Conventional wisdom dictates that one should keep work and life separate. A modern way of putting it is “Don’t shit where you eat”, because things can get really ugly.
“We haven’t found a way to separate business life and family life. Whenever we quarrel about business, I’ll still be upset even when we’re at home.”
“Business and personal life are… kind of like the same thing now,” Desmond declared.
“We haven’t found a way to separate business life and family life,” Belinda added, “Whenever we quarrel about business, I’ll still be upset even when we’re at home.”
Being in the business scene for four years, Desmond and Belinda learnt more than just business; they learnt more about themselves and each other.
Tired of civil service
Desmond and Belinda worked in the civil service before embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.
“We wanted jobs that are stable and can help us survive,” Desmond said, “but I wasn’t happy when I was in service. I just didn’t see how I can keep doing whatever I was doing even when I’m in my 40s and 50s.”
For Belinda, it was a combination of work and family. “Work was hectic, but I loved what I was doing. But as the management changed, I was rotated to doing other work that I didn’t enjoy. Furthermore, I was often working seven days a week, even after giving birth to my girl, Emma. I didn’t have time for her.”
1, 2, 3 JUMP!
“Many of our friends told us that one of us should stay put while the other figure things out first, but neither of us wanted to be the one staying put, so we decided to quit at the same time together.”
Coincidentally, both husband and wife voiced their desire to quit their jobs at the same time.
“Many of our friends told us that one of us should stay put while the other figure things out first, but neither of us wanted to be the one staying put, so we decided to quit at the same time together,” Belinda tittered.
The birth of Tiny Photo
There was no photo booth company in Singapore when the couple got married in 2008, and Desmond really loved the idea after he encountered them overseas and he wanted it for their wedding.
“We got an office inkjet printer, got our friends to sit in front of the photographer and take some photos. Everyone had lots of fun,” Belinda recalled.
Desmond enjoyed that experience and wished to bring fun to events, and that was “the only idea we have anyway”, so they decided on setting up a photo booth company.
Business isn’t what they thought it was
Many people believe that running a business means more time for themselves, which the couple quickly found out that it’s a myth.
“There’s much more at stake. If we don’t take action, there’s no income. I needed to get out there, push sales, identify problems and solve them no matter what it takes.”
“We thought that we’d have more time for Emma, but it turned out to be worse!” Desmond laughed, “I’m spending more time doing more work than back when I was still with the force. Our odd working hours also mean that we work till late and by the time we get home, Emma would be asleep.”
“But we try to make up to her during weekday afternoons or weekends if there are no events, so in a way, it’s okay because time is more flexible?” Belinda chipped in.
“There are fewer people on weekdays too,” Desmond added.
Inexperienced and naive
Just like every other new business owner, they had their own optimistic impression of how their business was going to turn out.
“We thought that as long as everything is quality and we have good service, people will come and spread the word for us. Our inexperience and naivety made our startup even more unstable. The flow of customers wasn’t constant. There were even months when we didn’t have a single customer,” Desmond recalled.
Business a source of friction
The shortage of business put the couple on their toes, and sometimes on edge.
“I used to be more casual, and being in the military, I just needed to follow instructions. But after getting into the business world, I realise it doesn’t work like this anymore. There’s much more at stake. If we don’t take action, there’s no income. I needed to get out there, push sales, identify problems and solve them no matter what it takes,” Desmond said.
“Generally, it’s the difference between our risk appetite and the way we handle business matters that are the reasons behind our arguments.”
“The struggle is real. Every month we look at our sales and expenses, we go ‘oh my God’ and start to worry, especially when we have Emma as well,” Belinda added.
“I’m a go-getter, but Belinda is more careful. I don’t believe that there’s a problem that cannot be solved. So I tend to push her to think of a solution, instead of just objecting to an idea.”
“Desmond thinks faster. I object quickly, but I need time to process and think of a solution. And because I can’t think fast enough, he gets frustrated, and we start to argue. Generally, it’s the difference between our risk appetite and the way we handle business matters that are the reasons behind our arguments.”
Keeping their eyes on what’s most important: Family
Despite the occasional arguments, Desmond and Belinda realised that what holds them together is family and some compromise is needed.
“Now I learn to think faster,” Belinda laughed.
“I know that whatever we do, be it making business decisions or quarrelling, we’ll be doing it for the sake of the family.”
“I think communication is much better now. I try to be more patient and give her time to think,” Desmond added.
“I think the most important thing is to share the same goal. Recently we played a card game: the cards have words on it. We had to pick out words that are important to us and rank them in order of importance. Coincidentally or not, both of our top priority is family. We’re in sync. I know that whatever we do, be it making business decisions or quarrelling, we’ll be doing it for the sake of the family.”
“Also, have some me-time. Have your own life, don’t do everything together, because you’re facing each other almost 24-7. Deliberately hang out with other friends and take a breather.”
“I’m quite happy when I go out,” says Belinda.
Looking for a photo booth for your next big event? Check out Tiny Photo’s portfolio.
Photos by Tiny Photo
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