S’poreans On Keeping Their Hopes And Bizs Alive During A Recession

The recession has hit many businesses in the face, leading to store closings and a slew of bankruptcies such as sportswear retailer Sportslink, minimalist lifestyle brand MUJI and supplement retailer GNC.

However, some Singaporean entrepreneurs have gritted their teeth, shown courage and perseverance, and are encouraging their compatriots to do the same.

These people are living proof that the Covid-19 pandemic was not going to stifle their passions and allowed their businesses to continue despite difficult times.

Three local entrepreneurs share with Vulcan Post how they overcame difficulties and supported their businesses during this crisis.

Equip a Hawker Center alone but without giving up

For Tan Mui Choo, 62, she single-handedly runs the Cuppage Fried Kway Teow Hokkien Mee booth at the Hong Lim Food Center that she shares with her husband.

Her husband, Cher Kay Hion, is recovering from an injury, so she is the only one operating the hawking center stand.

The husband and wife duo have been frying char kway teow and hokkien mee for over 20 years.

“I just put the sign” Self-Service ” lorShe laughed rather sweetly, when asked how she coped with the roles of cook. and a waiter.

When the circuit breaker and the on-site eating ban were implemented in April this year, along with many other hawkers, she knew sales would be greatly affected.

She then took a short break of about a month to reflect and rest before returning to work.

When she reopened the stand, it was difficult as sales had dropped drastically without customers in the restaurant and they had to rely solely on take out.

Before Covid-19, she worked at the booth until 3:30 p.m. but now she extends her working hours until 5:30 p.m.

Hawkers Cher Kay Hion and Tan Mui Choo / Image Credit: Cuppage Fried Kway Teow Hokkien Mee

“You have to sacrifice yourself,” she said. She wakes up around 4 or 5 in the morning and reaches the Hong Lim Food Center at 7 am where she has breakfast. After that she will prepare the booth for business and at 10:30 am she is ready to take orders.

She lamented that her profit margin is very low and that the ingredients are very expensive. She added that “they’re lucky the stall rental fee is only $ 320 so they can cover [it]”.

When asked how many plates she sells per day, she simply replied that “[she] will sell up to [she] makes a profit, then close the stand ”.

Cuppage Fried Kway Teow Hokkien Mee is one of 14,000 exhibitors in the National Environment Agency (NEA) markets and hawking centers that have benefited from the NEA’s five-month rental exemption – 50 % in March, full rental waiver from April to July and 50 percent rental waiver in August.

In April, the NEA announced it would provide one-time funding of S $ 500 to merchants who hire food delivery platforms or third-party logistics partners to deliver food to their customers for a period of time.

The hawker couple has since integrated their stand on the WhyQ hawker food delivery platform, in an effort to support the business.

Mui Choo is glad she did, as business has improved thanks to the online platform and she has been able to pursue her passion of making fried noodle plates for customers.

As to whether her two sons plan to take over the stand, she laughed and said the younger generation were unwilling to take over the grueling business.

However, she does suggest that she is open to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs or anyone who wants to cook and sell fried noodles.

From fitness equipment to kitchen utensils

Haslinda Ali has over 20 years of television experience in production, writing, and research.

She was a TV presenter on MediaCorp’s Suria channel. In 2000, she left MediaCorp and with her husband founded a production and social media content agency Screenbox.

In 2002, she had her first daughter. “It’s very easy to gain weight after pregnancy,” she says.

She used this as an excuse to pile on the pounds and put the idea of ​​losing weight aside.

“After having my second daughter, I realized it was not a healthy state of mind,” she added.

Haslinda then tapped into her Facebook profile to reach out to her fans and working mummies and shared secrets on how to stay slim and healthy.

The response rate was so good that she decided to launch FitFab by Haslinda Ali, a Muslimah Fitness and Wellness movement with the goal of showing that staying in shape shouldn’t be a chore but a lifestyle choice.

Prior to Covid-19, FitFab had more than 13 fitness and nutrition program areas across Singapore on a weekly basis.

She organized fitness classes, organized boot camps and motivated members to stay in shape.

FitFab fitness classes
Image Credit: Haslinda Ali Facebook Page

Haslinda has also created a line for tall women who are discouraged from exercising because they have a hard time finding clothes that suit them. The line consists of a range of hijabs and long-sleeved sportswear available on its e-commerce site, Fitfab.sg.

“When the breaker hit us, classes were canceled and even when Phase 2 started, gatherings could only be limited to five people each,” Haslinda said.

During the month of fasting, she reflected on how her business might “bounce back”.

She has rotated her online fitness classes and organized virtual workouts through Zoom. There were dropouts, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the huge chunk of income lost from his fitness classes.

She also filmed a cooking session live with her husband on social media and the response rate was good. People started to follow her recipes and wanted to know where she got her cooking equipment from.

Haslinda Ali and Sujimy Mohamad
Haslinda Ali with her husband / Image credit: Sujimy Mohamad Facebook page

This prompted her to expand her e-commerce website to include cookware. She imported kitchenware through a local distributor and the products were quickly sold on the site.

As a result, his e-commerce sales during the Breaker saw a 200 percent increase and “now about a 300 percent increase with the right projects (pivoting to virtual training sessions and extending to cookware). ) ”.

To date, she has gained over 30,000 followers on her social media and received a lot of support in her healthy recipe sharing and workout schedule.

Haslinda wants to inspire struggling entrepreneurs to continue in business.

“Entrepreneurs need to quickly adapt to the new normal and think of new ways to survive. We have to accept that things will not go back to what they were before. “

“Those who hope that business will return to normal are in denial. It is important that business owners evolve with the circumstances, ”she said.

Control their expenses

For Vinod Nair, founder and CEO of personal finance portal MoneySmart, the failure of his first business didn’t deter him from pursuing his entrepreneurial dream.

The first 38-year-old company – the HomeSpace property search engine – disappeared in 2008 because it faced stiff competition and acted on bad advice.

“As Mike Tyson once said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.’ We found ourselves in a position where the previous plan would not work under the current circumstances and we had to think differently to survive and come out stronger, ”Vinod said.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic IT and NUS Computing graduate didn’t give up and started his second company, MoneySmart.sg, in 2009.

After the difficult first four years, the company achieved a five-figure net profit in 2016. Its annual turnover is now over S $ 1 million.

Vinod Nair
Vinod Nair / Image Credit: MoneySmart.sg

However, when Covid-19 hit Singapore, MoneySmart saw a drop in search volumes for many financial products.

With the decline of global travel, verticals like travel insurance are no longer viable sources of revenue for us. They have also seen banks tighten their criteria for products like personal loans and home loans.

“We had to take steps to cut our expenses in order to weather this storm,” Vinod said.

“With over 120 people in MoneySmart, many people have taken a leap of faith by joining us instead of a company. I have a great responsibility resting on my shoulders to see this company weather this storm, as the livelihoods of many of my colleagues depend on me. Failure is not an option and we will do our best to keep as many jobs as possible, ”he explained.

With that, the team gritted their teeth and cut back on expenses “which are not absolutely necessary to get to the longest track possible without destroying too much value”.

The employees also worked longer hours to keep the business running and as a result the business was able to get by.

“With more of our employees working from home, we actually felt that people tended to work longer hours because the lines between work and home were blurred,” Vinod said.

To show how much he values ​​the team and their efforts, he offered his employees a company-wide day off as a thank you.

Keep their hopes and passions alive

Hawker Mui Choo, influencer Haslinda and founder Vinod are just a few examples of individuals who empower other Singaporeans to do what they love in this city of possibilities – whether you are an artist, entrepreneur, hard worker. line or official.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed the demonstration of passion, tenacity and determination of many Singaporeans from all walks of life, mobilize and move forward.

Years of hard work would have been undone by the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s easy to throw in the towel, but this trio are real-life examples that show how important it is not to easily give up and give ourselves hope. and inspiration to perpetuate the Singaporean spirit.

If you want to do your part and invoke hope and positivity in the community during this time, share your stories online using the hashtag #ThisisSG

ThisisSG is a national campaign that hopes to promote the pursuit of passions in Singapore and rally support for members of our community.

When we bring members of our community together, they make so much more possible for each other.

Featured Image Credit: Cuppage Fried Kway Teow Hokkien Mee / Haslinda Ali Facebook Page / Glassdoor

This article is written in collaboration with the SGBO.

Our sincere thanks to
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Jothi Venkat

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