SINGAPORE – When Priya Gupta moved from Australia to Singapore, she struggled to find quality children’s products in Singapore. Priya used to bring them from Australia to Singapore in her suitcase for her family. When the suitcases got too small eventually, Priya and her business partner started lulu + moo. I had the chance to talk to Priya about her truly inspiring journey from consultant and marketing director in Australia, to being a mum in Singapore to becoming a successful entrepreneur. If you are still hesitant about starting your own business, Priya is the perfect role model to convince you that you can do it!
Priya, what is your background and how did you end up living in Singapore?
I was born and raised in Sydney. After graduating from university, I worked as a consultant at SAP for 6 years and worked as a marketing director at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. After the birth of our first child, my husband took up a job opportunity in Singapore and we have been here since then.
How did you come up with the idea of lulu + moo?
My friend Shalu (now my business partner) and I had always struggled to find quality children’s products in Singapore. Shipping them to Singapore or stuffing our suitcases with all that we needed on our trips home, was easier than buying it locally. That is where the idea originated.
How did you meet your cofounder and why did you decide to found as a team?
We met at the serviced apartment that we both lived in when we moved to Singapore, over 9 years ago. Shalu was my first friend here. We decided to work as a team because not only did we get along, each of us brought a different skill set to the table. I am very happy with the operational side of the business, such as the website, logistics, accounts etc. Shalu is creative and enjoys piecing together product lines, photography and sourcing hip and cool products.
What are the “big topics” at the moment?
Social media is a key marketing tool for small business owners. There are constant changes taking place, and sometimes it is not that easy to keep up with it all. There are always new portals and apps evolving, which requires constant focus on user-engagement – this can be critical for a small business like ours. Plus, there can be IT issues occasionally, but nothing of significance has happened as yet.
What keeps you up at night?
The quiet summer months when everyone is away on holidays is what is likely to keep me more awake… but with the business and three kids aged between 4-9, most nights, I am exhausted and sleeping is not an issue!
Can you share the happiest moments of your journey so far?
When we first launched lulu + moo, our first few customers were our loyal friends. The day we received an order from a customer that neither of us knew was a very exciting day. Seeing the different orders that come in, it is so gratifying to know that there are other people out there that like what we like!
lulu + moo was recently voted Top 3 Party Stores in Singapore by Tally Press and that was so gratifying.
We have now moved into a larger warehouse space as of early June, and are ready for the next phase of our business. The day the stock was all sorted was such a relief!
Who or what inspires you?
My 88-year-old Aunty Tess, who is also like my grandma, is incredibly inspiring. Nothing stops her. She lost two children and her husband in a space of two years. It would be easy to hide but she still gets involved in her community, travels regularly and always has the right advice from all her years of experience.
My husband Sachin is a constant source of inspiration. His drive, willingness to try new things and his ability to combine work with family, while never letting the ball drop… it is infectious and is the fuel I need in running my own business and family.
I am also inspired whenever I listen to BBC Outlook, where an episode explores everyday people doing extraordinary things.
What keeps you going on a bad day?
My kids. No matter how bad the day is, one of them always needs something. Therefore, I am often too busy to stop and think about a bad day.
What did you learn about yourself when you founded your own company?
I can do it! Being a stay at home for a number of years zapped me of confidence, but now I am back in the workforce, I have realized all those skills I acquired are still there. And there is so much more to learn and grow, it is exciting.
As a founder, you need to react and learn quickly. What was your approach when you were facing a challenge and actually did not have the skills needed to overcome it?
Reach out and ask those around you. And if they do not know how to solve the problem either, ask if they have any contacts who may be able to help. Networking is critical and being honest about what we can and cannot do and deliver. No one likes disappointment, but people appreciate honesty.
Looking back to the days when you started: was there any kind of support which you would have needed but which was not accessible?
Perhaps a course named “Running Your Own Small Business 101” would have been helpful! I think this is a journey where we learn as we go, and learn from our mistakes.
How important is digital marketing compared to offline marketing and word-of-mouth?
So important!! It is becoming more important than word-of-mouth and print media.
Priya is an Australian expat living in Singapore for the past 9 years, married with 3 kids. She runs the online store called lulu + moo. Priya loves cooking, food and describes herself as being slightly obsessed with travel.
“If I could, I would love to travel the majority of the year!”
Pictures courtesy of lulu + moo | www.luluandmo.com