Founded in 2018, Ooh SG, the first-ever mala snack brand in Singapore, was started by Gervor who wanted to create a brand that he can truly own, be proud of and is truly passionate about. He believed that his mala snack brand would “fill a missing gap within the snacks industry” and decided to pursue his interest in the business opportunity with the help of his chef friend.
After multiple attempts and failures, he successfully created snacks with an authentic MALA taste without using any artificial flavourings. After bringing his snack products to the market, he has received an overwhelmingly positive response. He was surprised by the impact his passion could bring to people and it served as a motivation for him to work harder in offering better products and experiences for his consumers.
When asked about his thoughts for being a participant of Ampersand, he felt that the programme was rather intense and fun because of “having a group of like-minded entrepreneurs throwing ideas and conversations.”
“It’s like a small family within us.”
Gervor’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“Ampersand mentors are helpful, resourceful and experienced to help in any stage of your business.”
Rehla Design, a strategic design consultancy, was first started in New York before being relocated to Dubai and subsequently to Singapore. Having to rebuild his company from scratch for the third time, it was tough for Ali (founder of Rehla Design) who did not have any connections in Singapore. Fortunately, he managed to overcome his challenges as he began learning to craft a niche for his company in order to differentiate it from its competitors in the Singapore market. Despite numerous setbacks, starting his company in three different locations has led to great insights for the business to cater to different needs of the different markets. When asked about his intentions for starting Rehla Design, he said that he always has a passion for design and he hopes that through servicing clients, he would be able to build brands that are meaningful and integrity-driven.
To Ali, Ampersand was an opportunity for him to examine his company and plan for the future. He understood the importance of planning ahead and what he could do to better manage the cash flow of his company after the programme ended. He felt that the content covered throughout the programme was “packaged, in such a way, to fit the needs of different startups”. He was also thankful for the chance to learn from Kae Fong (the programme director of Ampersand) who has many years of experience being in the brand consulting industry.
Ali’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“Trust the process. Be open to learning new things as it will always lead to a satisfactory outcome.”
Starting her fashion brand in Israel was not easy for Gin Lee (founder of GINLEE Studio) as she was venturing into a market she was not familiar with. In order to adapt to the new market quickly, she forced herself to ask tonnes of straightforward questions and sharpen her observation skills so that she could understand the needs of Israeli consumers better. She started her business with the intention for it to be both commercial and desirable. She doesn't want it to be a business which focuses on only glamorous designs that are not desirable to the market. She wants her brand to be known as a company which produces good design work that has empathy and is “truthful”.
After moving back to Singapore with her husband who is also her co-founder, both of them decided to take part in Ampersand 2019. Being in the programme gave them an opportunity to interact with like-minded entrepreneurs who are vision and passion-driven. It allowed them to look at their business from a different perspective due to the inputs received from entrepreneurs and mentors coming from different industries. Aside from the people whom they had met, the comprehensive curriculum covered by Ampersand had allowed them to see the bigger picture for their brand and think about the story they wanted their brand to speak about.
Gin Lee’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“Come with questions, come with what you want to get help with. Do not come with the mindset of just “sit and listen” because the sessions will not be as fruitful.”
Peirong was hanging out and sharing a bottle of wine with her friends in California before an idea of starting a company which sells wine aerators with a Merlion design struck them. It actually came about when they felt that a shark designed wine aerator had brought joy to their drinking experience. By starting Breezy Aerators, which became Singapore’s first and original Merlion wine aerator, she hopes that she would be able to bring a similarly joyful experience to wine consumers in Singapore.
Peirong joined Ampersand because she was unsure of what she could do to grow her business other than just working with tourism stop shops in Singapore. Under the guidance of the mentors of the programme, it had made her realise the importance of observing and engaging customers to understand their needs for better branding for the company.
When asked what were her biggest takeaways from Ampersand, she said,
"To be observant, engaged and aware. Observing people and customers and really knowing your products from all perspectives on the ground is important."
Hui Lian and Chen Chen (both co-founders of Craft Atelier) met through mutual friends and became close friends because of their common passion for crafting. Before Craft Atelier was started, they were offering ad-hoc craft lessons and have met people who gave up crafting because of lack of time and the hassle of purchasing and setting up equipment. This sparked their interest in opening a craft studio to provide craft enthusiasts with space and equipment needed for crafting so that they can continue to pursue their interests. By starting Craft Atelier, Hui Lian hopes that it would bring more people with an interest for crafting together and cultivate a sense of community. She also wants to help other craft enthusiasts with their projects by providing real-time feedback and guidance in Craft Atelier.
After taking part in Ampersand last year, she felt that she now has a better idea of how she should look at her business as a whole. The programme had covered a broad sense of what she needed to know for growing her business and “helped them (to) put their business on the right track”. Besides gaining from the curriculum, she and Chen Chen also managed to speak with fellow entrepreneurs and connect with more people from the creative industry. She is grateful for the community that she is able to be part of as the community is very supportive and helpful even after the programme has ended.
Hui Lian’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“It is a time for you to frame your business. Ampersand has forced me to look at aspects which I did not think about and I am grateful for the connections I had gained throughout the programme.”
“I know that I want to make crafting my career.” Yuhua wanted to be making handcrafted furniture for people who will appreciate them as being thoughtfully made. All of her furniture is made out of sustainable material like wood and she finds joy in sharing about the entire process of making her furniture including the origin of her materials with her customers. She also strives to create design pieces that convey the story of the user and represent his or her personality. From time to time, she works with customers on the making of the pieces and she hopes that by doing so, it will also inspire them to have greater ownership for their own furniture. She does not see her company as a career but rather an avenue for her to share with as many people as possible about the joy of making wooden furniture and she has plans of conducting workshops or education programmes for it.
One of her greatest takeaways from being part of Ampersand is the networking opportunities where she got to meet other creative start-ups, designers and mentors who have been very helpful and supportive to her. The guidance she is still receiving from them is very personalised and she managed to pick up some frameworks that are critical to starting and growing a business.
Yuhua’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“Kae Fong and team are very helpful and responsive. They have provided me with a lot of guidance and the information passed to me is very consolidated. They have also introduced better local designers to me who provided a good amount of guidance as well.”
Ian started his own acoustics consultancy firm after observing bad practices occurring in the industry he had been working in for many years. He wanted his company to be one that focuses more on delivering high quality outcomes to clients than generating a large amount of revenue from the projects. When asked about his goals and aspirations for the company, he visions his brand to have the power to influence the industry and local authorities through his work “doing the right way”. He also added that he does not think he will ever retire from the business because he has a strong passion for acoustics.
Ian would describe himself as someone who has a very engineering mindset. With that, Ampersand was very helpful as it had provided him with the key business fundamentals that are also critical to growing his business. The programme, for instance, had taught him different ways he could view his competitors which would greatly help in marketing for his brand.
He also added that he used to be a consultant who was very “project-centric” and focused greatly on the outcome of his project. Ampersand has made him realise the importance of being customer-centric and changed the way he thinks towards his clients. He felt that he should no longer treat all clients equally as each client has different customer needs and preferences.
Ian’s advice to the future participants of Ampersand Accelerator:
“Really put aside the time and don’t miss lessons. Even though some of the lessons may seem irrelevant to you, you may still learn something that is beneficial to your business. Expect not just takeaways but also it changes your thinking as well.”
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