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
That’s me unglamorously fixing signage for Singapore outlet and ended up cutting my finger.
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.
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.
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,