Thursday, May 31, 2007

Need Space! Need Space!

Hmmm okay, so the Institute of Estate Agents have recommended guidelines on the commission payable by landlord/tenants to the real estate agents who help you look for space, and perhaps this is why I haven't been feeling any love from the people I have contacted.

From IEA's "Professional Fee / Commission for Real Estate Agents / Agencies 2006 Reprint"

Since I'm looking for space going for less than $2500, and most estate agents have probably encountered resistance about this commission since they are only intended as guidelines and clause 1.3 in the document stipulates upfront that "This scale of professional fee/commission is not intended to restrict or interfere with any private arrangements which Agents/Agencies may have with their clients" - implying that it IS negotiable - then perhaps it's not worth the effort from the estate agent's POV, especially if co-broking is involved.

Fair 'nuff!

There's gotta be a site for agents working for the seller/landlord to list directly without having to go through a co-broker!

*Makes a note to do some real estate sleuthing tomorrow*

Palate Sensations

This has been a great 2 weeks for discovering new and exciting blogs to read! I bought the Active Catering directory last week and came across Palate Sensations, a lovely culinary studio I'm dying to try out.

I'm always amazed at how things fall into your path just as you're wishing for them! I had decided a few weeks ago that the NewBiz would offer cupcakes and was scouting around for resource materials when along came Palate Sensations with their cupcake baking class perfectly adapted to my taste because while I love the idea of cupcakes, I don't often eat them because they are far too sweet!

So I'm going along to that on Saturday....yay *excited*! Must remember not to drink too much on Fri night :P

I was particularly interested in Palate because Lynnette Foo, their culinary mistress, was an ex-accountant who gave it all up to follow a dream AND writes about it in her blog AND is also born in Malaysia at the same hospital as me!

It's been fascinating reading about her travels, and her blog has provoked thought about writing about your personal feelings about business/clients because I had fully planned to continue sharing my learnings after the NewBiz is launched. I admire and applaud any brave voice and hate any form of censorship. A blog should be a medium where one should be able to express any view, to anyone, in any way they bloody well like!

But I suppose if one is to approach this from a purely marketing/branding POV then some restraint is required if you are going to be completely candid about the name & nature of your business. Cobalt Paladin talks about his frustrations but doesn't reveal the name of his business so to the Average JoeBlog, his personal viewpoints don't influence him professionally. I guess a blog, linked to a business, will ultimately be a public relations vehicle so one should be aware of the message you're selling communicating.

Well anyway, that's what I think with my marketing hat on. Personally, I agree with all of her posts - there are some awful clients out there - and besides, why should any business cater to the lowest common denominator? I have always believed that the quality of your product/service should come first and if you try to please everyone, it will only erode your production values.

And....Lynn's Lynnette's candid and sometimes vulnerable opinions has only made me look forward to meeting her more.

So there!

PS: Talking about cupcakes, I sprang out of bed this morning and spent a few anxious hours peering out of my window anticipating my first delivery of CCup's luxury gourmet cupcakes before realising they're only coming next week! Poo :(

Monday, May 28, 2007


OMG how hard is it to find a space to work from? I've been looking for over a month now and have briefed 3 real estate agents but...nothing!

I wonder if it's because my budget is $2500/mth and I need a space which already has, or will allow me to install a kitchen? I've been looking at renting terrace houses which allow businesses to work from, but even then it seems incredibly hard. where I'd REALLY like to be is in Chip Bee Gardens but they are unfortunately all full. I have been pestering the management agent like herpes.

I've been avoiding factory / industrial warehousing space until it's a last resort me chicken....I'm starting up by myself and don't want to be working in Block 1056E in the middle of nowhere, on my own, late at night surrounded by the sounds of giant mechanical cogs grinding away around me.

A really useful site I've discovered for property listings is Rental Singapore - they have this great search engine and dozens of listings BUT their customer service is absolutely SHITE. I've rung & emailed them up numerous times over the past few months to enquire about their listings and request a viewing but they never get back to you!!
What I'm going to do from now on is just find the vacancy, then ask my own agent to sort a viewing out. Err, when I find a really good agent, that is! If anyone reading knows of anyone, pass it on will ya??

Saturday, May 26, 2007


So the new biz is about food, and nothing sells food on the web better than mouth-watering pictures.

I explored three options:
1. Ripping photos off other cookbooks
2. Using stock images
3. Shootin' my own shit

I'm too much of a coward to rip photos off cookbooks because as a true Singaporean (and Rafflesian no less) I live in mortal fear of getting caught by The Authorities. Bugger the IP issues, it's all about getting in trouble.

Stock images were interesting and I looked in quite a few libraries. Most stock libaries operate on 3 licenses : rights-managed, rights-ready & royalty-free. A rights-managed picture for use in Singapore only, for 6 months, on a web page would cost about S$400 - this excludes the cost of the buying the image from the stock library. Buying royalty-free images still cost about S$ this wasn't the greatest option for me either. And of course, you're limited to recipes that they have images of!

But if you're looking for stock images, my favourite places are Corbis, Getty Images, Age Fotostock & R. Ian Lloyd.

So it was down to shootin' my own shit. My extremely helpful and talented professional photographer friend, Amos Wong took us down to Peninsula Shopping Centre (not Peninsula Plaza!) to look at little studio set-ups.

We have our eye on the Canon EOS 400D which The Camera Workshop was selling at S$1250 incl a sd card & bag and 55mm lens.

Cathay Photo also sold a neat mini digital studio kit that comes with a table top, lights and everything for $808.50. I think that's the set-up I'm going to go for. Here are the specs below.


How exciting! I got my business account ATM / debit card thingy today and can start purchasing stuff on the company!!!

Someone keep me away from Chloe's new 2007 Paddington satchel because...err, well, you know, I need a bag to carry the camera.....

Friday, May 25, 2007

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher will Appear

Isn't it funny how taking one step leads to another...and another...and another?

I recently stumbled across Cobalt Paladin's blog, A Long and Arduous Road of an Entrepreneur and have been reading, and learning.

I spent many months this past year fretting about my lack of mentors, wishing I knew more like-minded people, eager to learn from the experience of others who have taken a leap of faith and given it all up. One of the reasons I started writing this blog was the hope that my frustration now could reduce someone else's anxiety in the future. Maybe several years down the line (when I actually had some real-life lessons to share!) someone wide-eyed & bushy-tailed, yet scared and unsure will trip across this on his/her travels and know they aren't alone. Or maybe even reach out to me for help.

Cobalt's blog has filled a little void in me, and opened up a network of other entrepreneurial bloggers in Singapore that I hope to be able to learn from. He is 6-7 years into his business, and has chronicled his journey from small decisions to big ones. What I admire, and take inspiration from is not the success or failure of his enterprise, or how big his company has grown...but how he has learned about himself, and retained his humanity despite the temptation of success.

I think there is a seed in all of us bloggers to share, and teach, and inspire. There is, of course, a certain vanity in sharing my voice with you (it's no coincidence practically every paragraph starts with "I"!).....but I don't write to look in the mirror. I write for for my friends, and for my future children, and anyone who has ever been in my shoes even for a moment.

I write for dreamers.

I write for you.

So. To Cobalt, who writes in the early hours when the world is sleeping and his son is ill and the responsibilities of his business are bruising a tattoo on his soul, it's not for nothing. Thank you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Things to do on a Bleh Day #1: Make a Wallpaper

Alt-click the picture to save as a 1440x900 wallpaper

"La Vie en Rose...Indien" by Pascal of Bollywood

I was feeling a little unmotivated, a little discouraged. Finding it hard to be productive today. Perhaps it's the on-the-verge-of-rain weather we've been having. Or the Macdonald's I had for lunch.....

So I made a desktop wallpaper just for fun. Hehe it's really perked me up! And then MooMoo contributed the perfect sountrack.....enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2007


wOOt!!! I opened a bank account today!

One of the hardest things about keeping an idea alive is simply that life just gets in the way. I have to continue freelancing to help finance the start-up (as well as to pay off credit card bills) and paid work has to take priority over personal pursuits.

The problem is, the more time I spend away from The Idea, the more the passion fades and what started as something I
had to do, becomes something I might do....and then the voice of doubt creeps in saying "well, maybe not" and then....the idea is just another notebook on the shelf. It's happened to me enough times in the past to realise that there are 2 important things I have to do to keep the momentum going.

(1) Goal setting
It's not enough to have a general idea in your head. You have to write it down.

I've read quite a few books and attended seminars that always refer to statistics from a Harvard Business School study on goal setting. I can't seem to find a report of the actual study ... but basically a group of Harvard graduates were asked if they had goals and, if so, were they written down?

3% had written their goals down, 11% had goals but had not written them down and 86% had not yet established goals.

Twenty years later, they polled the same group. The 11% who had goals (but not written down) were making twice as much as the 86% who had no goals. However, the 3% who had written down their goals were making 10 times more than the average of all the other graduates…and 98% of all the wealth resided with that same 3%!

My friend Adelina invited me to a Finexis seminar on achieving targets, and one of the exercises was goal setting. It made a difference. Writing them down makes them tangible and forces you to plan, enabling you to take physical first steps towards getting there.

Anyway, I don't know how other people write their goals but this is how I did mine. The long term goals are at the very end, and there are little goals to get there. I call it my Grand Master Plan. This GMP was for plain. Who says goals have to be in black and white?

I've put a blank .png template here - you're super welcome to adapt it for yourself!

(2) Take action that makes you accountable to someone else
Once the goals have been set, I could look at them forever and not get anywhere. I'm the sort of person who is extremely lazy and irresponsible when it comes to myself. I'm much better when I have someone else to answer to.

So after I've done my homework, double-checked my numbers and set my goals....I need to commit to them. With my last idea, I told Adelina my goals and told her to whup my ass if I didn't stick to them. That didn't work because we all knew she wouldn't really whip my ass, and when she started nagging too much I just avoided her.


This time round I've wizened up and have managed to stay committed by putting my money where my mouth is. I've engaged a web developer and committed moolah. I've told enough people about it to be seriously embarrassed if I don't get anywhere. I've accepted huge generosities from supportive friends. I've registered the business. I've started writing this blog.

I've basically made it very hard for myself to back out. So even if I slack off because of everyday responsibility, or laziness, or inertia, or any one of a1001 reasons...there'll be someone, or something to kick my ass.

Why have I made things so difficult for myself?

Because I really, really, really want this and don't want my stupid old self to get in the way again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Managing Expectations

I've been a little frustrated with an ongoing project. Why don't project managers tell the truth when it comes to timing? As the expert, they should know how long it takes to do x or search for y or edit z. There's no excuse to agreeing to delivering by a certain date, when you know jolly well the reality is that another 24 hours is needed to achieve the goal.

It creates so much unnecessary aggravation when you commit to a specific timing, then can't meet it. Or worse still, allow the aforementioned time to come and go without a peep of explanation.

I guess we've all been there - God knows I've shied away from telling a client the truth but a couple of times of doing that and watching my credibility deteriorate cured me of that bad habit!

It is important. People rely on you. There is a chain of events that are set according to that date that involve people, time & cost. Now, having experienced both sides of being a client and a provider (I like that word so much better than "supplier") - I appreciate the value of setting expectations even more.

I believe that most of the time, people are reasonable. Especially when you know what you're doing, and can explain why you can't build that space shuttle in 24 hours.

The Intranet Journal sums up the Six Keys to Successfully Managing Expectations perfectly - I'll be bookmarking that page for the NewBiz!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An Ode to the Idea

It's the break of dawn. A shaft of sunlight escapes through the sliver in the curtains. It pierces the membrane of your eyelids and stirs you into waking. You crack your eyes open and squint into the sunlight and you:
(a) mutter an expletive and pull the duvet over your head
(b) blink & yawn and roll over to find something (or someone) to delay you from getting out of bed
(c) flutter your eyelashes for a second and then throw back the covers with a YODELIDIHOO and hit the ground running

I'm sure the answer is (d) all of the above for most of us, but what makes the difference? For me, it's whether I've got an idea igniting my veins.

Before we embark on any sort of enterprise, I suppose one has to have a reasonable gem of an idea. For me, an idea always starts with a need. That flash of frustration and the question "Gosh, wouldn't it be great if...." and then the magic starts.

First, my brain starts going tick...tock...tick..tock.tick.tock.ticktockticktockttttt...

I see solutions like images rifling through my head like a flipbook, almost creating a breeze. It slows on some pages, and on others the picture barely registers.

The moment comes when I know the perfect solution is near. It feels like searching for an itch in the dark, your fingernails probing closer, your skin prickling with the anticipation of finding that sweet spot.

Then....I see it. The idea illuminates my skull and raises goosebumps. If it's a really great idea, I can literally feel every root of hair on my head. There's an excitement in my gut, butterflies that verge on nausea. My heart explodes miniature fireworks as my fingers itch for a pen to start scribbling with.

That's always how it happens. Whether it's during a creative review and concepts are being thrown on the table. Or it's a problem I've been mulling about that slowly hatches a solution over the course of a few days. Sometimes it happens when my mind is unclenched, like at yoga. Sometimes I see something, a signboard, an item of clothing, a colour and it starts a chain reaction....

There are always two constants - a beginning and an end.
It always begins with a need, and ends with illumination.

I don't know how other people judge ideas. I suppose there are those that judge it with a rational mind - adding formulae and scribbling on a mental chalkboard until x = y.

I guess I'm more like the other kind. Like the archer who knows the second she releases the bow, the arrow will be true. Or the golfer who knows the instant his club connects with the ball.

Here are some of the ideas I've had in the past, and how they came to light.

Note: I struggled with putting my ideas out for show & tell. They're kinda fragile. And my inner kiasu is screaming not to, in case someone steals the idea. But you know what, I think they deserve their moment in the spotlight. If someone steals them, oh well - I'll have others. But if anyone thinks they're any good, maybe we can do something together and everyone will be happy (most of all, the idea!). So here they are, in no particular order...because ideas don't respond well to favourtism, they have an ego all of their own.

Mashed potato is my favourite food of all time. I can make about a zillion different flavours. When I'm sick, or hungover, it's all I want to eat. So when I was undergoing radiation (and before I temporarily lost my tastebuds) my throat was really dry and lots of foods were off limits. All I wanted was mash! So I had an idea to set up a chain of take-away stores that served different flavoured mashed potato, all homemade from fresh russet burbanks, that are dispensed like ice cream! You get a creamy swirl in a cup and then can pick your "flake" which would little sausage chipolatas. Mmmmmmm nourishing creamy goodness in a cup! YUM YUM! The other name I had for it was I Scream Mash but I never went as far as to develop a logo for it.

The idea of lovebugs was hatched when I was on the coach on the way to Malaysia to attend gradnfather's funeral. It was the first funeral of anyone in my immediate circle and even though I wasn't close to "gong-gong", it affected me alot because all I could see was the day it would be my beloved granny or my parents. I thought that it would be so great to have a moment preserved in history, personal voice messages just for you that last forever captured in beautiful handcrafted toys, or lovebugs. About a year later, I saw some cheap, nasty Made in Chian voice recordable toys being sold at Guardian Pharmacy and felt so sad that they had missed the importance and value of a personal message given in a time of need.

plain was conceived when Chris and I moved house and were setting up my home office. I was at Popular bookshop looking for stationary and frustrated that everyday stationary was so frivolous. Nothing matched my design aesthetic. Do I really want a herd of bug eyed pandas prancing along my ruler? The cool minimalist stationary was just so expensive! So I thought "wouldn't it be great if Apple met Muji and started up a line of clever stationary? So I designed a whole range of wicked products for plain, including my super favourite idea - white staples that would camouflage into paper when you stapled it. And my best friend Kaapi designed the logo. Love it!!!!!!! OH PLEASE will someone do this with me?? I got stuck because I didn't have a clue how to find manufacturers!

I love dogs and have a bull terrier and a french bulldog whom I love to bits. I cook for my dogs, minced chicken with garden vegetables and pasta, shephards pies etc. I often wished there were some great, unique products for pets in Singapore. Like, handmade baskets and stitched woollen blankets, or wonderful handpainted ceramic bowls, beautiful leather collars/leads and homecooked food. So I wanted to build a premium brand for pets. Part of the concept would be to sell puppies from responsible breeders (NO PUPPY FARMS, she screams!!!!!!!) and have a huge grassy compound where they would run loose and play with each other and have their own kennels to sleep at night (NO GLASS BOXES, she screams!!!!!!).

Shelter was hatched from an experience in Bali. We were at a spa and they had a wonderfully designed massage bed which looked beautifully "designy" but was perfectly functional as well. I thought "wouldn't it be great to have an ultra-reasonable massage place in Singapore?". We have lots of spas and massage palces but they usually fall within two extremes - super high end and ultra cheap & cheerful (especially cheerful for the men!). This idea almost went all the way, but my timing was off and when it came down to execution, the market was already flooded with mid-ranged massage destinations AND the labour market was also saturated with China girls with questionable morals. I'm generalising, I know and I apologise for this. But it is a reality in the massage industry, unfortunately.

Ok I'll stop now because if I keep going this post will go on forever. Before I go, I want to leave you with a great link that offers suggestions on how to nurture an idea till it bears fruit.

May your ideas live long and prosper.

PS: This post is about getting ideas. Not about turning them into a reality - I'm still trying to figure that one out!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

An Unproductive Week

I've hardly done anything for the newbiz this week. How disappointing - it's the downside for having to work to finance your enterprise. I've been working pretty full-on on a freelance project for my old boss/ex-agency but I'm not really complaining because this job will pay for the web development and the design of the corporate identity!

I know when it's been an unproductive week because I hardly get anything crossed off my
To Do List. I write one at the beginning of every week and it's so helpful for planning your days. I have a pack of fat Crayola crayons that I use to cross items off when they're completed - immensely gratifying to feel that waxy stripe sliding along the page! Here's my list for this week.

I hate weeks like this when I've hardly crossed anything out!

If you want the template, just alt-click here (or right click and Save As). It's a word docco that you can drop your logo on. Hamster is the name of my freelance project management business - cos I jus' git on dat wheel!

Oi - don't laugh at my time management strategies! I am the most undisciplined, lazy, prone to procrastination person I know and I have to resort to all sorts of tricks to fool myself into working. Here's another one : The Kitchen Timer. I have a very short attention span and sometimes when I'm right up against a deadline and
have to make myself work I'll negotiate with myself. One hour of solid working (NO Second Life, NO JT's Blocks, NO blogging) and then I can go out and play. I know - how old am I, 9?!?!

It works though. I've managed to hypnoptise myself into loving the tick-tick-tick-tick sound the timer makes as it's counting down - it really gets me in the mood. Hey, did anyone ever watch Ch. 4's Countdown with Carol Vorderman & Richard Whiteley? Loved that show!

This handy kitchen timer cost me about S$5 at Takashimaya's kitchen dept

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Story of Me (IX): The End of Yesterday

So it's June 2006. If there's one thing good about a life-changing illness, it's that it changes your life! I wanted to learn something new, and have a proper go at making my ideas a reality. I had a window of opportunity because I was still relatively young, no kids, no mortgage and no-one to be responsible for except myself.

I'd also read an interview my friend Wykidd had given in the local paper about how it's the doing that counts. Essentially, all talk and no action = lame-ass. That really resonated with me because I was getting to the point where I'd tell my friends about Idea #281 and see their eyes glaze over "oh there she goes again with one of her hare-brained schemes". Actually, that pretty much sums up how disappointed I was in myself that I'd never executed any of my ideas.

There were also changes happening within my agency network, and my beloved boss had relocated to China so I read them all as the Universe nudging me to take that leap of faith.

I read Robert Kiyosaki's Before You Quit Your Job, an easily-digestible collection of real life lessons to prep you for a life of enterprise. It's part of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series so be warned - if you've read his other books it's very repetitious. It received mixed reviews but if you're an aspiring entrepreneur like me, it's pretty insightful. If you've already had experience with enterprise, you're not going to learn anything new.

Robert Kiyosaki also referenced an excellent article on the concept and definition of entrepreneurship in a modern day context by Harvard Professor Howard H. Stevenson. A Perspective on Entrepreneurship is available here from Harvard Business Online and outlines behavour between two extremes: "...the promoter who feels confident in his or her ability to seize opportunity regardless of the resources under current control....(and) the trustee who emphasizes the efficient utilization of existing resources".

I reproduce a summary here, without permission, to encourage you to purchase the article if you seek guidance on whether you tend more towards entrepreneurial or administrative behaviour.

(click to enlarge)

And so we conclude The Story of Me and how I got here. Thank God, I was getting bored of being so bloody retrospective!!! Yawn. Oh, but I want to tell you about my exploration into MBAs in my next post, but that'll be IT with the history lesson. I gotta get back into today stuff. Bye!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Story of Me (VIII): The One Less Traveled By

(Click to enlarge)
The gorgeous mural in the poem header is designed
by James Lim at Daytime LLP (formally known as Align Left)

There is a point to this long and rambling epic. My last post wasn't really to trumpet what an incredible fighter I am. I don't want to be known as That Girl Who Had Cancer. For the same reason I've been putting off that boob job because I don't want to be That Girl With The Fake Tits. My plan is to wait till I have a kid and then get the augementation so that I'll be That Girl Whose Boobs Never Deflated After The Baby.

Whoops, I think I've just given the game away. Um, where was I?

This is supposed to be a diary of a start-up, not my pseudo memoirs. Since I don't know how it's going to end, better to think of this as a Choose My Own Adventure.

The point I wanted to illustrate is I never had a plan, or a mission to do anything. I come to conclusions based to discovering what I don't want to do. It's a long and bothersome road, but I am who I am, there's not much choice in the matter. If you're like me, then the only option for you is to try anything and everything. You can't be directionless AND unadventurous because then you're not going anywhere. I really envy those people with A Mission. My sister has A Mission - she's a great doctor, had an aptitude for the studies and loves the work. She doesn't have to think too much because she's got her roadmap.

But for people like us, there is no such luxury. You have to explore, follow a track as far as it will go and be willing to retrace your steps if it doesn't work out. Because unfortunately, I don't want to follow the beaten path. I never did. It was so hard to decide on an educational stream or course of study, to lock myself into a profession for life. I always grew bored of highways and well-lit roads because a million people had already been down that path. I could see the end before I began. There was no adventure, only .... only precedent.

It takes alot of courage to accept this about ourselves. It's in our genetic make-up to strive for security, we have responsibilities, we want things. Material things, designer clothes, holidays...

The first time I left my agency to try to pursue my ambition, I failed miserably. I tiptoed around aimlessly for about a month before grabbing the next job that came along because it was all so scary! The fear kept me from wandering too far away from the streetlamp and I just didn't have the guts.

But there is some consolation. If you apply yourself to every task that comes along, nothing you do is wasted. Every avenue I've explored, every track I've sniffed down has produced a result in one form or another. Learning builds confidence. I can backtrack every idea, every thought within an idea to a wrong turning I made somewhere in my life. Making mistakes primes you. In fact, mistakes are absolutely crucial.

So celebrate every bad decision, every fault, every blunder because before anything else, you must conquer your fear of failure.
And the only way to do that is to fail*.

*Ummm....needless to say please learn from those failures otherwise that's just dumb.