SINGAPORE – For Fiona Loh, juggling marketing, accounts, customer service and product development is part of day-to-day business.
The 28-year-old swapped computers for cookies last year when she quit her permanent job as a technology product manager for a bank to run her own whiskdom bakery business.
“Every day I felt something nudge inside me: what if, what if, what if?” Loh told CNBC.
And she is not alone. Loh is among a growing number of people who are leaving their 9 to 5 jobs to pursue their passion after the pandemic disrupted traditional industries and careers.
Rise of the pandemic entrepreneur
Last year, although job security was difficult to achieve for many, more than two in five (41%) employees considered leaving their jobs to start their own business, according to a Singapore survey by the recruitment company Randstad.
For the self-taught baker Loh, the choice was clear.
I worked back to back between my day job and my nighttime rush – a good 20 hours a day.
Fiona Loh |
When Singapore’s lockdown fueled the appetite for homemade baked goods last year, she saw an opportunity to end the grind and improve her Instagram page even further.
In July 2020, with the pandemic, Loh left her clerk job to take on Whiskdom full time.
“I worked back to back between my day job and my nightly hustle and bustle – a good 20 hours a day,” she said. “There came that day when I sat there and couldn’t think. My mind was so tired … I just felt like I couldn’t go on.”
28-year-old Singaporean Fiona Loh quit her banking job to run her own bakery business during the pandemic.
The young founder moved operations from her parents’ home to a commercial kitchen in central Singapore by October as demand for her melted Levain-style brownies and biscuits and an 18-month waiting list increased.
Stimulus opens the door to new businesses
Loh’s is a success story in a year in which many industries, especially food and beverage as well as retail, have been hit by the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns.
However, according to Xiu Ru Lim, a lecturer in economics at the Singapore Polytechnic, the economic landscape was suitable for first-time business owners through 2020 and 2021.
The government grants … gave small business owners a chance to look into getting started.
Xiu Ru Lim
Lecturer, Singapore Polytechnic
“This could actually be an opportunity for many companies,” Lim said. “Around the globe we can see many new companies starting up. Quite a few companies, although statistics do not fully show this, are actually individual companies. “
In fact, business closings actually fell in 2020 while the number of startups remained stable as the Singapore government – like many other developed nations – granted loans, grants and rent waivers to keep small businesses alive.
Digital payments and other technologies have lowered the barriers to entry for many new business owners.
Meanwhile, the rapid adoption of technology during the reporting period opened the market for new businesses, Lim said.
“The competition has calmed down a bit,” she said. “With government grants and incentives actually encouraging businesses to go digital, small business owners have been given the opportunity to look into getting started.”
New generation of managers
Business ownership can take a tremendous personal and financial toll – and this remains a significant barrier preventing many other potential business owners from achieving their goals.
In turn, Loh received a government Grant for her stoves, but she had to spend $ 50,000 Singapore dollars (around $ 37,500) in personal savings to fund the project. That put her wedding and home buying dreams on hold, she said, adding that she has not yet reached her previous salary.
When you get into business, in the end you have to be everything … But as for myself, I really enjoy doing that.
Fiona Loh |
“If I had really wanted the money, I would have stayed in the banking business,” Loh said, noting that she is now drawing “a minimum amount” – enough to pay her daily living expenses and insurance bills. The rest of the income was reinvested in the company and three full-time employees were hired, including her 62-year-old father.
As a new employer with a growing business, Loh now has to plan its business even more carefully for the future.
It is estimated that 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years and 45% within five years – often due to a lack of market knowledge, rapid expansion and lack of finance.
Even so, the young entrepreneur insisted that she would not be returning to the office anytime soon.
“When you start doing business, you have to be everything in the end and do everything yourself in the end,” said Loh. “It’s very different from being employed. But it’s really fun for me.”