This time for our Small Business Saturday feature we look at Singapore-based design studio honey&gazelle. We first encountered both founders Min and Jia at Public Garden fair as our booth was just beside theirs. We were thrilled to learn that they are existing customers of ours and excited to find out more about their brand and passion. Read more below as we speak about what they're up to.
Tell us about how you first started.
Min: The first dream of starting our own business began many years ago. We have been friends for ages so we often talked about building something together. But life got in the way and it was only recently that we started honey&gazelle Design Studio!
Jia: Things really started moving along and getting serious during an after-work dinner about 2 years ago, when we shared our frustrations with our previous jobs and expressed our desires to quit. This was the only time since we were kids when we were both at the same crossroads in our lives - to continue to pursue something professionally or to start our own business. We decided to take the plunge and establish the studio then!
Both of you do this full time now. What was your transition like from a full time job to starting your own company?
Jia: I was the first to leave my job to commit full-time to honey&gazelle Design Studio. It felt liberating yet pretty overwhelming. The designing, branding, marketing and communications parts of the business came naturally to me because of my professional expertise. However, the financial, administrative, and HR aspects totally whizzed past my head, no matter how many times I tried reading up on them. I was so relieved and excited when Min finally came onboard full-time!
Min: I honestly still can't believe that it has been a year since I left my job. My previous job offered financial security and it was an area that I specialized in. honey&gazelle Design Studio may be a dream come true for me but during the process of actualisation, it took a great deal of courage from my part. I am now constantly learning new things along the way to make sure that we are on track! I can't say that the transition was all rosy and smooth sailing but I'm thankful to have Jia with me on this crazy journey!
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of making the shift from working a full time job to starting their own brand?
Min: Entrepreneurs work a million times harder than the average worker. If you are making the switch because you are escaping a heavy workload, you may want to reconsider starting your own business. No one really sees the long hours and hard work behind a small business but that does not mean this is a no-go zone. If you're willing to push your limits, starting your own brand may just be the sweetest reward out there. Also, rope in a trustworthy partner because two is always better than one.
Jia: Remember to channel all that you have learnt from your past corporate experiences into your brand. Sometimes, you are your best case study! Also, it is really important to be realistic in your goals. Set smart ones and work towards them with everything you have. My last advice is to load up on vitamin C because it's terrible to fall sick when you are your own boss.
You are best friends, how did you two meet?
Jia: We met in church when we were about 9 years old. We really meant it whenever we tell anyone that we are childhood friends!
Min: We would be totally different people if we did not meet and grow up together in church. I'm glad that many of our personal values align despite our character and personality differences. We often joke that our mothers attended the same motherhood training school and that's why we were taught similar values!
It’s often a taboo to work with close friends or family as there is a possibility that it may not end well. Do you face any issues working together and what is your working relationship/dynamics like?
Min: We will be lying if we said we don't have any conflicts or issues while working together. With somewhat different working styles, it's hard to not get into any kind of conflict when we're under immense pressure and crazy deadlines. The only way to overcome conflicts is to face it honestly. We figured that honesty is the best policy and even if either one of us mess up, being honest with each other helps. I have more insecurities compared to Jia, and it helps the business grow when I share my fears and weaknesses with her. Only then, we can work out a plan that will benefit the business without stressing either of us! A loving and encouraging working environment is our happy place!
Jia: We keep things very professional when we are in the work mode. Both of us believe that it's important to respect the boundaries and authorities of our individual job scopes. Sometimes, we have differing views on how to tackle certain challenges or difficulties. Yet, we will always trust the other person to make the most sound judgement at that point in time, and support her decision. At the end of the day, we know that we have each other to trust, support, and rely on. We just want to ensure that we are both very happy in our day to day roles and that we are working towards the same vision with much joy in our hearts. Here's a secret: we often have dance breaks in the studio when we get too stressed!
Moving forward in 2017, what can we expect to see from honey&gazelle?
Jia: We are definitely going to be working on producing more paper with personality for our retail line, while participating in as many pop-up events as possible. We love these events as they are a great and happy way to connect with our customers!
We also intend to focus fully on our studio work. We are actually a full-fledged graphic design and event styling studio, so we hope to take on even more exciting projects next year! We were involved in really fun wedding styling projects this year and plan to expand this area of our business in 2017. It's gonna be a busy but joyous year for us, can't wait!
Where can we find you?
Min: We will be popping up in the Public Garden on 222nd - 23rd April 1 to 7pm. It is held at the Suntec Convention Centre, so do drop by if you want to do some shopping before Mother's Day!
If not, you can find the full retail range on our webstore; a selection of Greeting Cards and Postcards on By Invite Only's web store; and a streamlined selection of art prints and stationery at Singapore Cable Car Gift Shop at Imbiah, Sentosa.