December 2, 2022

Previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies had been primarily reliant on globalisation and the convenience of transporting and receiving items from all around the world. 

When the virus hit Singapore shores in 2020, we had been plagued with the consequences of the pandemic. From 1000’s of infections that elevated every day, to circuit breakers, and in the end, the closing down of borders, Singapore discovered itself in a state much like isolationism. 

Now with the onset of embracing a post-pandemic world, borders have since reopened and the enterprise panorama appears nearly again to regular. Nevertheless, the longer term is rarely sure.

In a unstable, unpredictable world, companies must be taught from the previous to maneuver ahead. These three native enterprise shared how they tailored to maintain afloat in the course of the COVID-19 disaster and the teachings they’ve learnt in surviving instances of uncertainty.

Getting hit by COVID-19

Kevin Chiak, former Mr. Singapore, used to feed stray cats round his personal health club neighborhood and ultimately adopted three feline companions of his personal. Nevertheless, when he needed to journey, he realised that he had nobody to look after them whereas he was gone. 

He later based cat lodge Catopia in 2016, with the purpose of catering to the wants of pet homeowners like himself who wanted caregiving companies for his or her cats. Catopia takes care of pet cats whose homeowners are away on trip, staycation, busy with renovation, and even pet cats that require a secure area for post-surgery restoration.

Catopia cat lodge / Picture credit score: Catopia

Reliant on cat homeowners’ in-person actions, Catopia dealt a serious blow in the course of the pandemic, particularly when the circuit breaker was carried out. 

“Nobody might journey, so no cats got here to remain thus no income was coming in,” recounts Kevin, including that even bringing a pet to the vet was not a straightforward walk-in job.

Additional aggravating the scenario, rescue cats had been nonetheless being admitted throughout that interval, which meant that his enterprise operations had been getting stretched.  

SOJAO, a house items model that launched in 2018, additionally confronted issues in the course of the pandemic since they had been reliant on imports from abroad. 

Priscilla Tan, co-founder of SOJAO, began the enterprise as a result of she observed a niche out there for top of the range, ethically-made, but inexpensive mattress sheets. “I couldn’t discover one and I used to be disillusioned to be taught that each one the issues I had been bombarded with equivalent to thread rely and Egyptian Cotton, had been really largely advertising gimmicks”.

Along with co-founder Janice Tan, the duo determined to bridge the market hole whereas additionally guaranteeing that they have interaction with shoppers to coach them on their shopper decisions. “We consider strongly in serving to folks sleep higher, from the purchasers, to the employees and cotton farmers in our provide chain”, stated Priscilla. 

SOJAO’s bedsheets / Picture credit score: SOJAO

Priscilla shares that SOJAO began off as an online-only retailer and would attend bodily pop-ups to attach with their prospects in particular person. As such, in the course of the peak of the pandemic, they needed to get their employees working as remotely as potential. 

We had to determine proceed to [fulfil] orders in a secure and lawful method, and we immediately had a deluge of rising orders as folks had been compelled to buy on-line. We think about ourselves actually lucky that we had been already within the on-line area earlier than then.

– Priscilla Tan, co-founder of SOJAO

There have been additionally companies like Studio MUYU (romanisation of the Chinese language characters ‘木语’, which imply ‘language of the wooden’), that struggled to remain afloat even earlier than the pandemic. 

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Launched in September 2018 as an artisanal woodcraft model by Lyn Ng, Studio MUYU focuses on slow-made wood jewelry, luggage and life-style merchandise. “We work with carpenters from Singapore to gather their discarded wooden items and make them into jewelry for the trendy girls”, says Lyn. 

Studio MUYU woodcraft
Studio MUYU’s woodcraft / Picture credit score: Studio MUYU

When the primary circuit breaker began, we had been in a rut as our enterprise isn’t thought of as a necessary job and we had no likelihood to work on any manufacturing for the 2 months. All pop-ups have been cancelled, which implies that our revenue has been minimize off fully.

With no place to provide our jewelry, we had been deeply affected and needed to survive on our previous earnings to get by way of these two months of circuit breaker.

– Lyn Ng, founding father of Studio MUYU

Pivoting methods

With their sources drawn tight and experiencing a blow to their income stream, these companies needed to provide you with methods to adapt to the pandemic. 

For Catopia, it determined to alter its idea to a cat cafe. “This could at the very least usher in some income since nobody is allowed to journey, no cat to check-in”, shares Kevin. 

Catopia cat cafe
Catopia cat cafe / Picture credit score: Catopia

However this pivot introduced different issues as nicely. Kevin recollects that it was difficult having to shift to a spot that allowed for a meals and beverage enterprise.

He provides that renovating the brand new place to fulfill Singapore Meals Company’s specs was troublesome, contemplating the truth that contractors couldn’t be activated resulting from their overseas staff being quarantined. 

Luckily for Kevin, he has an outdated acquaintance who might collect some contractors to get the allow to renovate the brand new premise. “We’re additionally fortunate that the brand new premise landlord[s] had been type sufficient to grasp our plight and rented us the unit at a low charge, enabling us to journey by way of the lockdowns and restrictions”. 

Priscilla from SOJAO believes that as a startup, pivoting methods and bettering processes turns into an innate response. “This was simply one of many many challenges our nimble organisation and environment friendly workforce needed to overcome with a purpose to develop”, which in the end improved their workforce communication. 

As a way to higher serve prospects throughout this time, SOJAO additionally provided free material swatches to prospects.

Observing a acquire in traction of on-line workshops and a normal improve within the public’s curiosity in crafts in the course of the pandemic, Lyn shares that Studio MUYU hopped on the bandwagon and launched a Keep-at-House Craft Equipment for households and {couples} to make their very own life-style merchandise at house. 

Studio MUYU upcycling
Upcycling wooden / Picture credit score: Studio MUYU

Pondering out of the field, she made use of the leftovers from their earlier manufacturing, upcycling them into supplies for the craft kits. In addition they reached out to public relation companies and related life-style web sites to assist promote their initiative.

However in fact, having to pivot methods doesn’t come straightforward. One of many greatest challenges Lyn confronted was the dearth of manufacturing resulting from them not having the ability to use their equipment throughout that interval. “[W]e needed to transfer all our wooden again to my house and minimize them manually for the kits. It took some time to arrange them on the market”.

Put up-pandemic: One more pivot in technique?

Now with Singapore embracing a post-pandemic panorama, does this sign one more want for pivoting methods?

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Contemplating the reopening of borders and the impact of the journey trade resuming, Catopia has been seeing extra of its regulars returning for his or her cat boarding companies. 

As such, Kevin shares that with a purpose to meet the demand, they wish to get one other unit to begin their boarding companies once more. Then again, close to the technique he adopted in the course of the pandemic which was to open Catopia cat cafe, he notes that it has additionally grow to be extra in style. 

Kevin Chiak Catopia
Catopia cat cafe / Picture credit score: Catopia

“[M]ore individuals are extra keen to attempt to dwell life like earlier than. With that impact, the meals and beverage trade is seeing extra crowd and probably earnings”, he causes. 

For many companies, the pandemic would have taught them a priceless lesson of getting to digitise their operations. For SOJAO, the pandemic inspired them to do in any other case. 

Priscilla shares that the pandemic inspired them to open a bodily retailer as restrictions died down, as a result of they “figured folks can be lacking the expertise of buying in particular person”. As such, they stopped providing their free material swatches as folks can now come all the way down to their bodily retailer for the complete expertise. 

SOJAO home goods store
SOJAO’s bodily house items retailer/ Picture credit score: SOJAO

Nonetheless, they’re nonetheless planning to maintain the operations they’ve carried out in the course of the pandemic, equivalent to having the ability to work remotely. 

As for Studio MUYU, when requested whether or not they would keep on with their pivoted methods, Lyn shares that they’d, since that their craft kits are nonetheless as in style and at the moment are thought of considered one of their life-style merchandise for company workshops and festive gifting. 

However are different companies in Singapore that pivoted in the course of the pandemic sticking to their new methods? Kevin feels that almost all would shift again to how they operated throughout pre-pandemic instances, whereas Lyn believes that companies are transferring ahead with their new methods deployed in the course of the pandemic to make operations smoother. 

Nevertheless, Priscilla causes that it relies on their enterprise fashions and the way eager their organisation is on adapting. 

If their workforce has tailored nicely to working from house, for instance, then they’d discover methods to maintain that or mix it with some days within the workplace. If not, they’ll in all probability return totally to the workplace for instance. It additionally relies on if they’d invested sufficient to make the methods adopted in the course of the pandemic sustainable for long-term, like we have now.

– Priscilla Tan, co-founder of SOJAO

The important thing to surviving in instances of uncertainty

Throughout this time of uncertainty, we have now primarily seen two teams of companies — one which didn’t make the minimize, and one which tailored to outlive by way of it. 

There have been a number of causes behind a few of these companies’ failures. Kevin shares that larger small-medium enterprises in all probability suffered loads resulting from their larger working prices, rental prices and manpower prices that they weren’t capable of maintain with their restricted income. 

Priscilla provides that it may very well be resulting from companies’ incapacity to pivot on-line, and even the lack to beat challenges of their operations resulting from main disruptions within the international provide chain.

In my view, many companies took Singapore without any consideration considering that nothing unhealthy just like the pandemic will occur. And for that, they’re unwilling to alter and adapt to the upcoming traits throughout that interval.

– Lyn Ng, founding father of Studio MUYU

Finally, as Priscilla highlights, it’s “exhausting to say” precisely why some companies didn’t make the minimize. Nonetheless, there have to be one thing in frequent amongst surviving companies to have gotten by way of these robust instances. 

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Kevin and Priscilla’s major key to surviving in instances of uncertainty is having the ability to pivot the enterprise and having the ability to adapt to the final life-style necessities and desires of individuals throughout that point. 

Moreover that, Priscilla emphasises the significance of being open-minded and having grit. “[T]hat want to succeed and survive it doesn’t matter what, is extremely necessary for anybody to thrive and develop”.

As Lyn highlights, there have to be a “keen[ness] to alter your model’s imaginative and prescient to the ever-changing atmosphere. If one thing doesn’t work out the way in which you need it to, consider one other answer and simply strive!”

They add that assist from the area people can be obligatory. Particularly, the #supportlocalsg motion helps to construct stronger ties with their prospects and enhances their model loyalty.  

On the subject of the federal government, although they really feel grateful for the implementations and measures put in place to assist companies like them in the course of the pandemic, equivalent to rising budgets to assist the digitising of companies, they counsel that extra will be accomplished. 

Lyn highlights that plenty of the assist in the course of the pandemic was targeted on native companies that have already got reputation in comparison with those that are nonetheless within the startup part, like herself.

“If the federal government can soak up consideration small craft companies like us and supply related monetary assist and even session, that will probably be the easiest way to assist the group.”

Furthermore, as Kevin talked about, native SMEs positively struggled resulting from manpower points. In response, Priscilla feels that in instances of uncertainty, restrictions and limitations on overseas labour will be loosened the place relevant and justifiable to assist in fixing these points. 

She feels that continued help and rebates must also be supplied to assist native SMEs’ competitiveness towards bigger firms. “Incentives are sometimes given to international MNCs to arrange store right here, and I hope the federal government can proceed or enhance the stability on this side for native SMEs too.”

Nonetheless, sticking firmly to their mottos and beliefs in sustaining a enterprise, it’s no marvel why Catopia, SOJAO and Studio MUYU have continued to develop even in the course of the pandemic. 

SOJAO, that began off with a two co-founder workforce understanding of a bed room and cupboard space has grown to a workforce of over a dozen, working with a bodily retailer and on-line retailer inside 4 years. 

SOJAO clothing line
SOJAO’s clothes line/ Picture credit score: SOJAO

Studio MUYU, which took a loss of their first yr of enterprise, now has a loyal buyer base which might be keen to assist their operations. “With the addition of company workshops, the model is ready to buy higher tools and make sophisticated designs to draw much more folks.”

As for Catopia, their relentless effort to enhance their buyer companies and the wellness of the cats have contributed to a “ripple impact of happiness”, that Kevin deems their true milestone.

Featured picture credit score: Studio MUYU, SOJAO, Catopia

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