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  • Many of us dream of being our own boss.

  • I don't want to live with that what if!

  • But only a brave few are willing to take the plunge, especially during a pandemic.

  • Even when you have money in the bank account, you're worried that what if something happens

  • and then you have to make like a big-ticket purchase or you have to pay a high upfront

  • cost to fix something.

  • So that keeps me up at night.

  • So who'd do it? And why now?

  • I'm in Singapore speaking to one entrepreneur who quit her day job and took her side hustle

  • full-time to find out.

  • For Fiona Loh, this is what a typical day looks like.

  • It's not your average day at the office, but it's what gets her out of bed in the morning.

  • I get up around 7am, we go through like the day-to-day production, we close off the bakery

  • space at about 6pm, and then I head back and continue the second shift.

  • 28-year-old Fiona swapped computers for cookies last year, when she quit her stable job as

  • a tech product manager for a bank to run her own bakery business.

  • Every day, I felt something like nudging within me.

  • What if, what if, what if?

  • She is one of a growing number of people leaving behind their 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their passion

  • after the pandemic disrupted traditional industries and careers.

  • One study found at least two in five employees were considering leaving their jobs to start

  • their own business.

  • For months, self-taught baker Fiona had been operating Whiskdom as a side project on Instagram.

  • But when Singapore's circuit breaker lockdown boosted appetite for home-baked goods,

  • she decided to take it full-time.

  • I was working back-to-back between my day job and my night hustle.

  • A good 20 hours a day.

  • There was this day where I just sat there and I couldn't think.

  • My mind was so fatigued.

  • I had orders to do.

  • I had my deck to do.

  • I had a manager to answer to.

  • So, basically, there's work to be done everywhere.

  • Without spending a cent on marketing, word soon spread on social media, and by July,

  • Fiona had an 18-month waitlist for her molten brownies and levain-style cookies.

  • We were selling out in like, 3 seconds every week.

  • To meet surging demand, she moved Whiskdom's operations from her parents' public housing

  • unit to a 620 square foot commercial kitchen in central Singapore in October.

  • Because we were opening in the midst of Covid, a lot of businesses were closing down.

  • So we went to get all the second-hand equipment that we could find.

  • The fridges, the chillers, these are all second-hand.

  • We managed to get a grant for our ovens.

  • And then it really got down to rent, the security deposit, working out the numbers to see if

  • I had enough runway within my existing savings.

  • While Fiona's business is thriving, the same cannot be said for all independent businesses,

  • especially those in sectors battered by the pandemic.

  • In 2020, business closures actually fell while the number of new companies formed remained

  • stable as the Singapore government, like many other developed nations, extended loans, grants

  • and rental waivers to keep them afloat.

  • Xiu Ru Lim, a lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, told me more.

  • Up to 6.8 million payouts was actually given to some 2,700 businesses, right, in the areas

  • of retail as well as F&B.

  • Elsewhere, I think, around the globe we can see a lot of new businesses being formed.

  • And quite a number of those, while the statistics do not actually fully report it, are also

  • single business establishments.

  • Meantime, the rapid adoption of technology during this period is likely to spell more

  • opportunities for new businesses like Fiona's, said Xiu Ru.

  • Under the pandemic situation, the competition has leveled out a little bit.

  • With the government grants and incentives that encourages businesses to go digital,

  • this has provided opportunities for small business owners to look at starting out from scratch.

  • While Fiona only received a government grant for her ovens, she had to fork out 50,000

  • Singapore dollars from her personal savings for the business, putting her home-buying

  • and wedding plans on hold.

  • Despite her strong head start, with individual bakes selling for more than 6 Singapore dollars

  • and boxes of six going for 38 Singapore dollars, Fiona's earnings are currently nowhere close

  • to her previous salary.

  • At the end of the day, if I really wanted the money, I would have stayed in banking.

  • I basically draw a minimum sum now, enough to pay off my insurance bills, enough to basically

  • feed myself, and then the rest of it I plan to put it back into investing in the business.

  • Now that she's the boss, Fiona has a lot more to worry about, such as expenses, accounts

  • and her staff.

  • As Whiskdom has expanded, Fiona has taken on three full-time staff, including her 62-year-old

  • father, Jackie, a retired service engineer.

  • The additional manpower allows Whiskdom to produce up to 2,400 baked goods per week,

  • four times more than what Fiona managed alone at home.

  • Meanwhile, she has expanded her clientele to include corporate customers and international

  • markets, such as the U.S. and China.

  • We try to find new ways to streamline operations, to have more bakers coming on certain days

  • to do more of the prep work and leaner operations on the other days where we don't require as many people.

  • Of course, there are all the other things like making sure we can pay our bills, making

  • sure we can pay our employees, making sure we have sufficient cashflow to keep the business running.

  • But more so than that: 'okay, what's next for us?'

  • That added responsibility means Fiona must be even more careful about planning her business

  • for the future.

  • Estimates suggest that 20% of new businesses fail within their first two years and 45%

  • within five years, often due to poor market knowledge, scaling too quickly and lack of finances.

  • Does it concern you that they're all opening during a pandemic?

  • Do you think that's a risky time?

  • It really depends, right.

  • If you're able to manage your business fundamentals well, you're able to manage your cashflows,

  • and your eventual rate of expansion, this could actually be an opportunity for a lot of businesses.

  • But even with the added stress of running her own business, Fiona doesn't plan on

  • clocking back into the office anytime soon.

  • When you go into entrepreneurship, you end up having to be everything and you end up

  • having to do everything on your own.

  • It's very different from being employed.

  • But I guess, for myself, I really enjoy doing it.

  • You're not going back?

  • Not going back.

Many of us dream of being our own boss.

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She quit her tech job to be her own boss | CNBC Reports

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/17
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