This week, we have with us the young and pretty Vanessa Ho! At a young age of only 20, Vanessa already has already founded several startups, including a winter wear rental shop (@igloowear_sg) and skincare shop (@kirabeautysg), is currently a Deejay, a model, a writer, participated in Star Search 2019, has her own Youtube fitness channel (the list just goes on and on) and… is still a full time student with NUS!
Being at such a young age 20, you have achieved so much! Our first question will definitely be to find out how you managed your time and social life between all the different roles you are playing?
Thanks for the compliment! I won't say I am close to anywhere I want to be yet. On the surface it feels like I am young at 20, but I feel like an old soul who has been out there in the media and working world for 5 years. I manage my time between social life and everything else I am doing by involving my friends and loved ones, such as by supporting me at my DJ gigs which they really have fun at or bring my girlfriends to media events with me. It's nice that my friends are very understanding of my schedule and are supportive of the different things I do too, such as helping me model for my catalogue or promoting my events.
How did this all started? Which was the first job / role that you started holding? (modelling? Deejay?) How young were you then!
I started modelling at 15 because I took a leap of faith and joined The New Paper New Face, with zero expectations. I was quite experimental from young, and joined many other competitions. One thing led to another and here I am! I also met a huge network along the way who had faith in me and referred me to different opportunities, like deejaying and acting.
Given that you have so many passions, what will be the one that stands out the most for you?
The focus of 2020 for me is entrepreneurship. I joined an incubation programme (The Bridge Fashion Incubator organised by TAFF) to develop myself and my co-founder, Marcus, for our fashion startup. We do winter wear rental (igloowear.sg) and fashion subscription (evrywear.sg). I took a leave of absence from school to focus on launching Evrywear but unfortunately, the COVID situation was not in our favour. Regardless, I think that our startup has potential and a good team.
Entrepreneurship is something I see as a long term plan for me, even a million dollar plan! That does not mean I exclude any plans of working for people, but the end goal is to be a business owner.
How was the experience of being a young entrepreneur? Is it hard to get people to listen and believe in your startup initially due to your young age? And also, what are the major obstacles that you have faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?
I wouldn't exactly call myself an entrepreneur yet until my first business made it! I can't say for sure how I qualify "made it", but I'm only an aspiring entrepreneur for now. It is heartwarming that the landscape in Singapore is very welcoming to young entrepreneurs, even below 20. Plenty of support from school, government, friends and communities. In fact, I was supposed to host for a CNA show that was about young entrepreneurs 20 and below called Young, Smart and Rich! Even with investors, they are encouraging towards entrepreneurs my age.
The biggest obstacle I faced is people management. Doing business with friends can be tricky because of the fine line of friendship and coworker. Also, to get everyone in line with your vision is not the easiest. Founders should have the same dream and grit, although the purpose and motivation may differ. I am still trying to figure out how to lead a dream team.
How has the Covid lockdown experience been for you? (did you learn new skills, start a new online business?) and what was the first thing that you did after Singapore entered Phase 2 of reopening!
The lockdown experience was tough at first because I am a huge extrovert and I meet friends on a daily basis last time. But I learnt to make the most out of my time at home, such as picking up a new internship at a fashion e-commerce as a product management intern. The skills learnt are very transferrable to my startup! I also started two online courses on edX and Udemy, which I highly recommend. Learning nowadays is so easy (and free sometimes)! I have been running quite a bit at different parks as well because all the gyms are closed, and home workouts have been fun to try.
The downside is that it affected the launch plan of Igloo Wear and Evrywear, since people are extra concern about hygiene, and travel bans are in place. Filming a show has been cancelled as well, which I was thoroughly looking forward to.
Funnily though, that the first two nights of Phase 2, I had plans to head out with friends for drinks, but bailed because of Chinese lessons and a meeting with NUS Angel Ventures which I just joined. I don't have the most exciting Phase 2 life, but I think future me would be thankful for the mini sacrifices now.
With so many options available, what are your plans after you graduate from school? Will you continue juggling multiple jobs? Will you take on a corporate job?
The most ideal scenario would be to expand my business as I throughout my graduation year and post-graduation. If my business fails, I will consider picking up a corporate job in a field that would help in entrepreneurship and networking. I will continue pursuing acting if it is still a feasible option, although I know it may be impossible to do so if I decide to pick up a corporate job. I have 2 years till graduation so the doors are still open and I have yet to settle on any plans.
What advice will you give to your peers that are looking to chase their own dreams / passion!
Try everything with confidence! There are people who are afraid to try because they are scared of failures, or scared of potential sunk cost, or close the door thinking it is not for them, but this is the best time to be experimental and adventurous before we enter the workforce upon graduation.
And for those who find it difficult to chase their dreams, keep reminding yourself of your purpose. If your purpose is stronger than your obstacles, anything can be achieved.
Vanessa was exposed to startups in her internship in a tech lifestyle publication, and digital marketing from numerous campaigns with clients from beauty, fashion, travel, technology, hospitality, government, and more. Her slash career in the DJ scene, Mediacorp, journalism and modelling gave her great insights in media. Vanessa is also a Stephen Riady Young Entrepreneurship Award recipient, and a Double Degree student in NUS, majoring in Business Administration, and Communication and New Media.