Before the month of September ends, we wanted to take this time to mark the milestone of WISHFUL celebrating our 3rd Anniversary since we first started this curated gifting brand.
We take this opportunity to check in with our beautiful and inspiring founders, Careen & Priscilla to learn more about their journey in leading this business together.
If you would like to hear more from them, you can check out this previous interview we did with them in 2020.
1. It’s been 3 years since you both started WISHFUL. How does it feel so far building this business together?
C: There’s only one word that comes to mind — SURREAL!
When we first started 3 years ago, Priscilla and I only intended WISHFUL to be a side passion business as we both were still heavily involved in our respective wedding businesses then. It wasn’t long before we decided to focus fully on WISHFUL as it was growing exponentially and faster than we ever imagined when we first started out.
P: It grows beyond our imagination and we’re really grateful for everything! It feels like we got into marriage together, and even after 3 years, we are still lovey dovey all the time, very much passionate in growing the business, and our goals are still aligned despite all the ups n down!
2. Being great work partners, how would you describe each other’s strengths?
C: One of the reasons why I was excited about this partnership and said yes to it was because both Priscilla and I share the same goals in life and business, yet have different sets of skills and gifts.
Personally, my strength is in the creative and communications department, and hence I oversee the Branding, Marketing, Communications, Product Design & Curation and Creative side of the business.
Whereas Priscilla is great with everything that I’m lacking in — Accounting & Finance, HR, Administration, and everything Operations related.
Our different skill sets have enabled us to grow our company at a stronger level as we’re able to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
P: Sometimes it feels as if we are a couple growing old together!
Careen’s strength is everything in dealing with external stakeholders which includes creative, branding & communications.
Whereby my strengths would be more operational, technical and finance. We both make a great team as we complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses while we work at the same pace and envision the same future!
3. In the past 3 years, what has been your favourite WISHFUL gift set yet?
C: My personal favourite would be the first evergreen retail gift box that we have curated, which is the New Mom Gift Box — Dawn.
When we first started our 3 years ago, there weren’t many gifts in the market that are curated specially for new moms. When people think about newborns, they only think about the baby and forget about the mom when it comes to giving gifts. As mothers ourselves, we understand how moms feel and know firsthand how important it is to encourage a new mom through the brand new chapter of motherhood.
The New Mom Gift Box contains all the items that would be useful for a new mother, such as Lactation Cookies to help boost breastmilk production, Nipple Cream, Dry Shampoo for the confinement month and beyond, and Roll-on Essential Oil to help busy new moms relax and have a good night’s sleep. All of these are well-loved and appreciated by new moms who have received our gift box!
Check out the New Mom Gift Set HERE.
P: My favourites are our Full Moon Gift Sets! This was really one collection that meant so much to me, especially since this was the first product we came up with, it was even the first idea that I had about gifting, which then brought me to Careen and how WISHFUL came about.
If you know how we first started our brand, it all started with Fullmoon gift sets!
Check out our Full Moon Gift Sets HERE.
4. What were some of the biggest lessons you have learnt in growing the business?
C: Personally one of the biggest lessons that I have learned is to value my well-being as an entrepreneur/employer as much as I value growing the business.
In the early days, I would stay up until 4 - 5 AM to work, and also work through weekends and public holidays. Priscilla and I would constantly be texting about work and there were simply no off days. After a while, we found that this working culture took a toll on our mental and physical health, put a strain on our marriages, and took our time and energy away from our children. Even worse, we found that we lost the initial joy and fire that we had when we first started the business.
Since then, we both agreed to establish some boundaries where we would not work on weekends unless necessary. This means no work discussions via texts between the both of us and also with our team, and to not discuss work past a certain time of the day.
We also encourage our team to not work overtime if possible and to free their weekends so that they can spend quality time with their loved ones and have a good break before the work week starts again.
Respecting work boundaries is important but so underrated in our Asian culture where efficiency is of utmost priority. As insignificant as it seems, having a healthy relationship with work and striking a balance in life helps us become more efficient and present employers, wives, mothers, and so on.
P: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be agile, to adapt to changes, make wise decisions that will drive the company in the right direction. It is also important to have the humility to learn from our mistakes.
Before WISHFUL, I’ve never led a team of more than 5 people. Today, we have the opportunity to scale WISHFUL's team to 15 people.
This journey gave me a lot of opportunities as well as challenges that came with it. But I learned to lead by example, how to be a great leader and most importantly how to inspire your team!
By having a strong workplace culture, it helps me in many ways to find solutions that are best for our team. Yes, at times there are incidences where we couldn’t please everyone at the same time, but by putting in more thoughts and planning into finding a solution, we are able to resolve our problems and achieve a win-win situation.
5. What are some of your advice for growing a dream team?
C: At WISHFUL, we have 10 core values that we uphold as a company, and one of them is “We Believe in the Potential of People”.
Whenever we hire a new member to join our growing company, we look not only at the credentials and experiences of the candidate, but also the enthusiasm, passion, attitude and willingness to learn and grow. We believe that these traits are more valuable than any skill set or talent, as people who are willing to learn and grow will have the potential to do greater things than those with an impressive resumé.
We place strong importance and emphasis on a healthy team culture, where everyone communicates with respect, holds everyone with regard (including our part-time assembly team, delivery riders, and part-time cleaners), and where everyone is seen and heard.
Our goal is to build a dream company that people are fighting to work for. One that is growing, thriving, exciting, creative, inclusive, and takes care of its employees not only career-wise, but also their well-being.
My personal advice is to always “Lead with Your Heart”. When you are sincere and empathetic in your leadership, your team will reciprocate and the culture will follow suit.
P: Building the right company culture is very important to us, and it is something that we would never take lightly.It’s that ONE THING that we both want to uphold to, no matter how much we grow and scale the business.
Another important element for growing a dream team is to be able to cultivate a habit to "Ask and Not Assume".
Often, miscommunications and misunderstandings will occur in a team. However, if it is not addressed properly, it will lead to resentment, toxic behaviour which will affect the team's work culture.
In WISHFUL, we put resolving misunderstanding and miscommunications at the top of our priority. Once we notice someone in the team facing these challenges, we will address it as soon as possible.
It is so important to have a strong sense of trust with our colleagues, managers and in general, among the team. Hence, we must try our best to ensure there is no room for miscommunication and misunderstanding. And to that, the best advice I often give my team is to "Ask and Not Assume". It is always better to clarify, check in and ask questions when we are unsure, so to avoid unnecessary miscommunication.
6. Many entrepreneurs struggle in the first few years of growing their businesses. What is your advice on persevering through challenging times?
C: “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.”
This is something that sounds so clichéd, but so true. The past 3 years have not always been smooth-sailing. There have been times when we doubted if we could stay afloat and if it were all worth it.
But we believe that Perseverance is the KEY to success for everything in life. Especially during the pandemic lockdown period, we learned to be calm, agile and have the ability to pivot whenever necessary.
Taking every challenge with stride with the understanding that obstacles are part of every business helps us to keep moving forward in spite of what we go through.
Having the right mindset and willingness to persevere are important to last the distance as entrepreneurs.
P: I would say, don’t limit yourself to anything that you’ve not been exposed to. The world is so big and you can never anticipate what’s going to happen in future. Be open-minded and be courageous to face the challenges that come your way!
7. Where do you want to see WISHFUL grow in the next 2 years?
C: We hope to build a stronger team, launch more product and service offerings for our clients, and also see WISHFUL having more presence regionally!
P: WISHFUL to become a global brand! There is a Mandarin saying that I like to quote here, because it is incredibly meaningful to me:
古语有一句说 “千里送鹅毛，礼轻情意重”， 真诚希望能够成为一个带个很多人温度的礼盒品牌。
"A Gift is precious not by its value, but by the thoughts behind it."
I hope WISHFUL can always keep this in mind to truly express the real meaning of gifting.
8. What is one piece of advice you would give someone who wants to start their own business?
C: There is never a perfect time to start a business. You will never be 100% ready with the 100% foolproof business plan. The right time is NOW! Keep learning in the process and be 1% better than you were the day before.
P: Just go ahead and do it, you don’t have much to lose. You want to live with no regrets! When you take the leap toward building your own dream, you will learn and embrace every lesson along the journey.
Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing your insight and wise advice with us, Careen & Priscilla! We are incredibly grateful for the both of you for always giving your best in growing the team and the business.
But even more so, we are incredibly thankful to everyone who has been a part of WISHFUL’s journey in the last three years, whether it is buying gifts from us, or even supporting us on social media and sharing our offerings with your loved ones, we would not have been able to grow to what we are today without your support.
To achieving more milestones and serving you better in the years to come!