The young founders behind Style Degree share how they grew their business during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you’re active on social media, you might have seen their ads featuring minimalist home organisation products and travel organisers.
Founded in 2016, local online store Style Degree has been featured in Her World and Home And Decor Singapore for their affordable products that cater to Singaporean homeowners.
It all began when co-founders Tan Sher Yun, 25, and Phoe Chuan An, 27, realised how useful travel organisers were in keeping their luggage organised during their three-month internship in Atlanta, USA.
This stroke of serendipity encouraged Chuan An, a marketing and information systems undergraduate then, to use his knowledge about e-commerce and website development to start a business with Sher Yun.
As a result, the pair started Style Degree that same year while still studying in Singapore Management University (SMU).
Since then, their start-up has expanded to selling home organisation essentials such as airtight containers for the kitchen and customisable wall organisers. They have even managed to attract customers from other countries such as India, USA and Australia.
The young business partners, who are also a couple, shared with Youth.SG how they ensure their business continues thriving through the COVID-19 outbreak.
After graduating from SMU in 2018, the co-founders of Style Degree worked full-time on the venture, initially selling travel organisers. They also focused on finding a team and growing the brand.
Their team now comprises nine people who help with the company’s daily operations.
The idea to sell home organisation products actually came from customers’ suggestions.
Sher Yun, Style Degree’s head of marketing said: “Expanding into the home and living sector came as a natural progression to us, through receiving suggestions from our existing customers.
“We are always listening to our customer’s problems, understanding their concerns about their home and creating solutions for them.”
Seeing their peers applying for BTOs also made them realise there was a market in the home improvement sector.
The e-commerce site now sells a variety of home organisation products, on top of travel essentials, that aim to help Singaporeans make full use of tight spaces.
“Our products are thoughtfully-curated and designed specifically for the needs of Singaporean homeowners, offering innovative and smart solutions for tight spaces and busy schedules,” added Sher Yun, who majored in marketing and strategic management.
Chuan An thinks his age allows him to better understand the home improvement market.
The head of business development and product said: “Since people my age are usually first-time homeowners, I understand the challenges a new homeowner might face and can provide products that better cater to their needs.”
From the beginning, both owners did not hesitate to be hands-on in the business process.
Chuan An recounted how he handled various tasks for his business while still juggling school: “When I started, I was literally doing everything myself in one way or another. I was answering customers’ questions, packing orders, talking to suppliers – all while handling schoolwork.
“But this gave me a good insight into what I should expect when I hire people to take up these roles.”
Despite being under 30, age has never been a barrier for both Chuan An and Sher Yun.
“Being younger actually makes us more adaptable to change, more open to innovating and using digital technologies to improve our processes,” said Sher Yun.
It seems the couple, having met in an entrepreneurship club in school, never stops thinking about how to better their business, even during off-hours.
“Naturally, there’s a form of attachment to the business, especially when we’ve built it from the ground up since our university days. It’s also hard to enjoy a holiday especially when the peak of our business activities happen over the festive period,” admitted Sher Yun.
The pair’s hard work pays off in the form of happy customers.
Sher Yun recounted a memorable encounter from their first pop-up at Our Tampines Hub last September: “A customer shared with us that he would project our website on his home projector screen and their extended family would shop together.
“Knowing that we have played a part in helping our customers achieve an organised home and simplified their lives gives us great satisfaction.”
When COVID-19 hit Singapore, many local businesses were affected by closures.
The circuit breaker turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the couple as many Singaporeans sought to organise and declutter their homes.
“Our food pantry containers, closet organisers and more became extremely popular during this stay-home period,” said Sher Yun.
Their fulfilment team also worked extra hard to fulfil the increase in orders as quickly as possible.
“During the initial stages of circuit breaker, we faced some operational challenges due to the social distancing measures at our warehouse. Coupled with the higher order volume, it took slightly longer to fulfil orders,” shared Sher Yun.
Despite these challenges, the company was able to tide through the difficult time and even used Phase 1 to optimise their website for higher traffic and digitalise their inventory system.
When asked how the owners overcame such difficulties, Sher Yun said: “We find solutions to solve problems, rather than being stuck in the mentality that it can’t be solved.”
Both owners hope their story inspires other Singaporean entrepreneurs, looking to start their own business, to take that leap.
“If you’re looking to build a lasting brand that has a purpose, know that it takes patience, dedication, and sacrifices to do it. Getting the basics right as early as possible is also important,” said Sher Yun.
“Understand that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency, patience, hard work and bringing value to others will eventually pay off.”
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