Good mentors can be hard to find, so we asked these four inspiring women to share the secrets to their success. Get out your pen and paper; it’s time to start taking notes.
On succeeding in the service industry
Singapore’s F&B industry is famously fickle, but Guoyi and her husband and business partner Indra Kantono beat the odds with Jigger & Pony.
“Prior to starting Jigger & Pony, I spent six years as a flight attendant with Singapore Airlines. With so much experience gained in the service industry, I implemented the warm hospitality culture at Jigger & Pony, Sugarhall, Humpback, Gibson and The Flagship.
Service is not an easy industry to be in; you have to stay positive and even cheerful at all times. Also, be prepared to have very little sleep with the long hours! Discipline is another area that we need to be strict about. The industry is always changing; never be satisfied and always look for that one percent improvement every day.
Lastly, trust in your team is very important – understand that nothing will be perfect and mistakes happen. The support to your team is the most important thing you can give them. We were able to build our team on a foundation of trust that everybody is working together towards a common goal. With that, everyone is always ready and eager to step up to new challanges. We practice a very open policy, and love to fight battles together as a team. When challenges arise, we brief our team on the happenings, but also remind them that once the doors open, it’s important to put everything aside and focus on our customers.”
On finding your voice
Creating films that speak of humanity and humour, Kirsten stands out in the maledominated world of filmmaking in Singapore and beyond.
“Films were my first portal to a larger world. Beyond entertainment, they helped me understand life. I grew up in quite a conservative environment, so it was always a joy for me to watch films and witness difficult (or sometimes taboo) subjects being enacted onscreen.
Every film I’ve ever written starts from somewhere – my notebook is literally a junkyard of half-formed sentences, thoughts and sketches. For every five ideas that I brew in my head, only one gets written into a script. Usually, the stories that make it are those that possess their own forward momentum – there’s enough of an initial spark that keeps them going to the end. I’m just there to receive those stories and I write them down as soon as possible.
Ingmar Bergman has a quote, which has been super useful to my filmmaking process: “I throw a spear into the darkness. That is intuition. Then I must send an army into the darkness to find the spear. That is intellect.” I find filmmaking a two-pronged process – both creative and critical. You have to be free to imagine, but a second later, you also need to have the presence of mind to analyse your shortfalls in order to create better. Ultimately, discipline trumps talent. And, you are not as terrible or as good as you think you are.”
On pursuing passion with discipline
Lelian left the high-flying world of banking to enter the unchartered world of startups with The Wedding Atelier and The Floral Atelier. The risk has clearly paid off.
“I have my previous career to thank for my current achievements with The Wedding Atelier and The Floral Atelier. As the only one on the trading floor without a finance background, I had to work harder and longer than all my peers. Things only turned for the better after years of proving my worth and craft. I now apply the same mantra to all my businesses. There are no issues that are unsolvable, no project unsurmountable and no client unappeasable. It might take longer, you might have to work harder, but you will get it done. There are no alternatives.
Having enthusiasm is a great starting place, but to elevate your passion from a mere hobby to a successful business, you’ll need structure and discipline. Passion and business rigour must co-exist in a successful company. Spend as much time managing, marketing and promoting your business as you are fine-tuning your product. Be honest and identify the areas you aren’t well-versed in, and hire employees or partners with qualities that you lack to bring the business to where you want it to be.
Launching a business is so much more than the potential payout; it’s about giving a voice to what you feel the world lacks. But know there will never be a perfect time to make this move to start something new. Be brave and take that leap of faith! Good business ideas wait for no one. Use the positives to your advantage and work around the negatives. Things will never be easy, but being passionate and working very hard goes a tremendously long way.”
On growing and sustaining a brand
As CEO and founder, Cynthia has grown the Spa Esprit Group from a spa with a staff of eight to an empire currently worth between $200 to $300 million, consisting of 17 different brands in nine cities across the globe.
“For me, work is play. I love every minute of what I do; and it excites me that I can effect a change and inspire. When I create a brand, it has to be good enough to compete on a global platform. It’s always about sharing, communicating and having fun while enjoying a great product in a cool space. You have to ensure that your products, service and ambience stay fresh and relevant.
A few years into starting the business, I told my friends that I dreamt of having 10 shops, and they laughed. When I succeeded in achieving that, I told them that I dream of having my brands overseas, and I have also proven that it can be done. Don’t be afraid to dream, but do survey the market to see if your concept is relevant for the current market.
Constantly tweak and improve every aspect of your concept to ensure it suits your customers’ needs, be passionate about what you do, and be prepared to spend every waking hour working on your brand, ensuring that it is of high standards. There are no shortcuts, and to successfully grow a brand takes tons of hard work and dedication. Having a strong team to provide support and structure is also very important. Lastly, don’t be precious – if the concept really does not work, one has to be ready to axe it. Energy and resources are finite, and it’s important to pick the right battles.”