How Female Entrepreneurs in Singapore Are Adapting Their Businesses During The Covid-19 Pandemic
When the Singaporean government announced the implementation of the coronavirus stay-at-home measures, known as the circuit breaker, many businesses and industries were hit hard as their retail outlets and offices had to close for the partial lockdown. This is especially true for small and medium enterprises, who have been forced to adapt their business plans and implement new infrastructure.
To find out how some entrepreneurs in Singapore have innovated to thrive during this unprecedented time, we reached out to the founders of five enterprises.
More than just a jewellery brand, Eden+Elie is a social enterprise that trains and employs artisans with autism. The biggest setback from the circuit breaker was the fact that Eden+Elie’s ten artisans could no longer produce pieces from the workshop, which provided visual structures and a calibrated environment for the artisans.
“Because of the short notice we were given at the start of the circuit breaker, we had to send them home and keep them home with very little preparation on how best to use their time. We have, however, continued to support them with full wages, during the entire circuit breaker and even until now,” Stephanie Choo, founder of Eden+Elie, explained.
To support their time at home, the brand worked with job coaches and communicated with the artisans to create Mother’s Day necklaces for their mums, and also tested the implementation of an At-Home Kit to help the artisans work from home.
“Some of the mums wrote to us that they really appreciated having a piece of jewellery that their son or daughter helped to make. It meant a lot to us that we were able to do something for them to communicate how important they are to our company.”
Eden+Elie’s studio has now reopened welcoming customers on alternate weekdays by appointment only. The brand has taken caution to space out the appointments, with only a party of three related guests served at a time, while the team is working staggered shifts between home and the studio.
Sustainability is at the heart of Zerrin, which operates as a one-stop guide to sustainable fashion and beauty. The media platform and multi-brand online retailer is founded by former fashion and beauty editor Susanna Jaffer with the idea of connecting a growing community of ethical emerging brands with busy modern women.
Without the extra engagement from physical pop-up stores, Zerrin strengthened its online platform via social media, with live-streamed product showcases, as well as an Instagram Live series called #RealTalk, where it engaged the community by interviewing brands, industry experts, and inspiring individuals who champion sustainability in fashion and beauty. The brand also experimented with at-home set-ups for their creative shoots to bring their content to life.
“Despite being an e-commerce platform, we focused on putting out meaningful content to promote our values as a brand, rather than just pushing products. We already do this year-round so it’s not exactly innovating, but we doubled down on it during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Jaffer.
As restrictions lift, Zerrin is ready to amp up both online and offline platforms. “We’ve just relaunched our online platform, our new brand directory and are planning a series of webinars with international speakers and fashion change-makers. We will also be relaunching our pop-up from September for the long term.”
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3/5 Candles of Light
Candles of Light, a fragrance studio that specialises in natural, botanical-based scents infused with spices, herbs, essential oils, describes having to pivot their business model during the time of Covid-19 and Singapore's circuit breaker.
“Traditionally if we had customer enquiries on our candles or product range, we would normally tell them to head to our physical retailers. But because of the Covid-19 situation, we are soon launching a range of samples and tester kits online for potential customers to purchase as a trial, with credits for a return purchase,” says Daphne Tan, founder of Candles of Light.
While it is now back to business as usual for its stockists, Tan shares that they are focusing on new ways to bring their “scent experience to the customer in their own space."
4/5 Binary Style
Founded by twin sisters and trained architects Santhi and Sari Tunas, Binary Style offers accessories inspired by Singapore’s history and diverse culture. Its signature collection of more than 60 scarves are woven with local patterns, shapes and colours that tell the nation’s story from past to present.
Because their clientele is mainly tourists, the brand had to quickly recalibrate their target audience amidst travel restrictions, turning to produce reusable fabric masks instead. Twenty percent of proceeds from the mask sales benefited migrant workers.
“The aim is not to make a profit from this but to do our part to help. The response has been very good so far—through the masks, new audiences are discovering our brand, and even if they don’t buy it, they will remember us,” says Santhi Tunas.
With retail partners closed, the brand also made sure to strengthen their presence online, actively engaging their community with positive content, and even a downloadable Binary Style Zoom background.
“Our brand’s unique proposition is about inspiring happiness, emotional comfort and a sense of belonging. From day one, we wanted Binary Style to be a brand with a smile on its face, and during this time we feel it is more relevant than ever to communicate in that tone.”
The brand’s studio at Singapore's National Design Centre has now resumed operation, with reduced workdays and staff working alternating shifts in the office.
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Helmed by wife and husband team Jeannie and Richard, JeannieRichard offers handmade, art deco-inspired modern jewellery. Already operating as an online business with plans to engage clients via physical pop-ups, the circuit breaker made the founders reevaluate their plans and strengthen their offerings online instead. According to founder Jeannie Yeo, the brand stepped up in design and production, releasing at least two new designs every week.
The brand also took the opportunity to maximise their social media presence, collaborating with Singapore brands—including Jo Kilda, Tria the Label and Nodspark—as well as Singapore influencers, engaging followers in various social media campaigns. These campaigns have earned the brand an increase in followers, many of whom were converted into loyal customers. JeannieRichard will continue its online model, offering contactless delivery to customers.
“While the circuit breaker period is over, the residual effects of it are going to stay for a long time. Hence, we are in the midst of migrating our website to another platform that will allow features such as Hoolah to allow customers to deflate their expenditure and still enjoy the simple pleasures. We are also in the midst of developing our own proprietary hardware to heighten our branding,” says Yeo.
“Our way of innovation is not so much about technology, but rather using it to bring people back to what truly matters—especially loved ones, that we so often take for granted. JeannieRichard is, after all, about sentimental jewellery to remind everyone of life’s precious moments. Most importantly, we keep our hearts on the lesser voices by supporting the Children’s Society.”
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