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Gen Y Speaks: I quit my full-time job amid Covid-19 to start my own company

I worked in a couple of startups, most notably TheSmartLocal and Vulcan Post, for over four years before deciding in 2020 to leave and start my own company, Strongsilvers, a tech start-up that provides marketing services for the silver generation by the silver generation.

Mr Zavier Chan, 28, is co-founder of Strongsilvers, a tech start-up that provides marketing services for the Silver Generation.

Mr Zavier Chan, 28, is co-founder of Strongsilvers, a tech start-up that provides marketing services for the Silver Generation.

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I worked in a couple of startups, most notably TheSmartLocal and Vulcan Post, for over four years before deciding in 2020 to leave and start my own company, Strongsilvers, a tech start-up that provides marketing services for the silver generation by the silver generation.

Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated with technology and business and have a keen interest in creating and selling things.

Growing up, I realised that I have a knack for sales, be it as a door-to-door ice-cream salesman or in selling music CDs that I burned to my friends, or running a food cart offering tze char dishes at various institutes of higher learning.

In 2017, after completing a diploma in business in information technology and my National Service, I decided to enrol into the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) part-time degree programme in marketing as I could work full-time to pay for my studies.

Many people questioned this decision to pursue the harder path, but I had a plan in mind — which was to efficiently gain real-life experience and apply academic knowledge at the same time while paying off my student loan.

My time at SUSS further encouraged me to grow and think of various business ideas.

My first taste of entrepreneurship was when I pitched a business idea to prevent underage smoking using artificial intelligence and face recognition technology, which won the first prize at an international pitching competition.

That opened my eyes to how big the startup ecosystem is and what kind of possibilities are out there.

Seeing the knowledge gap that I still had, I decided to find a job that landed me in The Smart Local, a lifestyle publisher, as a content strategist.

My job was to pitch content strategies to companies for paid partnerships.

I gained many precious experiences from handling customers, managing accounts, creating new sales opportunities and learning how I would run my team better in the future.

After completing my degree, it was a financial burden off my chest and that was when I thought about what I truly wanted to do, which was to start a business.

Some would think the timing couldn’t be any worse due to the pandemic.

My family was quite shocked when I decided to leave a stable job at the end of 2020. But after I shared my plans for the next two years, they understood that I was not jumping into this without thought. 

My plan was to tap on new initiatives to support entrepreneurs, including the SGUnited Venture Builder Traineeship Programme by Enterprise Singapore and Workforce Singapore, as well as the Alibaba Cloud-SUSS entrepreneurship programme.

As a founder, these accelerator programmes helped me in various ways.

First, they provided me with a stipend to ease some financial stress from leaving a full-time job. Secondly, they allowed me to connect with like-minded founders and industry experts who could provide useful advice, leads and ideas.

It was through the venture builder programme that I met co-founders of my business, and that’s how Strongsilvers was born.

I was inspired to start a business for seniors as I saw a market opportunity for this segment. However, things were not simple as we faced many challenges along the way that caused us to change course multiple times.

We initially created a job portal for the silver generation, but despite some traction, we quickly switched strategy as it was hard to source jobs that were suitable for the seniors.

We moved on to just listing social media jobs but faced many difficulties in onboarding users.

In each adaptation, we had to give up whatever we had done and move on. This is something common in startups as opposed to a traditional business, but it is annoying when it comes to explaining this concept to our friends and family.

The author (far right) with his SUSS schoolmates at an international business pitching competition in Shenzhen, China, in 2018. They won first prize for a business idea to prevent underage smoking using artificial intelligence and face recognition technology.

One of the more painful instances was when we missed out on a sizeable deal because of an administrative matter with our bank. The deal would have meant a healthy growth rate and provided us with cash flow which would have helped us in raising more funds.

All is not lost though as we have gained a lot of valuable data and experiences which has helped us get to where we are today — a platform that provides free product samples to seniors in exchange for their social presence.

Brands would receive social media shoutouts from their loyal customers while our users would receive free products that they love.

Strongsilvers earns money by charging these companies to be featured on our platform. We are profitable now and currently have five interns helping us out.

Thankfully, we also received funding from Enterprise Singapore under the Startup SG Founder grant scheme worth S$50,000 and recently won another S$10,000 from a hackathon organised by SUSS and DBS Bank. We also have acquired hundreds of users as well as a few big-name corporate clients.

These small wins have validated my vision that there is a huge opportunity here in Singapore to create businesses catered for the senior segment.

The short-term goal is to acquire a few more brands onto our platform by the first quarter of 2022 and use that momentum to acquire more users.

The longer-term goal is to sell the business and move on to creating another startup as a serial entrepreneur.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Zavier Chan Jing Ze, 28, is co-founder of Strongsilvers, a tech start-up that provides marketing services for the Silver Generation. He graduated with a marketing degree from the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

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