Lessons from an Aspiring Entrepreneur: Failure #2. (This was the big one)

The emotional roller coaster of an entrepreneur (or #wantrepreneur) will see you stretched to your limits. Or at the very least, stretched thin. You run on fumes, and sometimes you’re sitting on the couch at home for hours wondering what to do. Other times you’re pounding the pavement, racing for a timeline and knocking on doors. You’re always asking, hustling, learning, thinking, and waiting to reach the inevitable… WHAT NEXT?

I just had my second business-related failure in this month. I was actually working on this idea for a few months, so the unsuccessful attempt stung like a nasty bee. Not forgetting to mention the back-breaking work that led up to preparing for the test sell, and I lost hundreds of dollars again. It was a good idea, and business-minded friends along with potential customers I questioned thought so too. It had never been done before that I know of. I’m quite sure I executed the test as realistically as I could, and was so sure that this idea filled a void I faced in a segment that had not been covered yet. It didn’t work, and it hurt.

I will shelf it, maybe tweak it. But most of all, I am exhausted, confused and devastated. But if it’s anything I’ve learnt from my experiences and others, it’s to cut my losses and pick myself up from where I left off. It’s a mild consolation that I spent a few months on an idea I passionately believed in, rather than a few years… Or never at all.

What’s next for my career?

I’m almost at the low point of putting on a bikini and pretending to be a DJ.

Almost. Not yet.
(No offense to DJs in bikinis.)

Lessons from an Aspiring Entrepreneur: My first taste of failure! How I lost $300 :(

For the last few months, I have been working on some business ideas. On a completely unrelated project, a certain huge dance festival in Singapore was coming up and when given a small opportunity, I decided on impulse to try and sell something on the day of the event.

I was convinced that it was something that partygoers would love, and buy. I was sure it would be something in demand.

OK, I’ll tell you what it is – I wanted to sell glow-in-the-dark body paint for this dance event.

glowinthedark

After 5 days of searching for glow-in-the-dark body paint in Singapore (I traversed costume shops, Spotlight at Dhoby Ghaut, and a number more shops etc but to no avail), I FINALLY found a supplier who was selling a small bottle at $19. Because it was so hard to find and I finally did, I bought a few bottles just for fun, for my friends and I to use at the party.

On the morning of the event, a Singaporean student (Student J) told me that he was helping another company to sell something else at the entrance of this event, and almost straightaway, I offered him a commission per bottle of body paint that he sold if he helped to push my product along with what he was selling.

He agreed, and I called the supplier straightaway to arrange urgent purchase of MANY more bottles.

I trust my judgement in people and I also trust the student that I got to work for me. I don’t think his sales skills was the problem, but the problem was just with reality… And a few more things.

MY THOUGHT PROCESS
I had used glow-in-the-dark body paint before in other countries at other similar beach-themed or night-time parties, and I adored it. It was pretty popular at these parties and among the party people.

I convinced myself that it was a great idea – I would buy it, my friends who I spoke to said they would buy it, so why wouldn’t other people buy it?

DSC04290

I GOT ADVICE BUT HEEDED NONE OF IT
My best friend advised me to only execute it IF the supplier would give it to me on consignment (whatever I can’t sell, I can return at no cost to me). However, they did not agree. My best friend and my Dad said to forget it, but I went ahead and did it anyway.

When you believe in or want to do something, no one and nothing will stop you. Risks are like a pair of old spectacles that you wore in Secondary school – You don’t see risks clearly. You think you’re smarter than everyone else. You feel invincible.

THE EXECUTION
It was a great feeling to outsource everything from the pick up of the glow paints, to the selling of it. I did nothing but constantly kept on the phone through Whatsapp with him.

He tried to sell my glow paint according to my sales strategy – the aim was $30-$35 per bottle to older party-goers especially Caucasians or Internationals, $25-$28 per bottle to Singaporeans/Chinese. I’m not racist, but it made business sense to profile customers and adjust costs accordingly. Student J caught on quick.

He called me to update me that he had put a bit of the glow paint on himself and his friends, to attract more attention. He called me later that the sales were going too slow – he had only managed to sell 3 bottles in 2 hours. He told me that he changed the strategy, and that he was now offering to paint partygoers for $5 but he was using as little of the paint as possible. I told him great job, and to go for it.

4 hours later, Student J had to leave the scene and almost 80% of the bottles that I had purchased were still left. I was stuck with stock.

THE RESULT
I lost $300 that day, $300 that was really hard to earn and quickly lost. I feel like kicking myself!

THE LESSONS

1) GOOD PEOPLE MAKE OR BREAK A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
I don’t know Student J very well, but I was fortunate to have met him at a random event and he struck me as a go-getter. He was young, but had a certain hunger and good attitude about him that I picked up straightaway. I gave him my number and told him to keep in touch. Even though this was only my first time getting him to work for me, I was really impressed with his quick-wit and performance in this exercise.

I definitely want to groom this one and I think he has a lot of potential ahead. If you need a part-timer to help with a project, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him.

2) DON’T BUY STOCK WITHOUT KNOWING IF YOU CAN SELL, I SHOULD NOT HAVE JUMPED THE GUN. MAYBE TEST THE MARKET FIRST.

Should I have bought stock that I couldn’t sell? No. Did I know what I was doing? No. Was my cost price too high and the selling price too high? Yes and yes.

I learnt a valuable business lesson that day. No matter how much you are told or you think something may be a good (business) idea, it doesn’t matter – It helps to try and test the idea in on a smaller scale (Instead of going full steam ahead, I should have just tried selling a few bottles and then estimating the demand and circumstances).

I should have done more industry research and figured out what I was really doing.

Don’t be delusional or a dreamer like me – Testing any business idea is SO important.

At least, and at last, I finally stepped out of my comfort zone of “thinking” and moving into “doing”. I moved out of my world of “talking” and into the real world of “action”.

I finally tried to do something.

I failed, but nonetheless, I tried.

And so, this is how I learnt an important first lesson in failure that money can’t buy. Unfortunately, my failure cost me good money!

zoukout glow

keepcalmandparty

Lessons from an Aspiring Entrepreneur: It’s harder to not have a job, than to actually have a job.

It’s post-ZoukOut, on Monday. I’m sure all the half-hungover corporate-slave friends I have out there want to kill me for saying this right now but… I’ve come to the realization that it’s harder to NOT work, than actually working. Let me explain:

When you work, you have money. You wake up and go to work everyday (though you probably don’t want to), and you have routine and discipline. You have a support system of co-workers to interact with everyday (whether you like them or not), and you might meet your friends after work for dinner. You catch up with your family about what you did, and bitch about your bosses and theirs. At least, you have progress to talk about.

At the end of the day, you are tired, but you have purpose. (And money.)

Friends tell me that they admire my courage coming out of the corporate world to try and start my own thing. They tell me that they want to be like me. It sounds like the perfect plan – starting your own elusive business and joining the ranks of the New Rich (read Tim Ferriss’ blog for more context on the concept of New Rich).

Everyone wants to hear your success story, but no one really reads about or understands the failures that you go through first.

The reality is that I’m almost reaching the 6-month mark where I have been officially jobless, although most of it was spent exploring and working on some business ideas. In the interim, I’ve done lots of sleeping, reading, learning, meeting people, and gained more knowledge and advice than I could have ever hoped for. Sure, it’s an exciting chapter in my life. But friends and family question me, and at the end of this 6 months so far, what do I have to show for?

Nothing.

At least, there has been a bit of progress lately and things have just started moving forward. However, I’m frankly very disappointed in myself that it’s taken this long for things to get moving. I should have done what I’m doing now, in the beginning.

I sit at home most of the time stuck in my own head, only occasionally interrupted when my Granddad asks for help or when I hear my neighbours quarrelling about this and that. I feel like I’m lost in my own world, and no one understands.

I have all the time in the world now, but what am I doing with myself?

Dear God, are you there? Where are you?

A must for Mobile Marketing Strategy – Hotels.com iPhone and Android app is simply brilliant for booking AND browsing hotel rooms

Last month was a productive month for me, as I worked further on my business idea and attended the Web In Travel 2012 conference for the first time. I am always utterly fascinated learning about the worlds of Travel and Tech, and it’s even more fun when they integrate so well together.

The Web In Travel 2012 conference addressed a bunch of insider issues, and took Q&As of the key trend of mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Whether you’re an outsider looking in, or an insider looking out, you just cannot ignore the little plastic power of the device in your hand that beeps and rings. Admit it, your phone rules the world (I know mine rules me)!

Every time I talk to people who work in big corporations, I like to ask them, “what’s your social media and mobile strategy?” They either give you a very good answer, or they squirm like ants under a magnifying glass… Don’t you know that Asia-Pacific is by far the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and smart phone shipments are expected to hit 137 million units in 2011 in Asia Pacific alone? And you don’t have a sales strategy that covers it? Huh? HUH????? Yeah, take that.

When I was doing research on government statistics for my own start-up, I was pretty shocked to realise that there are MORE MOBILE SUBSCRIPTIONS than PEOPLE living in Singapore. That means that many residents here actually own more than one phone! Whatever for? That is crazy, people!!

(Er, yes, I’m one of you… I have two.)

Cannot live without my BlingBerry 9790 and iPhone apps!

I’m a big advocate of browsing and booking things easily on my phone, and it is almost a fail in my honest opinion, for any major company to have an inefficient (or invisible) mobile strategy. (Sorry to be so blunt today, but I read a lot about mobile trends and marketing strategies!)

Thus, it is very easy to win my respect when a company spends effort and dollars in these areas. It truly delights me that this hotel booking site saw the importance in the mobile trend and built these power-packed iPhone and Android mobile phone apps – found on the respective app stores as “Hotels.com” (free to download, of course).

Here’s me testing it out on an iPad… Ready, set, swipe! You can use the app as “a guest” or create your own account.

To create an account, there are about 10 fields to enter your information in when you sign up, but after that it’s quick and fun. Start swiping, sorting or scrolling against the app’s interactive skyline.

Start your search first with exact dates, number of rooms & occupants.

Use the powerful filter tools to sort by preferences – do you want to see the lowest prices or best recommendations?

Check out pictures, descriptions, deals and room reviews.

I’m a bit of a design freak. I really truly appreciate when a website spends top dollar on a sleek interface that is thoughtful and intuitive on a phone or iPad. “Travel” is such a visual experience and browsing should be beautiful, not basic. The concept of a hotel or holiday can be very influenced by the choices of stylish design, glossy colours and magazine-like pictures on a mobile app.

The Hotels.com mobile design makes the UX (user experience) so gorgeous!

Only with the iPad app, you can find the nearest Hotels.com rooms in your live location, real-time.

Remember my previous post for Hotels.com? Can you tell that I just looove looking at hotels? It’s a very useless skill of mine. Guess which are some of the rooms and destinations I picked…

Store all your favourite room options with an add button, decide later!

Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore.
The Langham, Hong Kong.
Expo Hotel, Barcelona.
Club Quarters, London.

Which is your favourite?

I’m sure it will be quick to find a hotel/room to suit your budget and preference – The two smartphone applications are available in over 30 languages, and allow travellers to search and book more than 20,000 accommodation deals from over 135,000 hotels around the world.

Whether you’re planning a one-city quick trip or a cross-country vacation marathon, it’s really easy to flag (touch the ‘add’ button) all your favourite room options around the globe and you can always decide/book later. No need for opening multiple screens and toggling in between windows at all!

All your previously picked choices are stored in your account and organized in a grid next to each other for clear comparison. Which one was cheaper? Which one was nicer? Wonder no more, the design is really manageable and brilliant.

Don’t forget to keep track of the Welcome Rewards programme – when you book 10 room nights, you get your next night free. It’s easy like bubble tea.

Track your details and progress to getting that free hotel room

Even without a data connection, information like hotel address, phone number and map is ready on display as all past and future bookings can be accessed offline. I did this on an iPad and it can also be synced with your desktop and mobile phone. So incredibly useful!

Everything is clearly labelled and if anything goes wrong, you can call the help hotline straight from the app.

PS: I seriously did all this research in about 10 minutes on my friend’s iPad (I currently don’t own one). This is such a seamless app and is perfect for searching, comparing, and booking hotels while on-the-go.

If I need to make a last minute room reservation, Hotels.com will definitely be my app of choice.

“First, I’ll find a hotel room. Hopefully next, a husband…”

Next time you feel like browsing, booking (or just dreaming), get on the Hotels.com iPhone/Android app and pretend you are on a holiday. Let me know what you think!

This is an advertorial for Hotels.com

Worrying

Good things are happening, but sometimes I can’t help worrying.

Today is one of them… 😦 But I’ll try not to let worry be my rocking chair, and just ROCK it instead.

Worrying does not empty TOMORROW of its troubles – but it empties TODAY of its strength”

In other words, worrying is useless!

What is the difference between bloggers and members of the traditional media? – My debate piece for NotaTourist.Sg

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a crazy week so far. Some of the biggest Tech players/entrepreneurs/VCs are in town and I’m busy chasing them around! And of course, there has been the ubiquitous partying… Before I update about all that excitement, here is an article/debate piece I wrote recently that was featured on NotaTourist.sg.

I tried to defend all the bloggers in the Singapore blogosphere, while still remaining unbiased to the people from traditional media. After all, my work background was in traditional print media you know (back in the day, I worked for a magazine and then for our local newspapers). I hope you read the piece on NotaTourist’s site and leave me a comment here!

Let me know if you think I am being fair!

BLOGGERS VS TRADITIONAL MEDIA – ON NOTATOURIST.SG

Secret to my happiness: I never live with any regrets

If you want something, go for it. If you don’t want something, leave it.

And here’s the catch – If you don’t know whether you want something, make a decision and then stick to it.

And this is one of the secrets to my real life happiness. Why live in the past when the future is so much better?

#YOLO