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Millennial Money: Young entrepreneurs share their experiences

Asian Female Cactus garden Owner checking, nursery and accept customer order online in the nursery greenhouse.
Being an entrepreneur at any age is hard, but it is even more challenging for young adults who have to juggle academic work and nurture a new business at the same time. )(PHOTO: Getty Commercial) (Nitat Termmee via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Being an entrepreneur at any age is hard, but it is even more challenging for young adults who have to juggle academic work and nurture a new business at the same time. It is a wonder why some of them would even want to start their own ventures. Where do they even have all the time and capacity?

This is part of a series where Yahoo Finance Singapore will share about the whys and hows of investing your time and money. In this seventh part, we speak to several young people who share about their joys and struggles in successfully starting their own businesses.

Here are their words of wisdom.


#1 Make your side hustle meaningful

For Kang Choon Kiat, co-founder of The Brkdwn, previously known as KOPI-C, running an online newsletter is all about the passion for bringing bite-sized news to others.

The 24-year-old business student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was on exchange in New York in late 2019 where he came across an e-newsletter, Morning Brew. It is a short aggregated newsletter with short articles related to finance, politics and technology news.

When he found out that there wasn’t anything similar in Asia, he roped in Glendon Gwee, a friend and fellow business student from NUS to start the venture.

(Source: Glendon Gwee and Kang Choon Kiat)
(Source: Glendon Gwee and Kang Choon Kiat, left to right) (Glendon Gwee and Kang Choon Kiat)

“Our main mission in The Brkdwn is to break down the complexities of finance, business and tech news for our readers,” said Gwee, 25. “It is important to keep yourself updated in the finance world where there are constantly many changes.”

“We want to get people to understand the world around them and to create conversation topics,” said Kang, who added that the duo create their own content for The Brkdwn while juggling the demands of school and internships.

While they have the privilege of being backed financially by the NUS Enterprise, they still encourage youths who want to start their own businesses to try things on the side.

“I was initially fearful because there were a lot of risks involved but the best time to do something is when you’re young because there are endless resources and opportunities at our fingertips,” advised Gwee.

“It has been an arduous journey to build a media company from scratch but what we are doing is of service to people and the feedback we have gotten is what keeps us going.”

The Brkdwn currently has over 500 subscribers and has plans to bring their content to other platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

#2 Consistency and hard work is key

It was during the circuit breaker period in Singapore that Claire Ki and Winnie Tan started their online jewellery business, David X Jonathan. The 23-year-old undergraduates were very free then as they were struggling to find internships.

As big jewellery fans, they realised that there aren’t many waterproof and sweat-free pieces that is a good fit for the sunny weather conditions in Singapore. Hence, they decided to sell sustainable long-lasting gold-filled jewellery.

And while they have since amassed over a thousand followers, it wasn’t always a bed of roses.

“We were afraid that we couldn’t establish a market and we didn’t know the demand for our products,” shared Tan. “Nothing really worked out at the start. We had to look for suppliers from everywhere in the world and there was a lot of trial and error.”

But they still did their due diligence and came up with a detailed marketing plan after weeks of researching and crunching out numbers.

(Source: Winnie Tan and Claire Ki)
(Source: Winnie Tan and Claire Ki, left to right) (Claire Ki and Winnie Tan)

“Consistency is the one thing that will make your business succeed. You can’t expect the first year of business to be amazing,” said Tan.

The duo also had to invest money into the business which mostly came from their own savings. “Grow up with the mentality to save and you will learn about the value of money and savings, You have to give yourself the opportunity to have a capital,” advised Ki.

The girls play on each other's strengths as well. Ki, who majors in marketing in the Singapore Management University, does the paid advertisements while Tan, who is an arts student from the YALE-NUS College, does the designs.

“We are happy with the business, but we are not content. We can do better and we will do better,” declared Tan.

Moving forward, David X Jonathan has plans to work with smaller local businesses and make their products known in physical stores.

#3 Give your 100%

And for some, it is about seizing every opportunity.

Evan Heng might just be 23 but he is already the proud owner of a tuition establishment - Zenith Education Studio, which sees an annual revenue of nearly S$2 million. Zenith offers math tuition for secondary school students and helps junior college students with physics, economics and mathematics.

(Source: Evan Heng)
(Source: Evan Heng) (Evan Heng)

Heng started giving tuition ‘for fun’ in January 2017, but it was only until May 2019 that Zenith was officially incorporated.

But it was not an easy journey: He had a co-founder who backed out at the last minute, rent could go as high as S$9,000 a month and he only had 20 students.

“I took a really big risk,” Heng shared. “But it was a risk I was willing to take even if my bank account may be depleted because these kinds of opportunities don’t come everyday.”

As someone who worked up to 120 hours a week in his peak, Heng believes that it is necessary to sacrifice some things to succeed.

“I sacrificed a proper university experience and a lot of sleep just to ensure that the business is doing fine,” Heng shared. “I basically forced myself to give my 100% because running a business is about how much you are willing to put in.”

“If you do four sides hustles but put only 25% effort for each, how are you going to compete with someone who gives their 100% for one?”

His parting words: “It is very self-limiting to believe that you can’t succeed without even trying.”

Zenith now takes in 400 students and has outlets at Rochester Mall and Potong Pasir., and is opening a third branch in Bukit Timah in April. Heng hopes to open ice cream cafes next to them so that his students can have a place to study.

Related stories:

Millennial Money: Debunking five common investment myths

Millennial Money: Should I engage a financial advisor?

Millennial Money: How to invest? What do I even invest in?

Millennial Money: Why should young people invest?