Ms Amanda Koo embodies all the traits of a 21st century female entrepreneur. She is an avid learner who has educated herself professionally and adequately in starkly different fields of computer science, gemmology and counselling. These acquired knowledge is exquisitely endorsing the fundamental structure of her complementing businesses with unique models. Besides a determined businesswoman who has the vigour in capitalizing opportunities, Amanda is also a counsellor. Spending quality time on a daily basis with her family, despite her expanding business, is also never compromised. All in all, Ms Amanda Koo has amazingly achieved success in the different aspects of life, due to her inspiring character, and dedication to everything that she loves.
“Besides a determined businesswoman who has the vigour in capitalizing opportunities, Amanda is also a qualified counsellor with a Master in Counselling.”
eClarity is founded by a GIA Gemologist, Ms Amanda Koo. Since 2000, eClarity has been the region’s most promising online diamond jeweler that is recognised for its professional consultation, large database of certified diamonds and competitive prices. The diamond database reflects real time availability. To top it off, eClarity has a team of professional personnel who inspect diamonds, identify gemstones, and handcraft customized wedding bands and bridal diamond jewellery.
As a female business student who is keen to learn about the dynamic world of entrepreneurs, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to interview Ms. Koo. Her warm and friendly presence made the interview really natural and smooth. While she complimented her growing jewellery business with her graceful and elegant personality, she harnessed bountiful of energy and determination to make her dreams come true. A strong believer that one is able to achieve it all by being organized and not wasting a single second, Ms. Amanda Koo has been a delight to meet and learn from.
- What is the nature of your business?
We specialize in diamonds and diamond jewellery. With our tenth year coming, we are branching out into different complementing businesses, which include online social media, counselling, property and children education. I hope that eClarity will one day becomes an umbrella of a few complementing businesses. Diamonds and diamond jewellery will nonetheless, continue as the core business.
- Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur and come into the business of diamonds?
I had influx of ideas running through my mind. The need to put those thoughts into actions were overwhelming and irresistible. I began to test out small-scale trading when I was a student in NUS, and saving capital by giving tuition. During the course of study and after the graduation from NUS, I continue to work at Citibank and M1 for close to 5 years.
The turning point was when I left for New York, pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Diamonds and Gemstones. With the specialised knowledge, corporate experience, a specific business position I had in mind, and the lack of trained professionals in the industry, the opportunity arises.
- In your family, were your parents in the business of diamonds or did they own any other businesses?
My grandfather was a goldsmith. He had half of a shop and he brought up 9 children with that half of a shop. My father runs an empire of 49 outlets around the world.
My father lives in a different country. What he provides me, is his wisdom, experience, and his professional personality. I think I always strive to behave respectfully like him.
However, the more successful he is, the more I did not like to form that business connections with him, and that intense thought brilliantly built up the determination, perseverance, and endurance to be successful.
- However, you did mention that you had corporate experience in Citibank and M1. Did the corporate experience contribute in any way to your current business?
It helped me in many areas. I understand the core structure of a business, its interdepartmental relationship, and the importance of interpersonal skills. It was a humbling experience. I carried that understanding while setting up my own business, and when I was running a one man show in the first year, I maintained email addresses like [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] etc. The experience made me look at my small business from a multilayer perspective, and this perspective created room to expand. I am glad that these emails are handled by different people and departments.
- Starting as a one-man show, how did you put together all of resources for your business?
My resources included my little savings, which I saved as a thrifty executive over 4 years, and many years as a part-timer in Citibank, and as a tutor. However, that was barely enough for renovation, and some jewellery samples. Therefore, I built my own website, sent marketing emails to all my friends and colleagues (there was no Facebook), printed my own member card (and laminate myself), my mobile phone served as customer service hotline, excel sheets worked fine for keeping accounts, stocks flow and member database, even my own proposal ring, wedding bands, bridal jewellery were samples displayed in my counter. I took my strengths and limitations into advantage, with the knowledge of gem sorting and design, I offer customisation and online orders to offer more designs and stocks.
- Speaking of the website and that the business is called, eClarity.com.sg, diamonds are something that people would want to see before purchasing. How then did you manage to convince the customers?
On the contrary, I didn’t attempt to convince customer, I was confident that the presentation of my knowledge, products, pricing and customers support speak louder than words. On the other hand, the word of mouth was very important.
- You mentioned that the first group of clients were happy. When you think of a one-man show, usually one would imagine that it is hard and it is going to be risky. People are just not going to accept you.
My first group of customers were supportive friends, colleagues, ex-classmates and subsequently their connections and multiplications of connections. They understood that I was trying to set up a new business, and that I was sincere in actualising their orders as perfectly as I could. I shared my credentials unreservedly about my schools, from St. Nicholas Girls’ School, to ACJC, to NUS. This helped in building credibility and friendships.
- Were there any really difficult customers?
Yes. There were some resistance but I reminded myself to strengthen the happy and rewarding experience, and at the same time, assess and make improvements on the negative encounter. I made sure I did not let the minority hold me back.
- What would be the moment that you knew that the business has worked?
The moment was when I had to ask customers to schedule appointments so that we could avoid overcrowded hours. It was at the same time when I had to expand my team in production, office space.
- What would be your proudest business achievement?
My proudest business achievement would be the first time I gave my colleagues a 3.88-month bonus, the time we moved I won an award.
- Moving forward, you are trying to get the brand, eClarity to emerge and you have more people with you. So, is there a company culture that you have instilled with your staff?
Yes. In customer service, we strive towards making every customer walking out with a smile. In administrative aspect, we wish to be as efficient as we can.
- Are there certain qualities that you look at when hiring your staff?
Sincerity. I usually do not engage the best, the most confident or the most knowledgeable candidate. I look for the person who is most genuine and most sincere.
- Are there any training opportunities that you provide for your staff?
Yes, training for diamonds and customer service are provided to every employee. On top of that, training is also provided for specific department, like Photoshop for marketing, accounts for book-keeping colleagues, gem identification and product quality checks for production.
- In the short term, say 5 or 6 years, where do you see eClarity going?
eClarity should be a big umbrella with different services for children, counselling, property and others.
- So, besides running the business, you are currently studying?
Yes, a student at the same time!
- How do you juggle that?
I am motived by my responsibility and passion. An eagerness to make my family happy and proud of me, increases my capability to tolerate setbacks and focuses on the positive side of things.
- One always hears that there is no work life balance for an entrepreneur. What is your take on that?
Time management is very important. My typical day starts at around 5am!
- Who or what motivates and inspires you?
My family and the thought of wanting to be successful motivate me.
I am someone who is easily inspired.
Haha! I have been inspired by a lot of people. Every experience with customer is an inspiration, their love stories, success stories, or merely an interaction with yet another form of mannerism, set of thinking, and behavioural attitude, inspires me with the wants needs of different people.
- What is entrepreneurship to you?
Creation, initiation, ownership.
- What is your advice to youths who want to start a business?
Don’t give up, and always remember why you wanted to be successful.
- Is there something that you would want youth to be cautious about?
Make sure that relationships with everyone are good. Relationship is very important when you are trying to start your own business. Relationship with not just your customers but everyone that you see because once you spoil one relationship, it can snowball and it can have a lot of negative impact on you because you are representing your company.
Also, financially, don’t be over-confident about your financial situation.
- Is there anything that you would like them to know about eClarity?
At eClarity, we live our days out of joy, love, and communication. Our team wishes to complete each and every session with sincerity and laughter. Because joy, is precious and infectious. That is something we treasure most. We are so thankful to be blessed with all the wonderful proposing guys and wedding couples. Thank you for choosing and recommending eClarity, thank you for growing with eClarity for the past 10 years and the many more 10 years to come.