You have been hustling hard for some time now, and you wonder if you should quit your full-time job and instead, focus on your side hustle or freelance gig. After all, the initial intention for starting a side hustle was perhaps to earn additional income whilst doing something you enjoy. However, it has reached a point where the juggling act can no longer be sustained because there are simply too many pins to juggle with and there’s only one you!
Deciding when to leave your full-time job and go all in on your side hustle or freelance gig in Singapore should not be made on a whim. In fact, many entrepreneurs and businesses fail because they lacked a business plan, have no clear direction, or do not how to manage their cashflow. You can read more about this here.
We caught up with Suffian Samat aka Ian Sam, 28 and Eshton Chua, 27, who turned their side hustle into their dream jobs in May this year. They have been part of the flourishing gig economy in Singapore for some time before they founded Syne Studio (Syne) back in early 2020. Syne is a fashion label that restores old fabrics from Japan and recreates them into kimonos and other lifestyle products. The premise behind repurposing ‘old things’ was, in their way, a protest against the overwhelming wastage issue generated by the fast fashion industry today. How they got together and started their Syne journey was serendipitous. They had met at a footwear design competition by Taf.tc in 2018 where Ian Sam came in first whilst Eshton, placed second. After the competition, they went on to train together for three months. That experience gave them the opportunity to discover that they not only worked well together and had complementing skills, but they also shared a common love for art and design. After several more project collaborations, Syne was launched.
Did they ditch their full-time jobs and jump right into Syne after they started it? No. The young seamsters had the sensibilities about them not to as that would have been suicidal from a financial standpoint. They were careful and strategic with their business plan. They knew to focus on brand-building and acquiring a clientele and a following for their products at the start; to test and determine if they had a place in the market which they did on the side while juggling work full-time. They committed their weekends and days off to testing and experimenting on their creations and showcasing their products at fleas. In their words, “Falling in love with an idea and believing that others would love something you do is really easy and tempting, but logically, we wanted to have the confidence to know that it could be something sustainable as a full-time job before we jumped into the deep end.”
So how did they know when to quit their full-time jobs to focus on Syne? There was naturally the initial fear of instability that came with giving up job security and steady income flow. However, they had been hustling for over a year and had established good connections and partnerships with a few reputable brands. They were by then generating a steady revenue flow with Syne which meant there was demand for their products. These factors, along with the little wins such as gaining new projects bolstered their confidence to forge something on their own.
Even then, making the switch may still seem like a gutsy move – what if things do not work out the way they envisioned it to? Sure, they thought about it constantly, if they had made the right decision to leap. However, Ian Sam and Eshton are two very astute individuals who are determined to succeed in their passion. They went into self-employment with their eyes wide open. They made sure to have the financial ability to sustain the business operations for at least a year and adopted a business model that generated revenue from two different streams – business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C). This model allows them to flexibly pivot to where the work was better at any point in time, when necessary.
Venturing out on your own is never easy. In fact, many small businesses fail within the first year. There will be obstacles. In their case, they struggle with the low perceived value Singaporeans have for pre-loved or used clothing and fabrics. Most have yet to buy into the idea of paying a premium for the artisanal effort that goes into restoring and transforming old clothing or fabrics into “new” ones. Despite that, Ian Sam and Eshton choose to press on and focus on working with like-minded individuals and companies that not only share the same values as they do, but also appreciate the work that they do.
“You truly are the person that can make or break your business. As a start-up business, you are everything in the business, especially when it is just beginning. It definitely isn’t easy, and often it means sacrificing a lot of hours, but that is because, you are essentially the company you have started. Getting up each day and feeling the drive to make things happen for your brand, fuels that same passion that got us to begin on this journey in the first place,” they said when asked what they enjoyed most about going down this path.
Ian Sam and Eshton are indeed the epitome of start-up entrepreneurs – visionary, self-motivated, hard-working and disciplined. They know that the toiling, suffering and setbacks that they encounter today will all be worth their while in the future when they look back on how far they have come.
From Ian Sam and Eshton to anyone thinking of making that switch to self-employment, “Trust your guts and never let anything or anyone stop you from doing what you want to do. However, it’s important for you to plan out your own finance for the next one year as it is going to be very tough. Fret not, it will get better as the day goes by. Working for yourself means that you have to do everything on your own for the time being. You are your own staff doing the website, the social media, customer service, production, packing and sometimes even delivery!”