Learning from Failure: GWM Babes

“Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow.”

– Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Around November last year, a friend of mine tagged me in a post from a fitness account doing a giveaway for a set of sports bra and leggings. I’m sure like many women who saw the post, I went “damn free sportswear if I just share this post? Sign me up.” And so was the beginning of something too good to be true.

Firstly, when you go over to the advertised link, the free activewear came with a ‘shipping fee’ of around 30SGD. Now, the e-shopper in me knows that shipping from China can’t possibly cost that much, and I’m sure it wasn’t coming from the US. So it was clear they were trying to make as much profit off this launch as possible, which I don’t fault them for. I do fault them for the fact that the made explicit promises time and time again for stipulated arrival time, but they never seemed to meet. It surprised me that even though I was one of the first few to make my order (my friend had an even earlier order number and she still received hers late), I was part of the very last batch.

The lack of transparency as to how they were deciding which orders got fulfilled, just floored me. By order number? No. By size? Maybe. They were sending out their orders based on which size was manufactured, and yet they weren’t following a numeric order within the size orders. Not only is it confusing but it just raises some questions as to the fairness of it all. Some Facebook users even questioned if they were pushing up orders of those who made enough noise. Highly disappointed.

All in all, I just think whoever was part of this team was way in over their heads, shooting in too many directions. They could have done some prediction as to the quantity that they were going to pre-order and maybe have some of the stock in first before launching their campaign. Even the way that the checking of orders was initially handles was a mess. Customers were encouraged to join a Facebook group for more updates when that is probably one of the most chaotic methods I can think of for themselves and for the customers. They later released an excel sheet on the suggestion from one of the Facebook members.

Just my two cents worth and reflection on this debacle of a launch.

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Why I decided to start a business

“Pursue your passion they say, follow your dreams they say!” But what if you didn’t know what that dream or passion might look like? Often times, as young people we mould our ideas and perspectives based on whatever is around us. So like most Singaporeans going through the public system of education, I was surrounded by the idea that STEM was the way to go. I was good at it, liked it, and was convinced that I loved it.

In Singapore, there is an abundance of research/STEM exposure for pre-tertiary students. Personally, I’ve participated in Math Olympiads, and research symposiums during my secondary school days (high school equivalent). And I really did enjoy it. I could see myself doing that as a career- or so I thought at the time. Currently, I’m coming to the end of my second year in university, doing a major in Life Sciences. While I still enjoy what I learn, these past four semesters have allowed me to open my eyes to what I am good at and what I am genuinely interested in. I had come to university with the end in mind: study life sciences with a minor in psychology. That’s it. My STEM background in secondary school and junior college (pre-university) had really shaped my motivations in what I wanted to pursue. I could not imagine myself doing anything else, because how could I when I did not know what else was out there?

Now comes the meat of this post, why I decided to start a business or more precisely what changed my career perspectives. So in my first semester, I took what has now become quite a dreaded module for all ‘non-computing’ undergrads: CS1010S. CS1010S is basically an introductory course to programming methodology, in my case it was taught in python. The ONLY reason why I took it at the time was that it was a compulsory module for all faculty of science undergrads. Let me tell you, as someone who was never exposed to the idea of computing, it was a pure nightmare. And it was not just because it was difficult for me to learn, but there seemed to be a stigma towards the subject in the first place. The other students from the faulty of science that were taking the course with me had a very discouraging attitude towards the module. It seemed that everyone was taking it for the sake of completion. I guess I picked up the same sentiments along the way. After the module, I knew I enjoyed learning about it but I told myself I wouldn’t touch computing again.

Fast-forward to my second semester, I was seriously considering a change in my major. I questioned why I was still studying what I was studying. A friend of mine was going through a similar crisis and we talked about what we would seriously consider doing after graduation. Would I be satisfied with doing research? Why am I afraid to venture elsewhere? Those were the questions in my head and that was the beginning of some serious thought into becoming self-employed. And so it began: the two of us started throwing business ideas back and forth, but nothing concrete was ever done. Dreamers on a cloud. Another semester passed, and I was still lacking direction.

Finally, enough was enough. I was either going to stop dreaming and do something about it, or stop dreaming and move on. I chose the former. I actively sought out ways to improve myself in terms of the technical skills I would need to start a business, interestingly enough that included taking another programming module in my third semester. Despite struggling to learn Java (a whole new world beyond what I did in my first semester), I was so glad I did because it really got me interested in the power of technology in businesses and problem-solving.

January this year, my friend (now business partner) and I have started on our milestones for this year. We began our marketing research, which is a topic for another day. I switched my plans to a business analytics minor.

Now, why I’m sharing this is also partly to document my journey but at the same time, I hope to encourage young people (in Singapore especially) of two things.

  1. Don’t be boxed in by what you choose. (There’s still time to explore other options.)

  2. If you want to do something, make small steps towards achieving those goals. (As cliche as it sounds.)