Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

10 Things No One Told Me About Being My Own Boss – Deborah Tan

Deborah Tan thought she was ready for life as her own boss but little did she expect …

You can plan, plot and scheme all you want but diving into the world of entrepreneurship is like Forrest Gump with a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. I thought I had sufficiently prepared myself for a new life as “My Own Boss” by reading memoirs of daredevil entrepreneurs and subscribing to websites and magazines about Entrepreneurship. I had made sure that I started my business with people who possess skills and character traits that I don’t. But still, even after a year and a bit of running Material World, I continue to find myself surprised every other day by this rollercoaster ride called Entrepreneurship.

1. The daily panic you get every morning upon waking 
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At first, it was more of a “Is this the day where I finally get a call from the bank telling me, ‘Game over’?” Slowly, if things start looking up, you wake up with this, “Okay … what day is it today? REALLY!” feeling. Every single day, the game plan changes because you have different needs to meet. Today, I could be playing the role of writer, tomorrow, I might have to take off that hat and become a business development manager. Everyone, take a queue number!

2. The amount of negativity you would come to face
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I’m referring to negative voices both inside and out. I remember a meeting I had during Material World’s early days. It was with a guy who is a sort of a “start-up genius”. He has carved a successful career out of starting ecommerce sites delivering food, selling glasses etc. At the meeting, he asked me what Material World was about and five minutes into my intro, he declared that he didn’t see the point of the business. If I had allowed his words to take root inside me, I don’t think I would have lasted to this day.

3. That you need to educate people why your services are worth paying for
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A lot of us go into business thinking we are fulfilling a need in the market, and that people will rush in to pay for our products and services. That’s not always true because sometimes the market might not have realized it needs you. In the beginning, a lot of people would ask to “try you out”, offer to pay you “in kind”. Do you take what you’re given or do you take it upon yourself to explain why you need to be paid in cash? The former earns you goodwill but it doesn’t earn you a business relationship; use it selectively and only with associates you know will honor their word to come through with paying business.

4. That people are more than happy to disavow you
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The silence you receive when you send out emails asking for business, the blank looks you get when you run into familiar faces outside … Thankfully, there are also many who are more than happy to share knowledge, experience and advice. Moral of the story: It’s not always personal so don’t let it get you down.

5. The level of importance you start giving to $5
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Yes … I know some bosses will say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” but when you are running your own business, every cent counts. Besides the onerous task of getting numbers to balance, you have to watch your cashflow like a hawk. There is no room for frivolous spending, no room for unnecessary headcount, no room for late payments. And yes, a lawyer who can help issue Letters of Demand at a moment’s notice is also very helpful.

6. The crazed level of importance you start giving to your Time
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It’s been mentioned more than a couple of times on this website that to an entrepreneur, TIME is everything. In fact, Time is even more important than Money. You feel bad when you are running late, you feel angry when people run late and don’t warn you beforehand, you go ballistic when you are stood up. Everything that takes up Time, takes up Money.

7. That you don’t want to talk about business all the time
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When I was working, I talked about work all the time. And so, naturally, when I started Material World, I thought I would be talking it about 24/7 too! But surprisingly, I don’t! Sure, among us four partners, we do chatter on about the business when we get together for a beer after 6, however, it is not a conversation that lasts the entire night. Also, whenever friends ask me about Material World, I find myself reluctant to talk about it. It’s not because I’m ashamed of my business but because I feel everything’s cool and I’ve done what I can so I would like to focus on other things now.

8. How paperwork can be so, so, so painful
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At this point, I would like to say this to those who get the whole Government Grants game down pat: RESPECT. One of the things we four found challenging AND tedious was figuring out which grants to apply for, how to file our taxes, how to go through our bank statements each month with a fine-toothed comb … Although our business coach has told us many times to hire someone to do that, we still insist on doing these ourselves because we feel we need to know what’s going on. As Jerry Seinfeld said in the episode in which he refuses to just pee anywhere cos he couldn’t find the toilet, “It builds character.”

9. You lose your ego … 
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… or at least learn when to put it aside. I used to think that my pride would be the last thing I would put down. But when you are running a business, you learn you don’t always have to win. As the saying goes, “Which would you rather – win or be right?” There have been days when I found myself tempted to pick up the phone and scream, “The deal is OFF!” but then, you learn to see the bigger picture and after a cup of tea, you go, “Hey … it’s not so bad.”

10. You’ll let go of things that don’t serve you
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At first, as with all rookie entrepreneurs, I saw every contact as important, I valued every event as a potential opportunity to get new business. However, as we developed our intuition, we also learned to discern which business was worth pursuing and which ones, to give up. Because like most goods of value, there is a finite number. If you make yourself and your services so readily available to everyone, then people will either take you for granted or you will end up shortchanging yourself. You can earn so much more – in terms of money, experience and self-respect – by limiting your business to the few who are willing to pay top dollars for 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 is really enjoying the entrepreneurship journey and says it’s going to take a lot tempt her to return to a full-time job. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Money, Self-Improvement

The 4 “Mistakes” I Want To Make As An Entrepreneur – Deborah Tan

Everyone who wants to start a business these days keeps talking about claiming the PIC Bonus. Deborah Tan wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that there is nothing wrong with good, honest work.

Passive income = the ultimate entrepreneur goal?

Passive income = the ultimate entrepreneur goal?

How would you start a business? Would you bootstrap your business, i.e, fund it out of your own pocket? Borrow money from your relatives? Or, try to get investors to put money into your venture? For many of us small business owners, we often take the first option. We dig deep into our pockets to fund the venture, go without a salary until it starts to turn a profit and, dollar by dollar, we build up the business.

While many “business gurus” may turn their nose up at the idea of “starting small”, as a year-old entrepreneur, I must say, I prefer to grow my business step-by-step. There is a certain pride in seeing your business prosper gradually and you are much more aware of what it means to “take ownership”. For instance, I have been advised by many people on the many different ways one can employ to claim the PIC Bonus: from setting up many versions of one business (because every business is “entitled” to claim up to $15,000 in PIC Bonus) to paying a huge sum for a basic ecommerce website, which is something you can easily set up for FREE. Although the methods are all not illegal, they are certainly what I – after much thought – am uncomfortable with.

Articles abound about the “mistakes” first-time entrepreneurs tend to make, most of them about why we spend too much time working and not enough of it growing our wealth. While some I agree with, often, I find myself questioning why these so-called “mistakes” are bad. People have asked if I hated money but I simply just can’t agree with these:

1. “Mistake 1” – Not Paying Someone To Do Your Nitty-Gritty For You
Yes, all of us who come out to be our own bosses would love nothing more than to lay claim to the fact that we have minions running around doing our shit for us. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want to say, “Get your people to call my people.” But leaving a job to “become your own boss” also means you are now your own employee. I like to think that by being able to take care of my own taxes, manage my own timetable, chase down my own payments, I’m getting acquainted to the unglamorous side of what it means to be a business owner. When you can finally afford to pay a part-timer to take care of your things, you will also know what is the real work involved so you won’t be held at the mercy of an admin person.

Be careful of hidden traps!

Be careful of hidden traps!

2. “Mistake 2” – Not Willing To Pay Money To Grow Money
I recognize that for a business to grow, investments have to be made. However, I think investments have to be worthwhile and made in an ethical way. I am uncomfortable with paying someone $15,000 for something that is actually worth $3,000, just so I can make a maximum claim on the PIC Bonus. I’ve been told, “Once you see all that money in your bank account, you will look at things differently.” I hope I never will have to.

3. “Mistake 3” – You Can’t Take Care Of Everything
If it’s my business, I want to know everything – from the product I’m selling to the licensing issues it faces to the profile of the customer who consumes my product. Sure, you should have partners who possess skills and traits that make up for what you don’t have but it doesn’t mean you just leave whatever you don’t want to do to them. You can take care of everything, you just don’t have to do it all. It’s called “taking ownership”. “Taking ownership” means whenever someone has a query about your business, you have all the most basic answers at your fingertips.

4. “Mistake 4” – No-Risk Is Good 
There are many business opportunities out there that allow you to take up the basic template and run with it. They call it no-risk because there is a set pattern you can use to build your business. But the only person who is getting rich out of it all is the one who is selling this same business template to hundreds of people out there. Unique ideas are hard to get off the ground and yes, you may fail. However, if you are really serious about your business, you will want to channel your investments into the things that make you DIFFERENT, not Xeroxed ideas that you can tweak only slightly to set you apart from the crowd.

I realize that it may sound idealistic of me to say that making money is less important than doing things right. However, I can’t emphasize how crucial it is to not go into business simply because you hope, eventually, that the passive income will let you live out the rest of your life in comfort. You still need to have a basic respect for WORK – good, honest work. You can’t just think, “I’ll set this up, sit back and watch money roll in.” If you think the first and foremost thing about business is PASSIVE INCOME, you are truly making a very big mistake.

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 recognizes that she may never be rich but at least she is proud of her business. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Branded Content, Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

From 6-Figure Debt To 5-Figure Salary – Denise Li

She was a well-known beauty queen before becoming a thriving businesswoman, but Genecia Luo, founder of Queenz*8 Business Group did not achieve success overnight. From having to keep her family financially afloat during her teen years, to overcoming crippling debt just 4 years ago, she’s faced more than her fair share of obstacles. She tells Denise Li how she overcame them.

Material World and Elizabeth Arden Present Genecia Luo’s UNTOLD Story

 

What was Life like when you were 14? If you were to say, “Spending a lot of time in school and doing CCAs, and attending tuition”, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Certainly luckier than Genecia Luo who not just had to put herself through school, but also financially support her family from the age of 15.

Today, she is a successful businesswoman with a group of companies under her belt, but the road to success was a bumpy one, culminating in a six-figure debt just four years ago. How did she find it in herself, not just to get out of a sticky situation, but also to do so well for herself? We speak to her to find out more.

Genecia helping out at Berkat Children's Home

Genecia helping out at Berkat Children’s Home

What, to you, is the best part about being an entrepreneur?

“To me, entrepreneurship is about having the courage to live a life that a lot people cannot find it in themselves to. Entrepreneurship is about continually facing your fears. While fear can be paralysing, it can also be immensely motivating. It’s how you deal with fear that determines how successful you’ll become. I think it’s important to acknowledge the fear; that’s when you’ll know what are the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.”

How would you describe your management style? 

“I believe in continually encouraging and empowering my staff, and instilling the importance of discipline where work ethics are concerned. At the same time, I allow them the time and space to grow as people. Every one wants to be successful in what they do, but I think everyone could do with a healthy reality check every now and then. I want my staff members to know that failures are part and parcel of building their careers. I often remind them that they shouldn’t be crippled by failure. Instead, they should have an empowered mindset that will guide them to take action and deal with obstacles as they come.”

Genecia believes deeply in giving back to society.

Genecia believes deeply in giving back to society.

Any advice for women who are thinking of becoming their own boss? 

“Striking out on your own is always scary, and we always imagine the worst possible scenarios. In reality, these situations rarely come to pass. I want women to know that they shouldn’t be crippled by their perceived limitations. Instead, they should channel that worry into something more positive by envisioning success. Don’t dwell, because the longer you dwell, the harder it’ll be for you to take action. Get educated, make mistakes, learn, repeat. You don’t want to be that person who regrets not doing enough for herself when you get older.”

Watch: Episode 1 of “Her UNTOLD Story” with Lena Sim, founder and CEO of Ministry of Food.

Watch: Episode 2 of “Her UNTOLD Story” with Yvonne Chee, youngest Singaporean to complete 7 Marathons on 7 Continents.

Tell us your very own UNTOLD story and you might just win an Elizabeth Arden hamper worth more than $400.

elizabeth arden prize

Tell us your very own personal story of overcoming the obstacles Life placed in your way. The best story not only gets to be featured on Material World, it will also win an Elizabeth Arden product hamper! Each hamper contains a UNTOLD Eau Légère 100ml (worth $117), Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick #Red Door Red (worth $34), and a Prevage® AM Regimen Starter Kit (worth $248).

For details on how you can win one, remember to watch the entire video.

Score an exclusive sample of UNTOLD Eau Légère! Simply be among the first 150 readers to visit Elizabeth Arden counter at Robinsons Raffles City from NOW and quote “Material World” to earn your sample fragrance vial.

This is the third of 3 videos Material World has produced in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. Elizabeth Arden worked with Material World to produce a series of videos featuring Singaporean women, each with their own inspiring tale to share. The women featured are not spokespeople of Elizabeth Arden and they were not remunerated for their participation in this project.

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Branded Content, Character & Soul, Self-Improvement

She Is The Youngest Singaporean To … – Deborah Tan

Last year, Yvonne Chee became the youngest Singaporean to complete 7 marathons on 7 continents – all this while juggling an overseas job posting! At Material World’s video shoot for Elizabeth Arden’s new UNTOLD Eau Legere fragrance, Deborah Tan interviews Yvonne over Skype to find out more about her story.

Material World and Elizabeth Arden Present Yvonne Chee’s UNTOLD Story

 

First, forgive us if this video with Yvonne comes across as “DIY”. The segments featuring her talking were shot by her husband. Material World interviewed Yvonne over Skype to get her Untold story because it was simply too inspiring to miss!

When it comes to running, we either love it or hate it. Yvonne took her love for running to the extreme by making it her goal to run a marathon on every continent on this planet. So what drove her to do something, many of us consider “madness”? We get the low-down:

Yvonne2You are the youngest Singaporean to achieve this feat. Were there any other Singaporeans who have done it before?

“Prior to my completing this goal, two other Singaporeans have done so – Dr William Tan in 2007 and Ms Gloria Lau in 2012.”

Was this just only about running?

“No. While the goal was to run a marathon on every continent, I dedicated this project to a charity as well, helping to raise funds and awareness through my efforts. I wanted to raise funds for the Tsao Foundation because I wanted to honor the memory of my late grandmother who took care of me while I was growing up. In Singapore, we tend to forget about the elderly but they too have contributed to the society in their time and we need to remember that.”

Yvonne3Tell us more about your grandmother.

“My grandmother passed away in 1997 – a week before my GCE A-level exams. I was so devastated and cried endlessly for days. It seemed as if I would be a total wreck going into my exams but I knew she wouldn’t want me to wallow in sadness and so, I decided to focus on doing well so she would be proud of me.”

How did you manage to juggle a full-time job and training for your marathons?
“Training for my marathons and raising funds and awareness for the Tsao Foundation meant a serious loss of social life. I slept only 5 hours every day. My husband’s main complaint was that I wasn’t getting enough sleep and that my early hours meant I ‘made too much noise’! Some see it as a sacrifice but I derived a great sense of joy and satisfaction working towards my goal and giving back to society.”

Watch: Episode 1 of “Her UNTOLD Story” with Lena Sim, founder and CEO of Ministry of Food.

Tell us your very own UNTOLD story and you might just win an Elizabeth Arden hamper worth more than $400.

elizabeth arden prize

Tell us your very own personal story of overcoming the obstacles Life placed in your way. The best story not only gets to be featured on Material World, it will also win an Elizabeth Arden product hamper! Each hamper contains a UNTOLD Eau Légère 100ml (worth $117), Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick #Red Door Red (worth $34), and a Prevage® AM Regimen Starter Kit (worth $248).

For details on how you can win one, remember to watch the entire video.

Score an exclusive sample of UNTOLD Eau Légère! Simply be among the first 150 readers to visit Elizabeth Arden counter at Robinsons Raffles City from NOW and quote “Material World” to earn your sample fragrance vial.

This is the second of 3 videos Material World has produced in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. Elizabeth Arden worked with Material World to produce a series of videos featuring Singaporean women, each with their own inspiring tale to share. The women featured are not spokespeople of Elizabeth Arden and they were not remunerated for their participation in this project.

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Branded Content, Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

The Story of This Restaurant Owner Will Surprise You – Vanessa Tai

Lena Sim, founder and CEO of Ministry of Food, has a story that is worthy of any bestselling novel. At Material World’s video shoot for Elizabeth Arden’s new UNTOLD Eau Legere fragrance, Vanessa Tai sat down with Lena to find out more about her fascinating journey.

Material World and Elizabeth Arden Presents Lena Sim’s UNTOLD Story

 

Perhaps one of the last things you’d associate with a restauranteur is a childhood marked by poverty and hunger. Abandoned by her parents as a baby, Lena and her grandmother were left to fend for themselves. Lena and her grandmother were sometimes too poor to buy food that they were forced to rummage through rubbish bins for leftovers.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

After graduating from university, she had a high-paying job in the finance industry but she still felt something was missing. She quit her job to travel for a bit, and found herself in Taiwan where she first tried a delicious green tea dessert from an old Japanese dessert chain. From there, she travelled to Japan to convince the founders of the dessert chain to expand to Singapore. After a lot of time and effort, her tenacity once again paid off and Ministry of Food was born.

Today, there are over 50 restaurants in Singapore under the Ministry of Food brand, and plans are in the pipeline to expand the brand across the region. Of course, the entrepreneurial path is never always a smooth one. Lena shares with us what keeps her going.

Tell us about the challenges you face and how you overcome them.

“Each day is a challenge; there will always be problems to solve and fires to fight. Entrepreneurship is all about facing failure, crying, and then standing up again. I believe the moment you stop running is the moment your business will flop. You just have to persevere and never say die. Every business is like a marathon – you need a lot of patience, discipline, and perseverance.”

How do you cope with the pressure?

“When you are doing something you love, you will naturally have the energy to press on. When I first made the career switch into F&B, my peers used to think I was making a big mistake and would laugh at me. However, these same people who chose to follow their ‘brains’ are now unhappy and stressed out in their jobs, with some of them even facing very real possibilities of retrenchment. This is why I firmly believe in following your heart. I’m full of energy each day, and I rarely feel tired when I’m at work.”

Do you ever find time to unwind?

“I hardly unwind because I enjoy myself so much at work that I don’t find a need to unwind. However, I’ve recently discovered it’s actually very therapeutic to go grocery shopping!”

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!

 

Tell us your very own UNTOLD story and you might just win an Elizabeth Arden hamper worth more than $400.

elizabeth arden prize

Tell us your very own personal story of overcoming the obstacles Life placed in your way. The best story not only gets to be featured on Material World, it will also win an Elizabeth Arden product hamper! Each hamper contains a UNTOLD Eau Légère 100ml (worth $117), Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick #Red Door Red (worth $34), and a Prevage® AM Regimen Starter Kit (worth $248).

For details on how you can win one, remember to watch the entire video.

Score an exclusive sample of UNTOLD Eau Légère! Simply be among the first 150 readers to visit Elizabeth Arden counter at Robinsons Raffles City from NOW and quote “Material World” to earn your sample fragrance vial.

This is the first of 3 videos Material World has produced in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. Elizabeth Arden worked with Material World to produce a series of videos featuring Singaporean women, each with their own inspiring tale to share. The women featured are not spokespeople of Elizabeth Arden and they were not remunerated for their participation in this project.

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn The Ropes From Ivy Woo Of FoodNews PR – Deborah Tan

foodnewslogoEveryone loves food and, in Singapore, we are constantly on the lookout for new restaurants and hawker stalls with snaking queues of customers. So what better way to embrace your passion for food than to start a PR agency specialising in F&B? This week, we interview Ivy Woo, the director of FoodNews Public Relations. FoodNews Public Relations is a three and a half year old setup and has an impressive list of clients which includes restaurants such as Absinthe, Halia, Fat Cow and cocktail bar Jigger & Pony.

We find out more about what drove Ivy to leave her 9-t0-5 job at Fiji Water to become her own boss.

1. How did FoodNews PR come about? Did you set it up by yourself or with partners?
I started the company with my husband. I was working with Fiji Water at that time, and though I was really enjoying the work there, I knew I wanted to try being out on my own. I was 34 then, and if I wanted to start my own firm, it was then or never. So I quit my job and started FoodNews. It was nerve-wracking but I thought, “What the heck!” If it did not work out, I could always go back to looking for a job, even if it meant waitressing (which I really enjoy by the way!)

Dealing with scrumptious food for a living? Sign us up! [Image credit: Halia from FoodNews PR's Facebook Page]

Dealing with scrumptious food for a living? Sign us up! [Image credit: Halia from FoodNews PR’s Facebook Page]

2. Before embarking on the path of entrepreneurship, what did you do for a living and what was it that drove you to start your business?
I was the Market Development Manager for Asia, for Fiji Water. I worked with Fiji Water for about 4 years and was still enjoying the work very much when I left. As I said, it was then or never. I didn’t want to wait till I was 50 to start a business! If I failed at that age, no one would employ me again!

3. What does FoodNews PR do?
We are a boutique public relations firm, with a strong presence in the food and beverage sector.

4. Briefly take us through the process of starting a PR firm [for example the licenses to apply, the certification you need to get, the kind of legal paperwork that you have to get done, etc.]
Starting a PR firm is really the same as starting any other company. Our advantage is that we are in the business of providing a service. So overheads and start-up cost can be pretty low.

You start by registering your business online. When registering the business, spend time studying the different “company types” such as private limited, sole proprietorship etc.. Each category has its pros and cons, so you read up carefully before choosing one. If it helps, you can also visit ACRA personally to ask questions.

5. What was your vision for FoodNews PR when you first started it? How has this vision changed or shifted today? Was that something you expected?
I knew from Day One the agency would service the food and beverage sector. That hasn’t changed. What has changed though, is the size of the team and our service offerings. On top of traditional public relations, we offer marketing and social media management for our clients.

6. What are some of the biggest challenges facing PR firms today? How is FoodNews positioned to deal with them?
There are so many of them, big and small. The PR world is also evolving, and many are struggling to understand the world of social media. We just have to continue to invest in learning/training, retaining talent and doing a good job for the clients.

Ivy (seated, left) with her team at FoodNews PR.

Ivy (seated, left) with her team at FoodNews PR.

7. How would you describe your management style?
Open and collaborative. I am straightforward and I always ask that the team be honest with me. We have a very open channel of communication and I am always ready to listen.

8. How do you deal with competition in this industry? How do you guard against competitors out to one up you all the time?
I don’t spend time worrying about others. I prefer to spend time building FoodNews, ensuring the company and team are growing in the right direction.

9. Any advice for new PR firms struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
Don’t just do what’s expected of you. Always strive to deliver more. This applies to everything you do.

Material World would like you know what your attitudes towards entrepreneurship are. If you are running your own business or are thinking of starting out on your own, take this 5-minute survey. We will be presenting the results in an infographic soon. So stand up and be counted! Click on the banner below to start.

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Click here now to take our 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 hates that it’s so difficult to start a food truck in Singapore. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweet.

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