My Stories, Uncategorized

My Unglamorous Journey of Entrepreneurship

As Shoe Mo celebrated its 2 year anniversary, I feel the urge of sharing the things I don’t normally share. What people see of Shoe Mo’s success via my social media is the tip of the iceberg and I am gonna share a bit of what’s under the water. 

I stress, and stress a lot.

Everyone stresses out here and there, but entrepreneurship stress is another level. I actually think its a combination of work stress, life crisis and frustration for me.

At the start, I believe most of the companies suffer from cash flow – either we don’t have enough cash flow or we don’t know how to manage it. In our case – both. Me and my partner started from 0 knowledge about SME finances (we do know about business management and organization, but when it comes to finance, we cringe) – we keep the books by ourselves and it is nowhere near to what’s required for a Private Limited company. Invoices are lost, unsettled, unclassified, sales receipts are everywhere. Then the payday comes, we prayed that we have enough money to pay our staff, pay the bills and keep the business going for another month. There were days where we had to pump in a bit of our pocket money, and a lot of hope (lol).

In early 2018 (1 year after we started) we got our very first investment – very humble amount, trust me no where near 6 figures. I quit my job to do Shoe Mo full time. Back then I thought giving up my job at Grab to move to KL for a start up job was crazy enough – but no, quitting a full time visa sponsored job to start a business in a foreign country is off level crazy. It’s like jumping off the cliff then start making my own airplane on the way falling down, hoping the airplane work before I hit rock bottom (trust me I’m still falling and still building). Some mornings I wake up feeling dull, I wonder what if we run out of money, what if there are no more customers and most of all – am I doing the right thing for my life. Have I mentioned my pay cut 40%? Imagine having your current pay cut almost half, and you have a business to run and personal bills to pay. Yay.

I have stressed out so much that brain subconsciously brings it to my dream – every week I would have the dreams of me struggling to get on a flight: forget my passport, traffic jam, legs cannot move and tons of things stopping me from getting on the plane. It means that I constantly worry about what I cannot achieve and the fear that my life will become a mess.

As a consequence, my grey hair has tripled over the past few months, I lost weight (which is good) and gain more eye bags.

What is social life?

This is just my personal experience, my life routine is super simple now. I wake up, check my messages and emails, then I cook, I go to work/ meetings, I go back home, I work some more, then I sleep. In between those days are the work trips, scheduled gym sessions. Then it repeats. For the past few months we have been growing aggressively – in 2018 alone we have open 6 new outlets and one more to come in Dec. I’m all over the places – KL, Brunei, Singapore, East Malaysia, Vietnam. There are months that I fly every week. I usually eat alone, I don’t have much friends in KL and being busy doesn’t help. Shopping is a luxury of time and money which I don’t have much. 

Heres a photo of me with huge sleep deprived eye bags when our Bangsar shop first opened

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There are more lows than I could tell you. I definitely don’t look happy and smiling all the times as the photos I usually shared. My “social life” maybe is from the periscope of IG and Facebook.

Threats and dangers

I don’t mean the extreme version of business – or gangsters here but there are things that we normally don’t thank about. If you travel once or twice per month, your risk is low. If you start traveling and flying every week, you kinda pray that your plane land safe every single time – I got paranoid over all the plane crash headlines so I kinda check the compass during my flight to make sure the plane is going to the correct direction – it sounds silly I know, I just can’t help it. And those Grab rides late nights, the people we meet and have to handle. Further more, I’m not the local. There could be god-know-what reasons they can have to give trouble to me and the company. As they said: the bigger ship, the bigger storm.

Opportunity cost

So they said “Either you build your own dream or people hire you to build their dream”. But trust me first few years of “building your own dreams” doesn’t give you the best bank account statement. Looking back if I still keep my job, polish up my CV, return to Vietnam, I might get high paid job considering all my expat experience. Or even another expat job in another country. This is the cost most of people don’t see. If you do a simple math, how much can you save a year with that gap of a salary – and how much struggle you have now doing your own thing without that saving. The answer might keep a lot of people from quitting their jobs to follow their dreams, I bet.

Psychological price

I love to share the good things but hardly share the stress and struggles that I have. Why? I trained myself to be tough, I weigh my options, I put thoughts and ration into every decision I made – I believe that start-up is not democracy – everyone has a role to play but not everyone is at the same level of experience and the know-hows. So someone has to have the cold head, wearing the “bad boss hat” and policing around to make sure everything move and move forward. I don’t want to show vulnerability because I’m used to not showing it, I somehow build a wall around me to prevent people trespassing to my vulnerable zone. So people around me found it hard to know what’s going on in my head, and then I failed to share it because I really don’t know how, I have never been a verbal person when it comes to feelings. So here and there, I feel lonely and unheard. 

So you might ask – then why are you doing this?

My honest answer is: Because I’m already too deep into it haha. But I do feel the potential in it and as you can see, Shoe Mo is taking off. We’re now in 3 countries with 9 outlets, in less then 2 years’ time. We want to build a brick and mortar business that lasts for at least a generation.

Then what can I do?

I rarely complain about work or blame it. I’m trying to be mindful that I’m under all this pressure everyday – I try to work less hours, sleep earlier and exercise more often. I keep track of my sleep, my heart rate and my diet. I try learning how to express appreciation in words, be less harsh to myself and delegating more task to my team. I hope to learn and practice more mindfulness to seek for inner peace. I hope to take down whats walling up around me, and open up to the one that cares for me. And I hope I can build that airplane before I hit the bottom. 

Onwards and Upwards,

Ginny.

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My Stories

Shoe Mo’s first overseas expansion!

Earlier this month, Shoe Mo’s first overseas expansion was confirmed! We’re officially a regional brand! I’m definitely excited and proud of the team work.

Now I’m gonna bombard you lots of photos I took from the trip.

Checking out the location

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Technical Training

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Setting it up! Almost there!

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It is also the most efficient work trip of mine. Lots of training, business discussion, site checking – realize I love to set things up and give advice on operation process. I feel energetic and excited whenever I can share how to run Shoe Mo shops, because I’ve been through it and I do believe in our system and processes can save our partners a lot of headache running this type of business.

It was also my first trip to Brunei – interesting to learn about the country’s culture and lifestyle.

1. Lots of big and beautiful mosques. And there are not much of tall building as no buildings are allowed to be taller than the mosque. So I wonder why they don’t just put a mosque on the top of a building haha problem solved.

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2. Malls are small and old school. And it’s hard to find authentic shoes.

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3. Sunset from Empire Hotel is a must see. Lovely and romantic. Perfect to unwind.

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4. Japanese food is cheap and good. There are not much of local cuisine. Or maybe I didn’t explore hard enough.

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Looking forward to more expansion. We have a few down the line, fingers crossed!

Onwards and Upwards,

Ginny.

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My Stories, Uncategorized

What tortures me the most?

Probably repetition – things repeat themselves without any changes.

When I was still in HCMC back then, I constantly changed jobs, 4 companies in 5 years. Well it sounds wrong but I always knew I can’t stick one place for so long, part of the reason is that I know I’m still young and there are plenty of things to try out. I felt the urge of newness here and there – New hairstyle after a couple of months, went to new places every year, met as much of new people as I can. I feel like I constantly in search something new that excites me. I still remember those days when I ran out of things to do, or money to do the things I want, so I just laid there on my bed looking at the ceiling feeling this nervousness eating me inside out – my life is so boring, I am boring, what do I do next? That feeling wasn’t easy to handle.

I decided to move to KL for that simple reason. I felt bored. I wanted to leave the city. The unknown was scary, yet damn exciting. The struggles were real in the new country when you don’t really have the citizen benefits, I always feel out of place, I don’t belong to anywhere, not in my own country, and obviously not in the new country. But, again, the unknown kept me going. I felt this strong power that I can, finally, have the chance to build and lead something my way. I can fix things and make things better. I celebrate (with myself) improvement and changes everyday, like my whole life depends on it.

And yes, my life depends on that kind of belief – that I can create changes and my life doesn’t repeat itself.

If someone asked me what I’m passionate about, I’d say “changes” or better word – “improvements” – I’m better today than I was yesterday – and I will thrive every single day for that.

Onwards and upwards,

Ginny.

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Featured Articles, My Stories, Uncategorized

Shoe Mo goes North

On this day one year ago, me and Jack was painting our first Shoe Mo shop in Petaling Jaya.

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27 Apr 2017, Petaling Jaya

Today, we’re celebrating our 5th stores in Malaysia, Shoe Mo Penang! (Now I can visit Shoe Mo Penang, and get myself some nice char kway teoh!)

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27 Apr 2018 – George Town, PG

No stories can cover all that has happened in the past 1 year, we are expanding and growing, left and right, up and down (of Malaysia). Also, our first product line – shoe cleaner and shoe brush have been produced and on the shelves! Get yourself some here.

Our team has grown from 2 to 12 members, part timer and full timers!

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Team gathering in Apr 2018

I feel excited and nervous as always, for whatever may come.

Onwards and Upwards,

Ginny.

 

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My Stories

Quitting my job for my own start-up. Here’s what I learnt after 1 month.

Yes I know, the tittle does sound like Buzz Feed. 

1. Grass isn’t greener on the other side, in fact, there is no grass. 

Just mud, and a lot of late nights.

The idea of quitting your job, jumping on to the entrepreneur ship and sail to the “promised” island of big fortune is very very sweetening.

I was never a person who dreamt to build a multi-million company, well, it might have crossed my mind but I know, behind the success was sweat and blood, and those aren’t fun. Before I quit, I was doing Shoe Mo part-time, in the mean time trying to catch up with my planned marketing career path. That was tough— sunlighting during the day and moonlighting during the night, constant lamb on your desk, laptop screen flicking at late nights. Yet I found out that after quitting my full time job to focus on Shoe Mo, it’s even harder.

I feel alone (my co-founder hasn’t joined full time yet), I feel the burden of everyday no-name tasks together with the big goals to achieve, who would do financial projections and would also fix the broken lock in the office. I guess it’s me and also me(at the moment).

I wanted to stop. Wouldn’t it be much less headache if I continue to pursuit my career, working from 9-5 and have more time enjoying life? I wouldn’t thought of giving up my own new business until I put both of my feet into it, how ironic is that? Well, it happened, and I know it would happen again.

2. My temper gets better, and worse, but I’m fully aware when I’m getting a temper.

I’m known for my hot head and short-temper, it would not get any better after all this. But I’m glad that I realized when it’s okay to let go of your temper and when it’s not wise to mess things up. I learnt it hard way, both personal life and business life. I would say I become much much more chill than I used to be, and I know it’s a big personal improvement.

Even so, I’m still pretty much suffering from refraining myself, so I keep telling myself emotions are just feedbacks, they are not the solution. Running a team base on emotions is the first mistake to make.

3. Decisions should be made with sufficient data.

When you’re hands on to your business operation, it is extremely to make decisions based on small incidents, because it’s easy to rationalize it. Well, everyone wants to improve things, and improving starting from the smallest things — which I totally agree. Yet, in such a starting phase, we wouldn’t afford to improve everything, prioritizing is key. And how do we know which to prioritize? Based on data. Survey, finance statement, feedbacks, records. I wouldn’t change my whole operation model because 1 or 2 customer made a bad review on it, in fact I carry on customer feedback survey to justify the problem, to understand how bad the situation was, and then we prioritize and take actions.

4. Everyone has role to play. Someone has to be not nice.

I used to wonder how society works. Creator, builder, innovator, motivator, maker, facilitator, connector. It’s mesmerizing. Like looking at a bunch of ants busy doing the job they are destined to do, probably they are not even aware of it.

One significant thing I realized is that most of the time people want to be perceived as nice and amiable by everyone they meet. “He/she’s a nice guy/girl” probably the most soothing compliment everyone wants to hear about themselves. The more educated we are, the more “polite” and “mind-our-own-business” we tend to be. More often than not, we avoid confrontation and speak up for what we believe. We don’t want to be blatant. We avoid awkwardness. But business is blatant and full of awkward moments, lots of mistakes to be addressed, lots of deals to be shamelessly asked for.

I and Jack always have to play good cop bad cop all the time, and I always get the bad guy role to play (ugh). And I got used to it. Having my bad cop hat with me all the time, in case someone has to speak up for righteousness.

5. Not everyone is a suitable one, let them go.

When Shoe Mo was super small and just started, we appreciate all the help we can have, we have early batch of employees that join us since the very beginning. We hope them to be the team pillars when we grow stronger and bigger.

But not all is suitable or ready to move on to the next level, when we grow bigger, having more outlets, some staff won’t keep up with the workload, some split out to run their own similar business, some cheated the shop money. We have learnt a lot, in a hard way but as Jack said, we find it out the sooner the better.

Onwards and Upwards,

Ginny.

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My Stories

How we founded Shoe Mo.

Shoe Mo is a shoe/sneaker laundry and services based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I met Jack through a friend of a friend 3 weeks after I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we had lunch in Bangsar and became friends since. One day after we finished our Sunday run in Lake Garden, I asked Jack where I can find a place to get my sneakers cleaned in KL. Jack seemed hesitate then the answer popped out from him, surprised me. “Malaysians don’t wash their shoes”.

Then I told Jack how I would send my sneakers to service to clean in Vietnam and how cheap that was. “Let’s do it” — Jack told me.

I lost counting how many Youtube videos and Google Know-hows we’ve watched on cleaning sneakers, we experimented on our own sneakers in our kitchens and bathrooms with a mess of cleaning products and tools, we even tried the washing machine and dryers (Trust me, don’t do that, ever) to realise that it is the most stupid thing you can do to your sneakers. We came up with a name Shoe Mo (Mo stands for Maestro, aka Master). Our facebook page was set up within one afternoon in November 2016 with a simple blue logo.

Here’s our first big order, a client sent us 11 pairs of his collection

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And Jack experiment cleaning shoes in his bathroom.

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At the time, we had no idea on how to price our service so we just put a random amount (RM10) to test out the market. The price was very minimal and we offered door to door pickup and delivery service included. Obviously that was a lost to us. The few first orders came from Jack’s friends. Eventually shoes started to come to us, suede, leather, nubuck, canvas, converse, walking shoes, slippers, even huge boots like Timberlands or expensive french-made leather shoes. To us that was a huge learning curves on how to operate a service and make it our most valuable asset. Our marketing was very minimal, I would go and listed Shoe Mo every market place I came across with, then we started to get orders from strangers, one guy from Mudah.my, others from Carousell, another one from Instagram, someone found us on Google, a recommended client from another client, and so the name of Shoe Mo started spreading.

From a few pairs per week to a few pairs per day, me and Jack would rush home after work to wash shoes and spent our weekend experimenting on new ideas and services (Jack’s house would smell like shoes when orders came in). We launched new service as sneaker repainting to solve the problem of the yellowing. We also learnt how to get the pricing right and eventually minimize the delivery work.

When we first put Shoe Mo out for online ads, I remembered waking up the morning after freaking out, messages flooded our facebook page inquiring for services. Our page traffic increased +1000% overnight, followed by the nonstop cleaning shoes days to fulfill the market needs. Me and Jack are also glad to have Frank on board, Frank used to be our client but soon he realised Shoe Mo’s potential so he asked to join us even though he’s still at school. Frank and Jack would run back and forth to get shoes cleaned and returned to clients on time. We made a fair bit of profit, we had good reviews and enormous support from our clients, we had partners reaching out to us for corporations. We decided to take Shoe Mo to the next level.

Our first workshop in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya.

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After 6 months of working hard and holding on, we officially get Shoe Mo first workshop open for walk-in customers.I feel extremely emotional on this turning point of our brain child. We could have quitted when the days get long and tiring, when we had to say no to hangouts and personal plans to settle the orders on time, we could have quitted when we kept losing money at the beginning, when our fingers were all dirty and stained, I could have quitted when I feel lonely and home-sick in a foreign country. We are no rich kids playing entrepreneurship. We struggle everyday to balance our full time work and cleaning shoes, at the same time bootstrapping Shoe Mo, and make it a real sustainable business.

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This milestone does not only marks the official launch of Shoe Mo, it’s the beginning of a new, habit changing service to the young modern generation and we proud to be one of the very first trendsetters in town. Shoe Mo team is eager to improve and innovate ourselves to bring the best service as we could.

I’d like dedicate this small success to my boyfriend, Andrik, who has been unconditionally supportive despite my busy schedule and short temper.

My great gratitude to Jack, Shoe Mo co-founder for taking this journey with me. And Andrik my boyfriend who has helped to set a smooth sail for Shoe Mo.

My deepest thanks to Frank, Ammar for being with us through the early days.

To my best friend, Cheryl, my supporting pillar and sharing shoulders.

To friends and family back home.

Ginny.

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My Stories

About focus, discipline and determination.

The past 2 years have been real a adventure. I’ve had 4 jobs, made 18 trips, moved 3 times in the span of 24 months. I barely remember how time flied that quickly, I was always on the move.

20 years ago I probably was sitting under the longan tree playing with grass waiting for my cousin to pick fresh laid chicken eggs. 5 years ago I was a fresh grad, struggling for a job and fighting for who I wanted to be. 2 years ago, I doubted the decisions I’ve made, I questioned myself on my life purpose. Now I’m in another country far away from my little home town, sitting in a high rise of a big business complex where memories of chicken farm and longan trees seems vague and distant.

Time flies. I’ve gone so far. What’s next?

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The fact of me taking risks brings me far in life, at least further than what a 7 year old girl in the chicken farm could imagine. I never question my resilience and ability to learn to adapt. Yet I get scared recently when I wake up. The sense of belonging strikes harder than before. I doubt my existence, and what I call mine.

I’m determined. My mind hardly switches off when I set it up for something. I’m good at short term goals. Yet I realised what I lack of is a bit of patience and a lot of discipline. The more I live the bigger challenge I face and the greater courage it takes. Life goal now isn’t getting a job or buying a new phone, and is less of the tangibles. Making changes, being influential, making mental and physical wellness affordable, sense of achieving and ultimately, peace in mind — those cannot be achieved within a short period of time. Being constantly on the move doesn’t help. Being spontaneous doesn’t help. Being easy to myself is definitely not going to help.

Moving forward to the new year, I expect no great achievement, no big adventure but the ability to settle my focus to the bigger goal, work hard with discipline and determination towards a better future.

And as always, a little of faith helps.

2017, you’re now welcome.

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