DELEGATE: Tell us more about yourself!
I started my first business, Polished Divas Nail Lounge, when I was only 22 years old and and won my first major entrepreneurship award, the Spirit of Enterprise, at 25. Since then, I have been blessed to have been a part of various start-ups.
In 2011, I created Singapore’s first Pod Hostel and built it up to become one of the top flashpacker hostels in Singapore, only to be forced out of my own company after 2 years by an investor, without receiving a single cent of profit.
This episode really opened my eyes to the reality of running a business. I decided then that I did not want to be the kind of entrepreneur who is motivated solely by money and started looking into the idea of running a social enterprise.
I had been thinking about re-starting a nail salon for many years, and this proved to be the perfect opportunity to combine my passion with a social cause. After much research and planning, The Nail Social was launched in January 2015.
Photo Credit: The Nail Social
D: How did you start your business?
Our biggest challenge was staffing. We learnt the hard way that it is very hard to help someone if they don’t help themselves. We’ve had some very disappointing hires and drop outs but we try to focus on the ones who work hard and are committed to improving their lives.
Due to the background of most of the women we hire, we become more than just business owners and employers — most of the time we are mentors, counsellors, confidants, therapists and shrinks, all rolled into one!
D: Most memorable experiences since starting your business?
My most memorable experience has got to be winning the Social Enterprise Start-Up of the Year (Commendation) at the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Awards in 2015. We had just started out and were still struggling to find our footing. This award gave us the validation that we were on the right track.
Photo credit: The Nail Social
D: Top 3 things you would do with a friend who is visiting Singapore for the first time?
Breakfast at Tiong Bahru Market, cycling at Pulau Ubin and dinner at East Coast Park.
D: One quote that you live by?
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Photo credit: The Nail Social
D: Any future plans in the pipeline?
We’re actually in the midst of opening our second outlet, slated for Jan/Feb 2018. It’ll be part of a bigger multi-concept social enterprise space at Kreta Ayer Road (off Keong Saik Street) that features a salon, cafe, florist, fair trade retail area and workshop space under one roof. Our main aim is to create a lifestyle space for the public to discover high quality and well-designed products and services that all support a good cause and to raise awareness for socially-conscious products in Singapore.
With this new space, we hope also encourage our customers to slow down and be more conscious in their daily lives, and also to be able to provide more employment opportunities for the less fortunate around us.
D: Where can we find out more about your business?