having both? What tips and advice do you have to share in your success in managing both?
Definitely! It’s great to have something to call your own, and see it grow from scratch. Yes there will be challenges and bumps along the way – but the small and big successes are invaluable. In life you have control of your attitude and effort, so being disciplined in these areas are important. Earning some extra pocket money especially in this economic climate, can really go a long way.

What resources did you depend on when managing both?
I take after my parents, writing in diaries. I grew up having a family diary in the kitchen, which detailed what everyone was doing at any particular time! It’s a personal thing to me, so I still enjoy jotting down in my diary about everything that I need to do in a day or for the week/month, my ideas and my wish lists. It’s very satisfying to check off tasks that I’ve completed. I have a friend who designs daily tasks stickers, so it’s made my diary a little more visual now which is a lot of fun. 

Janine Cherrie, Operations at Re:Health + Co-Founder of The Sweat Co

Get to know Janine @jnine__

What inspired you to start The Sweat Co? Tell us about your full time employment.
It started with us realising that we wanted to share everything we knew about fitness because of how much fitness changed our lives. We had a single goal: to help at least one person kickstart their fitness journey. Eventually our platform grew and led to the conceptualisation of our product line – SWEATBANDS & SWEATHOOKS – along with our specialty SWEAT classes. I own & run a wellness select store called RE:HEALTH. I’m also the Marketing Director for our long-running family business in music entertainment and in my spare time I teach rhythmic boxing classes at Tribe Boxing Studio.  

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup?
10000%! This is the best part! With the different hats I have to put on for every role, each one teaches me something new every single day that’s valuable for us in growing THESWEATCO. (and vice versa too!). 

Would you encourage having both? What tips and advice do you have to share in your success in managing both?
What resources did you depend on when managing both?
Yes absolutely! Frankly and thankfully, we both have very similar working styles (and pet peeves). So the one big takeaway (which is no secret), is to find THE partner. If there is compatibility, respect and a mutual understanding of what you want – you’re already halfway there. In terms of resources, we are complete sticklers for spreadsheets so that helps!

Wen Li, Marketing & Studio Manager at Union Strength + Co-Founder of The Sweat Co

Get to know Wen Li @__wenli

What inspired you to start The Sweat Co? Tell us about your full time employment.
I’m the Marketing & Studio Manager of Union Strength. I’m also a personal trainer and group coach at both Union Strength and Tribe Boxing Studio.

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup?
I’m incredibly lucky to have a full time role within the fitness industry. And I’m so grateful to have the flexibility, resources and education to help us grow THESWEATCO.

Priscilla Lim, Mother to Clara + Founder of StoryNMatter, Co-Founder of Wishful.My

Get to know Priscilla @wenpriscilla13

What inspired you to start StoryNMatter and Wishful? Tell us about your full time employment.
Building a team with passive income is always my vision. Why Story&Matter + WISHFUL is because, I always believe in doing with something you passionate somehow will bring you further than what you expected to be! 💪 Being a mom, as my full time job,YES indeed. Wishful is founded by 2 moms. Both of us wanted to create the awareness of being a mom shall be pampered especially after postpartum. Therefore we come up with Mom Care Box Dawn.

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup? Would you encourage having both? What tips and advice do you have to share in your success in managing both?
As long as you can manage you time well and focus building a good team between! Things can be very positive as you see the team spirit and team work wonders. Tips- mental must be stronger than physical! Plan Ahead everything.

What resources did you depend on when managing both?
Utilising cloud storage, software to manage stocks, accounting and outsource when necessary. Free up our time to do something even more worth investing.

Careen Tan, Mother to Tyler & Lucas + Founder of The White Atelier, Co-Founder of Wishful.My

Get to know Careen @careentxy

What inspired you to start The White Atelier and Wishful? Tell us about your full time employment.
Hello there! I’m Careen, founder of The White Atelier and co-founder of WISHFUL Curated Gifting.

I founded The White Atelier in Jan 2017 after my firstborn turned 1 year old. Since my wedding planning days (in 2012!), I fell in love with all things weddings and had always secretly wanted try my hands in the bridal industry. After years and years of contemplation, I finally decided, It’s now or never. I’m only going to get busier as the years go by, so there’s no better time than now. I’m just going to try my best, and if I fail, I will move on to something else knowing that I have given my best. There’s no harm in trying. I just did not want to live in regret wondering, “What if I tried? Would I succeed?”

It’s been 3 years now and we have grown much further than I had expected. We started with offering custom design gowns and rentals to brides that are all designed in-house and made by our team of seamstresses locally in KL, and now focusing more on our locally made custom designed shoes for brides and non-brides in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, UK, the United States and many others. It’s been a real fulfilling journey being able to play a small but important part in a bride’s big day.

As for WISHFUL, I was approached by my partner, Priscilla who reached out to me for a partnership as we both had strengths than complemented each other for the business. My initial response was a straight “No” as I had newly given birth to my second child, Lucas who was barely 2 months old! I did not know if I could juggle one business and two kids, what more else two businesses and two kids!

But after giving it a while to consider, I thought to myself again, “What is the worst that can happen?” If I fail to juggle and need to quit, I could always sell my share and move on to other things. I could at least say I tried my best and gave it a shot. But if I completely said no, I would never have known how much more capable I am to juggle these responsibilities in my life. Also, being someone who loves giving (and also receiving) gifts, I was super interested and wanted to see how I could help bring the gifting industry in Malaysia to a whole new level. It’s been 5 months since the conception of WISHFUL, and I would say it’s been one helluva fast ride! We’ve grown faster than we had imagined and we’re truly excited for what’s ahead of us!

As for my full time job? Being a full time mom to my two boys- Tyler, 5 year old and Lucas, 7 months old! I’m juggling two businesses on top of being a mom of two, but nothing is more important than my role as a mother. Family is always priority and the reason why I work extra hard everyday.

Have you seen any cross benefits between both your full time employment and startup?
In my case, yes it’s pretty special! Both businesses are somehow related with each other. The White Atelier being a wedding business, we would have brides who would need Wedding Favours and Betrothal Gift Boxes that is available at WISHFUL. We also have Full Moon Celebratory Gift Boxes, so our brides who become moms would also get the gift boxes from us when they’re babies celebrate a full month!

Would you encourage having both? What tips and advice do you have to share in your success in managing both?

To be very honest, juggling two growing businesses is a lot of challenge. Both The White Atelier and WISHFUL require my creativity, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills as we deal with a lot of customisation and personalisation (of gowns and shoes for The White Atelier, and product design and creative curation for WISHFUL). There are many days where I break down in sheer exhaustion caving in to my negative thoughts, wondering if I had bitten off more than I can chew. Handling two young businesses and two young kids is equal to having 4 young children altogether, so my days are always super packed, everything is back-to-back and I’m always going from one task to another. But I also know that this is only the early stages for all my 4 kids, and as time goes by, they will grow and mature, and require less of my time and attention as they become more independent. Our teams at both businesses are growing so that has given me the freedom to be more hands off on the daily operational matters, and allowed me to focus on the bigger picture like planning and strategising for our business development.

My advice would be to really define the purpose and your “WHY” of starting your businesses. Having a strong conviction of WHY you’re starting your businesses will be the thing that pulls you through the tough days, and trust me, there WILL be tough days.

But the good news is- “Tough days don’t last. Tough people do”. As clichéd as it may sound, that holds true for me on so many occasions!

What resources did you depend on when managing both?
Resources wise, I highly depend on my phone for daily task planning- my most precious apps are my Calendar, Notes and WhatsApp and Telegram as our teams work pretty independently and we communicate A LOT on mobile. Handling two businesses and two kids has grown the planner side of me a lot more, as opposed to being a super spontaneous and “random” person that I used to be pre-business and kids. I have grown and matured a lot as a result, and have discovered sides of me that I didn’t know exist- my willingness to sacrifice for the sake of a better future for my family, my grit and willingness to work hard, my capacity to juggle, multitask and manage everything harmoniously (still learning!), and my inner strength and the ability to self-encourage has helped me through the craziest last 7 months of my life.

And of course, it is all only possible with the help of our families and parents who babysit the boys in the day time while I work, and definitely lots of credit goes to my beloved Husband, Boon who has been nothing but understanding, selfless and sacrificial in supporting my ambitions. Apart from being a super hands-on dad, he is my rock and pillar on days when I break down and wonder if I could still go on. His words of wisdom will always be, “Go sleep and rest, you deserve it. And you will feel better after that, I promise”, which is always true.

What I do is only possible with the love, support and help I get from my loved ones, and I owe every bit of my accomplishments to them.

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We hope you were inspired by all these women, and their contribution to the communities they have built through their brands. We’d love for you take the leap and learn some new skills, expand your interests, to pursue your dreams and goals. Head on over to our Instagram for sponsored workshops, inclusive of making your own essential oils, leather handbags and growth mindset workshops.

With love,

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