Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Work & Entrepreneurship Series: To Nurture the Young

Hi! After a long break, we are back with another entrepreneurship story.
Sabrina Quek is mom to two beautiful children ages five and two. A preschool teacher before starting her family and passionate about teaching young children, she founded  NurtureWorks in 2009 to provide enrichment programs for children as young as four months old to primary school. The company specialises in music and movement, brain development and dance programs.

Interview with Sabrina:

1. Is NurtureWorks your first business venture? If not, what other businesses have you had or are still running?
I had a diaper bags and baby clothes online business about two years before NurtureWorks, I have since closed this online business to concentrate my efforts and time fully on my current business.

2. What challenges did you face when starting your business and how did you overcome them? 
I had difficulty getting assignments for myself and my teachers, as most centres wanted more established names to run programs in their centres. I overcame this setback by marketing my programs to my ex-polytechnic course mates who were running childcare centres. With that, my program got around through word-of-mouth, I also started a home-based and private baby and toddler playgroup program to start generating a customer base. It was a good way to fine-tune my programs.

Being a mum with two young children, time is also a challenge. The year I was pregnant, and also after my confinement with my second child was especially tough because I did not had any employees yet.  To overcome this issue, I asked some friends who had teaching background to relief me once in awhile when there was no one that could take care of my baby girl. About six months after I gave birth, I finally found my first employee. Now I have three teachers working for me.

3. What are three things you did that contributed the most to growing your business?
Marketing through the right channels. Instead of marketing to the mass market by distributing flyers, I concentrated my efforts to people I know to help me.

By starting with very low capital. I started this business without taking on a property/venue to run the program. This way I am not tied down to monthly rental and overheads.

Starting with home-based and private playgroup programs to build my customer base, who in turn helped me with the informal marketing of my business,

4. How do you deal with competition from other similar businesses?
I realise many people go for overseas brands which are more established etc. So I find a niche, which are my home-based programs and private playgroup programs.

5. What do you enjoy most about the business, and what do you like least?
I enjoy teaching babies and children, and meeting parents. I also enjoy mentoring my younger teachers. Doing administrative requirements is my least favourite!

6. What are three important lessons you learnt from running your business?
First, stick to realistic targets and set realistic challenges. Second, stay focused and disciplined; learn to set priorities for work and home. Lastly, persevere. The first two years are tough for most businesses, even for my business, though we are into the third year, we are still small but growing slowly.

7. What business achievements are you most proud of?
When other business investors like my business idea and want to help me grow the business. Now I am also in the midst of turning the business into a social enterprise. I am going to have my programs be available to low-income families.

8. How do you strike a balance between work and family commitments?
For me, its always family first. I spend most of my daily time with the children, as I am also homeschooling them. I only do my work at night or during free time, such as when my parents help take care of the children during weekends.

9. What sacrifices have you had to make to start your own business?
I had to sacrifice many Sundays, while the kids are their grandparents, foregoing my own time for shopping, watching movies etc. and instead to spend time on program-planning and marketing efforts.

10. What three pieces of advice do you have for those aspiring to start their own business, especially moms? 
Do your market research, and find out what will work best for you business.
Make it like a family-business. For example, my husband chilps in to help with my business too, he is my unofficial photographer, technical support and business advisor! For free! Finally, persevere, do not give up. It takes a couple of years for most business to pick up.

I hope you've enjoyed this interview and that it has inspired you in some ways. If you (or someone you know) have taken a leap of faith to pursue your passion and would like to share your story with us, please email me:

Looking forward to hearing from you!


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