AMA with Easy Arisarwindha, CFO of e-commerce marketplace Sociolla and Yi Jun Kwek, Co-Founder of organic baby food brand Little Blossom

You asked, they answered. Our March speakers for Coffee Connections, Easy and Yi Jun, address the questions attendants posed in the last SEA virtual networking session centered on Female Entrepreneurship and Leadership.

By SGN | 23 April 2021

On Entrepreneurship and Marketing Strategies for a New Brand

What’s the better approach when starting a new business: taking on a side gig before you leap or quitting your current full-time to concentrate 100%?

Yi Jun: Both approaches can work, but the decision to commit full time depends on a few factors:

  1. Confidence in your business idea – if you’re still in the early stages of exploring/testing ideas and finding partners, it might be better to work on it on the side until you get more validation
  2. Commitment towards entrepreneurship – in the long term, do you see yourself as a full time entrepreneur running your business? Or is it a side gig that brings in additional income?
  3. Financial situation – do you have a financial safety net in place that allows you to work on your business full time, without worrying about drawing a fixed salary?

What are the key marketing strategies for a new brand? What are success measures for online marketing?

Yi Jun co-founded Singapore-based organic baby food brand Little Blossom in 2020. Little Blossom was created to provide parents with a healthier alternative to existing baby food products in the market, which are high in sugar, salt and preservatives.

Yi Jun: As a new brand, it was important for us to build awareness and word of mouth. But we had to be creative with how to do so with a small marketing budget. Hence we tapped on influencer marketing (only gifting products, not paid), brand collaborations, and created a refer-a-friend program to encourage Mums to share our products with their own friends & family.

Website traffic and conversion are the key performance measures we look out for on our online store.

On Hiring and Diversity

Our company is a tech start-up targeting +30% female in key tech positions. Sadly, less then 10% of applicants are female. What can tech start-ups do to achieve gender equity goals?

Easy: It’s always good to hear that companies are actively increasing the diversity of their hires, particularly in the tech space. Because of how young many tech industries are, consider hiring laterally – considering candidates from different industries who may have the skills and potential but not direct experience in the job role.

My own career journey reflects this. I started out as a Civil Engineer with the Land Transport Authority in Singapore before switching careers to become a Senior Investment Manager with PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya Tbk for a decade, before eventually joining Sociolla as a CFO. Each time, the hiring managers gave me the opportunity to grow into a new role despite my not having direct experience in the field. 

In partnering Brands or Vendors, do you consider diversity on their board, employees, leadership etc?

Sociolla is an Indonesian e-commerce beauty platform expanding rapidly into new markets, establishing its first overseas presence in Vietnam with a brick-and-mortar store. (Image source: Insideretail Asia)

Easy: When we are looking to invest in a brand, yes, most certainly as such characteristics affect how decisions are made and the overall tone of the company. When looking at partners, our main concern is to further our goal of providing better products and services to our customers, which are female-centric. 

On Overcoming Challenges in their Careers

What is a key challenge you overcame that you are especially proud of?

Easy: I failed English many times in secondary school and risked losing my place in the school. To be able to speak fluently or to participate in public-speaking seemed unthinkable then. 

It taught me that some challenges can seem insurmountable but with the help from people who care and faith in ourselves, more often than not we can overcome them. 

Yi Jun: The main challenge as a new brand was building trust with our customers. This was a big contrast to my days working in Unilever, where the brands I worked on were already trusted household names.

Our starting point for Little Blossom was to ensure we create a great product that parents & kids would love, and to also be strict on our quality and safety standards. There have been scandals recently about heavy metals found in the products from other baby food brands, so we made sure to test every batch of our products before it gets imported & distributed to our customers.

It always makes my day when I hear positive reviews from our customers or see them repurchase and recommend the product to their friends & family. These are early signs that we are earning our credibility as a brand, and the positive feedback always keeps us going!

On Female Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Did you encounter any discriminatory experience during your career path as female leader on the basis of being a woman? How did you overcome these challenges?

Easy:  I do encounter biases not just based on gender but on appearances, accents etc. When it is something that can be corrected immediately e.g. remove ‘preferred gender of candidate’ in staff request form, I try to do that. When not possible, it is through showing through action. 

Yi Jun:I’ve been privileged to have worked for organisations that value female participation and leadership. It’s a difficult challenge to resolve in industries which are typically more male dominated, but I do think that having more female representation is key to achieving progress.

What are some of the resources that you think are lacking and that you would like to see more of for female entrepreneurs?

Easy:Entrepreneurship in general can be a lonely journey, so I do think it’s important to have a good support network. I’m thankful to be part of CRIB society – a community dedicated to female entrepreneurs to network and support each other, and would love to see more of such initiatives.

Yi Jun:Sharing and networking opportunities. Would like to see the equivalent of golf-tournaments for non-golf players! 

Easy and Yi Jun spoke at our last Coffee Connections Virtual Networking Event. Coffee Connections is a monthly virtual networking event for those looking to grow their networks in Southeast Asia. Designed to be intimate, industry experts and members of the Singapore Global Network share insights and experience in the Southeast Asia  market before concluding the event with a speed networking segment. Join the Singapore Global Network here to receive updates on networking events like Coffee Connections, job opportunities and industry insights.

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About Yi Jun

Yi Jun is a Unilever alumnus who left the corporate world to start Singapore-based organic baby food brand, Little Blossom. She was inspired to start Little Blossom to provide a healthier alternative to existing baby food options, which are high in sugar, salt and preservatives. Yi Jun has lived and worked in cities including Manila, Ho Chin Minh and Vietnam, and is currently based in Singapore.

Connect with Yi Jun here.

About Easy

Easy is the Chief Financial Officer of Sociolla, a beauty and personal care omni-channel platform in Indonesia and Vietnam. An NUS and SMU alumnus, Easy spent 10 years in a private equity group before changing gears and joining the start-up scene.

Connect with Easy here.

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