Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn The Ropes From Rubina Tiyu of Inside The Knot – Deborah Tan

Rubina Tiya, Principal Planner and Founder of Inside The Knot

Rubina Tiya, Principal Planner and Founder of Inside The Knot

If you love surrounding yourself with beauty and love, then the perfect business to explore will have to be wedding planning. However, it’s not all glamor and, in order to get things looking this wonderful, a lot of hard work has to be done. Are you ready to get your hands dirty so you can help a bride achieve the wedding of her dreams? Do you have an eye for details? Most importantly, do you love networking? If so, Rubina Tiyu, Principal Planner and Founder of Inside The Knot, has some important trade secrets to share.

1. Why did you start Inside The Knot?
“I’ve been in the wedding and events industry since 2004 and knew I wanted to start my own company by the time I’m 30. In 2010, I actually started Scarlett Creations but the company closed down after a year because I wasn’t ready – both financially and mentally. Then in 2012, I decided to try again. I noticed there was a gap in the market for quality wedding information and supplies, so after doing my numbers, I started Inside The Knot!”

2. You mentioned you had to go back to Malaysia for a year after you started Scarlett Creations. What happened?
“Because I was unprepared for the financial commitments of running my own business, I decided to move my operations to Malaysia so I keep my costs to half. It was tough year and after folding Scarlett Creations, I went back to working in PR and Marketing, all the while doing wedding planning on the side. In the one year I spent working in PR and Marketing, I worked on expanding my network and gaining more contacts, and also on rebuilding my confidence.”

It's probably a good idea to be a gifted floral arranger too!

It’s probably a good idea to be a gifted floral arranger too!

3. What foundation do you need to build in order to get started as a wedding planner?
“Industry experience and knowledge are definitely crucial. These, you will have to obtain through working in the industry. You’ll also need to possess a lot of contacts and these you gather in the course of your work.”

4. How does a wedding planner make her money?
“We earn through consultation fees, commission for referrals … some wedding planners, like us, also earn by taking charge of wedding decorations and providing wedding stationery like invitations and place-cards.”

A wedding Rubina helped plan.

A wedding Rubina helped plan.

5. What are some “industry practices” a new wedding planner has to bear in mind in order to maintain the goodwill of competitors and vendors?
“Competition is always good so respect your competitors. This will also make you a better business-person too. Do not ever backstab the competition – what goes around comes around and you don’t want to be known as someone with such a toxic reputation.

With vendors, be honest and always communicate with them. If you are marking up their prices or you are expecting a referral commission, you have to be open about this and tell them. Clearly convey what your couple is expecting – word for word – to ensure they deliver according to expectations. This will prevent double-work on everyone’s part.”

6. If someone wants to get into the wedding planning business, how should she plan her career route?
“Gain experience by starting at the bottom of the ladder. Nothing beats on-the-job training and this will also help you see the operations from every aspect.

Be conscientious about doing research. You need to stay abreast of the latest trends and maintain scrapbooks so you can better advise your clients and inspire them.

Although there are now several places that offer courses on wedding planning, I still believe that you’ll be better off knocking on the door of a wedding planner and offering to help as a part-timer or an intern.”

Click to check out Inside The Knot!

Click to check out Inside The Knot!

Did you find this interview helpful? Do you have more questions for Rubina? Tell us in the Comments section below and we will try our bestest to get her to help you. If you are interested in learning about other industries, tell us too and we’ll seek someone out to do an interview too. Meanwhile, if you are interested in Entrepreneurship or are an Entrepreneur yourself, please take 5 minutes to complete this survey.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She thinks all brides should enlist the help of wedding planners because Stressful is simply not a good look to wear on your big day. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

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2. Learn The Ropes From Ivy Woo Of FoodNews PR

3. What Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know: Terms Of Payment

4. [Infographics] Happiness In Entrepreneurship



Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Money, Self-Improvement

What Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know: Terms Of Payment – Deborah Tan

"Dear Sir, I'm writing to inform you that our invoice dated ...

“Dear Sir, I’m writing to inform you that our invoice dated …

I bet I made a number of enemies last week.

You see, while at home nursing a bad bout of bronchitis, I decided to take the time to get some financial housecleaning done for the company. While going through our invoices and checking up with my business partners on stuff like outstanding payments, I found out that we were owed quite a fair bit of money.

Some of my friends have told me this is something every freelancer has to put up with. One of my friends – I heard – has been owed money since last year and is now unable to get that money paid out to him because the “budget” has been “used up”. Some friends tell me I’m crazy for sending out Letters Of Demand to some of my clients because I shouldn’t be “ruining relationships” so early in my business.

Well, here’s my stand on the nature of business:

You required a service. You came to me. I delivered it. I think it is fair for me to expect to be paid on time for it.

Simple and straightforward. But, silly me, it seems businesses aren’t run like this at all.

Before I proceed, allow me to present this scenario:

I needed a drink and so I walked into a little cafe. The waitress asked me what I would like and I told her I would like to have a Coke. She said, “We have many different types of Coke here – regular, Coke Light, Coke Zero, Coke with Lime, Vanilla Coke – which Coke do you want?” 

“I want a regular Coke, please,” I replied. Off she went to the bar. Within 5 minutes, she was back with a refreshing glass of Coke. It wasn’t flat, it was icy-cold, the glass was chilled, and she even took the trouble to throw in a slice of lemon for me. She was polite, professional and I had a very enjoyable time drinking this glass of Coke.

When I was done and ready to go, she came up to the table with the bill. I took a look at it and asked, “Thank you for the very nice glass of Coke. My terms of payment are 30 days. Can I send you a cheque 30 days from today?”

As you can see, it is pretty ridiculous and if you were the waitress (or even the restaurant owner), I’m sure you would call the police immediately.

mortgage_debt_collectionBut the world of business functions exactly like the scenario above. “Terms of payment” is something business owners throw at each other on a daily basis. When I send a client an invoice, I have to put on the invoice that my terms of payment are 30 days from the date of invoice. What this means is that if I issued an invoice on 1 November, I should be paid within 30 days from that date. And, if I don’t see my money before 1 December, I have the right to take action against the client.

Why Bother With “Terms Of Payment”?
Well, first of all, business people deal with amounts larger than the price of a glass of Coke. If they are expected to pay every vendor they hire on the spot, it could lead to liquidity problems. Fair enough. So “terms of payment” is instituted so that business people can have some lead-time to prepare the amount of money needed to pay off vendors and service-providers.

What Are The Usual “Terms Of Payment”?
Most businesses adopt a 30-day terms of payment. This means the customer has 30 days to pay up. Before any service provider is engaged by a business, usually both parties would agree on the “terms of payment”. We have a client whose terms of payment are 60 days. Before she engaged us to help with the copywriting of a project, she was very clear with that and we accepted the job on her company’s terms. So, when we issued her the invoice after the job was completed, instead of “30 days”, we stated “60 days” on our invoice.

Also, when an invoice says, “Terms of payment: 30 days from date of invoice” … it doesn’t mean you send our invoice through to Accounts on the 30th day. It means you have this time to put that invoice through to Accounts so that your colleagues in that department can get our money to us by the 30th day.

Whose terms of payment should businesses follow?
When nothing has been said about whose terms of payment should take precedent, the service provider’s terms of payment should then be followed.

A while ago, we emailed a company (let’s call it Company F) about a payment that has been owed to us since July. The manager apologised for the delay but promised she would pay us by end of October. End of October came and still we did not see our cheque. When we emailed her again, she said, “Our terms of payment are 30 days. So when I said ‘end of October’, I meant 30 days from the end of October.”

She was wrong. First, it should not be her terms of payment we should be following. Second, since we already stated that our terms of payment are 30 days from the date of invoice, she should have rightfully paid us by August. In short, Company F owed us money for close to 120 days.

In another instance, we had agreed to take on a job where the terms of payment were 30 days after the magazine hits the newsstand. The license to run this magazine was given, later on, to another company. When we wrote to the editor who commissioned us for the outstanding payment, we were told that the new company’s terms of payment are now 60 days after the magazine hits the newsstand. Should we follow the new company’s rule? The answer is a No. We took on the job and did it based on the first agreement. As such we should be paid according to what was originally agreed upon.

Now you may think that I’m being pedantic and inflexible here. After all, surely I’m not the only business owner who is owed money. But, I prefer to look at this issue from the angle of best practices.

You said your job was urgent, so can we now say our bills are in urgent need of payment?

You said your job was urgent, so can we now say our bills are in urgent need of payment?

1. Why Delay Payment At All?
A service was needed. My company delivered what you needed on time and according to the brief. If service providers are expected to deliver on time, why is it that we cannot expect to be paid on time?

Many salaried employees think they are doing their companies a favour by withholding invoices and delaying payments. I would just like everyone who draws a regular paycheque to know this: While you can expect a fixed sum of money to be deposited into your bank account every month, a business owner’s income is dependent on the cheques he gets in the mail from his clients. Every delay, every invoice not paid ON TIME means he has to dip into his personal savings to pay his bills.

You may think, “Oh, then when the money comes, he can just put it back?” No. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work this way. A guaranteed salary ensures that I can schedule my payments in a predictable fashion. If money is put into my account on an as-and-when basis, I’m forced to make ends meet. And even when a payment finally comes through, the accumulated dent this has made on my personal savings cannot be repaired because I now have yet more bills to pay.

2. Why Make A Service Provider Beg Or Chase For His Money?
The thing about chasing for payment is that we often feel frustrated and yet we are expected to NOT show it. Many clients would think it rude for a service provider to call and chase because we should be “grateful” that we got their business in the first place.

This happened to me last week. Frustrated that we were repeatedly told that “the cheque is on its way” (when it became obvious that Singpost would not be so inefficient as to take 2 weeks to deliver a mail), I decided to write to the CEO of Company F. Five minutes after the mail was sent, the finance person emailed to say we can pick up our cheque at the office the next day. When my business partners showed up, they were told that I shouldn’t have sent the CEO such a “rude” email.

Why not? Considering that the sum of money involved was less than $500, I think it was ruder of the company to have had taken more than 100 days to give us the cheque. Considering that we had had to put up with so many “the cheque is on its way” even when it became clear that it wasn’t, I think it was ruder of the company to be angry with me for asking for what is rightfully our money. A job was done, an invoice was issued, you ignored us until a Letter Of Demand had to be sent. And yet, we still had to “chase” you for a good two months before we finally saw our money. Who’s the rude one here?

3. Should Small Companies Just Learn To Put Up With It?   
What gets to me most is when people tell me I should grin and bear it.

At the end of the day, we are running a business that provides a professional service. We may not be a listed company, and we may not be a company that employs hundreds of people. But we put in effort and time into each and every job we take on, regardless of the client’s name, job position, or company. That’s because we respect what you do, and in turn we hope you too respect what we do.

A small company may not have the financial might or the legal muscle to take a big corporation to court, but it doesn’t mean we should get paid only when you remember to do so, or when it suits your schedule.

Chasing for payment doesn’t make me an ungrateful business person. As the owner of a business, my duty is to ensure that my company has the liquidity it needs to continue operating. Then, I owe it to the other service providers I work with to ensure they get paid so they would continue to work with me to deliver the good work we do. To my clients, my duty to you is to make sure that whatever work you give me, I do them to the best of my abilities, with the resources you can provide.

Yes, you can take your business elsewhere because you are angry with my insistence on being treated right. But here’s what I would like you to think about: if a business person isn’t willing to fight for her own company, do you think she would care about yours, including whatever work you do with her?

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She believes that learning to treat people right is the first step to greatness in business. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Career, Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Infographics, Self-Improvement

[Infographics] Happiness In Entrepreneurship – Deborah Tan

The traditional standard for measuring success is often using money and the accumulation of luxury goods. What many people are doing are SEEING SUCCESS. But the material trappings of success and wealth may not actually reflect the true happiness one feels about his or her job. As an entrepreneur, I’m definitely earning way less than I used to. However, the past six months have seen me using my time to help a friend’s social enterprise deliver food to youths at risk, train for a half-marathon, learning to bake, and still earn money doing what I love most. It has been a challenge not being able to buy shoes and dresses whenever I walk past Zara but at the same time, life is more fulfilling. As the year draws to a close, I hope you will think about embarking on the entrepreneurial journey! If you’ve been dreaming about starting your own business or, just simply, breaking free from the corporate world, I strongly encourage you to follow your dreams! I hope this infographic will spur you on to taking that first step.

And being Happier definitely leads to a Richer life!

And being Happier definitely leads to a Richer life!

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. The Material World team is running their first half-marathon together this Sunday, so please wish them luck! Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

Character & Soul, Deborah Tan, Opinions, Self-Improvement

Stop Telling Me To Unplug! – Deborah Tan

I'm only bright when I'm plugged in!

I’m only bright when I’m plugged in!

I don’t know about you but with every article I read about “unplugging”, about “not working so hard”, about “being mindful of your free time” … I get more and more offended. Excuse me, successful people, but I believe once upon a time, you were all probably chained to your desk and buried in work! How is it possible to be as successful as you are if I were to work only 4 hours a day (yep, I’m not a fan of “The 4-Hour Workweek” as you can see)?

Perhaps with luck and sheer ingenuity, it is possible to work very little and still be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Perhaps with angel investors and rich relatives, it is possible to hire an army to help you look after your budding business so you can “unplug”.

I think it is hypocritical of successful people to go about dishing out advice, telling people that they take life easy, that they enjoy their Sundays by not checking Facebook, that they make it a point to not do anything work-related while on vacation. I think it is insulting my intelligence when a rich person say working hard is not the be all and end all of great entrepreneurial success. I think it is rude for those who have made it to say, “Success is not defined by money and power.”

Let’s Be Brutally Honest, Shall We?

The reason why we all work so hard is because we want to get promoted. We want to get promoted because we want the bigger paycheque that comes with it. While we may not be happy, while we may not be healthy, we are rewarded with something tangible. For most of us mere mortals, possessing spending power is one way of seeing success. Shallow? Yes. But you cannot deny it is the TRUTH. Don’t tell me footballers don’t give a shit about their insane paycheques. If so, why don’t they just donate ALL their money to charities instead of buying gorgeous houses and expensive sportscars? Don’t tell me that CEOs don’t give a shit about profits and bonuses. If so, why don’t CEOs just take home a $5,000 paycheque?

Money is important and, having a lot of it does not give you the right to tell the rest of us that “there’s more to life than money.”

How We Make Our Money

Why, by working, of course! In this day and age, work is omnipresent. It’s an undeniable fact. It doesn’t mean I live to work. It just means work is unavoidable. When you are a boss running a company of 1,000, of course it’s okay for you to “unplug” and fly off to the Bahamas for a holiday. When you are one of the 1,000 minions employed to keep the boss’ company running, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN “UNPLUG”? Of course not! Let’s be real. Let’s face it. “Unplugging” is a luxury not many of us can afford! When I was an editor, I checked my magazine’s Facebook Page at 3am to make sure people don’t leave spammy messages on my Wall. Now that I’m running my own business, I check my Facebook Page every six and half minutes to ensure people are continuously giving a damn about what’s going on at my website. It is NOT possible to unplug unless you have someone else plugged in on your behalf. I’m sorry but to ask me to unplug is to ask me to NOT give a shit about my business … and … HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE SUCCESSFUL IF MY BUSINESS WERE TO LOSE TOUCH WITH MY CUSTOMERS?

When I unplug, my life goes into a tangle.

When I unplug, my life goes into a tangle.

Don’t Tell Me These Don’t Matter

Success, money and power. The dream tripartite every entrepreneur wishes to achieve. The thing is … we want them FIRST before we do a Bill Gates and give it all away to the less fortunate. When a businessperson has success, money, and power, I think it is incredibly rude to go, “Look at me, I used to be rich, but I was soooo unhappy. Now, I am the chairperson of a humanitarian organisation … and my life is sooooooo much better.” Hey, I think you forgot to mention that your house is fully paid for, that you have a huge trust fund set up to give you a comfortable allowance every month for the rest of your life, and that your best-selling self-help book is still bringing in huge royalties. Yes. While I would love to go into world-changing philanthropy work in Africa for good, my bank manager isn’t being very supportive at the moment. So money and power do matter.

The Hard Life For Now

Until the day we achieve success, money and power, it is safe to say that we are in for the HARD LIFE. A life of working past 6pm, a life of working on weekends, a life of checking emails at night and on vacation, a life of doing business calls at family dinners, a life of Facebooking at 4am, and a life of telling clients, “No … you are not getting me at a bad time. How can I help you?”

It is not depressing – mind you. I love my work, I love what I do, and I cherish every minute of a life led fully and fruitfully. I am passionate about my work but it doesn’t mean my loved ones are being cast aside. I may work while I’m on vacation but it doesn’t mean I’m losing my sanity. Facebook may be the first thing I look at when I wake up in the morning but it doesn’t mean the quality of my sleep is any worse. I exercise, I hang out with friends, I watch TV, and I still do the things I love.

The only thing I don’t do is … UNPLUG. And I really don’t think I’m being shortchanged by life here or that my life is soooo tragic.

Until I make the kind of money I want to make, until I get to where I want in life … I am not UNPLUGGING.

And I refuse to let anyone (successful or not) guilt-trip me about it.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She updates two blogs, three Twitter accounts, three Facebook Pages, one Pinterest account and two Instagram accounts every day. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.


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Food News, Lifestyle

Lessons in Entrepreneurship (by Fidel Gastro) – Denise Li

The founders of Material World and Matt Basile (aka Fidel Gastro) have something in common: we both resigned from jobs in the media industry to start our own company. Formerly a copywriter at an ad agency, Matt left to pursue his passion for food, cooking for food events within the Toronto underground food scene. After gaining immense popularity for his Cuban-styled sandwiches – or Extremo Sandwiches as they became known as – he then became known for his pop-up cooking and food truck (which he’s coined “Priscilla”), selling his own brand of robust sandwiches. Since then, he’s started his own restaurant, Lisa Marie, and is the star of his own food show, Rebel Without a Kitchen, on the Asian Food Channel.

We caught up with Matt to find out more about his entrepreneurship journey.

Matt Basile, more affectionately known as Fidel Gastro

Matt Basile, more affectionately known as Fidel Gastro

You were a copywriter at an ad agency. What did you like and not like about the job?
I loved coming up with big ideas! I hated seeing really good ideas that never saw the light of day.

What preparations did you do prior to starting your business?
Before I started Fidel Gastro’s I did quite a bit of work. Business plans, concept development, quite a bit of branding and of course, product testing. When I decided to go with the “pop-up route”, most
of the planning and research I did had to be scrapped! I re-wrote my business plan and re-positioned a lot of my branding. The company was officially started in October of 2011, I had done about a year and a half of planning to get to that point.

How did you feel about leaving a stable job to start your own business, and how did you deal with it?
I didn’t quit my job until my business was really ready to go. I had my first event lined up and I had already started to make some solid business connections. I felt quite relieved after I quit my job because Fidel Gastro was something of a “dirty little secret” that I had kept from some of my colleagues. After leaving my job, I was finally free to share what I had been working on. I moved back home with my parents to save money and started hanging out in kitchens and with other chefs just to surrounded with the food industry. I even took on a “job” giving free labour to my friend’s butcher shop in order to use their kitchen to prep for my events.

Do you have any tips for saving or managing your money for people who are thinking of leaving their jobs to pursue entrepreneurship?
You will not make a profit right away so don’t be alarmed when you get to take home a paycheque for a while. You’d be amazed how little you can live off of when you need to!

What are some important traits or attitudes that an entrepreneur needs to have or adopt?
You have to be fearless, full of optimistic passion, have a positive attitude and a little fire in the belly! Some luck is definitely welcomed as well!

What has been the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur?
The most rewarding part is when you create something that people know about. It seems simple but whenever I go out and people say, “Ohhh I love Fidel Gastro’s!”, it makes me extremely proud.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer to people with startups?
If you don’t love what you do then don’t do it.

Finally, you’re known for your Extremo Sandwiches. What exactly are they?
By definition, the extremo sandwich means: nothing is too weird for a sandwich!

Matt Basile’s show, Rebel Without a Kitchen, premieres on August 20, 2013 on the Asian Food Channel (Starhub channel 435) at 9.30pm.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Deborah Tan, Infographics, Opinions

[Infographic] The Biggest Misconception People Have About Writers – Deborah Tan

Pens are for hire at Material World

Pens are for hire at Material World

“Content? Who pays for content? Nobody pays for content!” said the person I was meeting for a “entrepreneur catch-up” session. My first reaction was to throw my glass of water in his face. Then, as he went on and on about how I can never become a successful businesswoman by selling words, I really wanted to break that drinking glass and use a broken shard to slit my wrist.

Monetising is THE word of the moment for anyone who wants to start a business. What is the product that’s going to be bringing you money? What is the service you are selling? Why should people pay for your stuff? While it’s easy to justify why people would pay good money for clothes bought in bulk in a South Korean fashion wholesale market, it’s not that simple to explain why people should pay me (and my team) for WORDS, for IDEAS, for simply sitting in front of a computer 12 hours a day, stringing words together to make stories. After all, Uncle Google can point you to loads of FREE content, right?

Yeah, I admit: Content is everywhere. But it ain’t free, honey.

Because it’s everywhere, everyone takes it for granted. Like fresh air and clean water, no one really gives a hoot about these resources until they become precious and scarce. Turn on your tap and you can get water. But what if you were told tomorrow that all the glaciers in the world would melt, evaporate and disappear, and that the ONLY clean water in the world would lie in a lake in Mongolia? I’d give my last ice cube to bet that you wished you were living there.

Content only looks free.

Every content is worth something – how much depends on its quality and the “process” behind its creation.

You can’t sell your umbrella without someone writing about what your product is. You can’t sell it until someone writes why it is worth something. That line beneath the picture of your umbrella on your website telling people how much it costs? THAT IS CONTENT AS WELL. Content is the building block of every single business transaction in the world. You think you are reading this story for free? Wrong. I am only able to write it because (1) my Internet bills have been paid for (2) my time doing this has been “justified” by an assignment that came in late last night, and (3) I still have money in the bank.

The next time you think “content is worthless”, go to Google, type in something, and look in wonder at the massive industry behind all that content that now fills your computer screen. Yep, without content, Google’s got nothing to show you.

You may not pick my brains for free. Allow the infographic below to tell you why:

Infographic by Deborah Tan, Material World

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and wants to change the perception that writers don’t make good businesspeople. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Is This Too Big A Sacrifice? – Deborah Tan

Since embarking on this project, I have been lucky that people have been generally positive about my move into entrepreneurship. Even if you were being polite, I still want to thank you for stopping yourself from raining on my parade.

You know, everyone thinks I was fully prepared for this journey into self-employment. My friends like to say, “If there is anyone in Singapore who have the balls to quit a well-paying job and risk everything to start anew, it would be you.”

I’m not this brave all the time. Some days, I am wreaked with worry that I would fail and that everyone around me would go, “You were so dumb to quit your job.”

Reading Vanessa’s post about credit cards made me, admittedly, miss my old lifestyle a teeny bit. A month before my final day as a salaried worker, I called up the banks and cancelled all but one of my credit cards. Gone are the days when I could stroll aimlessly into Zara, pick out two dresses, and buy them without even trying them on. These days, life has taken on a more austere pattern. Just last week, at the mall, I had to remind myself not to buy anything that wasn’t on the sales rack.

It’s not that I’m starting to count pennies. The purse strings are not being tightened to the point where my wallet is turning blue. What I guess I kinda miss is the financially more carefree Deborah. The Deborah whose salary was more than enough for life’s necessities and commitments.

Before you launch yourself into a vitriol about me being a floozy who isn’t fit to talk about being broke, I’m not saying that I’m poor. I definitely am aware of the fact that a lot of people in Singapore can’t even afford to eat at the foodcourt. I’m not saying, “Poor me, I have no money.”

Of course I saved up in the months leading to my final decision to resign from my job. I met up with my financial advisor on how I can keep up with my insurance payments without affecting my medical and health coverage. I made sure I had the support and understanding of my boyfriend (who is living with me and sharing the bills) before I made my leap into business.

Is it too big a sacrifice? I don’t know and, I certainly hope not.

Just last night, I wrote this on my Facebook:

I’m waking earlier, working longer, thinking harder and sleeping later … but I’ve never been happier.”

And it’s the truth.

Perhaps at the end of this year, my partners and I will decide to go back to full-time employment. Perhaps something drastic will happen and one of us have to bid this partnership farewell. But I think all four of us can safely say this is an experience of a lifetime. If it succeeds, we will know we have what it takes to start something of our own and see it flourish under our care. If it fails, this year of entrepreneurship would have given us lessons working in a corporate environment would never be able to provide.

Maybe it’s a sacrifice. But I think the question here isn’t whether it’s a big one or a small one.

The question here is … is it worth it?

One week into Material World’s launch and I think I can say, “It is.”

And since today is my 34th birthday, I’m glad I had the courage to give myself this gift of adventure.

Because at the end of my long life, I can look back and say, “Well, at least I tried.”

Happy birthday to me.


About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits, and hopes to meet Steven Tyler in person one day.