Women-Led Singaporean Businesses Were Born From Unique Struggles
For women who often carry heavier responsibilities in the household, juggling a career is no easy feat.
The fine balance between work and personal life takes extreme finesse, something not everyone can achieve. However, these 4 women have mastered just that, in pursuing their passion for their crafts.
As we celebrate the week of International Women’s Day (IWD), we take a closer look at how these women manage both their personal and professional lives, as well as their remarkable journeys so far.
Stay-home mum starts earth-conscious brand BYKURAHOME
Ariel Hay has always had an interest in beauty since she was young. Eventually, her deep-rooted love landed her a job in marketing, working with some of the world’s best luxury brands.
As with anyone in their twenties, time moves quickly, and after 10 years in the industry, the stresses of her job eventually got to her.
Speaking with MS News, Ariel told us that it was at this point that she suffered a miscarriage and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This tragic series of events led to her leaving her full-time job to take the time to heal both physically and mentally.
Thankfully, she recovered well and was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy in 2018, and with that, adopted the role of a full-time mother. Although motherhood gave her unparalleled joy, she still felt as though she had lost something when she put a stop to her career.
Ariel said that beyond wanting a sense of self-identity back, she wanted to be more than a mother for her son – she wanted to be someone he would grow up to be proud of.
One thing Ariel learned during her first months of motherhood was that child-rearing uses a lot of disposables. From diapers to Ziploc bags, the single-use waste accumulated on a daily basis was what moved Ariel to create BYKURAHOME.
Using this observation to form her mission of sustainability, she anchored the company’s values to end disposable culture with that in mind. One bad habit at a time.
Combining her decade long experience as a brand manager with luxury and lifestyle brands, Ariel centres BYKURAHOME on products that marry functionality, aesthetics and sustainability.
Products like the Mojo Silicone Bag and Snack Pouch are manufactured to meet the highest standards for food contact while allowing for continued use.
The Oliver Park reusable tote bag, meanwhile, uses ripstop nylon fabric, similar to those found on parachutes, that can hold more weight and last longer than traditional reusable bags.
As cliche as it sounds, sustainability is more than just using the right materials. It is also about designing products to fit seamlessly into our daily lives, making the use of anything else redundant.
Although the company is still relatively young, it has partnered with established brands like Rolex, Shiseido, and Love Bonito.
Get a manicure in seconds with Nodspark
Mothers would oftentimes make sacrifices and cut corners for the betterment of their children’s lives. Luxuries like a day out at the salon or the spa are mere pipedreams when they enter motherhood.
While tending to her second child, Eugenia Yeo bemoaned the fact that she no longer had the time or patience for manicures. As a mother of 2 young children, who was also helming 2 businesses, she didn’t have the bandwidth to spend too much time at any leisurely activity.
Still wanting to make time for self-care, however, Eugenia decided to think of a way to make manicures convenient and much less time-consuming.
Her ‘Eureka’ moment came in the form of nail wraps, an inexpensive and quick solution for time-strapped women to look good with minimal effort. And so Nordspark was born, selling the ingenious product in Eugenia’s unique designs.
Eugenia saw the potential in the nail wraps to be perfect for busy Singaporeans. This quick way of sprucing up yourself is a win-win for anyone who can’t spare the hours waiting for a design to be drawn on every nail.
Since the designs are pre-made, you can browse through as many as you’d like without worrying about wasting more time sitting through a long application process afterwards.
The novel idea hit the nail with her client base as well, comprising mothers looking for a little glam in their lives. Eugenia shared that customers have left raving reviews, saying that the nail wraps have given them the ability to take care of themselves amid their hectic schedules.
Modest activewear for the modern Muslim woman
The struggles of females in the fitness industry is a widely known issue, but one problem not many may discuss is clothing choices for physical activities.
As a fitness instructor with 10 years of experience, Nawal Alhaddad has seen her fair share of Muslim women struggling to keep by religious guidelines while exercising.
Teaching 20 classes a week, Nawal saw students relishing their time exercising but looking uncomfortable doing so. Their traditional hijabs would come undone with strenuous movement and their clothes would ride up unexpectedly.
This limited their performances, as they often have to fix themselves whenever a wardrobe malfunction props up.
Rather than drumming about the problem, she decided to become the solution with the GLOWco brand. Conducting surveys among closest friends, family, and students to understand their pain points, Nawal eventually created ideal workout outfits for the modern Muslim woman.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia (CNA), Nawal said that aside from the obvious comfort and functionality features, an often neglected aspect of picking a workout top for Muslim women is ensuring that it covers the wearer’s bum.
This was essentially a game-changer as this would mean that Muslim women would now be able to wear relatively snug clothes while observing religious guidelines.
The attention to detail and consideration of various factors even drew customers from other ethnicities who are particularly fond of their in-house printed sports tights.
Receiving love from all walks of life, Nawal was able to open up her own women-only fitness studio in Tampines West in 2021. The studio now hosts daily classes and boasts a retail stop so women can get all their fitness fixes in one place.
Esse sustainably makes clothes down to the finest thread
A conventional upbringing in Singapore mainly consists of years of early compulsory education, and at one point, making a decision to pursue higher education.
Although this experience is universal to many of us, there are folks who dare to push the envelope and veer from this common path.
Alicia Tsi is one of them. Growing up in a creative household, where her parents were always busy making something out of nothing, she was influenced to do the same from a tender age.
However, having the desire wasn’t enough to sway her from outside pressures that saw her take the ‘safe route’ inevitably. She worked a typical 9-to-5 job after getting a business degree and worked in various industries before taking a leap of faith and starting her own label, Esse.
Her time in the fashion industry had a profound impact on her views towards fashion. The eye-opening experience made it clear to her that the current fashion system is inherently ‘broken’.
Trends are cyclical and companies go around in circles, over-producing the same garments in different seasons and thus wasting our planet’s precious resources.
Finding it hard to turn her back on these truths, Alicia embarked on a journey to create a fashion label that’s better for the planet.
Essentially a one-woman show, Esse focuses on creating timeless pieces that withstand the test of time – and trends. Minimal and clean in design, their pieces feature relaxed silhouettes that Alicia loves for their comfort and functionality.
Using only sustainable materials, Esse selects each supplier according to a stringent set of criteria that places an emphasis on product integrity and good business practices.
Score major discounts as a FRANK by OCBC cardholder
These female entrepreneurs all share a common theme – selfless care. With International Women’s Day around the corner, there are hardly any better ways to show you care than by giving them a thoughtful gift.
If you’re a FRANK by OCBC cardholder, you’re in luck as there are exclusive promotions tied to each of these 4 brands. They are as follows:
- BYKURAHOME: 12% off ($60 min. spend) with promo code: BYKURAHOME12
- Nodspark: 10% off all nail wraps ($50 min. spend) with promo code: NSOCMSN10
- GLOWco: 30% off all in-store brands with promo code: GLOWCOWOMEN30
- Esse: 10% off with promo code: ZULAXOCBCIWD
More details for each promo can be found here, including validity dates and exclusions. As these promos may run for a bit, those on the fence about signing up for a FRANK by OCBC card can use these deals as their much-needed push to take the plunge.
Support inspiring local businesswomen
These women have all lived unique journeys up to this point and used their difficulties to shape a better future for not just themselves, but also the people around them.
Such inspiring pursuits deserve all the encouragement they can get, be it in the form of increased sales or a larger customer base.
So, if you’d like to be a part of their inspiring journeys, do check them out for yourselves and show them some support.
This post was brought to you in collaboration with FRANK by OCBC.
Featured image courtesy of FRANK by OCBC.