That’s the kind of name that would get your attention. It sure got mine.
I first read about them on facebook. They were having an event and one of my friend Elisha was a speaker.
A few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from that domain.
Melissa read about my interview post with Prakash and reach out to me to share hers.
Very soon, we caught up at a the quaint Joo Chiat shophouse she works out from and I got to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey which took her to Yangon and back to Singapore:
1. Please share a bit about what you do.
I am what they call a multi-hyphenate, I play different roles in more than one organisation.
My interest and expertise is in marketing and growth hacking for startups.
Here are the two main projects I am working on: LadyBoss is a digital portal and community created to inspire women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
We do profile interviews, share business-focused resources and hold networking events every two months for our readers to connect in real life.
BiTS is an enterprise resource planning platform for small medium businesses, we promote digital transformation for SMEs so they can improve productivity and apply business intelligence in their companies at reasonable costs.
Many small business owners know that they should be automating work processes and using integrated systems but the costs of using salesforce, SAP or Oracle is simply not justifiable for them.
Though my titles are Creative Director and Marketing Director respectively, I really have to wear many hats as the teams are lean, as they should be as startups.
Anything from writing press releases, social media posts, getting sponsorships, media buying to organising events, I get my hands dirty by doing almost everything! I consult a few startups on the side as well.
2. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I was always very lost, didn’t have a specific career in mind as my interests evolved very quickly.
One thing always remained constant, I wanted to make a difference in the world and help people.
I didn’t know have a clue how to do it.
Now, with my skill set, I volunteer at NGOs to promote their causes and revamp their marketing materials.
3. What were you doing before starting this business?
I worked in many part-time jobs since I was in secondary school to make extra pocket money, mostly in sales.
As an avid shopper, I always saw the value of making money so I can spend it!
I was working in a luxury brand in the marketing department for two years before I started my first real company in Yangon which was an online retail home decoration and furniture store.
I had moved to Yangon to join my boyfriend who had set up an IT firm.
I learned a lot while I was there, trying to run an online business in a developing city where internet was intermittent and the logistics infrastructure was quite lacking.
It’s not like you could use an app like Zyllem or GoGoVan to deliver customers’ orders or call up a courier.
Right now, the company operates mainly as a supplier to a local online marketplace.
4. How did the idea for your business come about?
Both businesses BiTS and LadyBoss were not my idea!
I do have 1001 business ideas but they are unconventional and probably won’t be very profitable ones so it’s better to let someone else do the thinking.
5. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t call myself successful, not yet.
But as an entrepreneur, the one thing I have to give up is definitely time for friends and family.
Even during the weekends, I have to do work so I allocate my time carefully.
Now that I don’t live at home with my family, they are definitely my priority. I can no longer wile away an afternoon with friends.
And cutting back on spending money on frivolous stuff!
I think being an entrepreneur really taught me time management and money management.
For example, a $1000 pair of shoes could pay my intern for a month, do I really want to spend that money instead of hiring someone who could add value to my company?
Of course, every now and then, I can’t resist the temptation…
6. How did you get funded?
Both businesses are self-funded, in fact LadyBoss is self-sustaining!
7. How do you go about marketing your business?
Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Without a big marketing budget, social media is the best tool.
We do reach out to mainstream media as well by writing directly to the editors about our business.
Visuals are very important to me as they communicate a company’s points clearly to the customers so using infographics are essential.
And of course, offline events.
Events have a personal touch, I like that and you never know who will show up!
You could bring in potential clients and even investors!
For events, Peatix is really useful and simple to use for event organisers.
8. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?
My first sale from LadyBoss and our first sale ever actually came about as my ex-supplier for the online retail business was starting a new JV in Singapore and they wanted to promote the opening launch via LadyBoss.
Since both partners were women entrepreneurs, it was a great fit for our site.
For BiTS, we held an offline event for business owners and employees to explain big data and digital transformation, after which we showed a demo of our platform.
The next week, one of the companies called us up and said they were interested to have us on board to digitize their business! It took a while but we closed the deal.
9. Describe your typical work day?
I always start the day by clearing my multiple inboxes.
For two days of the week, I’ll schedule in meetings with potential clients, catch up with partners and clients over coffee.
I feel that is more efficient than running around for meetings every day of the week.
Commuting is a big waste of time and peak hour traffic is a nightmare.
I end the day by clearing even more emails!
A lot of going back and forth with employees, getting things done!
Oh, I do try to squeeze in an hour of yoga when I can.
10. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
Proudest moment of LadyBoss would be the response that we got from the attendees after the third event!
It was so much better than we expected and it felt really good because we put in so much effort organising the event.
We also achieved what we set out to do, which is to inspire women to go after what they want and connecting budding entrepreneurs with successful entrepreneurs they can learn from.
11. What was the lowest point for you in this business?
This is more related to BiTS. We bootstrapped from the very beginning and was aiming for the first cashflow to come in from June.
It didn’t go according to our plan.
It was a really stressful period given there was no income for us.
Fortunately it did come in July. It gave us confidence and paved the way for us to approach more clients.
I learned we just have to work really hard to get through the bad times.
Nothing is too tough to overcome!
12. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
Lots of people but I guess it would be my CEO of BiTS!
He’s the most hardworking, disciplined person I know and that has really influenced me to be more disciplined and conscientious in my work.
13. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell her?
UHHHHHH… I would say, stop partying so much and make good use of your time!
14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
Hurry up get married and have babies.
15. What’s your business focus for this year?
To grow the companies, close lots of deals and make an impact!
16. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Leave your phone somewhere that is out of reach.
I have too many social media apps on my mobile and it makes me highly unproductive when I start to fiddle with my phone and go on these apps.
Sometimes, it’s necessary for work but other times, I’m just looking at pictures posted by celebs!
17. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?
A life saver for all marketers.
It is so easy to use and I can quickly put together something without going to my designers.
Keen to learn more about Melissa?