Any entrepreneurship veture needs to start with an idea.
An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.
– Cobb, Inception.
When I was pursuing my Electrical and Electronics engineering degree in NTU, the Internet caught my imagination in 1994. Instead of studying for my exams, I spent my time glued to the CRT monitor screen in the school library and mesmerised by the then nascent World Wide Web. The geek inside me was thrilled every time when the loading icon (throbber) of Netscape browser showing meteors streaking across a starry night sky and bombarding a barren surface of a celestial planet. Needless to say, I flunked a few papers that year, which was my usual academic track record. But during then, I would already know I wanted to be part of “The Grid”.
Before starting SingaporeBrides.com, I already dreamt up an idea during one supper session. While we were cooking instant noodles over a portable butane bunsen burner, I shared the idea with my roomies. I even told my roomies that I’ll make my first million by the age of 30. Let’s just say I’ve allowed myself to postpone the goal by a few decades. Heh.
We ended up embarking on the second idea that I came up with in 1996, after we graduated. The idea was to have an online shop selling music CDs. It was much less cost intensive as compared to a brick-and-mortar CD shop and we would hand-deliver the order within a day. Well, due to various reasons that is best left for another post, we didn’t get far with the idea… fortunately. However, I still remember the nights where the four of us met at a now defunct cafe on the fifth floor of Orchard Cineleisure. We would discuss excitedly our ideas, dreams, ambitions over lattes and cappuccinos, and intoxicated by the aromas of freshly baked ciabatta breads. During our time, laptops were still expensive and not a common sight yet, like the early Silicon Valley startups, we would scribble our ideas on paper napkins. Those were the days of my cherished memories… I wish I had kept those napkins.
When the second idea didn’t pan out, I told myself that I would think of an idea that only requires me, myself and I to make it work. Sometimes, too many cooks really spoil the broth. While waiting for my Eureka moment, I was reading up HTML 4.0. It was the least I could do to equip myself with the knowledge to at least do up my own website.
It was when I was planning my wedding that I had the idea that germinate and bore fruit and finally become SingaporeBrides.com.
Back in 1999 when I was planning my wedding, I took it upon myself to gather the wedding packages from various wedding venues. Being the geek I was, the first thing I did was to search for a wedding portal that was a central depository of the wedding packages. To my surprise, after I input my keywords to the search engines and directories like Yahoo!, Alta Vista and Google, I couldn’t find any wedding portal in Singapore! I had no choice but resigned myself to the traditional method of calling the various venues to request them to mail or fax the packages to me! It was very inefficient and non-environmental friendly. The mail would come in folders with pages after pages of brochures and packages. Sometimes when I couldn’t get anyone from a particular wedding venue to pick up my calls and email addresses were practically non-existent then, I had to visit the concierge of some hotels along Orchard Road to ask for the wedding packages on my weekends.
Next was shopping for wedding gowns. To me, they were just white pieces of fabric and they all looked the same to me! And wedding gown packages cost in the range of thousands! The most expensive item I’ve ever spent till then was my desktop PC. I couldn’t understand for the life of me how could white cloth be so expensive. I felt very stress when visiting the boutiques. I felt like a mountain tortoise and I was afraid I would embarrass myself and my wife. You can plant me in Sim Lim Square any day and I could choose RAMS, hard-drives, graphic cards, motherboards and assemble my own PC. In a boutique, I was meek and totally clueless. I wished there was a directory where it listed the website of wedding boutiques where I can surf in private and only visit those that my wife find interesting. But I can’t find a web directory of bridal boutique websites (and not realising that many boutiques didn’t have websites yet).
We would also need a professional wedding photographer to document our wedding day. Our choices were usually based on recommendations from friends who had gotten married. Needless to say, the choices were limited. Some of the photographers we met, we know immediately that the photographer was not for us once the portfolio was shown to us. The style was just not what we were looking for. Out of courtesy, we still had to sit through at least an hour with the photographer before we take our leave. I was convinced by then, a wedding portal that lists the photographers’ online portfolio would really make wedding planning and sourcing for their services more convenient and efficient.
During our wedding planning, my wife and I had lots of tiffs and fights. It was really a stressful time. We had to try to accommodate the wishes and requirements of both our families. At times, our families wishes were in conflict with each other. It really made wedding planning a diplomatic nightmare. There were times that some arguments were so bad that I even wondered if my wife was really the one I want to marry. I had thought and expected wedding planning to be happy, romantic and blissful. I had wanted our wedding to be a fairytale. I never expected it to be a nightmare which I can’t seem to wake up from.
At that time, I had a colleague who was also preparing her wedding. When she shared with me that she was having fights with her husband-to-be, I realised that it may be common for couples to fight during their planning but nobody knew as we tend to keep it from our close friends. We were embarrassed and we thought we were doing it wrong. When we had fights, we thought that our marriage was not meant to be. I’ve heard of couples calling off their weddings due to their fights. When I realise fights during wedding planning were more normal that we had known, I thought if we had an online community when we can confide with each other in anonymity, more couples will realise fights are common and less weddings will be called off.
It was my experience in wedding planning that I was inspired to come out with a solution to solve a problem at that time. During the planning, it had different facets of a problem and I wanted to solve them and it defined what I, and hopefully what other couples would look for in a wedding portal. That was how SingaporeBrides.com was born.
Luckily, the seed of my idea grew and it defined me instead of destroying me.
Lee DeWyze – Sweet Serendipity
P.S. It was really just wedding stress. Currently, my wife and I have been happily married for 11 years. Getting married is the best decision I’ve made in my life! 🙂