Mumpreneurs in Singapore share their business and investment tips

PHOTO: Instagram/thankgodforpink, Instagram/ragstopeaches

Her World’s What Women Want 2021 survey revealed that 61 per cent of working mothers have given up career opportunities for their families, especially among those aged 40 to 49 (66 per cent) and 30 to 39 (62 per cent). This can be attributed partly to clearer goals, as well as the desire for a more flexible schedule that allows them to spend more time with their children at home.

Among these stay-at-home mums (SAHMs), some have launched their own businesses and side hustles to supplement their income, pursue their passions as well as find purpose and fulfillment. We spoke to seven SAHMs in Singapore who have successfully established themselves as mumpreneurs, to get advice for anyone looking to follow in their footsteps.

Yang Sue Ann, 35, home baker extraordinaire, Sieve by Sue

Sue Ann is a home baker specialising in baking cookies and, more recently, baking cakes paired with sauce. She bakes everything from her home kitchen, in limited batches.

Her signature bakes include all-time favourite Nutella butter cookies and butter sugar cookies which evoke memories of yesteryear. She also has seasonal bakes where she infuses local flavours like salted egg, pandan, Milo and bandung into her cookies. “Each flavour tells its own story, drawing inspiration from my life experiences.” 

How did she get into it?

Sue Ann worked in the corporate world for over 10 years. When the Covid pandemic hit and her work travels were put to a halt, she spent her weekends baking in her kitchen. 

“When my son began his Primary 1 schooling, I decided to pursue my baking full-time and guide him along in his formal education. Baking gives me flexibility and enables me to have work-life balance – I can get to spend quality time with my son and watch him grow up.”

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

“It really makes my day when clients share that they’re in love with my bakes and come back to buy more for their family and friends.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

  • Always be courageous – take the first step as you never know if you never try. “My husband and son are my biggest cheerleaders. They encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and have also been my key taste testers in all my bakes.”
  • Build relationships – take time to listen to clients and work with other mumpreneurs. “I have collaborated with small local businesses to support each other in this challenging climate.”
  • Pay attention to current trends – always be in the know of food trends in the market and be ready to tap on the opportunities. “The upcoming year will see @sievebysue launching bakes targeting a growing market of health-conscious consumers.”
  • Dream – the world is our oyster and we set the example for our child/children. “For me, it’s a dream to have @sievebysue bottles placed in every household in Singapore.”

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

“And invest in your own business – I bought several heavy-duty equipment for my kitchen in preparation for the festive period. Also, have multiple revenue sources – find ways to diversify.” 

Sylvia Ng, 36, motherhood and parenting coach, Ommummy

Sylvia helps frustrated and overwhelmed mothers to be calm and confident to handle parenting challenges such as tantrums, misbehaviour and power struggles. She provides one-on-one consultation to clients and is launching an online course (Mindful Parenting: for You and Your Child) in January 2022.

How did she get into it?

Sylvia started her business in early 2021. She left her job two years ago to take care of her two children, and found her new role “mentally draining”.

It was especially difficult to handle her toddler’s tantrums and meltdowns so she ended up yelling a lot and became irritable, depressed and overwhelmed as a result. She didn’t like who she became. 

“I started reading parenting books and that’s when I learned about mindful parenting, which changed my perspective of parenting. I dug deep into it, took courses, and practised what I learnt with my children. I shared what I learned with other mummy friends and when they gave me feedback that the tips are useful, that’s when I decided that I want to help more mummies.”

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What satisfaction does she derive from it?

“I am happy to be able to share my passion for mindful parenting while still being able to take care of my children full-time. It’s especially satisfying when my clients tell me the sessions gave them great insights on how they can manage and connect with their children better.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

Sylvia says the first step is always the hardest, so sometimes all you need is to just jump into it. Don’t worry about making mistakes because that’s how we learn and grow.

“Because my full-time job is still taking care of my two children, I have to be more mindful with how I plan my time – to be present in the moment. When I’m spending time with my kids, I’ll put away my phone and focus on them. When I need to work, I’ll arrange with my husband to watch over the kids, and make sure they know that mummy should not be disturbed during that time.”

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

“Aside from that, my husband manages the family’s investments. That said, my biggest investment is in myself and my business. I attend courses and conferences to stay abreast of the latest parenting approaches and ideas.”

Sara Sze Tan, 44, jewellery designer and founder of An Order of Bling

The name An Order of Bling plays on the whimsical idea that Sara wants jewellery purchases to be a little more fun and cheeky.

“For me, this business is about a ‘Good Kind of Madness’ explained by the examples of Loving Unconditionally & Laughing Uncontrollably. I marry the two in the commissions I get where clients come to whisper their love stories for me to design their pieces. As we go along, there is always lots of joy.”

How did she get into it?

Sara started the business in 2016. She describes it as “a culmination of all the repressed creative energies that have been bubbling below the surface since I was a child”.

“I do not come from a family that has obvious artistic talent and so I never dreamed I could be a designer. However, the restlessness was too great, so I took a brave step to try, and I am glad I did because of the pieces I have created since.”

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

“Knowing that you have connected with something that is right at your core. Feeling like you were meant to do this and the never-ending feedback loop of excitement for work to be done and work completed.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

Sara says it takes time to establish yourself in such an industry, and advises anyone looking to get into it to do their homework and budget for a long ride.

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

“I have found that it is important to think carefully about what you need in life. Make a list and refer to it often. Some of these will be short-term while some will be long-term, and require planning with your family. Set goals and break them up into small achievable milestones. Read a lot and communicate with the people you trust to help you achieve those goals.”

ALSO READ: From 1-room salon to beauty chain - how this mum & daughter team transformed their business

Esther Lim, 32, home baker, Esther Grace Cake

Esther bakes from home and curates monthly dessert boxes for sale. She also puts up cookies for sale during festive seasons like Christmas and Chinese New Year.

How did she get into it?

Esther used to run a cafe, then a baking studio called My Sister Bakes, specialising in birthday cakes, wedding cakes and dessert table set-ups. She worked seven days a week without much rest and became burnt out and uninspired from churning out the same cakes repeatedly. Her priorities changed when she gave birth to her firstborn in 2018.

“I still remember replying to emails and texts, and was on the phone with my delivery driver when I was in the hospital, lying in the delivery suite. I had very bad anxiety during my confinement and I would get panic attacks just from seeing my work phone ring. It was then that I knew I had to let the business take a back seat and I decided to close down the studio.”

Esther took a few months’ break and spent quality time with her family. She was able to bake in small batches from her home kitchen, and felt more at peace with the work she was doing as she paced herself comfortably. She then decided to re-brand her baking business to Esther Grace Cake.

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

“I’m able to create new flavour profiles at my own pace. More importantly, I have more flexibility with my time when it comes to childcare and self-care. I’m more present than I have ever been since I started working. I spend more time not only with my family but with friends too.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

“Find something you’re good at and stick to it; create a niche for yourself so that you won’t be easily replaceable by other bakers or let price be the deciding factor. Do not be quick to follow trends as trends die down quickly.”

Lastly, follow your heart.

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

  • Set aside a fixed sum of money to be put into a savings account
  • Pass your cards to your husband and get him to safekeep for you, and delete all records from your phone and laptop. Keep only the debit card
  • Track your expenses!

Clara Chew, 38, professional organiser and founder of Reglow Living

Clara is a professional organiser and certified Konmari® Consultant. She works with clients to transform their messy homes into their ideal living space by tidying and organising their homes.

She helps clients break up their mess into manageable parts and guides them to decide if an item should be kept or discarded. She then plans and advises where things should be kept and recommends storage solutions to maximise space, efficiency and aesthetics.

How did she get into it?

In 2017, just before her family relocated to the US for what would be a four-year stay, she came across the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

“It had a profound effect on the way I viewed my belongings and the way I organised my home. In 2019, I attended the certification course in New York City and fulfilled the criteria to become one of the 700 Konmari® Consultants worldwide.”

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

Clara appreciates the flexibility she has from running her own business, and gains immense satisfaction from seeing the transformation of her clients’ homes.

“What amazes me more is the change in my clients’ mindsets at the end of the tidying journey – from abandoning their life-long belief that they are messy people to having the confidence that they can keep their home tidy.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

She recommends SAHMs to be financially savvy and fully involved in the family finances. Ensure every family member is adequately insured in case of accidents or sickness. “You don’t want to have to worry about money if the sole breadwinner loses their income.”

ALSO READ: How this single mum of 4 became a super successful businesswoman in Singapore

Tey Pei Hwa, 36, bagmaker/seamworker, Rags to Peaches

“Simply put, I make things. I transform textiles into bags that – I hope – liven up people’s wardrobes and add a touch of beauty to their lives. But the essence of Rags to Peaches is really a belief in the labour of love, and the quiet desire to slow down.

Each bag is conceptualised and made from scratch. In every product you’ll probably find resonance of ‘Omotenashi’, a deep-rooted Japanese culture that is loosely-translated as ‘anticipatory hospitality’.

It is about paying close attention to details and being thoughtful about the needs of the customer. My work is deeply influenced and inspired by my travels around Japan, and I hope to infuse what I’ve learnt into the bags that I make.”

How did she get into it?

Rags to Peaches started in 2017 when Pei and her husband relocated to London. He was pursuing his Masters and she took a sabbatical from her teaching job. She had a lot of time on her hands and it was the first time she could truly sit down and think about what she really loved and wanted to do. 

“Sewing and crafting came naturally to mind because I’ve always loved textiles and there is something about working with them that forces you to slow down. Both my parents were tailors and artisans in their own right.

''They came from an era of make do and mend, where things were made from scratch, rather than bought off the shelves. Watching them at the treadle from a young age sowed a seed in me that has flourished into a passion for making, creating and imagining.

It helped that we were in London, the perfect place for seamworkers. There was no lack of sewing schools, haberdasheries and like-minded craftspeople to connect with. I built my expertise from the workshops I attended around the UK, consulted my parents whenever I felt like I was coming apart at the seams (no pun intended), and slowly built my business right out of our tiny apartment, which explains why our logo is a house. It was tough, but those were my happiest times.”

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

Having total control and oversight of every detail, from the crafting to marketing to packaging. “In a way, Rags to Peaches is really a brainchild I nurtured from its birth, which is why there is such immense satisfaction when customers appreciate my work. It’s more than just a compliment; it’s an affirmation of my being and a powerful source of motivation.”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

  • Recognise that having total oversight also acts as a double-edged sword. “The control we have over our business can be empowering but also exhausting because there is such vested interest. It can be difficult to put the brakes on ourselves because we want every aspect of the business to be perfect.”
  • It is absolutely alright – necessary even – to take breaks, and to be compassionate with yourself, because you want to be in this for the long haul. “When I first started out, I’d be sewing late into the night, had a few hours of sleep, then woke up at dawn to resume my work. I hardly ate. I’d overthink every negative feedback and beat myself up over it. Over time, it became debilitating and took an unhealthy toll on all fronts of my life.”
  • Find a community of mumpreneurs whom you can regularly check in with. “We have a WhatsApp chat group and we use that platform to commiserate, share ideas, egg each other on or simply rant. Earlier this year when I set up a store at a craft market, these mumpreneur friends were the ones who helped to spread the word. The support you get might be intangible, but it is so important

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

Spend wisely by recognising what is considered a frill and what is an essential. “It is tempting to tell yourself that you need the best gadgets, camera, packaging etc. for your business to take off and stand out, but that is not true.

Many business owners I know use recycled packaging these days, and that does not detract from the quality of their products. Others, like myself, still use our phones for product photography, and that is totally okay.”

ALSO READ: Timekeeping like no other: Mumpreneur Sherrie Han is bringing proudly Singaporean handcrafted time

Jasmine Chong, 36, Montessori parenting coach, Three Minute Montessori

Jasmine runs online Montessori parenting courses, attended by parents from more than 20 countries worldwide.

How did she get into it?

She started her business two years ago, when her children were in preschool. They began as in-person workshops with guided tours of her HDB flat to show that even small spaces can be made child-friendly and to promote independent thinking and play.

What satisfaction does she derive from it?

“While parenting is incredible, it also requires a great deal of sacrifice and selflessness. As a SAHM, especially when I had two kids under two, I had an unmet need for intellectual growth.

''I found an outlet for that by preparing Montessori activities and spaces for my kids, which I later was fortunate enough to grow into a business. I enjoy using my creative energy on both course creation and business development (for even business requires creativity).”

Tips for anyone looking to start a similar side hustle?

“Also, specific to Montessori and parent education, if we want parents to value learning, we have to show that we do, too. I’ve attended courses in person, overseas, online, in as many related fields as possible from Montessori to interior design.

I’ve attended courses priced from $27 to four-figure amounts to learn the best practices. Keep learning. Keep walking the talk. Keep failing forward.”

Any savings/investment tips for SAHMs?

“Live on one income. That way, you don’t feel that stress to ramp up your business fast or start turning huge profits. For SAHMs who are just dipping their toes into the water, I wouldn’t invest before I earn. You should only invest what you have earned instead of starting out in debt. Make some sales first, then expand, improve and hire.”

This article was first published in Her World Online.