My early life
I started my career in the government sector upon graduating from Singapore Polytechnic in business administration, majoring in Public Relations and Advertising. From an administrative assistant, I rose to the rank of Communications Officer in five years, producing C-level conferences and had my taste of being a young copywriter and Editor of a government publication. I was contented, and I told myself then, I was going to continue doing what I did and retire happy in my forties.
Long and behold, my dream of retiring in the government sector got derailed as a new opportunity came knocking. In my 30s, I was recommended by a close friend for a position in a private sector organisation and started an exciting career in public relations.
Discovering my passion
Being a media relations specialist kept me on my toes as I needed to keep up with the news locally and in the region. Part of my duties include reading the local and international newspapers and providing media summaries of key developments in the education industry on our company websites and marketing channels.
My team and I were often in strategic and tactical discussions with senior management, and internal stakeholders to boost the organisation’s brand exposure in the media. My work also involved keeping track and observing the types of stories the editors, and journalists cover and seek every opportunity to engage and get their interest to cover our announcements and events.
The learning curve was steep, but I was determined to do the job well. Reading, writing press releases and media pitches, producing web content and materials, taking notes, and observing the issues and trends in the local and international news became part of my daily DNA. I took pride in getting leads and inroads for our thought leaders and academia in the papers, some of whom became household names in the labour and transportation scene in Singapore.
I was privileged to rub shoulders and work with world-renowned think-tanks, prolific speakers and authors such as Dr. James Canton, Scott Friedman, CSP, Malcolm Gladwell, and Amazon adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg. Among my achievements were getting their interviews published on local major newspaper columns. Again, I told myself, working in a stable environment and enjoying what I did, I will continue working in the organisation till I retire in my 50s.
I was wrong. As much as I wanted to control my destiny, a higher being felt I had more to offer.
Mid-life crisis moment
Call it a mid-life crisis, but in my forties, I realised I was not meeting my life goals and came face-to-face with uncomfortable situations in my life. I lost my confidence and did not have clarity of my future. I became restless and unmotivated. Depression kicked in and took a toll on my health. It then occurred to me that life has to be more than just clocking to work and getting a pay-check at the end of the month. I needed to find a purpose but most of all, I was finding the true meaning of fulfillment. An article by Simon Sinek discusses the meaning behind seeking happiness and the difference between fulfillment and happiness. He said while happiness is short-lived but fulfilment is a feeling you carry for eternity. It made me think deeper about that notion and I went on a journey of self-discovery to find fulfilment on earth and eventually, in life here-after.
In my youth and being an introverted child, I expressed my thoughts and painted my views of the world through journaling and writing poems. Despite growing with mild dyslexia, I developed a passion for writing because through it (spelling error and all), it opened doors of imagination of how I perceive the world and what I want my world to look like. That passion led to my career in communications.
For a decade in media relations, I have produced hundreds of story pitches of people who have made it in life despite the challenges and adversities they faced. I recognise how good and inspirational stories can empower other people to make a change in their lives. As a ‘storyteller’, if a story can inspire one person be a happier parent, be a more responsible citizen, do a little more to help save the planet, or make a difference in a child’s life, I met my goal.
It was then I found a new calling.
The question was, is it too late to start fresh?
My answer is No.
Finding my purpose
Thus, in my forties, I took a leap of faith and left the corporate world — a secured job with a steady income to find my true purpose.
The break led me to catch up on my religious classes and running regime. I spent more time with my loved ones especially my spouse, children and my father. I went back to reading and picked up new skills. It was a journey of discovering my self-worth, rebuilding my confidence and finding balance in my life.
With alot of time in my hands, I did freelance work producing personal biodatas, company profiles, media pitches, blogging, and managing social media platforms for several solopreneurs and business owners. I also started a full-time writing gig with Marketing in Asia, a KL-based community content platform on all things marketing. I had a new found purpose.
After a few months, I was encouraged by several entrepreneur friends to consider monetising my passion. It took me several weeks to consider the suggestion of launching a boutique public relations and digital marketing consultancy to help the small business players in the industry. While they see marketing and public relations as important in brand building, they are often boot-strapped. Never in my wildest dreams that starting a consultancy business was in my cards. Then it occurred to me. I had the training since I was 11 years old.
My mom — the entrepreneur
In my youth, my late mother used to supplement our family’s income by selling curry puffs, fried banana fritters, and Malay kueh (cakes). While Mom was the founder and brainchild of her humble home-based business, my younger brother and I were her Public Relations and Marketing Directors. Our role was to build relations and handle marketing. We did ‘direct marketing’ by carrying our basket full of food items and went around our housing blocks in the afternoons and weekends. Because we were so famous in building relations (PR) with the community in our neighborhood, mom’s delicacies were among the favorites in our neighbourhood back then.
Developing marketing strategies
My brother and I worked on marketing strategies to reach our goal — to sell our kuehs fast (so that we can have more time to play at the playground).
Thus, we did the following :
- We developed buyer pesona of our target market. This includes identifying the age group, gender, income, what kind of lifestyle do they have (e.g stay home grandparents with grandkids), their challenges, and how they make their buying decisions. We soon realised that the moment we understood what our target market concerns and needs were, we build trust with them. We knew why a certain aunty or grandma preferred our curry puffs or a certain uncle will always be waiting for our fried banana fritters. For me, I took the opportunity to do my PR — by engaging with them when I meet them in the neighbourhood or at the market.
- We conducted market segmentation — which geographic location or blocks we should target depending on the demographics and which hour (which were linked to their behaviour patterns) will yield most income.
- We did market research and identified the block of flats with the highest number of customers. They will include senior citizens or families who will be waiting for us to come by and provide ‘front door delivery and customer service’; the right time and hour to go out with our sales and find out which item would sell out the most.
We also noted that rainy days were the best times to earn our income — people were just too lazy to go out. Just like how Grabfood delivers to your doorstep today, my brother and I were the GrabFood of yesteryears. During rainy seasons, we were able to sell our basket of goodies in less than two hours as compared to four on other days. Of course, business had it ups and downs. There were days where we were not able to complete our sale. Our solution to help mom? We would sit at the void deck and tried to gobble down the remaining unsold items as much as we can and took money from our piggy banks to cover the loss.
Business, in whatever form, is, therefore, about providing a solution. You need to find what your customers want and how you can solve their problem. Just like life, we need to keep finding better solutions to make life more meaningful not only for us — but for the community around us.
A new life chapter
As much as I enjoy public relations, marketing was a subject I did well in school and decided to harness my skill in social media and digital marketing by taking a certification course in Social Media Marketing. I also decided to build my branding on LinkedIn and connected with many like-minded people who proved to be great connections, sharing knowledge, and opening up new business opportunities.
Tin Communications is LIVE!
The stint while on a freelance work made me realise the opportunities for me to be an extended team for small brands to help their businesses grow — at an affordable rate. After few months of planning, Tin Communications, was launched in October 2019. Jumping into entrepreneurship is a real leap of faith but I told myself that until I try it, I will never know if it will work.
It has been a year since Tin Communications is in operations and I am truly blessed for the experiences and trust that my clients have on us. Today, Tin Communications work with business owners to raise their brand stories through public relations, social media marketing and content marketing on the traditional and online mediums. They include those in the early childhood education consultancy, F&B, socio-inter religious institutions, pregnancy and health services and spa business.
A Late Bloomer
Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine and author of Late Bloomers, argues that our culture’s obsession with early achievement dissuades us from pursuing our passions. Instead of having varied interests, studying widely, and taking our time — essentials for self- discovery — we’re encouraged to ace tests, become specialists right away, and pursue safe, stable, and lucrative careers. As a result, most of us end up choosing professional excellence over personal fulfillment, and often we lose ourselves in the process.”
He added, “As you move forward, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s never too late to “become” yourself. Aristotle, for example, didn’t fully devote himself to writing and philosophy until he was nearly 50. There are also benefits to taking a long, winding path to self-fulfillment. Remember that age typically brings wisdom, resilience, humility, self-knowledge, and creativity. This is one reason the average age of founders of high-growth startups is 45.”
Embracing the new me — Fall forward
I guess a midlife crisis doesn’t have to be a bad thing, after all. With a little patience and faith, it can lead us to a new path of discovery and a new life compass. My passion for writing and ‘storytelling’ brought me to where I am today, and while I am a late bloomer in my business, I know it is never too late to start. It is all about the right time, trusting God in the process and have a ‘Just Do It’ mentality. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Some are bad and painful, but they are our stepping stones to creating new, better things. Make learning a continuous part of your life. If you need someone to provide a little clarity and empower you, seek help from those whose expertise and purpose is just that.
In conclusion, I would like to share a quote by American actor, Danzel Washington on success:
Every failed experiment is one step forward to success.
You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it.
You will lose.
You will embarrass yourself, and you will suck at something.
Embrace it because it is inevitable.
Don’t quit. Do not fall back. Fall forward.
As I embrace reaching almost half a century old, I am falling forward to a new beginning.
Never let anyone tell you that you are too old to build a new life, start your own business, or even to be a healthier, happier, more productive you.
There is no shame in being a ‘late bloomer’. At least you still have a chance to bloom. 🙂
Discover your purpose.