Ready to work? We ask these successful business owners how to launch a new small business in Singapore and Hong Kong, and get their top tips for becoming a Mumpreneur.
We all know how busy mum-life can be. From the hazy newborn era where you don’t know if it’s night or day to nailing the nappy bag and night time routines. Then the longest days become the shortest years – they start preschool (check out our International School Fair if you’re looking for school info!), and suddenly you have some time on your hands again. For some of us, this feels like a great time to dip a toe back in the workforce, or take the plunge and break out with your own small business. But where do you even begin?
Starting a new business can be daunting, and it can be hard to know whether the risks are worth it. Then there’s the dreaded mum guilt and juggling that elusive work-life balance. Sometimes it can help to talk to or read stories from those who have been through it before you to learn the ins and outs of setting up shop. We decided to chat to these successful Mumpreneurs and discover their top tips if you’re considering starting up a small biz…
Top tips for mums starting a business in Singapore and Hong Kong
Tip #1: Plan ahead when starting a new business, and share the load
Lavania Rosie has not one but two businesses she is leading in Singapore, and she openly admits she couldn’t do this without help. “I feel very blessed to live in Singapore, especially when you are a Mumpreneur. There’s the option of having a live-in helper who can take some load off you while you run your business. You still run around like a headless chicken, but there’s some respite to it if need be!”.
Routines will ready you for the challenges you’ll face
Lavania’s top tip to being a successful Mumpreneur is to plan and organise before you launch a new business in Singapore. “Consider the age of your children, and get yourself in a stable routine and headspace to set yourself up for the best chance of success. When I became a first-time mom three years ago, I was trying to figure out the whole works of breastfeeding and motherhood. I wouldn’t recommend starting a business when you have a tiny baby, as your infant needs your undivided time and attention. It’s a good idea to use that precious time to establish a routine such as a breastfeeding/pumping schedule.”
Meal planning is a game changer
Speaking of planning ahead, meal planning is a game changer. “I set an hour aside every Sunday to meal and grocery plan for the week, so my helper knows exactly what to cook. It takes so much stress away, not having to rack my brain every day thinking of what to cook. I also tend to make better-informed choices for our meals when I meal plan – less waste and healthier options!”
Another game changer is delegation and trusting the people you work with. I’ve hired a stellar social media manager – there are plenty out there that you can hire on a freelance basis. For me, social media plays a huge part in growing and building a presence for my businesses, and it can be a full-time job! When you delegate that to a social media manager, you can divert your creativity and energy to other aspects of your business. Lastly, checking in with yourself periodically to take care of your mental health and ensure you are getting enough sleep – running a new business in Singapore takes a lot of energy!”
Tip #2: Follow your passion, hone your skills, and don’t give up
Natasha is a UK Certified Midwife, Doula and Hypnobirthing Practitioner who grew up in Singapore. Her business, Beloved Bumps, came about as a way for Natasha to share unbiased information with expecting parents so they can make informed choices during labour, birth, and the early days at home.
Brush up on your business acumen
Natasha is passionate about her profession, and it shows. “Starting a new business in Singapore can seem really daunting, but I am extremely passionate about educating couples about pregnancy, birth and parenthood, and forming relationships between new parents. My background as a midwife gave me no training in anything business related, so launching my business took a lot of time, learning and passion!”
Be passionate, and patient
“My top tip would be to be very passionate about what you want to do, because you will spend a lot of time working in it. My second tip would be to be patient. These things don’t happen overnight, and there will be setbacks; how you learn from those will decide whether you make it through or not!”
Natasha Cullen, Founder and Director of Beloved Bumps
Tip #3: Ditch the mum guilt and treat yourself kindly
Swati Singh has been a Mompreneur for over a decade. Her journey from motherhood to mama mogul saw her spend the early years of motherhood reflecting, introspecting, and self-doubting if she could juggle both roles before finally gaining the courage and setting up her own business in Singapore.
Manage your expectations – of both yourself and others
In Swati’s experience, starting back at work slowly after having a baby and on a smaller scale helped her to feel fulfilled while adjusting to her new role as a mother. “As women, we have to juggle so many roles; as a mother, a wife, a daughter. Taking it slow when my kids were very little helped me enormously. Not beating myself up for getting back to work in full swing worked wonders.”
“After the birth of my second son, I slowly started teaching 2-3 yoga sessions a week. This gave me confidence and happiness because I could fulfil my desire to work but still be there for my baby. If you are a new mom, my advice to you is to take baby steps with getting back to work – it’s normal to feel overwhelmed!”
Ditch the guilt
Swati has no time for feeling guilty for doing things that you love. “Self-care and filling your cup first are of utmost importance for your mental health. We all need some TLC, especially after having kids. After the birth of my first child, as a new mom, I often felt very guilty leaving my child behind, even to go and get some lunch! I know many of us to go through these guilt emotions.”
“Very quickly, I realised that I was feeling miserable and frustrated. But I think moms can have the best of both worlds if you can work flexibly. I adapted my work schedule to the kid’s nap times or post-dinner when they went to bed. I took control of my life and did not let life take control of me. This mindset was crucial for me to achieve that elusive work-life balance.”
It will get easier with time, flexibility, and firm boundaries.
“Now that my kids are much older and more independent, I feel things are easier. My work has grown and expanded over the years, all while balancing my work and family life. So, for me, the answer is YES! We can have it all, and flexibility and scheduling are the key. I still plan most of my work for when my kids are at school, so I can keep the evenings free to spend time with the kids.
I carve out time for my work and set up boundaries when attending client calls. Keeping to these boundaries helps me manage work and parenting more efficiently. My advice to new Mumpreneurs is to set achievable goals, manage expectations, and most importantly, enjoy the journey!”
Swati Singh, Certified health coach and Registered yoga teacher, Wellness with Swati.
Tip #4: Be prepared to work hard, and take advantage of those boss benefits
MiliMilu, the name of Linda Morrison’s sustainable fashion retailer, means ‘LoveLove’ in Latvian. Linda believes that fashion and its production cycle is an often overlooked yet important part of taking care of our planet and that together we can make sustainable choices when it comes to fashion.
Be prepared: A business is another kind of baby
Linda’s passion for sustainability did not dilute the stress and strain of opening a new business in Hong Kong and maintaining and growing during a global pandemic. “Starting a business is always a mixed feeling of excitement, happiness and stress all at the same time! It does take a bit of gut to start a business. Having your business is like having another kind of baby, where you will dedicate a lot of energy, time, passion, and love.
There are benefits to being your own boss
There are several things Linda loves about running her own business. “Having your own business gives you more flexibility in managing your work hours. It does not mean you work less; there are many late nights and weekends! My main tip is to have a schedule and routine to have time to focus on your work and have quality time with your little ones.” Definitely take advantage of being able to set your own hours, then stick to them!
Separate work and play
Linda suggests it is really important to have a dedicated workspace that you can quarantine from your family life to help you compartmentalise. “If you work from home, make sure you have a small office set up. It can be just a desk, but I think it is so important to have a space dedicated to your work. Keep on top of things with a to-do list, or in my case, a to-do whiteboard (the list is continually growing!) I find it helps to create a list of tasks for the day, and it’s the first thing I look at after I’ve done the school drop-offs and I’m enjoying my morning coffee.”
“Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing as your little ones are watching you, and it will encourage them to do things they love and are passionate about in the future!”
Linda Morrison, Founder of MiliMilu
Tip # 5: Connect and collaborate – don’t go it alone
Building a business on a small island like Singapore requires a network of connections and a strong reputation, according to multi-faceted business owner Mangla Sachdey from Expat Business In A Bag.
Network genuinely – make connections and have fun
“My top tip for starting a new business in Singapore is to network and join organisations like Launchpad. You will meet amazing people to either collaborate with or who will refer people to you. It’s important to remember that networking is not selling! Don’t be pushy, and don’t try to sell your product or service constantly.”
Reputation is key
“In this small-ish expat business women community, your reputation is key. Make a plan to network once a week. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so get out there and share your wins and your hurdles. If you’re unsure what to say at these things, ask people about themselves – it’s usually everyone’s favourite topic to discuss! Give more than you receive, make genuine connections and have fun!”
Mangla Sachdev, Partner at Printsipal Printing Pte Ltd and owner of Expat Business In A Bag
Tip #6: Work smarter, and get those Government grants!
According to Kriti Gupta, Singapore is a great place for anyone looking to start a company. “I think the fact that we can get domestic help and schools offer whole-day childcare services makes it easier for working moms to succeed!” Here are Kriti’s top tips for mums looking to start a new business in Singapore.
Community support is essential
“The stress is on the word community. Singapore is a small place and is well connected physically and digitally. Many groups on Facebook and Telegram are free to join and give you access to other mums dealing with similar challenges. A great one for me has been Launchpad, albeit it is a paid service, but the network of entrepreneurs is strong, and the access to experts is unbeatable, so for me, it is a worthwhile investment.”
Do your research and apply for Government grants
There is lots of Government support for new companies in Singapore. “Check out Enterprise Singapore and StartupSG provide support for new companies through various schemes like the Productivity grant and Startup SG grants. If you are at an early stage of business planning, it would be useful to reach out to Enterprise Singapore on this.”
You don’t need to do everything yourself
Work out your strengths and what you personally bring to the business that will help in its success. This will help highlight where you can afford to delegate or need expert help. “It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to hire help – my advice would be to try your socials and post on Linkedin, Glints and Cultjobs for freelance options within Singapore. A good way to save money is to reach out to International candidates in the region via Fiver or Upwork – you can get quality work for less!”
Kriti Gupta, Founder, Nimbu
Tip #7: Be prepared for a slow burn, and be in it for the long run!
You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket from the get-go, says Ananya Pandit from Eat Crave Grub.
Start with a side hustle
“Sometimes a ground-breaking idea is not enough. There is a suite of skills needed to start a business. Starting a new business in Singapore as a side hustle will give you the time to assess and build these without facing the financial pressures of quitting your regular job. It also gives you the time to refine your selling proposition and understand your business vision more clearly and effectively.”
Entrepreneurship is risky – have a savings pot!
Ananya suggests a reality check. Don’t go into a new business venture with rose tinted glasses – it’s important to be well prepared with a safety net. “Understand that entrepreneurship is an inherently risky option. Unlike a corporate route with defined pay cheques at the end of each month, a new business may not guarantee you a steady income, at least not initially. No matter how small you start, having a pot of savings means you will have something to fall back on if you make a loss. This will also influence your mindset to think lean when setting up your business and teach you through experience how to optimise your resources.”
Be mindful and play by the rules
It helps to do a lot of research on work passes and legalities and ask experts for their opinions and advice. “If you are an expat in a foreign country, make sure you fully understand the legalities around entrepreneurship before you start working. Maybe you could start off as a sole proprietor or set up a company, or just freelance. Ensure you make a choice that is legally available to your residency status. You want to ensure you don’t jeopardise your and your family’s future by taking an unapproved work route. I highly recommend connecting with experienced service providers in this space. It will help you stay updated with the ever-changing rules.”
Enjoy the ride
“I think one of the most important things is to have fun! Entrepreneurship is a journey of wild highs and lows. It is important to remember why you started in the first place and show up every single day to enjoy this ride.”
Ananya Pandit, Food and Product Photographer, Eat Crave Grub
Thank you to the mums from LaunchPad for contributing to this article!