This week on FEW Members' Corner, we would like to introduce you to Clara Teo, Founder of Sunday Bedding, a direct to consumer e-commerce bedding brand that aims to help you pair your sleep habits with the right bedding fabric.
Hello Clara, can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey?
Together with my partner, Alex, we launched Sunday Bedding towards the end of 2018. I must confess that I am a bit of a ‘job-hopper’ so I haven’t had a very typical career journey! I started off as a strategy consultant with Deloitte Consulting before joining the corporate strategy team at InterContinental Hotels Groups. I felt a little lost and did not see myself being a career consultant so I enrolled in the MBA program at the Columbia Business School where I dabbled in everything from Wall Street finance to e-commerce for a fashion designer. Throughout my time in New York, I found myself drawn to e-commerce and eventually found myself in Seattle working for Amazon Consumer Finance. I eventually had to move back to Singapore for personal reasons and pivoted completely into helping grow a new Data Analytics team with Zuellig Pharma, a healthcare distribution company. Looking back, I think my broad experiences across various industries and business functions have enabled me to connect the dots and work with different stakeholders easily.
What inspired you to start your company?
It started when my partner Alex and I were shopping for our new home and we realized that as consumers, it was easy to get lost in the jargon like ‘threadcount’ or ‘weave’ without really understanding how this affects sleep. Sleep is also something that is so personal and as a couple, we have completely different sleep preferences. Combining his expertise in home textiles and my interest in building an e-commerce brand, we launched Sunday Bedding with the hopes of becoming everyone’s sleep sommelier.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
Building a good brand is a combination of art and science. Given my background, being analytical is something that I am comfortable with but cultivating brand love is so much more than that! I have never had huge exposure to the creative side of the business so finding and managing good creative partners has been a challenge for me. I’m fortunate to have found an amazing marketing team who can articulate our brand vision, but finding the right partners can definitely be challenging at first.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
On growing teams
Keep teams vested in the business and your vision as it gives everyone a sense of purpose. Also recognize that when someone joins your team, he/she is placing their career development in your hands. Very often, employees leave not because of the lack of salary, but the lack of a sense of purpose and the opportunity to develop their careers. Finally, lead by example!
On running a business
Learn to embrace imperfections and realize that you can’t do it all! Prior to running a business, I always wanted things to be executed in a certain way. What I’ve realized is that it’s more important to balance the need for perfection, with speed to market. It is far more efficient to launch something that may not be 100% perfect, get customer feedback and iterate – rather than stress out about not delivering an output that is not exactly what you envisioned.
On building credibility and trust
I err on the side of over-communicating and being responsive. I appreciate it when my partners provide me with clear milestones and communication, so I strive to do the same with my stakeholders as well. I have a policy of replying our end customers within 12 hours, and business partners within a day. With the digital age, I think everyone expects a response quicker than ever.
On the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business
Consider whether a life of endless multi-tasking is something you want to embrace! My hours are more flexible but it also means weekend work or late night meetings.
Be prepared to be hands-on with every operational and unglamorous aspect of the business. Since launch, I’ve been a retail sales person, customer service agent, goods packer and a photoshoot assistant, amongst others.
Be prepared to handle the stress of being a business owner. Unlike a corporate job, your business will constantly be on your mind and it can be difficult to disengage from your work.