Cheryl Gan rebrands Mt. Sapola for European market: 'Running a business like raising a child'
For the past 10 years, Ms Cheryl Gan, owner and managing director of premium home-grown aromatherapy specialist Mt. Sapola (Singapore), has been working tirelessly to build a made-in-Singapore brand she can be proud of.
In the process, she missed out on watching her four children grow ups.
Now, the company has outlets in multiple countries, including 14 in Singapore and seven in Malaysia, as well as a local membership database of more than 25,000 consumers.
Ms Gan has decided to rebrand Mt. Sapola - which was launched here in 2007 and is known for its essential oil-based products (for home living, hairand skincare) - to HYSSES, complete with a new corporate logo, website and brand identity.
She is looking to expand into the European market, starting with London next year.
The boutiques here and in Malaysia have started undergoing renovations, and the next phase of the HYSSES roll-out will be an online store.
Ms Gan, 40, told The New Paper: "Running a business is like raising a child. So now, it is moving into a new phaseand going into secondary school to prepare for an international standard - the O levels."
On how she has maintained Mt. Sapola's success over a decade, she said: "Singapore is an extremely challenging and small market. Customers constantly grow tired of seeing the same range of products.
"We had to be creative with promotional activities and deciding which products to bundle together, and (the team) kept churning out ideas."
Ms Gan has an information technology engineering degree from the Nanyang Technological University; professional certificates in massage techniques, anatomy and physiology from The Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology; and a diploma in marketing management from the Singapore Institute of Management.
She is responsible for the company's sales and operations. She continues to wear many hats and is involved in the end-to-end management of the supply chain, and customer service and support in three countries.
The early years were especially difficult for Ms Gan, who had to be her own marketing executive and delivery person.
Even today, she is still a big part of operations, orientating new members of the expanding team of some 100 people.
Striving for perfection, Ms Gan is constantly blending new scents, improving and beautifying the products.
Naturally, her schedule is full and Ms Gan gets home after midnight almost every other night, long after her husband, three sons - aged 15, 14 and eight - and three-year-old daughter have gone to bed.
Though she feels guilty for sacrificing time with her loved ones, she understands that her employees' livelihood also rests on her shoulders.
Ms Gan said: "I have seen pictures of my friends and their families on Facebook from their year-end holidays, while I would be 'fighting' with my team in the stores...
"(But) I have this whole other family with hundreds of 'kids' and many mouths to feed. I need to take care of them too."
Thankfully, her husband, Mr Low Cheong Yew, who helped establish local DIY home improvement retail chain Home-Fixin 1993, understands the difficulties a young company experiences and gives her the space to take care of it while he handles matters at home.
Ms Gan said: "We have an unsaid compromise.
"He gets home early from work (during weekdays) without any complaints to make sure that our three (older) children study, and on the weekends I try to reserve time for the kids while he works."
Christmas is the busiest time for the business, with plans for the festive period starting as early as April and reaching its peak from October to December.
During the year-end school holidays, while other parents take time off work to go on overseas vacations with their children, Ms Gan takes her two oldest boys to work with her - either at the production line to pack boxes, or visiting the different outlets.
Both Mr Low's, 50, and Ms Gan's offices are at the Home-Fix Building in Tai Seng Avenue.
She said: "We take them to interesting places for lunch to keep them excited.
"At the same time, working at the factory allows them to learn the value of work and have some hands-on experiences."
Ms Gan added: "I feel like I have it all - a healthy family, a strong team and a brand that I know will leave behind a legacy. I am lucky."