Mompreneur Series: Annie, Part 1

Annie Neo is the founder of AnneeMatthew. To celebrate mompreneurs everywhere, we’re starting with her story of how AM came to be.

1. What were some of your first designs?

I always design clothes that I would wear. My early designs used mainly woven fabrics because they were readily available in small quantities from fabric shops. I take inspiration from overseas fashion designers because I wanted my designs to look as normal as possible (with no indication that it was nursing wear). Not able to find nice, fashionable and wearable nursing clothes that looked like normal clothes was my biggest motivation in starting the business. I reckoned that there were many nursing moms out there who wanted to dress fashionably while breastfeeding. So I set out on a mission to “change the world”, one nursing mom at a time!

2. Who were some of your greatest supporters?
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First and foremost, my family. Also because they didn’t have a choice (LOL)! My sister-in-law was a tailor. She was the one who helped me tailor my first few designs before I found a small factory in Malacca to sew for me. My husband then was my chauffeur and my children, my mini models. My mother helped with packaging and looking after the children whenever I had to do any deliveries.

Secondly, I must add that the business couldn’t have taken off had it not been for my customers. I did very little advertising so the business depended a lot on word-of-mouth. Through the years, I have had many moms who became my customers and followed me from their firstborn till now. Most of them became and have remained friends till this date.

3. What were some of your challenges?

Lack of time and energy were my greatest challenges. Being a one-woman show, there were ever so much to do, and not enough time to complete all the tasks. I had to manage the household, the children and the business. All that juggling left me dead tired at the end of the day. There were feelings of guilt for not being able to find a balance between being a mother, a wife and an entrepreneur.

Finding a suitable factory to produce my design, is next on the list. Not many factories could produce small quantities so, finding and convincing one that would, was a big challenge.

4. What was your first ‘big win’ for your business?

There was a time when I had more orders than what we could produce. It was crazy but in a good sort of way. We had to turn down some orders as a result. My first big win was when a French retailer placed a big preorder for my collection. That was the start of my overseas expansion. Subsequently, we received many overseas inquiries and continued to work with overseas retailers to fulfill their orders.

5. How did you manage your time as a mother and as a business person, what was a typical day like in the first years of your business?

I will admit that I am NOT a disciplined person! I would start something and end up doing something else. Being a neat-freak didn’t help either because I was very stressed with any sort of mess.

My typical day would be like this: I wake up when the baby wakes, which could be 6am. After feeding, I pray she would go back to sleep (which didn’t happen very often). By 7am, her brother would have woken up for school. Then, it’d be breakfast, and getting him ready for nursery school. My son & I, with my baby in a sling, would take the bus to school. After dropping him off at school, we would return home. Then, I’d prepare some early lunch for the baby. By 11am, she would take her first nap and I would start housework. There was always so much to do, as usual. From making the beds, to scrubbing the toilets. Not to mention, we have 3 cats that contributed to the mess.

By noon, my energy level would be almost at 50%. By now, the baby would have woken up from her nap and wants to play! This was usually the time when I would be checking my emails for any orders from my e-commerce shop. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. Check emails, pick orders from the storage area (I stored all my stocks in the study room), pack and play with my baby at the same time! Before you know it, it would be her second nap-time (heaven!!). This was also the time when I had to prepare dinner, before I had to bundle baby up, to pick my son from daycare by 7pm. There were days when I overshot the timing, and my poor son would be the last one to leave. I could still remember the sad look on his face when he thought that his mommy had forgotten about him!

After dinner, it was shower time and then, hopefully, bedtime. Sometimes the children start to get active just before bed. When this happens, coupled with my 10% energy level, I would burst out (laughter or anger depended on the situation). I am human, after all. Once everyone was settled in bed, I would pray for a restful night (which translates to one feed before sleep that would last till morning).

Thinking back, I could have done it differently. I could have left some the mess alone and learned to live with it. That would have saved me some energy. I could then work when the baby sleeps, instead of doing housework which made me so dead tired. My son could have taken a school bus instead. In that way, he would always be home in time and I wouldn’t have to rush to pick him up. I could have used that extra time to start on dinner instead of rushing to do both…

In our next post, Annie shares her top 10 tips for mompreneurs.

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