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Ho Su Mei's Advice On Overcoming Entrepreneurial Fear And Self-Doubt

Ho Su Mei is the founder and designer behind Sea Apple, a design-led modern clothing brand for children aged 0 - 6 years that focuses on original prints, 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic cotton and comfort.

Read on to find out how she overcome her fear and what was the very first step she took to start the business.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

I’m Su Mei, and I recently became a mother of two – my son just turned 11 months and my daughter is 5.

I run a childrenswear label called Sea Apple that is designed and based in Singapore.

How were you like as a child? What was your ambition?

I remember spending lots of time in playgrounds, parks, running around making up imaginary stories with friends and getting scuffed up climbing bars and playing hopscotch. I loved music and working on little craft activities too – clay figurines, cross stitches, design kits, etc.

At the same time I also enjoyed learning, reading and other nerdy things that were school related. I think these two sides of me resulted in a long list of childhood ambitions – doctor, paleontologist, actress, singer.

Are you still the same girl? If yes, how so? If not, what has changed?

In many ways yes. I find myself constantly having to navigate interests that are both creative/artistic and rational/methodical. With age though I’ve found that I have to be much more selective with the things I’d like to do. Going deeper into things also becomes more important.

Why this business? How did you decide that this is THE business to get into?

I kind of stumbled into doing childrenswear. I had just finished business school and was at a crossroads – either go back to policy work with the Government, or set out to try something very different that was entrepreneurial and design related.

I finally decided to do the latter, and was drawn to designing for children because of the unlimited possibilities I felt I could work with, and that innocence of purpose.

What stage of motherhood were you at when you decide to start the business?

I started the business just before becoming a mother.

What was the first step you took to start the business?

It was pretty overwhelming at the start – I had lots of ideas in my head and a million things it seemed to execute. The first thing I did was to try to articulate what kind of brand I wanted to create. Would I be offering anything different with this brand, and what kind of personality would it bring to the table?

How long did it take you from idea to making your first dollar?

It took me about 1.5 years. I spent quite a bit of time finding the right supplier to start the first collection.

What is your typical daily routine?

I wake up and have breakfast with the kids, then leave home in the late morning. I would either set off to the office for a day of discussions/design work, or I would be running around meeting suppliers, retailers, etc. I always try to get home in time for dinner and I make it a point each night to put my kids to bed. If I am not too tired, I squeeze a bit more time once they are asleep to catch up on emails at night. Watching TV these days is a luxury!

How do you balance being a wife, mom and a momboss?

As an entrepreneur without fixed hours, it is especially hard because it is so easy for work to creep into family and personal space. I’m still learning what the right balance is, but what works for me is to make sure that I have protected time during the weekends to just be with my family. I find that this helps me to recharge and perform better during the work week.

Do you have a support or accountability team? If yes, how do you find them?

Definitely yes – in all areas of my life, I am dependent on people who support me and make it possible. My family at home that keeps things in order and allows me time away, my team in the office whom work with me to bring every collection to life, and my friends who are a constant sounding board.

Do you struggle with mom guilt? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes, I do – especially when I’ve been particularly busy, or have chosen to prioritise work over family. On days like these, I try to make up for less time spent, by giving them my full attention. Making them the centre of my universe really helps, even if it’s just for that quick hug or short conversation about their day. Kids can really tell when you are giving them your all, or are distracted.

When things get tough, what keeps you going?

Time on my own to recharge and seek wisdom from my faith.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

I would savour the early years more with my children. We have so many demands on our lives these days, that we often fail to pause and give time to memory making. I look back at pictures from when they were babies and wish I could cuddle them all over again!

What is the one book you think mombosses should read?

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. It is a poetic and lyrical story about finding your calling and the journey one takes to get there.

It is full of very powerful, interesting and moving bits of truth, and was written by a man who himself only started writing in his 40s, was rejected countless times by publishers and had to pick himself up again when the book was first published and was a flop.

What is the one piece of advice that you would like to share with a mom who is afraid to take the first step in pursuing her dream/passion?

We all have fears about many things that inhibit us from taking action. It could be about losing money, feeling we are not skilled enough, feeling we are too old, or just being afraid of failure and what others might think of us.

Don’t. Don’t let those thoughts overwhelm you. Many many people have started things with less money, less skills, less knowledge or when they were 65. The difference is they just went out there and did it.

So just take one step each day toward your idea – however small, however insignificant it may seem. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expect, you definitely would have gained something – a new understanding, new friends, new contacts. This in itself is learning, and a way forward, or a new unexpected path.

For the momboss who is actively pursuing her dream/passion and/or going through tough times in her business, what would you say to encourage her?

To borrow words from The Alchemist: “The secret of life though, is to fall seven times, and to get up eight times.”

Where can our audience find out more about you?

You can find out more about the label I started at seaappleshop.com – I hope you like it!


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