Ah, Chinese New Year. The time when people get together with their families to talk about all the things that they've missed of each other.
But with reunions come the perennial questions that never seem to get old?
"Ah Boy / Girl, what you doing now ah?"
The good thing about this is that now I have a solid answer to give my relatives, and surely writer is a clear enough answer, barring the possible "you writing book ah?" queries I suspect will follow.
But what about entrepreneurs?
In November 2016, we published an article about how startup founders explain their jobs to their parents.
So in line with the upcoming Chinese New Year, we decided to take a look at how entrepreneurs talk their way through CNY interro- ahem, I mean, conversations.
1. Darius Cheung, 99.coMr Darius Cheung.Photo: The Straits Times
When relatives ask me what I am doing now, I always see it as a opportunity to do business.
I'd reply that I am helping people to buy and rent houses, and follow that up with a "Do you want to buy and rent a house? Do you know anyone who is looking?"
The cheeky CEO of 99.co laughs and teases that "entrepreneurs always be hustling i guess. =)".
2. Tan Peck Ying, PSLoveTan Peck Ying (left).Photo: Facebook/PSLove
Haha, I must admit that initially, it was a little more awkward for me when my relatives ask me what I am doing now because our product is related to "Menstrual Cramps".
This can be a more 'hush hush' thing for the older generations, so I would usually just sweep it off saying that I'm doing e-commerce selling female stuffs.
That would give me the chance to then quickly turn around the question to find out how they are doing!"
3. Jeremy Lim, workwander and MakerscutJeremy Lim.Photo: Twitter/Jeremy Lim
"Because of the nature of my startups, most older relatives have problems understanding what I do. So I've gradually learned to dumb down my response, but what I get would be something totally irrelevant. It's quite unfortunate that they would not be able to understand what I work so hard on.
For Workwander, I'd say I help offices rent out their office space, and people would respond "Oh, you're a commercial property agent lah!"
For Makerscut, a crowdfunding platform to enable fashion product designers, I'd say I get people to make bags and shoes in Indonesia and Thailand to sell online. That would get me the "Oh, so you got a blogshop!"
But when all else fails, I will say I'm struggling with starting my own business and haven't had a salary for many months now. So please be generous with your ang pow! Thanks! Haha!"
4. Yunnie Tan, MiraculovePhoto: Facebook/Miraculove
"I used to be quite sceptical when distant relatives or friends ask because it seems like the generic and occasionally superficial question "how's life?"
It makes me wonder if they are genuinely interested in my answer.
However, I've been lucky to engage with relatives and friends who're so fascinated by my backstory that they subsequently become my brand evangelists or offered me unexpected help such as linking me up with their contacts in the industry."
Tan adds that it is not easy to open up to people and subject herself to 'feedback for improvement'.
However, since it is impossible to avoid the question, she finds the best way is to make the reply as "energetic and exciting as possible, focusing on what's up and coming."
Sometimes, it might even become a chance to conduct "some form of consumer research".
5. Lesner Chua, DSTNCT
"This first scenario is for the uncles, aunties and ahma (grandmother).
When they ask me how's school, I will reply that I've graduated as I don't want to explain that they've asked me that for the past 5 years. They will then reply that I should follow my Uncle and work in the police or bank. I'd just take out my phone and continue nodding.
The second is for the 'wanna act in-the-know auntie and uncle'. They would ask if I'm still working the same job and how much I'm getting paid. I'd reply that I pay myself, but it isn't a lot." They would then go on and on that they remember it's a sales company, that I draw advertisements, if the information is real, and that they heard about this terrible brand…
I usually respond by taking out my phone and leaving after collecting red packets."
6. Alphonso Ngiam, Deuce and SheerPhoto: Facebook/Alphonso Nglam
"The one question I really dread answering is 'What are you doing now?'
When I tell them I'm running my own business, people would either ask what it is about and if it is lucrative. Either that or they'd comment that there are many people also doing e-commerce and ask again if it is good money. There would be multiple other questions like how much I earn, whether I can sustain the business.
Then there are those who give me that sceptical look. They'd think I am wasting time or finding an excuse to not work full-time. You know, the strawberry generation.
It is important to not be discouraged and continue working hard and let the results prove themselves. We only have ourselves to answer to and not your relatives! You define your own goals yearly and if you achieve them, be proud!"
Relatives Don't Define You
Taking a final note from what Ngiam said, these awkward 'interrogations' might make you question your own success but it is important to remember that they do not determine your success.
Strive towards the new year, and "let the results prove themselves!"