Elim Chew: Gain maximum experience while you are young

Elim Chew: Gain maximum experience while you are young

ICONIC streetwear chain 77th Street will close its final store in Ang Mo Kio Hub later this month, marking an end of founder Elim Chew's 28-year journey with the brand.

But the venture has given the 49-year-old plenty of invaluable lessons in the business world.

Her first piece of advice?

"Gain as much experience as you can when you are still young," she told My Paper.

As a 21-year-old, she started the brand in 1988 - "still young, inexperienced and new to the industry", she said.

"Along the way, I made wrong decisions, I lost money, I faced big and small challenges such as hiring good employees and bringing in the 'right' products that appeal to people. These are valuable lessons," she added.

She also referred to author Malcolm Gladwell's principle of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve success in any field, saying that "even though someone may be born with a talent, he will not be successful without hard work".

At its peak, 77th Street had 16 stores islandwide.

But Ms Chew said rising rentals, manpower costs, the entry of affordable global retail brands and a shift to online shopping are reasons for closing the chain.

Being an entrepreneur means "you need to know that giving up is not an option", she noted.

As for her, she had "always wanted to retire at 45", joking that she is now five years late.

"Every adversity is a challenge and it is worthwhile to take them on. Even if you can't overcome them, it's a learning curve - we get better and stronger.

"Most importantly, stay humble and have a willing heart to learn and do everything. Experience will put you ahead of everyone."

Being an entrepreneur should not "be purely about making money" but should come with "a greater purpose of giving back to society", she added.

Ms Chew, who is retiring from retail, has turned her attention to her new YouTube channel ElimChewTV, which features people from different fields around the world who are making a positive impact on society through their work.

She is also involved in community and youth organisations, the FastFast instant delivery app which provides logistics support for businesses and her family's investments in Korean eateries.

A book on her life story is also in the works. It is slated for release by year-end.

In her final note to aspiring entrepreneurs, Ms Chew shared a quote: "A meaningful life is not being rich, being popular, being highly educated or being perfect.

"It's about being humble, being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others. It's only then we can have a full, happy and contented life."


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