Mayiduo Had To Fight With Family & Wife To Start Businesses As They Opposed ‘Risky’ Ventures
If you’ve seen an influx of heavily tattooed influencers speaking with exaggerated gestures and loud voices, you’ve probably stumbled upon the ‘Ah Beng’ side of TikTok or Instagram. Kelvin Tan, better known as Mayiduo, is but one of these ‘Ah Bengs’ — and a very successful one, at that.
When he isn’t running several different businesses, such as interior design (ID) firm SG Interior KJ, he co-leads media company Double Up with Charlene. He is also active as a content creator on social media.
In the first part of a two-part series of articles, Mr Tan speaks to MS News about how he juggles all his work commitments with spending time with his wife, whom he’s been with for 15 years, and their son, who is three this year.
Spoiler alert: Not very well.
But he’s learning and trying every day to be better at it, especially since she stuck with him even though they were earning just S$1,000 a month for two years.
Mayiduo grew up wanting to be an entrepreneur
Mayiduo is Mr Tan’s name for an Ah Beng character he plays in many of these videos.
Though he might initially come across as brash and threatening, the 31-year-old Mayiduo says he’s much more business-minded — almost to a fault — if you actually get to meet him.
And that’s what MS News got to do one weekday morning when Mr Tan greeted us from his Punggol Northshore BTO flat after sending his son to school.
The house, which he calls a “showroom” for his ID firm, might have cost more than S$160,000 to renovate — but he did it all for free.
Mr Tan told Yahoo Finance Singapore that he made a deal so contractors could buy “advertising space” in his home to demonstrate their workmanship and services.
Then, Mr Tan’s home would be featured on marketing materials to showcase the company’s capabilities so that “everyone benefits”.
In effect, he had the entire house renovated for free.
Of course, coordinating all the renovations with at least 20 different interior designers was not easy, and part of the ‘cost’.
But Mr Tan’s experiences with running a media company and heading his own ID firm gave him the idea to use his own flat as a showroom.
This is just one example of how Mr Tan blends his entrepreneurial ambitions with content creation, often scripting skits, which he also directs and acts in.
Ever since he was eight years old, Mr Tan wanted to be an entrepreneur.
As he did not come from a well-to-do family, he knew he had to find ways to break out of the poverty cycle.
To gain experience, he took on many part-time jobs from age 13, from selling ice cream to working at clothing stores.
Mr Tan’s first attempt at entrepreneurship was at age 14 when he tried buying and reselling ladies’ handbags imported from China. But that didn’t work out because of a lack of marketing expertise.
However, he had started receiving orders for T-shirt printing by then, and he eventually launched a printing business in 2013.
Mayiduo studied under ID firm to gain experience
Even while struggling financially, Mr Tan’s family posed objections to what they saw were risky endeavours.
“When I first wanted to do business, there were a lot of objections from my family,” he shared. “My father had two failed businesses, and my mum didn’t believe in [starting businesses].
“So it was pretty much me against the world . . . I had to show results to prove [myself] to everyone.”
He added, “If your family doesn’t come from a business background, they’ll just see business as risky.”
After his printing business was established, Mr Tan studied under an ID firm for nine months, learning the inner workings of the industry.
He felt there needed to be more transparency in how ID firms operated and wanted to share more with customers so they knew what they were paying for.
However, Mr Tan has never believed in working under others.
“I told the boss very clearly, ‘I’m just here to learn. When I’m done learning, I’m not gonna work for you anymore,’” he laughed.
But in return, Mr Tan said he’d make the boss his partner and give him shares in the new firm.
Overcoming friction when relationship & work collided
Like how his entrepreneurship journey began in his teens, Mr Tan’s relationship with his now-wife Angie Teo blossomed around the same time.
The couple met in secondary school when Mr Tan was 15 and Ms Teo a year younger.
Quipping that he’d only met her because he “decided to” retain a year, they started dating after they were put in the same class.
But a hurdle of being in a long-term relationship from a young age, Mr Tan said, is learning to grow up together.
He admitted that even Ms Teo did not understand what he was doing with his businesses in the first two years.
Both of them took home just S$1,000 a month from their printing business after working from 8am to 2am every day and doing everything in-house.
Because of this, there was a lot of discontent with how much they were hustling for such meagre pay.
“She said, ‘I go work some random office job also earn S$2,000 to S$3,000 a month.’”
On top of that, Ms Teo had given up her dream of becoming an air stewardess to help with his business.
But Mr Tan was insistent that after getting through the initial stage, the business would scale, and they’d make more money than they would in a regular job afterwards.
“Our quarrels were bad because I operate the way I do, and it was the same for her,” Mr Tan said. “There were times she’d ask me to stop the car and say, ‘You want, I jump.’”
It was also difficult to convince his wife that things would work out because, at age 21, he didn’t have a ‘portfolio’ to show past results.
He simply had to bet on himself to succeed — and tell his wife and family to do the same.
“It was pure faith,” he said.
Today, they know what their roles are.
Ms Teo handles the printing company’s daily operations while Mr Tan oversees his other businesses. But this only came “after a lot of ‘She cry, I say sorry’ moments”, he laughed.
Setting aside time to spend with wife & son
As Mr Tan noted, his mind revolves around business when he’s not acting or directing skits.
Like many entrepreneurs, he spends practically every day working. Mr Tan can only get an hour or two to play with his son when he gets home in the evening.
But by nightfall, Mr Tan is back to answering calls and texts about his businesses.
“I spend a lot of time working,” he said, which sounds like an understatement. “My meetings are back to back to back, and I take livestream jobs at night.
“By the time I get back, my kid is asleep, and my wife is asleep. The next day, I wake up, meetings again. I think I need to learn to be less of a workaholic.”
In the meantime, Mr Tan tries to make up for this lack of quality time by bringing the family overseas and help his wife see the world.
In recent years, they’ve been to Perth, Taiwan, Paris, and Switzerland, just to name a few destinations.
They don’t have a set time since Mr Tan is so busy. He did share that his spontaneity means they may plan trips rather impromptu.
Wants to see how much he can do with more business ideas
Getting over his workaholic habits is still a “work in progress” for Mr Tan. After all, it’s normal for him to hustle seven days a week.
For example, he tried to set aside a day for himself and to spend time with his wife and son. However, that quickly went out the window.
“Based on the current schedule, it’s not looking good,” he chuckled. “One day a week? Does not work.”
Still, the couple has been married for two years and worked together for much longer.
And just like Mr Tan’s entrepreneurial efforts, they’ve gotten over the contentious elements of their relationship through communication, hard work, and a lot of crying.
But as an entrepreneur, Mr Tan wants to continue testing the limits of what he can do.
For instance, just this May, he launched a demolition business focusing on hacking down walls and tiles in BTO flats and condos.
He also shared that he has two to three other business plans in his head. But he hasn’t had the time to them execute yet.
With all these ideas he wants to bring to life, it’s unlikely that Mr Tan will get his wish of achieving work-life balance any time soon.
But that seems to be the way he likes it.
Know other enterprising individuals like Mayiduo? Get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image by MS News and courtesy of Kelvin Tan.
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