Photo credit: Emma Lee


Emma Lee, 22,  is a senior at Yale-NUS College, and an artist who manages her own art business, Awaken Studios. She uses her art business as a platform to raise awareness and monetary support for vulnerable communities.

She shares with us some lessons she’s learnt from being an entrepreneur.

Use your business as a means to a greater end

The aim of my art is to spread joy and rest to others. The art I create is intended to inspire people to pause and feel, giving way to deeper self-reflection. At times, I also use my art to support various social causes.

This year, I am donating fifteen per cent of the profits from the sale of my art prints to organisations doing valuable work, such as HOME (migrant workers), Hagar Singapore (anti-trafficking), and Impart (youth facing adversity).

Keep the joy of your passion, even after turning it into a business

It’s easy to get distracted by personal targets and profit-making when your passion becomes a business. For a while, I got very distracted by trying to meet self-imposed targets and trying to fit into a model of “success” that I got from other people doing similar work. It took away the joy of creating.

I’ve since learnt to ground myself by letting myself rest and reminding myself of why I do what I do, which is because I enjoy art and how it can value-add to others’ lives.

Don’t use your business platform as a space for advocacy

I have strong convictions about certain causes and communities, but I try my best to not use my platform as a space for advocacy. The key purpose of my art is to spur reflection, and so I want to give space for people to consider and contemplate on their own, not a place where they might feel forced to take a side.

Therefore, while I may occasionally use my social media and website to spread awareness of certain causes I support, I would encourage others to do their own research on their own time.

Care for others in your midst, regardless of who they are

I believe that we should care for others in our midst, regardless of who they are, and support those who are going through difficult seasons. There are many people who suffer injustice simply because they belong to particular communities.

Whether these are close to home or even communities abroad that are seemingly far removed from our daily lives, I believe that we shouldn’t be apathetic to their needs and ought to do what we can for these people.

Be open to growth and change in your art style

My art style evolved over the past two years. My work no longer looks the same than when I first began. But that’s okay.

Be open to change and keep developing your skills and techniques. Don’t be afraid to try new mediums and textures. You never know – you may just find a new style you never thought you’d like!

This article was published on Aug 5, 2021

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