Setting up a business is no small feat, as any entrepreneur who has toiled through the interchanges of sun and moon will attest to. Having the gumption to risk it all for something you believe in is a quality in short supply. Even more uncommon is pairing that with the know-how and determination to see your business expand and flourish. Rarer still is to find this potent combination in a person whose best years are still well ahead of them.
In this issue, Top 10 of Malaysia takes a brief look at its list of the top 10 young and inspiring in entrepreneurs of Singapore (presented in no particular order) in businesses ranging from skincare to education and who have turned their passion into successful enterprises.
Kendra Liew-Glausch – I Love Katfood
The touchpaper for I Love Katfood was lit sometime back in 2014. A starry-eyed 26-year-old ready to take on the world back then, Kendra divided her time between her corporate job as a litigator and her true passion for developing her skincare business.
This delicate balance was thrown off kilter when her boss at the time gave her an ultimatum – either commit full-time or leave. For Kendra, there was only ever one option, and now I Love Katfood finds itself a burgeoning brand in the waterless skincare arena.
Hong Kai Yap – Roceso Technologies
Helping bring independence and dignity back to people’s lives, Roceso Technologies has grown to become one of the world’s leading soft robotics companies – and it all started as a university research project by Hong Kai Yap, the co-founder and CTO of the company. Its first product – the EsoGLOVE – is one of the lightest hand rehabilitation and exoskeleton devices in the world, offering users top functionality and comfort.
Finding his way onto a spot in the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list, Hong Kai has developed his determination to transform lives into a wild success. And you best believe he’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Ian Ang – Secretlab
From a university dropout to being the co-founder of a company worth some USD224 million as of last year, Ian Ang has been through quite the journey. A favourite of gamers everywhere, Secretlab is known primarily for the stellar quality of its gaming chairs.
Trading sleep to play video games on school nights, what is perhaps not the wisest investment for most children, has paid off handsomely for Ian – with the company counting juggernauts such as Game of Thrones, League of Legends, and AAPE among their partners.
Magdalene Chan – Her Velvet Vase
Magdalene Chan caught the entrepreneurial bug earlier than most, starting Her Velvet Vase (HVV) alongside her older sister at the tender age of 15. When you multiply a precocity like Magdalene’s with enough time, you get the resounding success that HVV is today.
The brand’s Instagram following of nearly 80k is evidence of its reach among its adoring clientele and it’s in there that they showcase their inspiring pieces of clothing designed to elevate women and help them look their best. Starting with just $5,000, HVV’s success has culminated in the opening of an outlet all the way in New York.
Grace Ciao – Grace Ciao Illustration
If you’re a fan of all things designer, chances are you’ve heard the name Grace Ciao. The fashion illustrator and artist extraordinaire is known for her distinctive use of real florals and watercolours woven into the most mesmerising patterns. She calls her signature style “Bloom Belles” and her work adorns the façade of pieces by Bvlgari, Chanel, and Dior to name a few.
Told to focus on her studies and put art aside, Grace thankfully didn’t listen and continues to shine on as an inspiration for all those harbouring dreams of making a living from their passion but finding encouragement hard to come by.
Nicolas Travis – Allies Of Skin
Nicolas Travis faced immense difficulty from the beginning. As a teenager, he struggled with bad acne and had neither the money nor the know-how to alleviate his concerns. It was from there that his interest in better skincare took root and after finishing his Master’s thesis, he turned his attention to creating a skincare line of his own.
Facing rejection from every single skincare company he had applied to, he took a loan from his family in his determination to make his dream a reality. Safe to say that’s paid off and more, with Nicolas’ products a mainstay of Sephora outlets all across Singapore.
Oh Chu Xian – Magorium
Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s prime environmental concerns with the dependence on plastic products having already reached unsustainable levels. Oh Chu Xian decided to do something about it and that something was founding Magorium in 2019. The company breaks down plastic from shopping bags, bottles, and other rubbish to convert it into a material that can be used to partially replace a component of the mixture used to build roads.
Inspired by her stint at a construction company that dedicated research to environmentally-friendly construction materials, Chu Xian is leading her business and doing her part for the environment all at once.
Sazzad Hossain – SDI Academy
Sazzad Hossain didn’t have the easiest of times bedding in when he first moved to Singapore aged 11. Barely able to speak or write English then, Sazzad grew up wanting to make sure that people didn’t have to face the same difficulties he did. This desire led to the establishment of SDI Academy, a company that seeks to empower migrant workers through providing lessons in English, computer literacy, and financial planning.
Around 10,000 migrant workers took up his four-month course during the pandemic which he offered for just $15. Working with the Ministry of Manpower to increase the scale of the project, SDI also has designs extending beyond Asia.
Mandy Chan – The Bold Company
Mandy Chan was just 19 when she, like a lot of people that age, decided to take a gap year before resuming her studies. Unlike most other people that age, however, she decided to spend her gap year focusing on building her business. Using that time to create BOW, her own line of functional travel bags together with her co-founder CK Koh, Mandy endured a tumultuous 12 months in which her savings dried up and disappointments seemed to mount one after the other.
On the verge of giving up, a miraculous turnaround saw their first product, Quiver, fully funded on Kickstarter in just 3 days. Since rebranded as The Bold Company, it continues to go from strength to strength.
Shavonne Wong – Zhiffy Photography and GenV
Shavonne Wong’s photography skills have not just made a splash in Singapore but have extended far beyond the island’s shores too. An award-winning photographer with the likes of Lancôme and Cosmopolitan in her portfolio, Shavonne has even been a guest photographer on Asia’s Next Top Model.
What was once a hobby picked up to kill some time has turned out to be her calling all along. She’s not just got an eye for composition but one for creativity too, developing her own technique allowing still images to be animated called ‘Living Stills’. The co-founder of Zhiffy Photography and founder of GenV, Shavonne made the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2020.