Monday, October 17, 2011

Work & Entrepreneurship Series: A Leap of Faith

The following article was first written for and published on the website Mums @ Work. It's reprinted here with permission.

A Leap of Faith

She had wanted to start a business after her first child was born, but various concerns deterred her from pursuing that idea. But two years later, after the arrival of her second child, Jennifer took the plunge and set up her online shop

“After I had my second child, my desire to venture out on my own grew stronger. I felt it was the deciding moment for me – it’s now or never,” shares Jennifer Teoh, 30, a mother of two girls ages 2 and 4. “I just realised that I got to start somewhere and sacrifices are inevitable,” remarks the first-time entrepreneur. This realisation helped her overcame her concerns, and a sister who runs a successful image consultancy firm gave her the inspiration she needed. 

Taking the leap, she resigned from a well-paying job as a senior tax accountant and stepped into unfamiliar territories in pursuit of her entrepreneurial dream. In January this year, Jennifer launched Shopping Paradise, an online shop that sells mainly kids’ products ranging from skincare to apparel.

Overcoming challenges
As a one-man operation, Jennifer spends about six to eight hours a day on her business.

“I work during the few hours in the morning when my elder girl is away at school, when the girls are having their naps and at night after they have gone to bed,” she says.

Having a supportive mother helps too. “I could safely leave the girls in the hands of my mother when I need to work,” she adds.  The weekends are usually reserved for the family.

Half a year into the business, she notes that running the online boutique is a totally different experience from her previous role as an accountant.

Besides the initial challenges of finding reliable suppliers and getting herself familiar with the importing procedures, she also has to handle the customers, which every business owner knows is no easy task.

Once, a supplier forgot to ship out her orders but she had told her customers that the products would arrive in three weeks’ time. “I had to inform all my customers on the delay and seek their understanding with the matter. However, when I eventually received the shipment, I realised that the supplier did not send me the complete order,” she recalls.

In the end, she purchased the same items from alternative sources at higher cost and delivered to the customers who had already paid her for the products. Reflecting on the incident, Jennifer says it had taught her how to deal with unexpected situations, as well as managing customers’ expectations and in not over-promising the customers.

Service matters
Being in the retail industry, Jennifer feels strongly about providing good service, such as being quick to respond to her customers’ needs and giving them a good shopping experience. She reckons that excellent service is one good way to set herself apart from the competitors.

Hence when asked what has been the greatest satisfaction she derives from her business, it’s unsurprising that she says, “My greatest satisfaction is when the customers are very happy with my service and I know that I’ve met their expectations!”

To market her business, she uses various means like creating a Facebook page for her e-shop and participating in forums but the most successful marketing technique she opines, is through personal recommendation, or word of mouth.

“People tend to be more sceptical towards online shopping as they do not know the seller personally. However, if they knew Shopping Paradise through word of mouth, I feel that they tend to trust me more readily when dealing with me,” she points out.

As a start up, one of Jennifer’s current business goals is to create more awareness for Shopping Paradise. She also hopes to do so through working with other businesses or participating in parenting or baby events
Looking back on her own journey, she feels that all has been worth it. “I sacrificed a well-paying job to be a mumpreneur. But the satisfaction of building a business, having more control of my time and being to spend quality time with my children is much more important than the well-paying job.”

Advice for Aspiring Mumpreneurs:
  1. Having family support is very important. Discuss the decision with your spouse (and your parents, especially if you need their help with looking after the kids) before making the decision.
  2. Having an open mindset is important when you start your business because it will be easier for you to adapt to changes.
  3. Do proper research on your business, such as which direction you intend to go, how you intend to conduct your business etc. Although there will always been some uncertainties, at least you are minimising them.

I hope you have enjoyed this story. 
If you (or someone you know) have taken a leap of faith to pursue your passion and are now doing something you love, I would very much like to hear your story. Please email me at and share with me your experience!

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and articles on work and entrepreneurship.


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