How These Next-Gen S’pore Entrepreneurs Revived Their Family Bizs

Founder Bak Kut Teh has been around for 42 years, but it might not last much longer if business doesn’t pick up.

Nigel Chua, the second generation owner, recently launched a public call for support to “save our brand, our employees’ jobs and our legacy”.

In his Facebook post, Nigel revealed that “business is… really bad” and that they could be forced to close “if the situation does not improve in the next two months”.

Soon after, however, founder Bak Kut Teh came under severe criticism from internet users for allegedly leading a “lavish lifestyle” such as driving a Ferrari, owning designer watches, and living in bungalows and private estates. .

While Nigel has stepped up to refute these claims, we also have to recognize that it takes a lot of courage to reach out to customers and admit that their business has struggled and started open advocacy like this.

Following this incident, we were inspired to compile a list of second and third generation owners who have successfully revived their parents’ struggling businesses.

Stanley Tan, Windflower Florist

Stanley Tan is the second generation owner of Windflower Florist, which started in 1997.

By 2005, her family business had fallen to “single digit sales” every day, and her parents were forced to turn their seven-year-old business into a gift shop.

He realized that the styles his parents adopted were too old-fashioned for the business to move forward, so he began doing his own research by visiting nurseries and talking to seasoned florists.

Windflower Florist Shop (now) / Image Credit: Stanley Tan

After completing his national service, he persuaded his parents to let him take over the business in 2014.

He also traveled to Taiwan and Japan to learn more about floristry and invested a five-figure sum to bring the Windflower Florist business online.

The 28-year-old has also started filling Windflower’s Instagram and Facebook feeds with stunning photos of their bouquets, garnering nearly 30,000 followers on both platforms.

His social media marketing efforts finally paid off. They only sold five to six bouquets per month, but that number has since increased by 1,000% after the facelift.

Elizabeth Tan, heatwave

Back in elementary school, Elizabeth Tan spent her after school hours and weekends helping out in her father’s shoe store in Lucky Plaza.

While studying for her degree, Elizabeth worked in several jobs and business ventures, such as selling cell phone plans and credit cards to support herself.

Elizabeth Tan of Heatwave / Image Credit: LadyBoss Asia

This experience sparked his interest in entrepreneurship and his father’s shoe business. Heatwave started in 2001 and has built a long heritage in the design and manufacture of footwear.

She immediately saw flaws in her father’s business – she wore too many types of shoes and consumers weren’t focusing on them.

In her mid-20s, she took over the shoe business from her father, transforming Heatwave from a small business with two stores in Singapore to an international business with 50 outlets in the region and the Middle East.

Launch of the Heatwave spring / summer 2014 collection at Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta / Image credit: dada-kimura

She spent two years focusing on best-selling products and refining shoe comfort, as well as rebranding to target working professionals.

Jenny Tay, Direct Funeral Services

Her father is the famous Direct Funeral Services undertaker, Roland Tay, who is known for providing free funerals for the elderly and the needy.

He attended the funerals of Singapore’s most high-profile murder victims, including Huang Na, an eight-year-old Chinese national and Liu Hong Mei, a 22-year-old Chinese national, on a voluntary basis.

Jenny and Roland Tay
Jenny and Roland Tay / Image Credit: Direct Funeral Services

Jenny grew up reading about her father through the news, found her calling meaningful, and decided to join the trade after graduating from college.

She saw an opportunity for change in her father’s struggling business at that time. He was going through a difficult divorce with his third wife, who was involved in the business and who drove a wedge between
staff and their suppliers.

DFS Showroom / Image Credit: Direct Funeral Services

In addition, there were also deep-rooted issues such as overdependence on freelance workers, a non-existent file system, inconsistent service standards, and the lack of SOPs for religious practices, customer service. , warehouse inventory management and more.

She put in place a structured system and took over as general manager a year later.

Through her, she revamped and modernized the image of the humble undertaker and drew millennials into what was considered a declining industry.

After he got on board, cases tripled and they saw an average of 100 to 120 cases per month.

Alvan Tan, Alan Photo Trading

Alan Photo Pte Ltd was founded in 1986 by Alan Tan in Sim Lim Square.

Over the past decade, with smartphones making compact digital cameras obsolete, the camera store has seen a dramatic slowdown.

His son Alvan Tan, who had joined the company as a retailer in 2010 and worked his way up to a director, knew he had to pivot the business from “the declining industry” .

Alan and Alvan Tan / Image credit: Edgeprop Singapore

He quickly introduced videography equipment, a wide range of photography accessories, two photo studios, a make-up corner, a photo printing station and even a cafe to relaunch the business, while focusing on the offering. to customers with different retail experience.

Image Credit: Alan Photo

These efforts culminated in the launch of REC by Alan Photo at Lavernder Street in 2016. It was a new concept store that offers a quite different experience from traditional camera stores.

Funan IT Mall / Image Credit: Alan Photo

Today they have two outlets at Sim Lim Square and Funan Mall (reopened in 2019) and an online store.

Pauline Ng, Porcelain Spa

Founder Jenny Teng has always had an eye for beauty care, but not so much for the business side.

She opened her own store in the heart of the country, but because she lacked the business acumen the 2004 SARS epidemic “devastated” her.

In 2009, she approached her daughter Pauline Ng – then freshly graduated from SMU – to help her restart the business.

Pauline Ng and Jenny Teng / Image credit: Porcelain Spa

Together they co-founded Porcelain Spa in 2009. Initially, they “kept everything simple, sharing a desk and an IKEA shelf” and “paid for [themselves] peanuts “.

Some of Pauline’s early initiatives were not mainstream at the time, such as pricing transparency and operating a suite of technology services. These initiatives ended up creating tensions because they were perceived as “giving too much information”.

As bold as the moves were, she was resolute because they “helped build trust.” Since they started working together, they respect each other.

Image Credit: Porcelain Face Spa

By 2013, they had hit the $ 1 million mark in revenue and became an award-winning brand.

Now taking the helm as Founder and Managing Director, Pauline runs a tight ship to ensure the values ​​of integrity, transparency and craftsmanship throughout porcelain.

During this time, her mother is the director of the beautician. Although semi-retired since 2015, she still directs and trains all porcelain therapists.

Jimmy Goh, Tankfully Fresh

Jimmy Goh’s parents first opened a fresh seafood stall called Sin Chwee Mini Market in 1990, which later grew into a one-stop shopping business that imports and exports fresh seafood.

As more and more people choose to shop at supermarkets and online grocery stores, stall attendance has declined by 20%.

Minister Sim Ann visits Sin Chwee Mini-Market / Image Credit: Tankfully Fresh

Concerned about declining sales, his father moved to Jimmy to help digitize the business to stay relevant and sustainable.

Jimmy then helped launch the Tankfully Fresh e-commerce arm, which allows customers to order fresh seafood online and have it delivered to their doorstep the next day.

Jimmy Goh, founder of Tankfully Fresh / Image credit: Tankfully Fresh

The service helped complete the physical store and create a new revenue stream for the business.

It started with an order every other day, so they had to step up their marketing efforts. Business eventually picked up and many vendors have since approached them to leverage their online presence and sell on their platform.

A need to inject fresh blood into traditional businesses

With these stories above, they show us how important it is to update old school practices and adapt to changing customer needs.

These young entrepreneurs not only inherit these businesses, but also add their own youthful ideas to the mix and revive dwindling fortunes in the process.

Young entrepreneurs bring a whole new perspective to their parents’ traditional businesses and, in these cases, relaunch and revive their family businesses.

As advances in technology continue to change the way business is conducted, success in business largely depends on the ability to skillfully respond to sociocultural changes.

Featured Image Credit: Windflower Florist / Direct Funeral Services / Edgeprop / Ladyboss Asia / Tankfully Fresh


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Jothi Venkat

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