I started my recruitment business with less than $24,000 of capital. That was back in 2004.
If you think that little, Marcus Ho started his social media agency with $500. The business is now worth at least $1 million.
And that is what we call bootstrapping.
According to Wikipedia, bootstrapping usually refers to the starting of a self-sustaining process that is supposed to proceed without external input.
This goes to show that starting a business in Singapore has a really low entry barrier. The tough part is sustaining it, which we will talk about later in the article.
Whether you are going to do a tech startup or a plumbing firm, read on to learn what you need to get started:
Setting up a business entity in Singapore is the easiest it can get.
You can do it online by going to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) website.
There are even a infographics for you to follow in case you need step-by-step instructions.Guide To Setting Up A Local Company
There is also the additional cost of engaging a corporate secretary if you wish to start off as a company.
Their job is to ensure the compliance of your business is in order and they will take care of things such as changes in shareholders, directors, addresses, etc.
These are information that ACRA needs to know.
Alternatively, you could just start off as a business instead of a company.
What is the difference between a company and a business?
Business has unlimited liability.
This means that the owners can be sued in their personal capacity by creditors.
A company, on the other hand, has limited liability and creditors have to sue the company and not the directors or shareholders of the enterprise.
It is also cheaper to register a business as compared to a company.
The fee for registering a new company is $315 and the fee for registering a new business is$65.
From an administrative perspective, business is not required to prepare or submit audited accounts to ACRA on a yearly basis, but a company may be necessary to do so.
The business has to renew its registration annually, but the company is not required to do any such renewal.
Oh, and it is easier to close a business as compared to a company.
One important thing to note is that the declaration of income is very much to the individual if you decide to go with a business.
That means you need to incur higher income tax if your business is making money.
If you are a company, the income goes into a corporate tax.
So you have to make the assessment and see which make more sense for you financially.
Registering a Company is a longer term solution.
But if every cent counts, you won’t want to spend them unnecessarily on compliance costs that don’t add value to your business for now.
Today, there are many alternatives a Startup can look at to get funding.
Beyond just borrowing from families and friends (which I recommend to be the first option to consider if you don’t have the means), you could also look at:
- Kickstarter – One of the most popular sites for crowdfunding, they have been the catalyst in bringing many projects to life – Pebbles, Ampere.
- Indiegogo – Indiegogo is the world’s funding engine. Since 2008, Indiegogo has enabled people to launch campaigns in 200 countries across the world in areas spanning creative, cause and entrepreneurial projects.
- CoAssets – CoAssets is a real estate opportunity and crowdsourcing platform. They recently branched out into business investment crowdsourcing.
- MoolahSense – MoolahSense is a web-based crowd-lending platform that connects quality business seeking loans for expansion capital, equipment purchases or other needs to the broad investor community.
- Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association
- Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
- Spring Singapore
- Singtel Innov8
For a detailed map of where the monies are at different stages of your business, check out MengWong’s guide – Map of The Money.
There are also many other schemes and grants you can tap on.
The people from PSLove did a nice infographic to show you many of them which should be relevant to most businesses.
It took me 5 years of trial and error before I could even get a mention of my company, and it wasn’t in the publication of my choice.
Nowadays with the prevalence of social media, and fast media with shorter attention span of everybody, it is easier to get the word out.
This is also considered a growth hack by showing market “validation” via profiling of your company or products.
You can see it on my website by citing the various medias I appeared in.
Selecting the right media is also important.
If you are selling to the kids market, it is pointless to get a mention in the latest automobile magazine.
In general, here are the ones to look at and start hustling them.
- e27 – e27 is a media organization focused on the Asian technology startup community. It was founded in 2007
- TechinAsia – Tech in Asia is an online technology news startup based in Asia, with team members all across the region.
- Start Up on CNA – A hit reality series airing on leading regional news network Channel NewsAsia.
If you are at this stage, congratulation.
It must have reached a stage where you are overstretched, and you need help.
Hiring in Singapore can be tough.
Not so much because of legislation but more so of the tight labour market.
We are still at a low single digit unemployment % since at least 13 quarters ago.
Unfortunately, many bigger MNCs and even the forward-looking SMEs are not viewed appetisingly by many Millennials.
It could be because of bureaucracy, or the appeal of the industry/product isn’t there.
There are dedicated portals that reach out to talents who are keener to join a new establishment.
An alternative is to consider hanging out where your talents would be.
And if you are in the Startup scene, it would have to be at co-working spaces.
The sheer ability to bounce off ideas and just be within that house of entrepreneurial energy should be worth the money.
- The Hub – Singapore’s largest community of Entrepreneurs prototyping the future of business, technology and society.
- Woolf Works – Woolf Works is a relaxed communal office space for female small business owners, creative freelancers, writers, bloggers and work at home mothers.
- The Co – The Co is an award winning collaborative workspace that is home to powerhouse professionals from the tech, media, and creative industries. It is located at 75 High Street. Individual desks go for $45 a day, $350 for 10 visits a month and $600 monthly, while a swanky office suite can set you back $700-990 per person.
- Smartspace – Based at Bras Basah, this enormous 8,000 sq. ft. space comes with meeting rooms, kitchen areas, work stations, private desks, and even space for a spot of table tennis. It’s also user-friendly and accessible per-hour booking rates with work stations starting from $30 a day and going up to $600 a month. This space also lets you work late and is open round the clock.
- The Working Capitol – The Working Capitol is a community workspace redefined. A hybrid of open co-working spaces, private offices, events space, and a café, it is a multifaceted destination targeting the burgeoning trend of knowledge-based entrepreneurs looking for environments that reflect new ways of how they want to work and develop their businesses.
- The Refinery – The Refinery houses a yakitori joint, a bespoke cocktail bar and a craft workshop. Table spaces start from $450 a month and you also get free coffee and whisky too. Plus, there are also designers around to offer friendly advice and the stay open all hours of the day.
This is the lifeline of any business.
Call me short term but I still believe a business should have a viable revenue model from day one, and not have a traffic model only and somehow let that lead to a revenue one.
My recruitment business could sustain during the formative years because of our insistence to reach out to new clients consistently via cold calling.
I still hate doing that but it is still the most efficient way compared to the alternative, which is inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing should be done too but that is really more long term. You still have bills to pay until your website appear on page one of Google.
And unless you have the luxury of time and the convenience of transportation, cold calling is the fastest and easiest way to hustle.
And since this isn’t something we learned in school, you need to get yourself up to speed so you can do it effectively.
Here are a few training providers that might be able to help.
- Dale Carnegie – Founded in 1912, Dale Carnegie Training has evolved from one man’s belief in the power of self-improvement to a performance-based training company with offices worldwide.
- Lusi Group – A leader in productivity & revenue growth
- Sandler Training – They are the authorized licensee in Singapore and Hong Kong of Sandler Training, a world leader in sales and sales management training and coaching
- SOCO – SOCO/ Sales Training helps build high performance sales teams in organisations with sales teams of one to one thousand (and more).
Sometime you just need some guidance and advice to lead you in the right direction or simply to help you see things from a different and more neutral perspective.
Family members and close friends tend to be pretty extreme in my opinion.
They either ask you to “get a real job” or double down on what you are doing.
Objectively you would want to get the advice from people who has been there and done that.
You could check out the Business Advisors Programme (BAP), a collaboration between SIM and SPRING Singapore to facilitate the matching of Independent Business Advisors to Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) seeking advice on various business and corporate development areas.
The BAP enables SMEs to draw from the BAs’ experience, expertise and business contacts, and improve their firms and processes.
The projects span a broad spectrum of areas such as human resources, finance, market development, operations and strategy development.
The plans are tied to key deliverables, and can be completed within six months.
What If I Can’t Make It?
The success rate in entrepreneurship is extremely low. In fact, 90% of the Startups fail.
I have seen so many competitions come and go over my 11 years of running my own business.
Many started with probably even more passion and resources than me.
But there will always be instances whereby external factors will play such a big part that it doesn’t matter if your product is the best or the first to market (remember Friendster?)
In many cases, business failures often lead to bankruptcy. You would have tried using money to solve whatever problems you have but making a conscious decision to pull the life support always tend to be the hardest.
By the time you are forced out of the hospital, you would also realized there is no money in the bank and creditors are waiting at your front door (if that door isn’t torn down yet).
Good news is there are proposed changes to the bankruptcy laws in Singapore.
If this goes through, which I believe it would, first-time bankrupts could be eligible for discharge after seven years in bankruptcy even if they cannot resolve their debts during that period.
This makes it harder for people to be declared bankrupt and easier for them to exit bankruptcy.
First-timers will be eligible for discharge after seven years, and repeat cases, after nine years.
Currently, the law does not stipulate any mandated exit points for bankrupts.
They can only be discharged via a High Court order or through a certificate of discharge issued by a court officer if their debts are less than S$500,000.
However it may end up, the lessons learned from the journey of entrepreneurship will be profoundly significant and have a magnificent impact on the way you look at life itself.
And bankruptcy isn’t usually the end of story.
Many people rose back from that to become even more successful then before. For others, the debt situation drove them to work harder and smarter in their do over, turning $2 into the bank to a $2.5mil revenue business.
So are you ready to become a Singapore Entrepreneur?
Question: Any other useful tips for aspiring entrepreneurs? You can leave a comment below.