Taking the Leap of Entrepreneurship, Crystal Koh

This is part four of our mentor interview series for GITxFB Startup Success Factors Bootcamp 2017. To get a chance to learn from these successful entrepreneurs and veteren industry leaders, sign up here. Application ends today! 

Part one: Be inspired by Delegate Co-founders, Melissa Lou and Jacqueline Ye

Part two: Ensuring Top-Notch User Experience at Uber, Maita Gaerlan

Part three: Finding Your Ikigai with Spinta Co-founder Ketki Sen

For aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of making that grand leap, this can often feel like jumping off a steep cliff with a non-existent parachute. A million questions can often go through one’s mind while making this decision – is my idea any good? How long can I live off my savings? What if I don’t succeed?

Despite the initial challenges, following your passion and having your own start-up can be a very fulfilling experience. Crystal Koh, Partner at THISMMS Marketing & Consultancy, shares with us her amazing journey from corporate to start-up and the lessons she picked up along the way.

Starting from young

From an early age, Crystal started showing an affinity on building on ideas and starting her own projects. While she was still in school, her family business unfortunately went through a tough time, motivating her to take up several part time jobs, “everything from waitressing to dish-washing,” she shared.

Instead of letting this discourage her, Crystal used her part-time jobs as an opportunity to pick up new skills. “When I was working in a cafe, the chef taught me how to bake and I started selling brownies online,” she recounts. “Soon I started trading fashion goods from US and I even started my very own line of products, collecting empty beer bottles, turning them into lamps which I could then sell.”

Corporate beginnings

Crystal eventually finished her Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Finance, and then went on to start her corporate career as a Senior Executive at Ascendas Funds Management, an investment manager of real-estate investment trusts. Even in the very corporate setting of fund management, Crystal continued to demonstrate her entrepreneurial zest. She noticed that their customers and partners wanted a better experience when viewing properties from their portfolio. To solve this, she built an app that allowed for panoramic imaging – a first in the industry.

Continuing her corporate path and building on her real-estate expertise, Crystal moved to McDonalds to become Assistant Real Estate Manager. She eventually shifted to the Customer Relationship-side of the business where she served as CRM Senior Manager. She views her experience at the F&B giant as nurturing and supportive. “I won’t have been able to have such a great career switch, doing what I love, if not for the guidance of my mentors/bosses [at McDonalds],” she revealed.

However after 8 years in the corporate sector, she couldn’t shake off that nagging feeling that she wanted to start something on her own. Last year, Crystal finally decided to follow her dreams and joined her sister’s company, THISMMS Marketing & Consultancy.

Following her passion

Inspired by the love of design, Crystal joined her sister in their mission “to create exceptional design that not only looks great but delivers on our client’s objectives, brief, time and budget.” Their company, THISMMS, aims to help companies with their branding and marketing design to create a story.

Crystal is passionate about building trust and relationship with her clients, even if it means putting their clients’ needs first before their business. She reveals one instance where “[One] of our client from the real estate industry came to us to build a platform but instead of spending time to talk about what we could do for them, we spent time in helping them understand why they shouldn’t build the platform. We believe in building relationships and often, it is reflected in our work – customers first approach.”

Crystal also shared how the unique name THISMMS came to them. “[We were actually] led by the idea of joining great design and storytelling. We hope our client will look at the end product and say to us “THIS” makes me smile because it tells a story. And this story telling becomes part of the brand development process, thereby building emotional connections with our clients’ customers.”

Taking your own path

As any aspiring entrepreneur might be interested to know – is there an ideal path to take to entrepreneurship? Would going corporate first help, or is it better to get started right away? Crystal believes that there is no one way to go about it.  “There is no right or wrong. It is more of the timing or whether you have something you want to work on.”

She further elaborates that “There are many founders/entrepreneurs who never went corporate yet are very successful in their business.” As for her own experience, Crystal believes that starting in the corporate sector has greatly helped her in developing a structure and framework to manage her responsibilities. “Having been part of a marketing team, I also have a better understanding of what my clients need, how they measure success and what we can do to help them deliver,” she added.

Do you want to spend 10 years asking the same question or do you want to get started?

Crystal has not looked back since she took the start-up plunge. “Being an entrepreneur is what excites me, and this passion allows me to help the organisations I work with, because I approach their business as if it were my own,” she related.

For any aspiring entrepreneur who are at the crossroads and contemplating whether to take that leap or not, Crystal’s advice is “Honestly, if you have been asking yourself for the last 10 years – ‘if you should start something?’ Then perhaps, ask yourself – do you want to spend 10 years asking       the same question or do you want to get started?”

And if you decide to embark on this path, Crystal further adds, “You got to enjoy what you do. Don’t focus on the money. It is not the money that will take you where you want to be, it is the heart, the passion, the purpose & the grit that will.”

This article is written by our awesome volunteer, Fritzie Dy.

Fritzie is an aspiring writer with a strong interest in disruptive technologies and anything tech-related. A Finance professional by day, she loves to read and write about how innovation and technology are re-shaping the industry, especially in the area of Fintech. She is also deeply passionate about increasing women’s empowerment and visibility in C-suites and the tech startup scene. Besides work, she loves to travel and is a self-proclaimed polyglot.

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