Last Friday, SMU EAGLES held their annual Octalkber session, whereby the club invites entrepreneurs and professionals from a chosen industry down to the school for an intimate sharing session with the students.
For those who aren’t familiar with EAGLES, it is SMU’s student entrepreneurship club that was founded only last year in 2015 by the school’s very own alumni,who are, of course, entrepreneurs themselves. I was really excited when I first found out about the club, because as an aspiring entrepreneur myself, being a part of such a community meant that I could have many opportunities to not only build my knowledge and entrepreneurial skills, but also gain a network of similar minded people that I could bounce ideas off. (I digress, another post for another day perhaps)
This year’s theme for the Octalkber session was ‘Fashion, Beauty and Fitness’, featuring pretty big names in the following industries such as Winnie Ong, founder of Younghungryfree, Mae Tan, aka @marxmae and Jasper Ong from The Authority Co. It was not very surprising to see a near full attendance in the audience, especially since the selected industries are so popular right now. Rachel Lim from Love Bonito was supposed to be a part of the event but couldn’t make it due to unforeseen circumstances, which was such a bummer because she is the lady that I look up to the most. However, what was done has been done, so it was best to approach the session with an open mind to get the most out of it.
The excited audience!
Speakers having a chat among themselves before the event
Always excited to learn!
What I particularly liked about the session was that the speakers were from diverse backgrounds, with each having their own story to tell. Winnie Ong was a university reject, while Yu Hui from 13Rushes was an NTU graduate with a double degree in Business and Accountancy. Mae is only 21 and already has a well-established career, while Louise from 7Cycle took the long route by working and consulting for various MNCs for many years before buying over the company. It was interesting to see their differing perspectives on some questions and yet come to a consensus on others. What all the speakers seemed to agree on was that the Singapore Fashion scene was much slower as compared to other countries because there wasn’t a strong enough community within the industry, neither was there a fashion giant in the country that other fashion SMEs could tap on. Singaporeans were generally afraid to try out new things, and thus was difficult for labels to introduce their creativity without affecting their sales. However, Louise (7 Cycle) believes that the landscape is already changing, and young fashion entrepreneurs should be the pioneers in leading that change in creativity.
The audience had a chance to network with the speakers afterwards, and most of them seemed to be interested in hearing Winnie’s story, especially since her label is pretty well-established and she started virtually from nothing. However, I found myself to be slightly more curious about Yu Hui’s story (13Rushes). She was the only fresh graduate out of the entire group and had just begun her entrepreneurial journey, which would be the path that 90% of aspiring student entrepreneurs will take too after graduation. There just aren’t enough of these kinds of examples that people can look up to.
One student shared with Yu Hui that a venture capitalist that she met in an earlier event criticised her for having university as a backup plan, because if she wants to become an entrepreneur, then having a backup plan means that she expects herself to fail, which was extremely discouraging. Then Yu Hui said something that would apply to most of the graduates, which is given our financial circumstances, it is reckless to not have a backup plan. We don’t have well to do parents or family members who are able to provide a cushion for us when we make mistakes, nor do we have prior working experience or savings that we can rely on. University also gives us the knowledge and network that we can utilise once we start our own business in the future, which will minimise the risk of making silly mistakes that we might have made without prior knowledge and experience. Her advice reminded me of the story of Warby Parker, where the founders were all graduating soon and had already secured full-time jobs while working on the business, just in case the business did not work out for them. This shows that the do-or-die attitude isn’t always the best way to approach entrepreneurship.
The other person that I managed to speak to was Mae. She is hip, cool, and the same age as me. Although I can’t say that I can relate to her story or aspire to be like her because of our different backgrounds, but yet she gained my respect and admiration through her maturity and her knowledge about the fashion industry. It was refreshing to see such a down-to-earth personality despite her well-to-do background. She was also the best person to learn marketing from because of her status as an influencer, and she shared the strategies that she uses when marketing herself as marxmae. Whatever we see on social media is not Mae, but what she wishes for her audience to see. At the end of the day, she is just a normal 21 year-old girl like me who has her own dreams and wishes to have a normal life just like the rest of us do.
Mae looking pretty and tiny when standing beside me
Contrary to popular belief, fashion in Singapore has so much potential that is currently untapped. It is up to us millennials to build the creative foundation and spearhead its change, then perhaps, our country will finally be recognised as a leader in fashion.
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