Friday Feature: Being Open to the Serendipity of Life

For Christine Buyco-Sy, the journey to being a mompreneur started serendipitously during one of her trips back home in the Philippines where she chanced upon Human Nature, an organic personal and home care brand. After trying the products and falling in love with them, she began working tirelessly to bring the brand to Singapore, where she and her family live. She slept little and even dropped 10 kg in the process. Her hard work eventually paid off. Christine, mother of two little girls Ava and Ally, is now the sole distributor for Human Nature products in Singapore.

How it started

Christine and her two daughters

Christine and her two daughters

After her first child was born, Christine opted for part-time work as she found that it was a good compromise between family and career. She has a live-in domestic helper who assists with the childcare and housework.

But when her second child came along, she knew the part-time arrangement won’t work anymore. Daycare centre is not a solution for her and her husband and they do not have support of their extended families, who are in the Philippines.

“Honestly, I was looking forward to the change. I knew deep inside that I would end up hating my profession if it takes too much of my time away from my girls. And Architecture, fraught with impossible deadlines and endless meetings is going to do just that,” said the 34-year-old mom.

But she had other plans as well. “I wanted to set up my own business so I can look after my girls at the same time. Many work-at-home moms have successfully done it, so why can’t I?”

She had tried selling children designer clothes on eBay and at an online shop but supply at a great discount was often hard to get and inconsistent so it was not really a good business model.

This time, she just kept an open mind. She didn’t know when or what but knew deep in her heart it will happen. She had faith.

During one vacation back in her hometown in Davao City, she was visiting her sister’s developmental toy store when she saw a new shop, Human Nature right next to it and decided to check it out.

“I was so happy to find all-natural products that were so affordable! I was already using natural and organic products for my girls because of Ava’s sensitive skin and I was feeding them organic food since day one. Our grocery bills almost doubled but after learning about harmful chemicals found in our daily products and food, there is simply no going back. I bought the baby, kids’ care as well as shampoos back to Singapore.”

The products worked wonderfully for the whole family and this gave Christine an idea. There are natural, organic skincare products in Singapore but what’s missing was something really affordable. She saw a business opportunity there. Moreover, Human Nature is a social enterprise that advocates helping poor farmers and communities in the Philippines and this resonated deeply with her.

She got in touch with Human Nature. After a month of email correspondences, she flew to Manila and met with one of the founders Dylan Wilk. She found out there were competitors vying for the distributorship. Yet she was not daunted and became more determined than ever to clinch the deal.

She set to work, with help from her husband. “We worked day in and day out, set up an online shop, designed and printed thousands of fliers and drafted a 40-page business plan when the girls were asleep at night.

“The only real chance I could work was when they were sleeping. That meant I hardly had a good sleep – sleeping around 1 am or 2 am almost every day and waking up every four hours to breastfeed my younger one. I lost almost 10kg in a very short span of time,” she recalled.

Her efforts eventually paid off and on the second trip to Manila, she got the deal.

Human Nature Singapore was launched in mid-October 2012. Christine and her husband invested $50,000 in the business.

Human Nature SG

Screen shot of Human Nature Singapore’s website

Life as a mompreneur

Life continues to be busy for this devoted mom and “me-time” is almost non-existent. She shared, “I used to savor tea time when I get to read as well but now I have no time for both. I’m lucky if I could get a proper sit-down meal and a long shower!”

But she’s not complaining. She feels blessed to have the business as it allows her to be with her girls, and this is what fuels her.

“Life has its seasons and nothing stays the same for a long time. So instead of complaining, I am grateful and appreciate this precious yet fleeting time with the girls” she noted.

Thankfully her husband is very supportive and lends a hand with the business, especially in the areas of finance and IT. In fact, she credits her success to her ever supportive husband, whom she called the “unsung hero”.

Meanwhile, she has also learnt some important business lessons.

“I have made mistakes that are penny-wise but pound foolish. Like when I over-ordered thousands of products just to save on shipping costs and ended up with so many items nearing expiry dates. This taught me to always look at the bigger picture,” she said.

And what does picture in the future look like?

“We look forward to distribute to natural or organic shops island-wide, as well as to baby and kids’ shops in Singapore. Our ultimate dream is to make our affordable natural products available in the mainstream market!” she said with excitement.

Advice for moms

1. There will never be enough time for everything so identifying the most important tasks and prioritizing is the key. Personally, sitting down and itemizing the things to do – from top priority down works best for me. Knowing concretely what needs to be done eliminates the feeling of being overwhelmed and makes me feel being on top of things.

2. “Just hold on and it will get better”, as many other successful mompreneurs would say. Any startup business is already a mean feat by itself. Add kids in the equation and it bounds to be a one crazy ride! One thing for sure, it will be a long and uphill road and there will be plenty of times you are tempted to throw in the towel or wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Give it a second chance and persevere.

3. I learnt the hard way that no matter how much passion you put into what you do – you have to get the business essentials right first to make it work. This is where a well-researched business plan converts a small hobby or interest into a bona fide business that actually sells.

And I think Christine’s story can be beautifully summed up by these words she shared:

“I made that BIG LEAP to stop work, having no idea where to get the extra income. I just stayed open to CHANGE, be on the LOOKOUT and sent my ENERGY to the universe, and guess what? The right opportunity came at the right time when I was prepared.”

Christine and her family

Christine and her family

Check out Human Nature Singapore’s website here.

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