by Rachel Tan (Rachel)
My entrepreneurial journey only truly began when I reached university. Before that, I spent a good few years believing that walking around in a power suit on the 20th floor of a reputable MNC would be perfect for me. I carried this belief all the way to SMU where unsurprisingly, a hundred others shared the same dream. It was only after I got roped into running a student café that I had a change of heart.
Till today, I’m not entirely sure why I agreed to join the team of five students. With almost zero knowledge on running a business in the F&B industry, the five of us put together a hefty business plan, sourced for suppliers, got down on hands and knees to clean/wipe/mop/scour, and stayed over many a night trying to build a restaurant. Previous notions I carried of a restaurateur flitting around socializing with customers quickly disintegrated as I found myself night after night unclogging the sink with my bare hands and scraping curdled sauce off plates (bootstrapping meant the manager had to be dishwasher, cashier and cook all at once) . One important lesson I learned in the first week of operations: Being an entrepreneur is not glamorous.
Aside from the few friends I lost due to the new ‘hawker centre’ fragrance I fast developed, the Screme experience was the turning point for me. Everyday at the café was something different- new problems to solve, new customers to please. There is something extremely satisfying in watching what you’ve cultivated grow from strength to strength. Hence after reevaluating my life goals, I finally decided to drop my Marketing major and take up Entrepreneurship instead.
From then on, I sought to learn as much as I could before I left the safety net of the school. My first ever class in entrepreneurship, Technological Entrepreneurship, taught me two important lessons that I hope to share:
1) Expand your horizons
Prior to the module, I never considered venturing into anything other than a brick-and-mortar type business. I am admittedly not IT-savvy, and the thought of venturing into an Internet business is far out of my comfort zone. However, through the TE class, I learned that the Internet is an unstoppable force, and that once you learn to harness its ability, the world becomes your market. I learned that keeping within my zone of comfort will only limit my ideas and perspective, and that, I am sure, is not beneficial to any entrepreneur.
2) Ideas are everywhere. It’s how you work it.
From a bunch of clueless kids bumming in class (apologies to the more experienced of us.. I don’t mean to call you clueless), we sure did come up with some great businesses at the end! I found myself thinking “HEY THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE GOOD” after each business idea presentation, which led me to my own personal revelation that every idea has potential; it’s the development process that makes or breaks it. I learned that you should have faith in your idea, but be receptive to changes along the way. Who knows, it might end up a better version of it’s original self.
Do I see myself as an entrepreneur now? No, not yet. I’m still too inexperienced, too shy and too afraid of risk. It is in the remaining years of my SMU life that I hope to develop the right characteristics for it, and the TE module is a stepping-stone towards that. To all budding entrepreneurs out there, good luck and don’t stop trying!