Contrary to the belief that working for myself would allow for greater flexibility of time, I found myself working longer hours and spending less time with my children. I also had to manage the family finances more carefully due to our reduced household income.
On the business side of things, initially we found ourselves struggling to get necessary buy-ins from stakeholders, including local food producers who were unfamiliar with our company and our mission.
It was hard not to take these rejections personally, or second-guess our efforts.
Yet, as the saying goes, tough times don’t last but tough people do.
I was fortunate enough to be supported by my parents and husband, who volunteered to help out. This was an offer I was all too happy to take up, leading him to “double hat” as our logistics and operations head.
Our clients soon warmed up to us after continual engagement and now fully trust our mission and vision. I’m especially grateful to The FinLab’s Digital Mumpreneurs Programme, which I participated in earlier this year, for learning and gaining the resources to further digitise Urban Origins’ processes.
Encouraged by my first experience, I jumped at the chance to join their Sustainability Innovation Programme, to gain insight from industry experts on available resources and ways to become more eco-friendly, as a growing business.
All of this has led to where Urban Origins is today, with over 80 partner merchants, 10 local food suppliers (with a wide range of foods), four full-time staff and four interns!
Our survey tells us that over 60 per cent of Singaporeans are aware that local produce is fresher, more sustainable and that buying them contributes to the local economy. They are largely held back by the prices – local produce can cost up to 20 per cent more than imported produce.
But the prices will come down with economies of scale and more of us supporting local food. So, my team and I worked to measure and quantify the impact of our sustainable actions and find ways to make local sustainable produce even more accessible, both in terms of pricing and reach.
What struck me was the fortune of meeting more like-minded people along the way.
I am extremely grateful to the Urban Origins community that has stood behind me and banded together to pull through. We did not have to walk this path alone.
For example, I was thrilled to welcome our interns, who have given me the opportunity to work with a younger generation to make positive change. I learn something new from them every day.
Looking back, starting my business has also brought my family closer together.
As a bonus, my firstborn is now very aware of where our foods come from, having heard me and my husband discuss this topic countless times in the last year. He even offers to plant and harvest the vegetables from our little home garden!
Spending so much time together as a family on a good cause in the last two years has made us pause, reflect, and focus on what truly matters.
This journey has girded my resolve to sow the seeds of change, starting in my home, and through my business, for a better tomorrow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzanna Tang is the co-founder of the social enterprise Urban Origins, a ground-up initiative connecting communities with local urban food.