LOVELYNNE CHONG

Lovelynne is the Managing Director of Fyreflyz, a new-media marketing company which was established in a matter of days more than two years ago. Oozing with confidence, she shared with me her vision she had for her company and her passion for this industry. Seeing a need to build rapport with her clients and treating them like her friends is the reason she refers her company as their marketing ka kia.

Business Profile:

Founded in January 2009. Fyreflyz received the YES! (Young Entrepreneur Scheme) Grant by SPRING Singapore in May 2009. Focused in providing a full spectrum of services to their clients, Fyreflyz has a proven track record with an established base of esteemed clients. From web design and programming, e-commerce integration, print design and marketing, email blasting, EDM marketing and more, Fyreflyz's aims boil down to one thing: to enliven

Interviewer's Comments:

Being young means you have the drive to succeed in your career, but being a young Managing Director would entail more than that. Fuelled by her passion in this industry, this street-savvy and sharp entrepreneur.knows how to provide great marketing solutions to clients - the force behind this growing business with more than 100 clients to date.

Interview:

  • What is the nature of your business?
    Fyreflyz is a strategy marketing company which deals with new-media platforms and we provide creative services such as design, project management and other services mainly to the web. More specifically, what I do is marketing planning strategy and execution. For example, let's say you start a business and you need to get clients, and the most basic way is to have a web to get marketing presence. And this includes social media management as well. But as we grow and develop, we also started doing brochures, logos and other marketing collaterals.
  • When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your family business? NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)
    Ever since I was a 6, I've always wanted to be my own 'boss'. Always thought that it was nice to be known as a 'boss', however I really wanted to start my own business when i was in Polytechnic. There was once when I heard a group of entrepreneurs giving a speech on entrepreneurship, including my mentor and I was very motivated to pursue my dreams. Ironically, both my parents are not entrepreneurs. However they definitely have inspired me and encouraging me to do the best I can in whatever I do.
  • What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
    I'm passionate about design and advertising, but I felt starting in an advertising company would be too competitive and I don't have the relevant experience back then. But I had a bit of experience in the web industry. This wasn't my first job, I had previously worked in banks and small marketing agency and an IT firm. So I decided to use those experiences and with my passion for this industry, I started my own company two years ago.
  • How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing, advertising, etc.
    It was pretty complicated actually. Like I've said, I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since young. And with the support of my friends and my mentor, I started this company in five days. The capital came from my own savings and SPRING grant. As for my accounts and businesses, I have referrals from past clients. And I am very fortunate to have some very supportive clients who had been with me for quite a while. In fact some of them had even supported me when they knew I wanted to start up this business.
  • Because this business is relatively young, were some of your clients demanding or sceptical initially? What are some of the interesting stories you had about your first few customers in business?
    My clients are fantastic and awesome to work with. But I have to say for those who do not personally know us or this business, they would find it hard to believe or trust in our capabilities because they might not know if we are established and big enough to serve their needs or whether or not we are going to be in this market long enough. But having the SPRING grant really did help a lot and it made us more credible for new clients to give us a shot.
  • Earlier on, you've mentioned that because this business is relatively young and small. Is that one of the main challenges you faced when you first went into business?
    That's one of main challenges. But I think that our main challenge is also to convince people why marketing is important to their business. Contrary to popular belief, some of the businesses still do not see why marketing is important. And this is one of the niches I saw in this industry and that's why I started this company because my clients always came asking me for advice - how to increase traffic, how to promote their products or services, how to come up with good design, how to write content.
  • Are there any other challenges and how did you overcome it besides having the SPRING grant and referrals from your past clients.
    I would say that I'm pretty young, and most of the times when I go for business meetings, the clients are quite shocked to see how young I am. And our company is a new start up too. So we try to overcome all these preconceived notions by letting them see our portfolio and giving corporate presentations which I'm confident that we had done a pretty good job. And most times we win them over by convincing them and going the extra mile by providing them services more than what is expected from us. And I remembered I had a prominent client who had a huge project to create about 200 online banners in 2 weeks. This was a very short notice to us, and no other vendors were willing to take up this project with their budget and timeline. And because this client had been with us for quite some time, we took up this job and our team had to work round the clock, day and night just to get it done. And I'm appreciative of their trust and believe in us because they had been a very good partner with us. They had been very supportive and given us many opportunities despite our size and this really encouraged us to move forward.
  • Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph over it?
    I think when you run your own business, every day could be potentially a good or bad day depending on how you see it. But to me, I don't see more joy than coming to work. I'm not a workaholic, just that I have a lot of passion for what I do and I loved the feeling of coming to work and seeing work getting done because that's a good thing. In any business, if you find yourself having nothing to do, that's really a bad day. I would not say it was my worst day, but it was very scary when I first started out, I was alone and I had to write my own cheques and run all my expenses and had a lot of projects to pitch. And I had worked with a lot of freelancers back then as I was starting up my own team. You just have to be optimistic and keep looking forward. What really motivates me is a having a lot of self belief because if you don't think you can make it in this industry, you are going to have bad day every day. And when you believe that you can really offer a unique service, and you are confident to bring that across to your clients, your business will grow. It is a good thing being in a small boutique is that you can pay more attention to your clients and listen to their needs. And the clients and my team are the pillars of support and motivation for me.
  • On hindsight, would you have done anything different as an entrepreneur? Is there anything you regret doing or not doing?
    On hindsight, I would have not hired some people when I originally started. As a young entrepreneur myself, I always try to give young people opportunities and cultivate their passion and problem-solving abilities. And I had about 10 employees at one point of time and because most of them were really young, it ended up like a canteen and half the time, people don't really do work. And they were really unproductive which affected the morale of others who had work on hand. And honestly, it was a waste of money because we were paying a bunch of people who had nothing much to contribute and I could have used this money in other forms of business developments. So on hindsight, I would have waited until now to start recruiting more people.
  • When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
    I knew it would work ever since Day 1. I just never thought it wouldn't.
  • What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are they so important and meaningful to you?
    One of the proudest achievements is that we have close to 100 clients already and this would not be possible without my very good team that I had acquired over the years. Though I had only 4 of them in my team, they are pretty good in what they do, so I'm very thankful for them.
  • In today's business, most clients would go for the lowest cost possible. So how then do you compete with your other competitors?
    I make it clear to my clients that although we may not be the cheapest, we are definitely not the most expensive. And it is our commitment to deliver our promises with satisfactory. After spending time with your client, your client gets acquitted with you and you have rapport with them. And one of the strengths that I have is my confidence and this really helps in that my clients would also have confidence in me. I am a very hands-on person, and if any point of time, they need assurance or need my advice; they can have faith that I will be there to help them.
  • What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results in your business?
    I think one of the business ideas that produced good results is our project management system. This system gives our clients the reassurance that their work is being done and their needs are being taken care of. My business philosophy is that the customer is always right and this streamlined process helps us to better understand their needs and enhances communication between us, the agency and them. And this system allows them to see our work for them in a private link and they can email us for any clarifications and it will be answered promptly by us. So all in all, this system makes our work transparent to them so that our clients know that work is being done and won't feel worried.
  • Where or who do you get your business/creative ideas from? Or do you observe and learn from your competitors?
    To be frank, I never know who my competitors are. Instead, I would call them my business affiliates. And in every industry - advertising, PR, print, IT, I would always see opportunities and business potential in working with them and consider them partners rather than competitors. As to where I usually get my business ideas, I get my inspiration from my clients and business affiliates and technology news.
  • What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any plans for expansion?
    Definitely in the next five years, I would like to develop this business and have more offices, hopefully in Southeast Asia, for example in Malaysia and Philippines and even Vietnam. Even though the market is quite saturated there, there are still business potential in these areas. And I am confident in our business and what our services can offer to potential clients in these countries.
  • What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
    Entrepreneur means being able to pursue your dreams no matter how big they are and you have the faith to achieve them.
  • What are some entrepreneurship qualities that you have which have helped you come this far or even held you back sometimes?
    My confidence does help to convince clients in our business and my sense of humour as well. Generally, my social skills make our work easier because I'm very easy to talk to, not just to my clients but also my co-workers. I think I could be impulsive and a little bit impatient. Sometimes you want to achieve certain goals, and as an entrepreneur, I learnt that patience is really a virtue and hoping waiting for the right time instead of rushing for it aimlessly. In fact, like I mentioned earlier, when I had attained a certain level of revenue, I decided to grow my business and hire more people but we weren't ready for that on hindsight because as a team, we were fairly young. There were other things we need to be stronger in and have proper training and get better marketing materials, branding and company image. So, my impatience to grow really blinded me.
  • What are some of the sacrifices you have to make as an entrepreneur?
    I guess it would have to be spending less time with my family. They have been generally very supportive of my decision, although they couldn't really understand why I wanted to be an entrepreneur instead of getting a 9-to-5 job. Especially when I first started out, the office was literally my home and I had to sleep here because half the time I was doing work. But I'm very grateful for their support and things are getting easier now that we are on track.
  • If you have to rank these 4 qualities - educational qualification, work experience, family influence, attitude, which is the most important?
    I think the least important to me is education qualification. In general, what you studied in school five years ago would become obsolete today in the creative and technology industry. Of course the core fundamental of marketing would remain the same and having that knowledge does help to a certain extent. But I feel that education qualification is overrated because there are bosses who are not academically inclined but have made a name for themselves in business because they are street-savvy. Most important is your attitude because it determines your future. If everybody thinks you will die in this business and you agree with them, then you will surely die. But if you believe you can make it against all odds, then you will survive in this industry.
  • Who or what motivates and inspires you?
    My kid, definitely, inspire and motivate me the most. My mentor is also my source of inspiration and motivation and without his guidance and support, I wouldn't have learnt the way I have. He is very open to discussion and talks to me like a friend which is rare because people who are older and more experienced than you might tend to speak down at you rather than speaking to you. But if he treats you like your friend and is very sincere in his advice, his advice will sit better with you. Of course, I don't run to him every time I have difficulties, but whenever I confide in him, he always gives me very valuable advice to solve my issues.
  • What are some of the values that young aspiring entrepreneurs lack?
    Sometimes these young entrepreneurs think highly of themselves and forget there are many successful entrepreneurs and trailblazers. And how you remain as the same person is important. The matter is not about failing, but how you pick yourself up and stand up again is what that's most important. And that is the spirit of enterprise.
  • So have you failed before and had to pick yourself up again?
    We are driven by our passion to service our customers 24/7. But the biggest failure to me was when I started out this business, it did not turn out the way I expected it to be because I thought it would be the best business proposition in this industry. And I probably had considered giving up because of this failure and the fact that I had even entertained this thought was a failure for me. Of course, because of the support from my family, clients and colleagues, we managed to move forward during this difficult time. But most of all, it's the self belief you have in yourself to stand up again.
  • How then do you differentiate yourself and have this competitive edge against your competitor?
    I think our edge is that we dare to think big and we provide ideas that will work for our clients. We adopt a never say die and client comes first attitude, and to commit to that belief. We are driven more by our passion than profit, so I believe that's our differentiating factor.
  • What advice would you give young people who want to start their own business?
    I think it would be good if they have some working experience before becoming an entrepreneur, because it would help them in becoming more street smart. Even if you learn how to be an entrepreneur in school, a lot of things cannot be predicted and having work experience helps to prepare yourself so that you know what's the best business decision to make. Of course, you need to be original and don't try to steal people's ideas (laughs)!