Being a working mother isn’t easy. Not only do you need to keep on top of everything at work, but you also need to double down on caring for your family. What if your work is your own start-up business?
For Kong Wai Theng, 44, from Selangor Malaysia, and Đoàn Trần Thùy Linh, 33, starting and running their businesses while also raising three kids each, however, has been both hard work and extremely rewarding.
Ms Doan and Ms Kong are not only surviving, but they are also positively thriving. Both women are award winners – Ms Doan won Lazada Forward Woman of the Year in Vietnam, and Ms Kong won Lazada Forward Woman of the Year in Malaysia. Both will receive their recognition at the Lazada Forward Women Awards 2022.
Ms Kong owns Big Care Mart, which sells a range of health, beauty and baby products online. With a background in business, Ms Kong owned and operated a bricks ‘n’ mortar pharmacy in Selangor for 10 years before transitioning the business online to suit her lifestyle.
“Seven years ago, when I gave birth to my third child Jason, the cost of raising a big family became very high and it was stressing me out. At the same time, business at my brick-and-mortar took a huge hit amidst intensifying competition from bigger brands and businesses,” explains Ms Kong.
“I tried to find more solutions that would supplement my family income and cover the high costs of living. While searching online for a solution, it suddenly came to me: sell on Lazada!”
After registering as an online seller, Ms Kong began her online business. She says it took three weeks to get her first order, but as she built up her product listing and educated herself about eCommerce marketing skills, the business took off.
“Fast forward to today, I am proud to tell you that from being an anxious mother of three, I have managed to become the Top Seller in my category (health and beauty) for two consecutive years, and awarded the Lazada Best Trainer Award,” says Ms Kong happily.
While Ms Kong is happy about her online success, it hasn’t always been easy to juggle three kids and a full-time business: “I already had three kids while running my pharmacy. So when I decided to pivot and start the Lazada store, my third and youngest son was barely one year old. I was still breastfeeding at that time.”
“Although I am very business-oriented, I believe in spending quality time with my family. Kids really do grow up so fast! Good time management and delegation of business work tasks are important to balancing your work and family life,” Ms Kong shares how she strikes a fine balance between family and business.
“I learned that being a perfectionist is not the answer. Over the years, I’ve gradually realised good work can also be achieved with my team. I started to train and empower my staff in different areas, and also delegate tasks to them. Through trial and error, I improved my workflow and time management to have a balanced family and business life,” explains Ms Kong.
As for what she wishes she had known before she started her online business with three young children in tow, Ms Kong says, “I wish I had learned all these online marketing skills much earlier!”
“I spent many years of my life growing my family but ignoring new generation skills like social media marketing, business branding, eCommerce marketing. So when I first started out selling online, it was a steep uphill learning curve for me!
“A 36-year-old ‘aunty’ at that time, learning all these new skills; I’m so glad that I’ve conquered them one by one. Up until now at 43 years old, I am still learning and acquiring new skills.”
Focus on ‘highly productive matters’
Ms Doan had always wanted lots of children, well before she decided to launch into an international online business career.
“That was my plan when I was younger; my parents had very few children, so when my younger sister and I left home to study, they felt lonely and sad. Thus, I wanted to have many children to liven up the house. While it’s tiring to juggle family and work, I feel more happiness than fatigue, so I’d still like to have many children,” explains Ms Doan.
However, when she started her company, she was childless: “At that time of starting the business, my husband and I were still dating. Since getting married, we have had two boys who are 7 and 5 years old, and a daughter who is three years old.”
Light Coffee, Ms Doan’s business, was set up in 2012; it provides roasted coffee for coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and cocoa, matcha, and instant powders.
“Our products are available for sale both domestically and for export. We started our eCommerce business on Lazada in 2016, and it has been doing very well. Light coffee is one of the top sellers on the platform in Vietnam today in the Food and Beverage category,” Ms Doan explains.
“I founded the company together with my then-boyfriend (now husband) when we graduated from university. We had a dream to build a Vietnamese brand that can be sold globally, and thought of coffee since Vietnamese coffee is well-known around the world. In a blink of an eye, it’s been 10 years!”
When it comes to negotiating daily life with a business and three children, Ms Doan says it is essential to focus on “highly productive matters”.
“In the past, I would be in the office during working hours, then spend time with my family in the evenings and over the weekends. Having dinner and playing with my children are important to me. I only attend to personal matters after they go to bed,” says Ms Doan.
“For instance, when I was setting up my Lazada store, I used the 9pm-12-midnight timeframe every night to do my online courses about selling online through Lazada University. I also prefer e-learning or online meetings as they’re more efficient to use the time saved on more important things to me.
“In the last few months, as work has stabilised and I have built a competent team, this has also allowed me to focus more on the back-end of the business instead and have a more flexible schedule. With this, I am able to prioritise my time for family and self-development.”
Being productive is the core of how Ms Doan manages to balance her home and work life: “For me, the most helpful thing is to focus on upskilling myself. I do that by learning through books or interacting with seniors or mentors.
“Since we only have 24 hours in a day, I divide those 24 hours into three categories: work, family, and myself. So I spend the day at work; evenings are for the family; late at night for myself – this is when I read, study online, complete my unfinished tasks, or sometimes meet friends and expand my network.
“With my focus on the business and children, my husband and I also agreed to hire a helper to help with domestic chores,” she admits.
However, when it comes to having a family of three versus running a business, Ms Doan says that it is entirely possible to do both and do them both well.
“Many people told me that having children will hinder gaining success in my business. I find the exact opposite to be true – having children gives me greater motivation in growing my business. I am more determined, and am able to overcome challenges. My children are my strength. I feel that I am on the right track, fulfilling my business dreams and having a happy, united family.”
Check out Light Coffee and Big Care Mart, and go to Lazada for more information about the awards.
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