From unemployment and ramen noodles to spearheading the biggest child and baby retail exhibition organiser in Singapore, Mummys Market. Wiliam Chin shares how he never lost sight of what he wanted to achieve for the future; not only for himself and his family but also for mothers and mothers-to-be.
Although he had numerous successful stints in management roles at established events and conventions companies such as IQPC, Hannover Fairs Australia and Lighthouse Independent Media. It wasn’t until he ventured out on his own that he discovered how his many skills and expertise — that once deemed him ‘overqualified’ — helped women and children lead better lives.
The New Savvy: Tell us more about your business. How did you get started in this business?
William: While working at Expomal, I built up Smartkids (another wildly successful baby and child fair), which was bought over by a bigger company. Inspired by SmartKids, I started Mummys Market in 2014 and eventually Baby Market, outperforming established names in the business to take our current place as market leader.
Mummys Market is the biggest child and baby retail exhibition organiser in Singapore, with eight oversubscribed exhibitions annually. An established brand in the parenting sector since 2014, Mummys Market’s portfolio includes Kids World and Baby Market — Singapore’s largest baby fair — serving about 70-80 per cent of pregnant mothers every year.
With over 75 per cent of the market share, Mummys Market is now the indisputable industry leader in baby and child fairs, seeing over 800,000 visitors each year. Our clients range from locally-listed SMEs to MNCs like Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline, capturing 80 per cent of local baby product distributors through our fairs.
In our early days, Mummys Market started out as a three-man team organising one fair per year. Now a team of 40, we run eight fairs a year. With participants and retailers clamouring for more, Mummys Market has established itself as Southeast Asia’s largest baby fair.
The New Savvy: Can you share some interesting statistics?
William: Here are some staggering numbers behind Mummys Market’s reach:
- Nearly S$100 million worth of products transacted on Mummys Market’s platforms annually
- Over 800,000 visitors at its eight fairs every year
- 80 per cent of Singapore’s baby product distributors in one convenient location
- 15-20 per cent year on year increase in sales volume at every baby fair since its inception
However, our actual business is in data analytics — processing valuable data from consumer fairs.
Big data analytics from Mummys Market can be applied at every stage of the retail process. For example, data segmentation insights that we derive can be useful to retailers in providing relevant content to mothers who have just given birth.
This level of personalisation is set to transform the baby fair industry. With the large volumes of data we process from our fairs, Mummys Market will be the forerunner leading this disruption. We have pioneered the way digital business in this space gather and use data. Many global online marketplaces are burning cash to achieve big data analytics — that’s not happening on our watch.
After the rise of Mummys Market, other large e-commerce marketplaces have also come up with their own online baby fairs — a testament to our success in this niche market.
With S$100 million worth of products transacted on our platforms annually, we’ve only achieved 10 per cent of our goal — establishing Mummys Market as a platform in Asia where $1 billion worth of niche market products is transacted annually.
The New Savvy: What do you love about your job?
I really love the fact that I can build a platform where all mothers, especially first-time mothers who are pregnant, are able to come down to our fair and see everything under one roof.
The atmosphere at the fair is always exciting. Discounts are everywhere, and I see customers looking happy and excited. I see customers walk around with their hands full of things they’ve bought. I see them being excited to learn about the new products we’ve brought in.
In addition to the fairs, we also invite speakers to conduct seminars for parents. Seeing them engaged and asking questions really drives me. It makes me feel like it’s all worth it because it’s really not easy to organise such huge events. I think that’s where the satisfaction comes from, all the hard work that we do preparing for the fair pays off at the fair itself.
The New Savvy: What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?
I’ve received a lot of good advice. When I was just starting out in my mid-20s, I was interviewing for a job at a large company and the interviewer who was also the CEO of the company told me this: “It’s easy to become number one. All you have to do is just copy the number one. You can copy when you’re behind, but once you’re the top, it’s all about maintaining the number one position. It’s all about innovation. That’s the hardest part.” I didn’t get the job in the end, but what he said has always stuck with me.
That quote has brought me all this way, it reminds me that even though we’re the market leader, we need to keep innovating. That’s why at Mummys Market, we’re the first in the space to focus on a balance between e-commerce and events. In particular, we’ve launched a lot of new things like pre-orders and shop listings for events.
The New Savvy: How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
Success is an ever-moving target, I think it’s more about being content. What I deem as successful may not be a success to Bill Gates or anyone else. What I personally define as success is having a job that you love and still having an adequate amount of time with your loved ones.
Success comes in many different forms, and I don‘t believe it’s dedicated to working alone. I’ve read a lot of articles about CEOs remarking that if they could live their lives over again, they would make just enough money to live, and not helm a trillion-dollar enterprise.
The New Savvy: Can you share 3 habits that you make yourself successful?
The first and most important to me would be spending time with my family. I only learnt this when I had my little girl two years ago, but it’s really about the time spent. Instead of working until midnight, I chose to go home and be part of her growing up memories.
Nowadays, I go home quite early to spend time with my wife and daughter. On weekends we take her out because I believe in creating memories or experiences with your children.
My biggest learning would be to spend time with your loved ones. As your business expands and the hours you need to put into it increase, you have to focus on what matters. Throughout these years I’ve had a very supportive partner, and this made me realise that there’s more to life than work. At Mummys Market, we work hard to deliver as much value as possible to our customers, and that’s us trying our best to give back to everyone. But on a personal level, you’ve got to give to your loved ones as well.
My other two habits or mantras are 1. Always adopt a growth mindset at work, and 2. Never give up. People are going to tell you it can’t be done, but don’t give up if you believe in what you’re trying to achieve.
The New Savvy: When have you failed? Describe this time and what you learned from your failure.
After a successful sales career, I hit a streak of unemployment and was turned down from several jobs, according to the recruiters, for being ‘overqualified’ or ‘too young’. The biggest takeaway from my failure would be what my partner told me at that time. When one door closes, another one opens.
During my down streak, I was sending out many job applications and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get a job. I even applied for jobs way below my pay grade and didn’t get those either. But when you’re down, it’s the people who are close to you who will support you all the way. My then-girlfriend, who’s now my wife, was really my pillar of support.
The New Savvy: Describe some of the toughest situations you’ve faced in this job.
When we first started Mummys Market, it was a red ocean market, and there were a lot of large clients involved. At one point there were 11 baby fair organisers putting out 18 baby fairs a year. This is as opposed to the current 11 baby fairs each year, of which the seven largest ones are by Mummys Market.
There are a lot of ups and downs that come with being in a red ocean, it really challenges you to think outside the box. Just like what I said earlier, you can copy your way up, but I don’t believe in copying. So being a new player in the market, this gave us an opportunity to change and revolutionise the industry. Back then we were just a team of three, and this mindset really drove us.
One big challenge we overcame was facing clients who were huge MNCs and getting them to trust us over more established teams. We really had to punch above our weight in a sea of bigger companies. Instead of thinking, “We’re too small, we should give up,” we thought about how to make sure people remember us, and I’m happy to say that our unique approach worked.
The New Savvy: How do you handle criticism?
I think there are two forms of criticism. The first is when someone doesn’t believe in what you’re doing, which is why they criticise you. The second type is when they’re right and you’re wrong, and that’s why they criticise you.
I think the second type is great. If people criticise me and it’s because I’ve done something wrong, I’ll learn from it. I’m very open to constructive criticism because I think that’s the best and fastest way to improve. I also encourage this kind of open feedback in the Mummys Market team, everyone should agree to disagree. I think this is an important culture to develop in a company because that contributes to a growth mindset. If everyone is just agreeing with everybody, no one is really brainstorming and the company won’t grow.
That being said, you can’t be affected by every single piece of criticism that comes your way. You take in the information and you analyse it. Does it make sense? If it makes sense, then learn from it. If it doesn’t, let it roll off your back and move on.
The New Savvy: What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
In my own time, I’m always reading through online apps online such as Quora or Medium that pose a lot of good questions and opinions by smart people around the world.
I also enjoy watching Shark Tank on Youtube for the business models that come up, and it’s quite an interesting show because it’s dramatic but there’s also a lot of knowledge to be gleaned from there. That’s my routine before I go to bed every night.
During the day at work, my door’s always open. The team is pretty self-run, so I’m more of a mentor to the company right now. My focus is on growing the managers and looking at how to expand the business further outside of daily operations.
The New Savvy: How well did your college/university experience prepare you for this job?
I was always a ‘just-passed’ student, barely scraping through everything. I wouldn’t say I made my parents very proud in terms of results, but I still graduated with a computer science degree!
Education gives you a good foundation and a generic view of the world. Studying computer science really helped me to develop process-oriented thinking. In the world of programming, you have to be very logical in your thought processes, so that really influenced me.
Beyond an education, real-world experience takes you a long way. In the real world, there’s no instruction manual because you’re dealing with people, not an exam or test. School starts you on off on the right foot, but the real skills come from when you work hard to understand the world. In school, you have the chapters planned out for you, but at work and in real life, sometimes you’re always stuck at chapter one because you don’t force yourself to move to the next chapter.
The New Savvy: What systems have you set in place to help your business grow?
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m more like a mentor to the teams now. As for systems, I have an open-door policy and encourage criticism and feedback. Establishing that everyone is driving towards the same goal is a priority for me, as this growth mindset helps me and the team continuously improve the fairs to deliver the best value to our customers.
The New Savvy: What are your top financial priorities and how do you go about planning for them?
The top priority for me and the Mummys Market team has been and always will be delivering the best value to our customers, the eager parents who attend our fairs. We will always strive to build the biggest platform where they can find everything under one roof.
The New Savvy: Any advice for our readers on how to improve their financial wellness?
Read widely and you will naturally become more knowledgeable. Will Smith said this: “The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and say, ‘Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.’ You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know how to not quit when things get hard in your life.
For reading: there have been gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There’s no new problem you could have — with your parents, with school, with a bully. There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about it in a book.”
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