Career, Self-Improvement

How To Run A Successful Online Business – Vanessa Tai

material world singapore-entrepreneurshipHave you ever entertained thoughts of being an entrepreneur? Perhaps you are slouched in your office cubicle, or glancing around the tired faces around you on public transport and thinking, “Surely, I should be doing something that makes me excited to get up every morning.” Or perhaps you have a groundbreaking business idea but aren’t quite sure how to get it off the ground. If you daydream of being your own boss, you aren’t alone. In 2012, 56,778 new business start-ups were set up in Singapore!

And why not? Singapore has a great environment for start-ups to thrive in. There are a slew of public and private funding to choose from, plus government entities like EnterpriseOne that support young start-ups. The time is especially ripe for online businesses – according to research by Paypal, the size of the Singapore online shopping market reached S$1.1 billion in 2010 and is forecasted to hit S$4.4 billion in 2015.

material world singapore-harley finkelstein

Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at Shopify

Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer at e-commerce platform Shopify was recently in Singapore and we sat him down to get his advice for up-and-coming online entrepreneurs. Trained in both law and business, Finkelstein started his own business at the age of 17. Apart from his role at Shopify, he also serves as a mentor and advisor to a number of entrepreneurial organisations and incubators.

What are some common misconceptions of e-commerce?

Newbies tend to have this perception that setting up an online store is difficult and expensive. But as an online retailer, there’s actually so much you can do that doesn’t even have to cost you. For example, if you have an online store selling hats, you could always start a blog or Twitter account that gives people interesting hat-related information … or send samples of your hats to key online influencers, who can help you generate buzz. Or if you feel the look and feel of your e-store isn’t working, you can change the layout in a matter of minutes. Technology has made everything much clearer and easier.

What are your tips for e-commerce retailers to keep their marketing ideas fresh? 

In business, creativity and versatility is important. Just throw some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. At Shopify, we have “Hack Days” once every three months where people from different departments get together to work on new experiments. One of these experiments was Popify, an idea that Brennan Loh (Head of Business Development) and I came up with. Basically, we set up a pop-up store for several Shopify stores that only had an online presence. It was really amazing to see how well it worked for these retailers. There was this store that sold hammocks – their customers loved being able to try out the hammocks at a brick-and-mortar store, then going online to buy it (that way, they don’t have to lug a heavy hammock all the way home.)

If I’m looking to set up an online store, why should I do it on Shopify? 

Because it’s so easy, anybody can do it! Plus, you’ll get a tremendous amount of support not just from the Shopify team, but from other Shopify merchants. Our Shopify blog is the second-most popular e-commerce blog in the world, and we also have something called the E-Commerce University, where we dish out tips on everything from marketing to design and even delivery. Shopify merchants are also very active on the forums, sharing their experiences and other business best practices with newbies. In fact, some of them have even taken these interactions offline. Some of the e-retailers in New York, San Francisco and Israel have organised gatherings to swap stories and ideas.

Finally, what’s your best advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?

Be tenacious and persistent. You may not succeed on your first try but you should work on building a culture of experimentation. Just put something out there and get feedback. Don’t give up.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Deborah Tan, Gadgets & Toys, Home & Design, Infographics, Lifestyle, Opinions

[Infographic] Selling Cars To Women – Deborah Tan

Cringe-worthy or inspiring?

This ad was made in the 60s. I think the stereotype still exists.

A part of me finds it hard to forgive the woman who sold me my first car. I loved my first car, I even gave her a name – Cecille. But I just wished I hadn’t bought her. Obviously Cecille was made for what car manufacturers thought new women drivers want in their cars.

1. She was small and cute

2. She was very affordable to keep

3. She did what she was supposed to do

And that was it, really.

Because of her small size, she got bullied quite often on the road. Because she was affordable to keep, her engine size and power were also pretty “economical”. Cars always ALWAYS seemed to want to overtake her. Whenever we got into scraps, Cecille fell apart quite easily – even though she was a “continental” car and they are suppose to be hardier. Cecille prefers to be driven at night, when it’s cooler. If you drove her at mid-day, she behaved like a real bitch. In our fourth year together, we decided we had to part ways.

The one thing that befuddles me every time I go for a car launch is the sheer number of men in the room. At any of these events, I could always count the number of women in one hand. But this is strange because more and more women are buying cars!

Although numbers are not available for Singapore, in the United States, women are responsible for 68% of car purchases. In 2010, women drivers outnumber males drivers for the first time. So why is it that advertising for cars continues to reach out to men rather than women? And when they do, they neglect that women buy into fantasies of adventures as much as men. Why is it that car magazines continue to be jargon-filled and “not women-friendly”? Why is it that the only way to promote a car show is to keep harping about the race queens from Japan?

Women are no longer adornments to cars. We OWN cars.

The most laughable thing I came across in my research on this topic is that a car maker actually once put a hole in the headrest of the driver’s seat so we can thread our ponytails through it. This is NOT making a car for women. You need to BUILD a car around a woman’s body, not just her needs. In 2011, researchers at the University of Virginia found that women drivers are 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured in crashes, in great part because cars are designed to protect men’s larger bodies. Because we are generally shorter, we sit up closer to the steering wheel and therefore suffer more impact when the airbag is deployed.

The infographic below will shed more light on the growing power behind women drivers and just what is it we look for in our cars.


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 thinks that putting a hole in the headrest for a woman’s ponytail is NOT building a car for women. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.