If you’re feeling inspired after reading about the foundhers we featured, we interviewed another foundher, Ashley Suelyn of The Real Planner and Purpose Skin, to share her expertise on starting a business. Read on to learn how you can take the first step, put together the right team and pitch to investors!
Ashley Suelyn is a fully-fledged multi-hyphenate. The productivity maven is the Chief Of Staff at SoCar Malaysia, a car-sharing app, the founder of The Real Planner, a social innovation firm, and the co-founder of Purpose Skin, a new skincare brand. Nope, the list doesn’t end there, on the side, as an activist, she is also on the board of advisors at Lean In Malaysia, a women empowerment program, is the president of Emerging Leaders Asia, a youth empowerment program, and on the board of advisors at Command Tech, a non-profit organization. Yup, even with all these roles, she still manages to squeeze in being a spin instructor at FlyCycle.
What is the first and most important step in starting your own business?
- Try out different things that you like.
I knew that productivity was at my core and wanted to test out how people would view me as a productivity consultant, so I hosted a paid networking event with a facilitated discussion and introduced frameworks to help people be more productive.
- Sometimes our hobbies can turn out to be our greatest assets.
Something that we love doing can end up being something we make money from because you have to love the vision. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain what The Real Planner is! You have to love and enjoy it enough to repeat the same vision, objectives and goals over and over again to different stakeholders (investors, customers, collaborators, anyone who is interested).
- Be experimental and enjoy the process!
What is something that you learned from starting The Real Planner that helped you run Purpose Skin more smoothly?
- Having co-founders is a great thing.
I’m the only founder of The Real Planner and take care of the end-to-end process in terms of business, marketing, content development and customer service. It was a great learning experience – having that autonomy and becoming your own CEO (with the input and output being entirely up to you). It created a lot of independence, but having co-founders provides a good outside perspective.
- Co-founders can compliment you and collaborate with your current skill set.
For me, the co-founders of Purpose Skin are more operationally driven – they know where to find the cheapest bottles and boxes, and one is very into graphics. Karmun, who is also our CEO, is an amazing designer who takes care of our social media, website and collaborations. I support her and Wayne with my business acumen in terms of financial projection, finding our breakeven point, and coming up with our pricing.
What has been the biggest difference between selling a product and a service?
- Products give people the liberty and autonomy on how to use it.
- Services allow you to control the customer journey experience.
With providing a service, I am able to be more inclusive – I get to ask customers questions and that communication is very valuable in terms of being an entrepreneur. Getting direct feedback from customers allows you to co-curate offerings together.
- It’s how you bundle it.
For Purpose Skin, we offer masterclasses to customers who purchase our skincare products – you buy a product and get a free service. For The Real Planner, you buy a service (coaching and consulting) and get a free product (a journal and planner).
What is something entrepreneurs tend to overlook when pitching to investors?
- The long-term vision.
Entrepreneurs try to emphasize the profit-making mechanism, which is important because it is the business model, but what are your goals and what strategies do you want to carry out in the next 5 to 10 years?
- Don’t be afraid to talk about exit strategies.
When investors evaluate whether or not they want to invest in your business, they should be able to see what kind of business it is – a cash cow or a long-term game.
How does one put together the right team?
- Find people that you trust.
- Have a shared vision.
- Find people that can do things better than you.
I recently found a Chief Marketing Officer who I want to work with – she is better at marketing than I am and understands the vision of my company. Take these three criterias into consideration when building a team because trust and relationship will help you delegate the work better.
As someone with a strong personal brand, how has that helped your businesses?
- It has to be done carefully.
I have associated so many of my start-ups and brands with my personal brand. It keeps me accountable for how I carry myself because sometimes I carry a lot of pressure.
- It boosts credibility.
Being a part of so many organisations, such as SoCar, The Real Planner, Emerging Leaders Asia, FlyCycle and Command Tech, boosts my credibility in terms of being a founder.
Last, but not least:
- Pay it forward.
Self-reflection and increasing self-awareness is amazing, but the more we invest in other people, the more we learn. Learning is amplified when we try to teach someone. For example, when you read about something new and share it with someone – you are ultimately emphasising what you’ve learned and will end up understanding it better, remembering it longer, and becoming an expert on the subject.
- See people as collaborators not competitors.
You can make your ideas better by sharing it with someone who is able to build on it. This will allow us to achieve more efficiency, quality ideas and synergy among each other.
Follow Ashley Suelyn on social media here for more advice on productivity, business and leadership!