6 Takeaways from starting my own business

Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to start a business, well everyone does. A few years prior to Nineteen95, there was a plan in motion to start a retail shop selling consumer electronics but stopped due to the lack of motivation. Nineteen95 wasn’t always what it is today. A year ago, I also planned to start an F&B with the name of “The Big Cheese” and a year later, a mac and cheese shop opened with that same name.
Here’s the Thing:
If you are planning to start your own business, there are a few things to take note and consider. This is the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past year leading to the start-up of Nineteen95.

1. Find your Passion

Knowing what you are passionate about will guide you towards what kind of business you will want to start.

How do you find your passion?

For me, it was through the years of working part-time jobs that I discovered what I was passionate about, and what I was good at.

The thing is:

Part-time jobs are the only way to know what you’re interested in. Having been through a couple of jobs, I clearly knew what I liked and disliked about each role that I was put in. If you have never been through a task personally, you will never experience the ups and downs of a job.

2. Hard work is key

There’s a saying: “Work smart, not work hard”. This is true to a certain extent. Many Millenials are often deceived by the quote and think that the way to success is to work smart only.

This is FALSE thinking:
There must be a balance between working smart and working hard. No amount of success ever came from JUST working smart.

Here’s what I did:

Once I got the idea to start the business, I did market research, competitor analysis, and a business plan. It was tough for me as I wasn’t a very studious person and I hated writing reports. There may be moments where you lose motivation, but never lose sight of your goal.

That was not all:

After registering the entity, I had to research and source for EVERYTHING. From deciding what kind of entity to incorporate to designing and sourcing for a carpenter for our customised cart, to sourcing for beans, designing the website, among other tasks.

3. Be prepared to lose friends and make new ones

Starting a business can take up a lot of your time. You have to set your priorities right and dedicate your time to the business.

Here’s what happened:

I myself am an avid PC gamer. I used to game with my friends every night and had tons of fun with them. But when I started planning for the business, I was so caught up that I didn’t have the time to play with them anymore, coupled with the exhaustion of coming back from camp.

But fret not:

Take this opportunity to make new friends – people that can be of benefit to your startup. Keep the friends that have similar mindsets and people that can provide opportunities. As you mature and grow in the marketplace, these are the people you will rely on.

4. Network is KEY

As mentioned above, having people that can benefit you and are ready to provide help is of the utmost importance when it comes to starting up. Always be vocal about what you are doing to the people around you otherwise no one knows what help to offer you.

Here’s the thing:

I wouldn’t have been able to start Nineteen95 without the help of a few close friends and family. A close friend of mine in Polytechnic, who also has his own business, gave me advice on starting up and what kind of entity to incorporate. He is also the person that helped me with my web hosting and POS system that we are currently using now.

It gets better:

Our customised cart was built by my uncle at a heavily discounted price. Fortunately, he spent most of his time in the construction industry and had the technical know-how and skills to build the cart.Another uncle of mine used to work as the head chef of the café that we procure our beans from. He was able to pass me a contact of one of the owners and this aided us in liaising with the cafe and our overall process of bean procurement.

And the best part:

We were able to secure a deal with a Clubhouse to operate at their vicinity on weekends. This was a major stepping stone for us as through the operations from the clubhouse, we were able to break even in a couple of months and streamline our processes.

5. Take every opportunity that comes

Whatever opportunity you find, be sure to take it. An opportunity, no matter how small, is still an opportunity after all.

Here’s the important part:

Don’t be afraid to put yourself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations.

I was invited to a networking session recently. I was very sceptical about such sessions as I knew that there was always going to be ulterior motives when attending such events. Well, let’s just say that through that session, I gained knowledge I wouldn’t have if I had not gone.

6. Learn new skills

Trying etching latte art


In business school, we were taught that the bigger the company, the more you specialize vertically. The smaller the company, the more you diversify horizontally.

I experienced this first hand:

Since there was only 2 of us, I had to become the company’s procurement, PR, Content Creator, Tech Support, Sales and Marketing, Advertisement, and the overall decision maker. While Julian was the Accounts, Logistics, Bookkeeper, and Admin. It forced me to learn things I normally wouldn’t have even thought about.

For example:

I learnt how to design the website from scratch. It took me a few days to get everything down. I screwed the website up 4 times and had to start over every single time which really frustrated me. Eventually, I managed to get the website up and running a in its current condition.

The good thing was:

I was able to control what I wanted on the website and designed it to however I liked it to be.

Next up:

I had to create my own content to fill the website and to use as promotional material. Boy, I hated using Photoshop and illustrator. I had zero knowledge of how to use the software. I had no choice but to learn by watching countless videos and numerous trial and error attempts.

As you can see:

Starting your own business forces you to do things you are unfamiliar with, thereby broadening your skill set and knowledge. It requires a lot of time, effort, and days of sleepless nights. Keep going at it, do not lose your vision, and eventually you will have your own startup one day!

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