While preparing for my presentation to a lecture theater full of students later in the evening, I stumbled upon a speech I had written in 2008, in a similar event to share my experiences as an entrepreneur then. I’ve decided to repost it here in my blog.
Thank you for having me here today.
I started SingaporeBrides.com on 1 April 2000 and SingaporeMotherhood.com on 3 May 2005. Yeah, it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve embarked on the road of entrepreneurship. Did I ever imagine myself to be where I am today? Honestly, never.
SingaporeBrides.com was an idea simply born out of the notion to make wedding planning easier. When I was preparing for my wedding in 1999, I had to call almost all the hotel venues here just to get the pricelist and packages. My wife and I also had to visit many bridal boutiques just to find the perfect wedding gown.
I innocently thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the required information provided online at one consolidated place in the Internet?’
With that seed of thought, I started the adventure of my life.
Was I ever hesitant of starting on my own? Was I fearful of failures? Of course. But I just had to know. I just had to know for sure if I can make my idea work. If someone had successfully implemented a similar idea, I don’t want to be left to wonder for the rest of my life if that could have been me. I don’t want to be plagued by what ifs? If I had tried and failed, at least I would be satisfied with the knowledge that I wasn’t the better person to make it work. But at least, I’ve tried.
Also, I told myself. So what if I failed. Other than some bruised ego, I won’t die from the experience. I believe I’ve done more embarrassing things in my misbegotten youth than a failed startup. Just get a job again, how bad can that be?
With that, I started my one-man startup. The day I finished building my site using just HTML, was also the day I launched my site and it was also the last day of me working in an MNC. Armed with $20k savings, no business plan and lots of enthusiasm, I became an entrepreneur and got myself out of the rat race. I never planned to get any funding as I wanted to stay pure to my dreams, to my ideas. I didn’t want to compromise. Even if I fail, I want to fail by my own decisions.
Nothing prepared what I was going to face in the next 3 years. During the first few months, I was filled with hope. I thought my idea was simple and brilliant. I believed that I would quickly signup advertisers. What never prepared me was that the wedding industry was not ready for the Internet. They were still mostly a traditional industry where they only believed in the advertising power of the print media. The dot com crash at that time was not helping too. It gave the industry an impression that Internet was a failed medium. If it was good, it wouldn’t have crashed, right? It was a difficult time then. For the first 3 years, I can’t even begin to count the number of rejections I’ve faced. For the first 3 years, it was the darkest period of my life. I’ve low morale, low self-esteem. And with dwindling funds, you worry about the bills you can’t pay.
I had to survive with the only $20k that I have. I scrimped and saved every cent by not eating out, by using my friend’s office as my address, not having vacation for 3 years. Not having a car and going around by taking only buses and MRT. If possible, I would even walked from meetings to meetings. Even by doing this, my savings had once dropped to only few hundred dollars.
In the beginning, since the service providers didn’t believe in the internet, they didn’t even have websites so how are they going to advertise? To get the industry started, I built websites for free.
Instead of waiting for things to happen and timing to be right, sometimes you’ll need to create your own opportunities. One by one, the wedding service providers started to have their own websites. This in turn, fueled their competitors to start having websites in order not to lose out.
It was only in the 3rd year that revenue started to flow in more consistently.
To be an entrepreneur, I believe you should not be in it just for the money. It won’t be enough motivation to carry you through the difficult times. Especially when you don’t have money, you’ll most likely feel like giving out. Conversely, what would continue to drive you when you have the money? You must be truly passionate about what you are doing.
The starting will be difficult but that is just the beginning. If your idea succeed, you’ll attract competition with similar ideas. Looking around you, we see such examples every day. How many donuts company do we have now? What happened to the bubble-tea phenomena?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must be mentally prepared that it will be the most difficult thing to do. You must be ready to risk everything and may not get anything in return. That is the reality. Most startups fail during the first year.
We now charge an annual advertising fee for services providers who wish to be listed in SingaporeBrides.com. Did I start with the business model in mind? No, it evolved from something totally different.
When I started SingaporeBrides.com 8 years ago, did I ever imagine to be where I am today? Did I expect it to become the leading portal here? Nope, never in my wildest dreams.
We only live once. I don’t want to live with regrets and wondering about the ‘What ifs’. Even if I had failed, I would have lived.
Darren Hayes – Black Out The Sun