The role of women has evolved over the years with increased expectations placed upon them to wear many hats in today’s society. Despite that, mothers remain the main pillar in the family. This Mother’s Day, we chatted with 2 inspiring mumpreneurs – Dawn Wong (Founder of Tiny Dots Wonder) & Chia Su-Mae (Founder of BSKIN), who shared with us how they juggle business and family, the source of their inspiration in life and their thoughts on gender roles as well as motherhood.
Tiffany Dawn Wong is the founder of Tiny Dots Wonder (TDW) and a mother of 3. TDW was born out of Dawn’s passion to create kids’ items that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. She started out with one product in mind and getting more under her sleeves, all of which have been tried and tested. Having graduated from a science degree and with an integrated marketing and public relations work experience, Dawn approaches her product development with an astute eye for aesthetics and storytelling. Prior to founding TDW, Dawn was a tourism industry specialist, who has spent more than 10 years strategizing and rolling out effective marketing and PR campaigns in both in-house and agency positions.
TDW brings in products that have been tried and tested by Founder, Dawn Wong. The purposefully sourced and lovingly created kid’s products are available online at https://tinydotswonder.com/
A former corporate lawyer turned business owner and a mother of one, Chia Su-Mae spent most of her teenage years battling with acne. To treat her skin issues, she tested countless skincare products and visited dermatologists for prescriptions in hopes of finding a solution for her acne. Having exhausted all her options, Su-Mae turned to formulating a range of bee-derived and propolis-based skincare, tapping into the expertise of HDI, her family’s wellness business with a history and heritage in bee-based products. Having witnessed first-hand the powerful health and reparative benefits of bee products, Chia worked with a team of South Korean scientists to develop gentle formulations rich in antioxidants and natural bee ingredients such as honey, propolis, royal jelly and pollen that could be used on hypersensitive, acne-prone skin.
BSKIN is a homegrown skin label that harnesses the intrinsic anti-oxidant properties found in nature combined with science to create clinically proven formulas for naturally balanced and healthy skin. At the heart of BSKIN is its 6CORE Anti-Oxidant System, a revolutionary formulation created by renowned Korean scientists with more than 50 years of experience. Five specific anti-oxidant plant-based compounds, with each performing a specialized function to fight free radicals were chosen to form BSKIN’s 6CORE Anti-Oxidant System. Beyond anti-oxidant properties, BSKIN’s revolutionary 6CORE Anti-Oxidant System is further enhanced by apitheraphy, or “bee therapy”, leveraging on its parent company HDI’s history and heritage in bee-based products. Due to its extraordinary healing benefits, the extracts of the finest bee-based ingredients such as honey, royal jelly, propolis and pollen were combined with pure Jeju spring water to create B-Complex water (B20)–a cutting-edge, proprietary ingredient exclusive to BSKIN’s skincare line. BSKIN is available exclusively online at www.bskin.com.
Q1: What is the inspiration behind your business?
Dawn: Being an overtly germaphobe, it influences my every decision when choosing products for my kids. When I couldn’t find a product that pleases me, I created samples to try and caught the eyes of like-minded parents. I started out with one product in mind–the highchair seat cover, which I made sample for my eldest kid, who is now 3 years old. And this was even beforeCovid-19 came about. It was not until my second pregnancy, with encouragement from my husband, to produce in bulk. And that’s how Tiny Dots Wonder is born.
Q2: What made you take a leap of faith to switch fields from being a lawyer to building a science-based skincare brand?
Su-Mae: I’d always been curious about entrepreneurship since a young age. In fact, 9 year old me used to charge friends and family for foot spas in my parents’ toilet! When I found myself more interested in how my legal clients were running their businesses rather than in helping to dot the Is and cross the Ts on their contracts, I knew it was time to make a shift. Also, my long working hours were starting to take an obvious toll on my health and skin and I wasn’t able to spend as much time with my family as I’d have liked. At the same time, my family has been in the bee wellness industry for more than 30years and I’ve witnessed the beneficial effects that bee products can have on one’s health. Having enjoyed our honey, royal jelly and other bee products, many of our loyal customers had been asking us for years to produce our own line of bee-ingredient based, science-backed skincare. I jumped on this opportunity to develop and market my own skincare brand, BSKIN.
Q3: What are the challenges faced and how did you overcome them?
Dawn: Mum guilt whenever I have to focus on my work while my kids are around me. I always believe in the parent having to set good examples for their kids as we are often the reflection of what our kids turn out to be. For example, I don’t want my kids to grow up playing their phones while having family dinners, yet sometimes I’ve to answer urgent messages. With the birth of my twins during the pandemic, the restrictions and having to tend to many young kids at once, I was unable to spend as much time as I would like with my kids and family (my grandma, parents and brother’s family). As I see my children grow up, I’m also mindful that my grandma and parents are not getting any younger. Thus, I found a way (though not the most ideal) to bring my work and my kids over to my parents’ house a few times a week. By working from their place, I can be physically present and still have conversations while trying to multi-task.
Q4: How do you find time for yourself?
Dawn: I do take breaks from time to time, as I am a firm believer of work life balance. And it’s the only way to sustain the momentum of building a business while juggling family time. When possible, I try to plan and space out my social gatherings in advance. This would allow me to find someone to tend to my kids. I usually have me-time after I put my eldest son to sleep. I give myself at least half hour after 10pm to chill, read a book or watch dramas or scroll social news feeds. I also start my day early. I try to wake up at 5am to meditate and finish up some work, before my kids get up. I find that this is the best window for high productivity.
Su-Mae: To be honest, I have to be very deliberate about setting aside me-time. Some days, it’s simply not possible and the only time alone that I get to recharge may be taking along shower before bed. As a mom to a 2 year old, my weekdays involve dropping him off at playschool in the morning, then finding a quiet café to work. I spend the next 3 hours 100% focused on my work and virtual meetings and I always try to get the most challenging tasks of the day out of the way. The more efficiently I’m able to work, the more time I have for non-work related tasks later in the day. I always try my best to stop work in the evening to fit in an hour long HIIT workout class and take my son to the park. At night, my husband and I try to spend quality time together either winding down chatting and catching upon our day or watching something together. If I’m really overwhelmed by work that day, I do occasionally end up working late into the night after my husband has gone to bed. Ironically, I have to be disciplined about “shutting off” after work to rest and recharge. Weekends are now reserved for catching up with family and friends and doing things I enjoy–like tending to my vegetable garden and hanging out with my pet duck and 8chickens. This really helps me recharge and allows me to be a better wife, mom and boss.
Q5: How would your kid(s) describe you and your business to their friends?
Dawn: Mummy is very busy and has lots of shoes for me.
Su-Mae: My son just turned 2 so he would probably describe my business as ‘BAH-NANA! BUB-BLES!!RAINING!!’ since his vocab remains quite limited. I do hope though that when he’s older he’ll be able to see the meaning in my work. To see beyond just the skincare products and realise that at the core of it, mummy’s work helps people regain their confidence and also allows her to support organisations like the Breast Cancer Foundation and Liberty Society (which houses Afghan refugees in Indonesia and provides an income while teaching them marketable skills). I’d love for him to understand that even though my business takes mummy away from spending precious time with him, ultimately, it’s a business worth doing.
Q6: Has being an entrepreneur changed your way of parenting?
Dawn: I don’t think it changed my way of parenting. Being in the kids business makes me realise that I don’t have a lot of time to waste and children grow up too fast. So we need to spend more time with them, before they go into the stage where they prefers their friends more than their parents. As a firm believer of work life balance and maintaining sanity, I tend to take a more balanced parenting style. I try not to revolve everything around my kids, and that’s probably why I haven’t burnout yet and can still hang out with friends and goon date nights from time to time.
Su-Mae: Ever since I gave birth to my son, I’ve only ever been an entrepreneur. But I imagine it’s helped me be more cool and calm under pressure. Part of my job as an entrepreneur is fighting fires and problem solving on a daily basis. I also need to be resourceful and quick thinking. These are skills that are very transferable to parenting-especially to a first time parent like myself!
Q7: How has the pandemic changed your work-life balance?
Su-Mae: Initially, when we shifted to working from home, it was an ongoing battle to strike a balance between work and home life. I got completely burnt out by the number of meetings I had to attend, and there was little to no mental separation between home life and work life. I also find shifting a lot of work discussions on WhatsApp has created an additional layer of stress since it feels like you’re expected to be contactable 24/7, even if you’re on leave. Before COVID, I was overseas every week for work and would only fly home on weekends. The lockdown on travel during the pandemic forced me to seriously rethink how I run my business. Two years later, I’m a lot more efficient and disciplined about when I’m working and when I am not. A lot of it has to do with not checking my phone or emails when I’m outspending time with my family, and taking control of my own schedule. I’ve also gotten more deliberate about compartmentalising my day and being more intentional about how I spend my time.
Q8: Has your mum been an influence/inspiration in your life/business?
Dawn: She has always been an open-minded and very encouraging person, in most of the things I want to pursue. Even when she isn’t fully convinced at some of my decisions, she will still cheer me on. She still let me try things even when she knows I will fail. Till that happens, she will be there with open arms to help me along.
Su-Mae: Yes, a huge one. She’s influenced every aspect of my life and also the way I run my business. My mom was a real personality and she taught me the importance of being loving, generous and always treating others how I would like to be treated. When it comes to business, my mum always emphasised the importance of taking pride in the products we sell. They must be effective, and we must be confident enough in our products that we would use/consume them ourselves and would recommend them to family and friends. I hold this mantra close to my heart and till today it remains my guiding principle as I formulate products. Anything I wouldn’t use personally, I wouldn’t sell.
Q9: What do you enjoy most about motherhood?
Dawn: There is never a boring day with all the little surprises – from what they say and do to them hitting another milestone or learning a new skill. They are truly my entertainment. The joy of being my kids safety net–at least for the first few years, kids rely a lot on parents to give them comfort. A simple hug or words of reassurance can make them so happy.
Su-Mae: My favourite part about motherhood is how much it’s forced me and my husband to grow as individuals and how much it’s strengthened our relationship. Truth be told, everyday we’re just winging it when it comes to parenting. There’s no comprehensive guidebook or one-size fits all formula to raising a child. I love waking up every morning to see what new and crazy challenges we’ll face as parents. A big poop storm? A sudden aversion to veggies? Sleep regression? Bring it on. We get through these challenges together with a huge (and I mean HUGE) dose of humour. I love the people we’ve become after being parents to our son. We’ve learnt the ability to love wholeheartedly with no reservations, to put our loved ones before ourselves and to be solid team players in our precious little family unit.
Q10: Do you bring your kids to work?
Dawn: We tried, but ended up not doing any work, but trying to stop our eldest son from playing with the office phone. So, we bring our work to them. Our kids have become our tester for all our products.
Su-Mae: As I gave birth to my son right in the thick of the COVID pandemic, I’ve been working from home since then. But I don’t rule out bringing him to work in the future. In the meantime, he continues to feature heavily in most of my Zoom meetings, usually appearing mid-call to demand a banana or yank out one of the keys on my keyboard.
Q11: What do you think about gender roles reversal (e.g. stay-at-home dad & working mum)?
Dawn: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as long as the couple talks it out And if that’s what the couple has decided to do, then outsiders shouldn’t comment. Contrary to stereotypes, some dads can deal with kids better than mums.
Su-Mae: I think they should be encouraged. Gone are the days where people frowned on dads staying home and mums going out to earn an income for the family. In fact, right after I gave birth, my husband had just quit his job and he ended up playing a major role intaking care of our son while I jumped right back into working soon after. This allowed me to focus on my work with minimal ‘mum-guilt’ since I knew there was a loving and dedicated parent at home fully invested in taking care of my child. Now that my husband has resumed work, our roles have become very fluid. We take turns to step up at home when one of us is extra busy at work, without any expectations on who’s ‘supposed’ to play which role. To me, it’s simply a matter of which parent is more suited to which role, at any point in time. Whichever role that is, we each do our best so our household can flourish.
Q12: What is your ideal mother’s day celebration?
Dawn: Take rest with no disturbance. More importantly, no one falls sick. (For a period of time, my kids kept taking turns to fall sick, which makes me realise that the best gift is healthy kids)
Su-Mae: Definitely one where I get to spend a solid couple of hours with my son doing an activity together (perhaps exploring a new park, or trying out a cake recipe we’re never made before) with minimal distractions (no emails, meetings or calls please!) followed by (and this is the most important part) a long restful nap free from diaper changes!