Debra Teoh, 30
Day job: Marketing and branding executive
Side hustle: Delta
My sister and I have always been interested in fashion and entrepreneurship and we saw a gap in the market for affordable swimwear that’s stylish – nothing too OTT – but functional. It’s a different creative outlet for me and something I can proudly call my own. So, we set aside some money and started designing swimwear that we’d actually want to wear and that’s how Delta was born!
Ricky Quak, 26
Day job: Banking Management Associate
Side hustle: The Average Joe
I started The Average Joe (TAJ) while I was in university and the inspiration came from my own experience with overpriced men’s grooming products that aren’t readily accessible. TAJ is a flexible subscription model for men’s grooming products and we currently offer hair wax and pomade at just SGD 5/8 per month.
Founding members of The Codette Project. Clockwise from the left: Muslihah Albakri, Amillin Hussain, Nurul Hussain, Atikah Amalina, Khairin Nazeera, Sarah Bagharib.
Nurul Hussain, 30
Day job: Business developer at an SME
Side hustle: The Codette Project
I work with my team of five amazing women at The Codette Project – a non-profit ground up initiative that aims to get more minority women into technology. It’s something close to my heart as I never saw anyone like me being represented as successful when I was growing up here in Singapore – only 30% of the entire tech workforce is female.
We asked them some questions on what it takes to start your own business
How do you balance your day job and your side hustle? What’s a typical day like for you?
Debra: I compartmentalise my time clearly and only work on Delta after work.
I typically spend an hour on weekday nights and half my weekend packing orders, managing inventory, planning social media content, liaising with suppliers, and brainstorming new designs.
Nurul: I get up before sunrise to pray so my day starts pretty early. The first thing I do is check on Codette’s social media feed and make sure everything is going okay. My team knows I sleep early too, so they sometimes send me things overnight to clear in the morning.
I try and make lists of the things that need to get done during the day and figure out how best to fit that into my day job. I make sure that I have updates for the different projects, and that I’ve updated the team as well. Besides mornings, my Saturdays are also reserved for The Codette Project so I try and put in a lot of work then.
Because my current work is less structured, I try to connect with more people online and focus on social media outreach instead. I’m constantly scheduling posts and reading tech articles whenever I have downtime while waiting in line or commuting.
Ricky: I draw the line between both ‘jobs’ very clearly. It is all about knowing my priorities and having the discipline to follow a somewhat fixed schedule.
If I happen to have some free time after work at night, I’ll look through the accounts of the business. On weekends, I’ll set aside some time to complete my to-do list and specific goals/targets which I’ve set out to achieve that week.
What’s a common myth about side hustles?
Debra: People think that you must be a pro at everything and spend lots of cash!
But if you start small, be agile and just keep adjusting as you go along, you’ll be just fine.
Nurul: That there’s only one way to succeed. Also, that your side hustle needs to be an actual business. There’s a lot of joy in having a side hustle that gives you meaning, on top of a day job that gives you economic stability. You don’t always have to find your true calling in your day job.
Ricky: ‘You shouldn’t start a business while you have a full-time job’. Contrary to the myth, I think that experimenting with starting a side hustle gives you valuable exposure and a chance to develop skillsets that you may not get from your job.
What’s the most difficult thing about having your own side business? What was the biggest sacrifice you had to make?
Debra: Definitely managing money and time. You have to set aside enough of both to keep the business sustainable – even if it means sacrificing parts of your lifestyle.
Nurul: I gave up watching TV and listening to music since I started working on The Codette Project, and I’m seriously trying to cut down on social media, but I’m still visiting my grandparents regularly. It sounds cheesy, but time is the most valuable thing you have to spend.
Ricky: Time. Most people look forward to Friday nights where they can take a break from work. For me, work doesn’t really stop when I knock off. Having less personal time is a sacrifice you must be prepared to make. But I believe that if you are chasing your passion in your side hustle, you’ll find yourself willingly spending time and effort on it because of the fulfillment it brings.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from your side hustle?
Debra: Acknowledge that you can’t do everything yourself and accept the imperfections. Not everything will go your way. Also, if you’re someone who wants stability and a steady income, don’t quit your day job until you feel confident enough about your business.
Nurul: Resilience. Some people have been discouraging about The Codette Project, and that can be a bit harsh, although not I’m not particularly surprised by it. It has made me commit to being encouraging to women who want to try something of their own, even if I may not really understand why. People need to understand that we aren’t all fighting for a piece of a shrinking pie. You can collectively make more pie!
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a side hustle?
Debra: Just start at a level you’re comfortable with, but you should have a strong business case, and make sure you do you research and test the market first.
Nurul: It’s hard to commit, but if you want results, you do have to just suck it up and do it. You have to take responsibility and commit to improving yourself and being on top of things. You just have to figure out how to work smarter and harder in order to get moving in the direction you want to go. It may be difficult to decide which direction to start, but just picking any and starting work is always better than not moving.
Ricky: Have a fixed routine but a flexible mindset. A fixed schedule will help you plan and prioritise better so you’ll be more productive. As an entrepreneur, you’ll also need to be able to adapt to constant changes, roadblocks and even mistakes when you first start out.