A keen rescuer of old wooden furniture, I was very frustrated at the limited products available in Singapore,” shares British expat James, who moved here for his partner’s promotion seven years ago.
“I approached the manufacturer of the best furniture paint there is – a Canadian product called Fusion Mineral Paint – and asked them if I could import it into Singapore. They said ‘yes’, provided I also become the Singapore retailer for the product!” And, so Portobello Reclaimed was founded in 2017 to supply like-minded customers with a mineral paint that is durable and easy-to-use.
His initial challenge was simply getting the product from Canada to SG. “Shipping products to Singapore by sea is a very frustrating experience, due to the number of additional charges and paperwork,” says James, who found that air-freight, while a little more expensive, was a lot less work. Before long, Portobello Reclaimed was up and running. But, given James’s past career in raising funds for Hollywood movies – including Oliver Stone’s notoriously unprofitable epic, Alexander – it’s not that surprising. “The biggest lesson I learned was that nothing is impossible,” he notes, cheekily.
James has now expanded Portobello Reclaimed by running demonstrations on achieving the best results with the product, providing a custom restyling service and even hosting a monthly upcycling workshop for customers and their friends. What he didn’t expect? “More than 50 percent of our demand comes from local Singaporeans, something we are delighted by.”
About The Finder Expatpreneur Awards
In 2017, The Finder debuted its first-ever Expatpreneur Awards to honour foreign-born entrepreneurs running successful expat-owned businesses in or from Singapore. In 2018, 23 expats were awarded for their tremendous dedication. This 2019, a new batch of 22 Expatpreneur Awardees have been unveiled! All of them have one thing in common: Their brands help people “live well in Singapore” – The Finder’s core mission.
By Melodi Ghui, The Finder Issue 298
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