Thinking of building a business that suits your personal interests? Whether you’re a trailing partner in Singapore or an ambitious businessperson, use these takeaways from these female expats who’ve been here and done that.
Perhaps you dream of being a domestic diva like Australia’s Donna Hay, or an inventor like American TV entrepreneur Joy Mangano. Or, more likely, you’re simply hungering for an exciting challenge, as one of the many trailing partners who leave behind careers to move to Singapore.
“I had just resigned my job and was looking to do something for me,” says Jacqui Hourihane, who’d worked in retail for 30 years before launching her first venture – selling children’s dress up costumes – in 1999.
These days, she’s one of three expat partners who run fashion brand Shop the Tropics.
“I want to make money – I’m not stupid,” says Jacqui. “But I’m passionate about delivering an attractive price point, and want to build a customer base that will happily recommend the product.”
Once you’ve done your gut check, you’re ready to get down to business (literally).
Many expats who’ve done so in Singapore, including the team at Shop the Tropics, recommend hiring an outside service to smooth the process. For instance, sole proprietorship rules just changed here, making it more difficult to file the required paperwork. Consider the following consulting agencies: CSLB-Asia; Singapore Expat Solutions or Upstart Alliance.
Also, think about where you plan to promote your services and products. “As cost for keeping a retail shop is high, The Expat Fairs are a great way to access the market,” says “womenpreneur” advocate Betty Ashman, founder and director of The Expat Fairs.
Whether you determine you need a brick-and-mortar shop, intend to sell your goods at the fairs or will go entirely online, you’ll need some place to think/work/ create/produce/meet clients, etc. If your living space isn’t suitable, or your business grows beyond your dining room table or home office, check out the island’s various co-working options.
Some even provide childcare! Trehaus is one such space. “Trehaus hopes to provide a space whereby we can build our businesses with peace of mind having our children nearby,” says founder and CEO Rachel Teo, who notes that using a co-working space can help expats avoid the isolation that many may feel without old colleagues, friends and family around.
If you do choose to register your business, remember you should be able to claim expenses “solely incurred in the production of income.”
Co-founder of wellness publisher Urban Remedy Natalie Dau wanted to fill a gap in Asia, and she and her co-founder and fellow Aussie, Holleigh Mason, have acheived this goal by providing information, tools and connections via their site and well-“Liked” social media channels.
“For us, having a good website is the most important thing,” explains Natalie, who says easy navigation and succinct search function are key. “We are all about giving visitors the best possible experience so they want to come back.”
Urban Remedy, Shop the Tropics and other expat-run small businesses have chosen to outsource their website design. But they keep their social media presence personal, practical and punctual. “It allows us to reach our audience in a real-time way, and better understand what they are doing,” says Natalie of platforms like Facebook and Instagram. At Shop the Tropics, posting about products is a must and they’ve learned to do it regularly.
Networking, claims Michelle McFarlane, creator of the 2,500-member Business Women Network, is the most powerful marketing tool you can use because it develops personal relationships that make your business stand out. “It raises your credibility speaking to people first-hand,” she says.
Joining associations like ANZA or the British Club is another widely known way to make business connections as an expat. But, thanks to online portal Mums@Work, you don’t even need to get out of your PJs to meet like-minded business women. “Besides listing flexible work positions, we also support mumpreneurs – women who start a business from home,” explains the resource’s founder Sher-Li Torray. Go online to sign up for an upcoming event.
By Andrea McKenna Brankin, The Finder (Issue 280), February 2017
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