Transitioning (T): Thanks Lynn for allowing us to interview you regarding your social entrepreneur projects, can you tell us if this is your first business venture?
Lynn (L): This is my first business venture. I was never entrepreneurial in that I cannot see any products or service that I want to provide, nor did I want to be encumbered by any responsibility.
T: Did you sink in a lot of capital into the business and how many staff have you got right now?
L: I put in all my savings, which is about SGD 30,000 to date and along the way relied on support from friends, family, and collaborating partners. I have no employees now. I used to but I realized my business model is too new, such that not only do I end up guiding them, I have to cope with my own workload extending later into the night.
I have a very dear friend who has been buying me food from the start (I wasn’t really eating much anymore) and helps with my research data collate as well as feed me information he think I will need, or if I’ve requested. Another friend of mine, whom has been a huge driving force adding to my perseverance, have just only recently managed to start helping me with my work load albeit after he ends his day, but it does make my work more bearable.
T: Can you share with other young budding entrepreneurs what lessons you have learnt so far and what is the motivation for you to go into business?
L: Whether working or wanting to start a business alike, there is no man made for only one thing. We may have studied a certain course or our careers have only went through a certain path but it doesn’t seal our destiny, so just go and do what you want to. Do it wholeheartedly, don’t make any back-up plans for they are only reasons that you’ve allowed yourself not to do your best.
Whatever problems that come your way can be transformed to accommodate your business or you can take it as a challenge for yourself to grow as a person. Life is not without problems and in time they don’t matter anymore. You’ll be glad you have acquired that knowledge even.
Remember that there is no such thing as a lucky break. It is only through preparations, preparations and preparations, where you keep trying every chance you’ve got and finally you land one that is the opportunity to propel yourself further.
The motivating factor is really all a matter of a point in time when I was left with an abandoned kitten I adopted from my ex-company, and having to stay out of my home because I was not allowed to keep him, adding to having started an awareness cause for animals and children where I needed funds to sustain, and seeing a potential problem in the property market situation that I felt I could resolve. The only thing I could do was to just get to it, and that started my single-mindedness towards manifesting my goal.
Unknowingly the path became one that has been arduous, where I encountered an onslaught of problems that shaped my business into a sustainability entrepreneurship (check glossary provided). Funding was nearly impossible to come by and even if there were help offered to me, they were from the UK and the States. The truth is they were too far away to verify the legitimacy of my difficulties. I didn’t know what type of help to ask for.
But the more issues I face the more I am certain I am on the right path, and I will just go on until I can no longer find what else I can do to make this work, i.e. have tried my best.
T: Besides making money, what other things do you want to gain from the venture?
L: When I started out I thought to myself, ‘how do I ensure the largest sum of money, in the shortest possible time, with sustainability in that what I provide cannot be copied easily by another so that I can continually fund my cause?’ Adding to ensuring good business ethics by exemplifying it and mutually benefit everyone who will be involved, I ended up as an alternative solutions provider. It is interesting because it is a whole new market I got myself, and looking at my background (career and studies), I am hardly the one anyone will come to for consulting on business matters.
In all, I hope to encourage people to challenge what are misconstrued notions and negate the negativity projected upon me, and the rest of the population. There is too much disbelief going on in Singapore where everyone is behaving like nothing is possible. Through time this has manifested as a plague, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eggs are still put in one basket with conviction that only certain sectors are viable for profitability and anything beyond is absurd, but we have seen otherwise in the economic crisis a few years back.
I see many avenues that money can be made, some are surprising even, if and only people are willing to be consciously aware of what is going on around them and with regards to the rest of the world.
T: Do you think Singapore is a tough environment for entrepreneurship as we are geared from young to think like a worker?
L: Yes Singapore is a very tough environment for entrepreneurship, and most other businesses.
Aside from the factors above mentioned, where you may have to end up motivating those supporting you, you have to work with rigid mindsets of the general Singaporean, and where capital funding from banks and such is nearly impossible. Especially when you have a new concept.
What with bills to pay and the constant fear of not being able to, a result of our survival scarcity ideology, managing your business can become a toil and can soon override what excitement you may have had at the beginning.
T: What changes do you hope to see in order for our entrepreneurial culture to be improved?
L: Everything I mentioned above to be resolved, and which has been factored into my solutions.
T: Will you also be applying for any start up fund from the government?
L: No. I’ve tried before.
T: Compared to a Singaporean worker, is a foreign worker better or worse?
L: I cannot comment based on a few instances. Importantly are the managers who set the tone for how the workers become. Nationality is not the big issue.
T: What is your goal for yourself and your business in 5 years time?
L: Basically not be as pro bono as it has been! I do help some resolve issues without charging, knowing they cannot afford it, but have since stopped because I need to put my energy to sustain myself. I hope my business goes PLC, at least that is what my soon-to-be, Principal Advisor is looking towards. He is coming from the UK to be based in Asia next month.
I hope I can help my potential clients branch out proper in Singapore and other parts of Asia with my plans put to materialize and give a boost to our tourism economy. I hope to see more social and sustainability entrepreneurs step forward where I can work with them to resolve their issues. I hope that we can start crediting our people and recognize our pool of immense, hiding talent that is everywhere, for human capital is one of huge potential. We have education and a secure home base, thus we really have nothing to fret except our impeding mindsets.
These will take collective efforts to see results but it takes one person to affect another, and another. I’ve started and hope to see more people daring to think big, think impossible… give convention a run for its money and really just try.
*You can read more at http://cowbird.com/author/lynn-chen/ where I have started writing on my business journey. Title is ‘I thought I was a Superhero’.
End of interivew and thank you.
Editor’s note: Lynn blogs at www.therealcarepeople.com and has a degree majoring in finance. She is in her early 30s.