Company founders Natasha Cullen and Rebecca (Bex) Aldridge are all about supporting women who are pregnant in Singapore (or postnatal), and share their essential business advice for aspiring mamapreneurs
Have you been considering a career change, or trying to figure out how to re-enter the workforce on your own terms? Our series Wise Words from Mamapreneurs aims to shine the spotlight on women in Singapore who’ve started their own businesses. Each month we’ll meet two mamas from different backgrounds, each of whom is successfully hustling in the Little Red Dot and living her dreams. Please join us in supporting these mama-led businesses, and read on to let their wisdom, experience, and hard work inspire you!
This month we meet two mamas who’ve dedicated their careers to helping pregnant and postnatal mamas. Mother of two Natasha Cullen is a British Senior Midwife who founded Beloved Bumps, which provides antenatal classes, postnatal support, first aid training and much more to pregnant couples, new parents, helpers and everyone in between who’s wrapping their head around having a baby in Singapore!
Rebecca (Bex) Aldridge is a super sporty mama who’s an experienced physiotherapist and fitness trainer (with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal fitness). After founding a successful physio and mobile fitness business in her native UK, she replicated the model when she moved here to Singapore, founding Health2u to provide on-demand physiotherapy, fitness training and even massage to clients. Since giving birth to her daughter Aria she’s branched out to Health2mama, which has a particular focus on serving both pregnant and postnatal mamas (because we all know how difficult it can be getting out of the house once bub arrives!).
Read on for some fab mama wisdom, and click here to check out past features!
Give us the elevator pitch for your business:
Beloved Bumps provides prenatal and postnatal services to couples in Singapore. The prenatal classes are designed to be fun, interactive, informative, unbiased and social. We are known for being social and creating a ‘family’ of couples who are all due around the same time as each other, and we host both pre- and postnatal events.
When I became a new mum myself I started Health2mama because I realised mums in Singapore needed to have easy access to health services in the comfort of their own homes, both during pregnancy and after birth. The services available – including ‘breastfeeding relief, prenatal and postnatal physio & massage, pelvic floor strengthening, diastasis recti healing and pregnancy/postnatal exercise – are provided by physios and can help revitalize mums and give them relief, and also help them feel better about themselves. We also have a clinic at Telok Ayer for mums who prefer a clinic.
Tell us about your background and what led you to create this business? What made you the right person for the job?
I qualified as a physio back in 2002 and with an interest in sports went on to complete a Masters in Advanced Sports Physio. In 2007 I set up Physiocomestoyou in London, offering home physio to benefit people recovering from surgery, with neurological problems, the elderly, new mums, and those just short on time. This company is still running and I set up a similar company here called Health2u after moving to Singapore to join my husband. Health2u also offers Health & Wellness services including exercise training and massage. Having my daughter Aria led to the start of Health2mama two years ago, as I wanted to focus on making it easy for mums to have physio, massage and exercise training during pregnancy and after birth in the comfort of their own home. All the staff physios (both expat and local) are experienced in working with mums to ensure a mama feels she’s in safe hands.
I was a Senior Midwife in London before moving to Singapore in 2017. On arrival I looked into working on a labour ward, but found that midwifery here is very different from the UK. I had a 2-month-old at the time and when I was attending baby classes, I realized that there weren’t many people who had met during their antenatal classes; this baffled me as in the UK it is well known to attend something like NCT classes where you ‘pay for friends’ – even I did them! So I set up Beloved Bumps to provide not only modern, up to date, and unbiased information, but also to create a social network for couples in Singapore who have babies of a similar age.
What were some early setbacks and challenges to getting your business up and running?
The paperwork – a lot of people are under the impression you can’t set up a business on a Dependents Pass (which I was on at the time), so I had to find people who could help me! And then it was marketing – a lot of this in Singapore is word of mouth so I had to build this up over time and market to the right people. I had only been a midwife before so this was a learning curve for me to learn how to do everything from developing a website and marketing, to HR and customer service!
Setting up a company on a Dependent’s Pass was difficult in the beginning as it took a while to find the right people to help with the process. An ongoing challenge is recruitment both of local physios (who are very in-demand) and of expat physios (who are required to sit an exam and be supervised working for 2 years).
Did you work with a mentor or network while you were setting up your business?
I set up Physiocomestoyou in London in 2007. It’s a very similar concept and still running so I’ve learnt a lot over the past 12 years and have developed a good backend team that manages my website, social, SEO and IT. My husband, who also runs his own business, is a mentor. Although our businesses are very different there are a lot of similar elements that we can discuss (often over a glass of wine) and advise each other on. Running a business does come with its own stresses and worries, so it helps to be married to someone who fully understands these. With networks I find that the posts within chats on Facebook and Whatsapp groups can help keep you in the know about what’s happening out there.
No I didn’t initially– its quite an unusual business as we have customers who don’t necessarily return, as most pregnant women tend to do these classes in their first pregnancy, so I didn’t know where to go to. I spoke frequently with a friend who runs a business here, but otherwise I was learning on the job! I then had a fabulous woman called Breanne come on board, and she has helped me grow Beloved Bumps to where it is today!
What is the best part of running this business?…And what is the worst part?
Best part is being my own boss and having the flexibility to attend kids’ concerts etc, and also being around for them after school. I love meeting all the couples that come on our course and watching them go from prenatal couples to amazing parents – that is a privilege! Worst par: the admin! Doing the accounts, the people management, and all the boring paperwork.
Being a business that helps people feel better has a daily feel-good factor with it. The flexibility is a major plus to running this business. I also love being able to adjust any part of the business to make it work better immediately without delay, and the challenge of finding ways to work around obstacles helps to make work life interesting and stops it from feeling repetitive. The worst parts are losing good employees as they are rarely around forever, particularly with the transient life of Singapore, and the ongoing admin which can feel never-ending at times. Hence why it’s important to find a good administrative person asap to help keep this under control.
How does being a parent affect your job? (forces you to be more disciplined with time, creates lots of mom guilt, provides constant motivation and inspiration, etc…)
Mums are now the main target market of Health2u (hence Health2mama) and becoming a mum for the first time only 20 months ago has helped to shape the business, from seeing what a mother needs, to also having ready access to ideas and feedback from other mums.
Having a C-section or breastfeeding difficulties, getting around with a car seat and pram etc makes it difficult to attend appointments. It was obvious that to have therapists come to mums at home for massage, physio, breastfeeding relief and exercise training would make life a lot easier.
For me, spending a few hours away from Aria at work makes me more excited about spending time with her. Knowing that you want to spend the afternoon with your child helps to motivate you to focus when working so you can then relax and enjoy time with them. Aria always manages to bring out a smile and helps to keep me grounded, particularly if stressful things have happened at work.
I am much more disciplined with my time – being a mother has made me very efficient as I want to get my work done by the time they have finished school so I can get home to them! It does create mum guilt though, as sometimes I have to work evenings and weekends, and leave sporadically at times as well if a client needs an urgent visit. However I hope that my boys one day will be inspired by the fact their mum has set up an grown a successful business, so that is definitely motivating!
What can you share with our Sassy Mamas who aspire to start a business?
Firstly, don’t give up. It is sometimes hard in the first year or so to keep motivated and not question whether it is going to work or not – you often think of excuses not to do it, but keep going, and have someone who pushes you!
Be prepared to work hard – it becomes a full time, 24/7 job. It is hard to switch off, it is hard to take holiday, it is hard to initially work out some kind of work life balance, so don’t expect it to all be easy and grow on its own!
Believe in your brand and stick up for it – no one knows your business better than you do, so don’t be distracted by what competitors are doing – they can copy you all they like but if it is not their brand, and its not their ideas, they will never execute it better than you! So stick to what you do best and do it! Good luck!
Having an idea and developing and expanding on it is exciting. Choosing a name and logo, building the website, and renovating a workspace to encapsulate your ideas is the easy part. Many see having their own business as ‘very romantic idea’ without realising the time, effort and costs that can be involved. Before starting a business you need to work out if you really have the time to continue the motivation for quite a long time. At the beginning building a business is very hard work and will more often than not involve evenings and weekends and can eat into family time. Unlike a salaried job it can be hard to never really switch off. If you feel that you have the motivation to keep at it then the hard work is definitely worth it, especially if you can turn the business into something that runs with just a few hours a day work from yourself.
It is almost impossible now to set up as a sole proprietor as an expat. Do get the help of a good company (I used Prestige) who can help you set up your own company. The costs involved in setting up can include ‘Local directorship fee’, secretary fee, postal address fee, company initiation fee and then the accounting fees at the end of the year.
Give us your snappy rapid-fire advice (up to 3) relating to…
- Natasha: 1. As soon as you think of something that needs doing, write it down! I use ’to do’ which is hugely satisfying as when I have done a job I can tick it off. It’s normally a random mix of little jobs, but if I don’t write it down then I will forget.
2. Book in time for self care: I set aside one hour almost every day to go to the gym, meet a friend for a coffee, or just wander around the shops! It’s my downtime that I need, otherwise I don’t switch off.
- Rebecca: 1) Choose a productivity app like Wunderlist or todoist and have it available on your laptop, desktop, tablet and smartphone – having it everywhere helps you keep track of eliminating tasks, prioritising tasks and adding new ones as you need to. 2) Learn to delegate – This was the biggest learning curve I faced when building my company in London; it is easy to feel that no one can do the job as well as you so you may as well do it yourself. It takes time and patience to train another person to take over your tasks to the standard you’d like, but once you’ve succeeded it’s amazing how much you’re freed up to do other things. Only then can you start working at building the business. 3) Get proficient with online programmes – Client Management Systems, accounting programmes like Xero – find out from other businesses programmes they use,
- Rebecca: 1. Have business cards/brochures on you all the time – some tucked away in your handbag, sports bag, purse, kiddo’s daybag etc. You never know when you’ll come across someone who may be interested in the services or product you provide. Recognising others’ needs in an informal environment (i.e. social gatherings, kids’ events) is a nicer and more enjoyable way of gaining new clients rather than having to cold sell. 2. Join relevant facebook groups who have target audiences for your service and product, and keep tabs on posts that you may be able to advise on. Most groups are very anti ‘selling’ your product/service directly, but being an advisor on general things helps to get your name out there and is a chance to show off your expertise.
- Natasha: Network amongst people in your industry, or in one where there is a common interest. There are a lot of networking events on, so choose them wisely, otherwise you are wasting time and energy. For my business, attending big networking events isn’t as important as meeting people one-on-one, so decide if it is right for your business and what you are trying to achieve.
- Natasha: I make sure I have times where I leave my phone in another room and focus on my kids and family. When I first started out it was so easy to answer messages or emails within the minute, but it meant that my work life balance tipped the wrong way. I now set out a daily timetable with strict times for work, self care, and time with the kids as when I was doing it all at once I felt really overwhelmed! I also don’t feel guilty about the self care part – it helps make you a calmer and more patient parent, and detach from work stress, too.
- Rebecca: 1. Work SMART rather than HARD. This is something I learned – and am still learning – from my husband. This skill becomes even more important as a working mum. Keep your ‘To Do’ tasks prioritised and only focus on the 3-5 most urgent important tasks of the day. Once these are done then you can move on to the less critical tasks. As long as the important tasks are completed this will then help you to relax and enjoy the time you have left in the day with your family. 2. Block out daily time for being with your children. Add it into your diary or task list and give it a timescale if that helps. 3. Stop trying to multitask. This is an area I’ve had to work hard at changing and am still working at. Women in particular pride themselves in being able to multitask. People can’t multitask effectively — the brain is actually struggling. Try and focus on one task – e.g. making sure the room is quiet and getting the work task done well – or spend an hour with your child fully paying attention to them rather than trying to talk to them while also typing an email
- Rebecca: 1. ‘Mum Guilt’ – There will be times that you have to put yourself or work first, and that is ok. Some mums feel they just cannot stay at home with the kids and that work is something they need. Other mums feel that they should and want to stay at home with their children and not work. Whatever you choose, just believe in your choices and keep a personal boundary and ignore comments that make you feel bad. 2. If you feel that you are missing out on moments when you are working ask the person who looks after your child to frequently send photos and videos of what they are up to. It will bring many smiles. 3. Rental Cost – It is high in Singapore. If possible it’s best to start in a co-working space before taking on the contract and costs of your own office/studio.
- Natasha:Challenges help your company to grow, they help you to learn, and they keep you on your toes! When you overcome the challenge you feel amazing; don’t let them get you down or distract you. Spend some time on working on where things went off track, and brainstorm about different ideas and how to get back on the same track, or you may decide that its time for something new. Don’t be afraid! Life would be boring if everything was easy!
Get $30 off the cost of a trial session with Health2Mama ($120 instead of the U.P. $150) for Pregnancy Personal Training, Postnatal Exercise Training, a 45-minute Prenatal or Postnatal Massage, or a Diastasis Recti Healing session. Visit www.health2u.sg/health2mama and mention Sassy Mama when you book!