From The Straits Times    |

Do you like your job? Or wonder what it would be like if you’d gone against your parents’ advice and pursued your dream career? Her World’s Career Confessions column spotlights the professional journeys of its subjects and reveals how each individual’s career path and the choices they have made can have an impact on their personal finances, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

“If I were to describe my career, I wouldn’t say it’s a calling. Rather, this is something we stumbled into and refused to give up on. I’ve enjoyed building the business and finding opportunities,” says Daphne Goh, who co-founded The Ride Side together with her partner, Alex Hsu. The homegrown brand specialises in social travel – specifically, ski and snowboarding trips to ski resorts worldwide, including destinations such as Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland. These trips cater to individuals of all skill levels.

The Ride Side is also Singapore’s first action-sports store for snowboards, skateboards, surfskates, longboards and more. “It’s hard to box ourselves into one category,” Daphne shares. “I like to think that everything we do is to answer the questions and fill the gaps our customers have in their ski and snowboarding journeys. From equipment to training to services, we focus on every touchpoint and what the community needs.”

With an aim to ​​grow the surfing-snowboarding-skiing scene in Singapore, The Ride Side is also launching Trifecta, Asia’s first surf-snow-skate lifestyle destination. Located in the heart of Singapore on Orchard Road, Trifecta is set to open in the latter half of 2023.

Asia’s first surf-snow-skate lifestyle destination

“[The idea behind] Trifecta was always something Alex and I talked about – having such a space in Singapore for skiing and snowboarding. It was a pipe dream then, for realistically, we didn’t think it would happen.”

Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and with travel restricted, the business had to pivot its offerings. That brought the idea to the forefront of their minds once again, she says.

“We reached out to STB (Singapore Tourism Board) looking for a space that we could potentially turn into a snowboarding facility. However, as you can imagine, everything was being used for quarantine centres, and there was no multipurpose space available,” she recalls with a slight chuckle.

But government tenders were constantly being rolled out then, and they had their sights set on a space in Somerset. “Initially, the idea was just for skiing and snowboarding. But as we started planning, we thought, why not include surfing and other board sports? In the board sports world, completing all three sports in one day is called the ‘trifecta’. It’s a bragging right in America and Europe, where you experience both winter and summer conditions and push yourself physically; the energy required to do all three is quite insane. The idea of doing all three sports in one day in Singapore, in the tropics, was something we really wanted. Thankfully, we were fortunate to win the pitch for Trifecta.” 

The idea of doing all three sports (surfing, skiing, snowboarding) in one day in Singapore, in the tropics, was something we really wanted.

Daphne Goh, co-founder, The Ride Side & Trifecta

A new directional stance

While Daphne “enjoys travelling, adventuring and exploring”, she had never considered pursuing this career path before.

“Growing up, I had a very typical Singaporean childhood. I was never really exposed to board sports – it’s not like there are mountains in our backyard for me to snowboard or ski,” she says with a laugh. She majored in political science, and went to Stockholm for a one-year internship programme at a startup.

Daphne Goh and Alex Hsu, co-founders of The Ride Side and Trifecta (Image: The Ride Side)

The Swedish capital was also where she met Alex, though they “only got to know each other better when we returned to Singapore.” She credits her partner for igniting her love for snowboarding.

“He went on a snowboarding trip, and through that experience of social travelling with strangers, he gained a love for the entire experience, not just the sport. He couldn’t stop talking about it when he came back.”

He was inspired to start The Ride Side by organising snowboarding trips for friends and acquaintances. “I stepped in to help him along the way. We were still holding our jobs, so it was a mix of both travelling and working on the side. But then we realised that The Ride Side wasn’t just a passion project anymore. It was gaining traction, and there was potential to turn it into a year-round venture.”

It was a risk, but the couple decided to quit their corporate jobs – by then, Daphne was working at a public relations agency while Alex was  a chemical engineer – to “give it a try”. 

This has been a relatively unexplored career path that few have ventured into, but Daphne hopes that with The Ride Side and the upcoming opening of Trifecta, more will come to view board sports as a viable and promising career option. “Before, it seemed impossible to have a career in snow sports in Singapore, but now it’s a reality. This has been a job for me, but I hope that with what we’ve accomplished, we can introduce it as a career to others in Singapore.” 

She adds: “My role is to help steer and create more opportunities in this space and industry. It’s exciting to be a part of building this industry and exploring the many opportunities it offers – there’s still so much to do and so many doors to open.”

In her career confession below, the intrepid entrepreneur shares more about her career path before The Ride Side, the challenges of working with a partner, and how she deals with stigmas as one of the few females working in this male-dominated field.

Daphne helms the Marketing & Business Development teams at The Ride Side and Trifecta Singapore

Name: Daphne Goh

Job title and industry: Co-founder and Head of Marketing & Business Development of The Ride Side and Trifecta Singapore

Years of work experience: 8 years

Salary: Prefer not to say

Tell us more about your career path before The Ride Side. 

My major was in political science, not because I wanted a career in it, but because I found it interesting to learn about how systems work and understand the world through a specific lens. I ended up in Stockholm because of a one-year internship program at my university – I worked at an ed-tech (education-technology) startup. 

During the day, I worked at the startup, and at night, I studied in what they called ‘a minor in techno-preneurship’. It was all about learning how to be an entrepreneur in the tech space. Through that experience, I gained a lot of knowledge on the tech and marketing side of things.

And how did you make the transition from tech and marketing to what you’re doing today? 

It was a gradual thing. It had nothing to do with what I studied in school; however, studying political science did help me develop an ability to think more systematically and see the big picture. I learned a lot in Stockholm, and it made me realise that the digital space is where I want to be. 

I was floating around, unsure of where my political science degree would lead me. But I came back [to Singapore] because of family reasons. I ended up in management consulting to try to take on a more ‘serious’ job, which also helped me to understand how to work more strategically with companies.

However, it also made me realise that it wasn’t the right path for me. I wasn’t unhappy, but I felt like it wasn’t the career I saw myself excelling in. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the digital space, which I had only tasted a bit. Luckily, someone from my former company reached out about a digital role in an agency setting. I took the chance, and during that year, I loved what I did in the digital space. 

Then came a point in my career where I had a choice. I could stay where I was and continue climbing the corporate ladder, or I could step out and support the person I love in pursuing his passion. And I thought, why not give it a try because if we don’t take the risk and chance [now], when will we ever get [the opportunity] to do it again?

How did your love for snowboarding begin?

Alex is the kind of person who can pick up any sport effortlessly, he was actually a part of the Under-18 national hockey team. He’s just naturally gifted in sports. On a snowboard, he can do things that most people would take months or even seasons to learn, and I think he really  inspired me as well. He was the one who taught me how to snowboard.

I’ve tried various activities, but I had never attempted snowboarding. It was always something I saw others do, but I never took the plunge because no one around me was interested in it. Especially in a place where snowboarding isn’t common, it felt out of place. But when I got to know Alex, he introduced me to the sport and taught me how to do it. And slowly, it became a significant part of my life. 

What is your role at The Ride Side and Trifecta?

As Trifecta came along, my role also evolved. Initially, my main focus was on marketing and taking care of the business administration side of things. However, it has since shifted towards more business development. 

I now handle building up the business plans, finding partners, and ensuring the team is hired and in shape. It’s been quite a shift in responsibilities, but I embrace the challenge. 

Artist’s impression of Trifecta (Image: Trifecta by The Ride Side)

Would you say that your life is primarily career-oriented? 

Right now, yes it is. I think there are two types of business owners – those who see it purely as a business and nothing more, and those like me who embody what they do. I belong to the latter group. Everything we do at the company is more than just a career focus; it’s become a part of my life, something I think about every day. 

But I think it’s just the nature of how we are building our company. There aren’t many examples to follow when it comes to building a snowboarding company. There’s no blueprint for us to follow, no clear direction in front of us. For example, tech companies or fashion companies have giants to look up to, learn from their mistakes, and calculate their moves. But for us, there’s no such path [for us in Singapore]. So, certain decisions we make become stressful, as we don’t know if they will make or break us. 

Everything we do at the company is more than just a career focus; it’s become a part of my life, something I think about every day. 

Daphne Goh, co-founder, The Ride Side & Trifecta

Tell us about the challenges of your job. 

I actually enjoy the challenge. It is male-dominated, especially in the sports we’re involved in, and even more so in the business side of things. I think it helps that I have a strong personality, so I’m not afraid, but it can be annoying when people judge or treat you differently just because of your gender. 

We experience it from both customers and people in the business. When interacting with others, they often say, “I want to talk to Alex” or “I want to talk to the boss,” as if my advice would be any different. But I’ve learned to tune out some of those things. In our own environment, we try to eliminate that kind of language and thinking. We focus on capabilities, not gender.

In our own environment, we try to eliminate that kind of language and thinking. We focus on capabilities, not gender.

Daphne Goh, co-founder, The Ride Side & Trifecta

In Singapore, we have more open-minded business leaders, with many women in leadership positions. But when we venture out and work with partners in different countries, we still encounter these stigmas. If Alex and I walk into a room, they immediately assume he’s in charge. It doesn’t bother us personally because we see ourselves as equals, but it can be frustrating. Alex is happy to see me take charge and lead. I’m fortunate to have a partner like him.

What is it like working with a partner, considering the personal and business aspects of the relationship? 

We try to separate work and personal life, but with the progress of our business, we’ve realised that work is our life. It took one dinner date for us to understand this: we decided to have a date where we put work aside and focused solely on each other, but the date was so weird and we were so quiet! We felt the need to talk about work and realised that we don’t need to put too much pressure on the relationship. We let things flow naturally. If we need to talk about something, we do it. 

There are definitely disagreements in terms of perspectives. As I mentioned, I tend to be strong-headed, and he gives me a lot of space for that. When it comes to decisions we have to make together, it’s always a conversation. Fortunately, we’re mostly aligned on many things, so there isn’t much conflict about wanting different things. It’s more about having different approaches to achieve the same goal. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

One thing I’d like to mention is that I really hope to see more women in the sports we are involved in. I want them to feel safe and comfortable in this space. It shouldn’t be intimidating or daunting. Anyone should be able to try these sports, regardless of their skill level. That’s up to the individual. But we hope to remove the mental barriers that prevent people from giving it a shot. 

We often hear people say, “I’m not sporty” or “I didn’t do these things before, can I try?” So it’s about challenging yourself and realising that you might surprise yourself. We’ve seen quite a number of people who started with snowboarding and realised they love it and are actually good at it. It’s about being more adventurous and open-minded. I hope our sport can have that kind of effect on people and help them express themselves.