A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by Simply Her Magazine and the story is out! It's in the October 2016 issue under the feature "Mumpreneurs We Want As Our BFFs". I noticed that I'm the only mum featured in her 40s, everyone else is in their 30s
The focus of the interview was on how I set up my writing agency and how it empowers others mums. As is usually the case in such features, there's a word count constraint, so the article is a heavily summarised version of the interview. For the benefit of readers, here's the full Q&A of my interview.
What is the main target of your company?
In essence, we want to help organisations
communicate better through writing that is simple, clear and creative. It
sounds straightforward but you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to achieve
this. Often, when you’re in an organisation, you can’t see through the fog caused
by massive information overload. Everything is important! And it’s made worse
when people throw in jargon and buzzwords indiscriminately, often to mask the
fact that they’re not quite sure what they really mean.
My writers aren’t just
adept at writing, most of them also have extensive business and marketing
experience, so we are able to capture the essence of what organisations want to
communicate and wrap it in a succinct, readable package.
made you decide to set up? What inspired you? How did you see the gap in the
In 2002, I’d been heading corporate
communications departments in different organisations for about 10 years. My
kids were only 5 and 2 then, and I didn’t want to miss their crucial, growing
up years. So armed with a passion for writing, I decided to start a copywriting
business, working from home. Thus, Hedgehog Communications was born.
It was a riskier decision than many people realise
today. 2002 was at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis. Jobs were scarce,
businesses were failing. Furthermore, back then, outsourcing writing wasn’t the
norm. It was almost unheard of. Most PR departments took care of the writing
internally. So it was actually a huge risk. I was giving up a
great job and salary as head of communications at SMU to start this venture.
With two very young kids to feed! Many friends thought I was out of my mind.
What life changes did you have to make personally to start your business up?
I didn’t have to make any drastic changes
financially because writing has very low overheads and start-up costs, plus I
did have clients almost from the get-go. However, once I moved from being a
salaried employee to an entrepreneur, I started counting every cent. Somehow
when your wages are not paid to you automatically every month, you tend to be
more careful about how you spend your money.
easy was it to set up? Tell me about how you started, and what was easy, and
The physical aspects of starting up a writing
business are almost non-existent – all I needed was a computer and I was good
to go. What was harder was learning the ropes about starting a business. When
you’re a one-woman show, you’re basically the manager, accountant, sales rep
and worker all rolled into one!
you have a slow start or did the business boom immediately? How did you go
about garnering interest and drumming up advertising?
In the beginning, winning the business is always the
hardest part. I knew I could write, but convincing people to pay me to do so
was another kettle of fish! But I gave it my best shot. I made a gazillion cold
calls, knocked on doors and hawked my cv. Having said that, I must say I’ve
been very fortunate. I’ve had people willing to give me a try pretty much from
the time I started. From there, word of mouth helped my business grow steadily
and I never looked back.
After about five years, I found
myself with so much work that I had to turn jobs down. That’s when I started
thinking of ways to grow the business and I looked for copywriters to join
Hedgehog Communications. It was slow at first because I only wanted copywriters
who could write with the level of professionalism that Hedgehog Communications
had come to be known for.
One group of people I actively sought
was mums like me who wanted flexi-work so they could spend more time with their
kids. It’s my way of paying it forward but I have to admit, it’s not entirely
altruistic. I find these mums an untapped and underappreciated resource. They’re
very capable, often with years of corporate experience behind their belt;
they’re reliable because they’re used to getting things done quickly and
effectively; and they’re loyal because they’re grateful for the opportunity to
engage in meaningful work. I’m very pleased to say that eight of my 13 writers
are mums with young kids. All my writers are on flexi terms, meaning they’re
free to take on as much or as little work as their schedules would allow. And
we have an extremely collaborative and supportive culture in Hedgehog
Communications – when a writer is suddenly unable to take on a job due to an
emergency, someone else will always step in or lend a hand. That’s the “mum”
culture at work right there!
has the business developed (staff, money, popularity etc)?
Today, Hedgehog Communications is one of the most
established writing agencies in Singapore, especially for the public sector. Unlike
some other companies which may be fronted by senior personalities but farm out
the work to junior staff, all our writers are experts in their own right. We
have among us, an ex general manager of a public relations company, managing
editor of a publishing firm, deputy editor of a national magazine,
communications head at an MNC, etc. And these are the people who actually do
the writing, hence the quality of our work.
We’ve taken on many, many projects that help both
public sector agencies and private companies simplify their written
communications for websites, brochures, reports and so on. I don’t advertise at
all so I’m sometimes astonished (and mystified) that clients from as far as
London and India have heard of and wish to engage our services. It’s something
I’m incredibly proud of – to have built a setup that I didn’t know whether
would last six months, to an enterprise that serves a real need in the
community and provides meaningful work for many people. I find great
satisfaction in that.
has your life changed since becoming a Mumpreneur?
Where do I even begin? The bond I have with my kids
is strong, I mean elephant-glue strong. Even though my kids are now teenagers, we still chat all the
time and we discuss anything from our love of books to our love of food! I even
write books with my daughter, Lesley-Anne. Our first series of five children’s
books, titled "Danger Dan", was published by Epigram Books from January 2014 to
July 2015. The series has been supported by the National Arts Council. The
series was successful enough for Epigram Books to offer us another series, so
we embarked on the "Danger Dan and Gadget Girl" series, the first book of which
was published in April this year. As mother and daughter, we also conduct talks
and workshops at various events, such as the Singapore Writers Festival, and at
As for work-life balance, most
definitely. When I work, it’s in short productive bursts, which leaves me a lot
of down time to be with my kids or to do other things.
are the downsides?
Like with all businesses, financial uncertainty is right up there.
There are good months and bad months, and the current situation is not
necessarily a good predictor of the future. Fortunately, Hedgehog Communications
is pretty stable now, but in the early days, I would get nervous whenever I
faced a lull period.
plans and hopes do you have for the future of your business?
I’m actually quite dismayed by the standard of
English I see in official collaterals and signs. How is it that with English as
the official language of business and instruction, people are increasingly
unable to use the language correctly and appropriately?
It’s a lofty ambition but I hope Hedgehog
Communications can play a major role in raising the level of written
communications in business and the corporate setting (well, in Singapore at
What advice would you share with other mums who are considering setting up their own
Do your homework! It can be
rewarding but running your own business is challenging. Having a passion is not
enough – you need to have a plan, scrutinise the business aspects and make sure
that it’s financially viable in the long run.