Lynn Yeo and Angela Sim went from helping high net worth individuals build their wealth to going from supermarket to supermarket explaining unbleached tissues to aunties — needless to say, their lives have taken quite the drastic turn since they founded Cloversoft.
When they were both high-flying investment bankers, Lynn and Angela led comfortable, cushy lives. But after multiple years in those jobs, they felt that they were not instilling real change. So when the opportunity presented itself — while on a business trip, Angela met a researcher who had developed bamboo tissues — she shared the idea with Lynn and they both took the plunge.
Needless to say, this was a decision that has more than paid off, seeing how Cloversoft has somewhat become a household name. It’s not uncommon to spot the distinctive brown colour of their unbleached bamboo tissue and more in supermarkets and homes.
We talk to Lynn and Angela, who tell us more about their unusual paths, Cloversoft, along with some tips on how to be more sustainable.
Tell us a bit about yourself, like what you were doing before founding Cloversoft.
Lynn Yeo (LY): I was an investment banker with HSBC’s Indonesia High Net Worth team before we founded Cloversoft. It was a comfortable and secure career, but I was about to reach my tenth year in HSBC when I started thinking about a change of environment. I wanted to do something that stimulated me. Hence when Angela shared this business idea with me, I was keen to come onboard. Prior to joining banking, I was an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines.
Angela Sim (AS): I started off as an auditor and progressed to become an accountant before joining the bank, where I was also an investment banker with HSBC’s High Net Worth team, although I was in the China team.
Has sustainability always been something you’re interested in?
LY: Growing up, sustainability was not an area of focus in my family.
My consciousness in sustainability came in the later stage of my life during my late twenties when I became more aware of my lifestyle and consumption habits. So, I started off by recycling actively and from there on, I incorporated other habits into my lifestyle.
AS: Even as a kid, I was conscious of switching off the lights and fans when no one was in the room. This habit was formed as we were educated in school on how fossil fuel is running out on Earth, and there will come a day where we will run out of electricity. We were also taught how our consumption of large amounts of electricity is causing our ozone layer to become thinner, resulting in climate change.
I have also always been an animal lover, which relates to the personality of Cloversoft. Different people hold different values and beliefs, and at Cloversoft we want to inspire planet change together.
What spurred you to leave your cushy jobs and venture into uncharted territory?
LY: Entrepreneurship has never crossed my mind prior to founding Cloversoft. Angela’s ah gong and some family are in a family business, whereas during my upbringing, it was stressed that I should find a stable job with a steady stream of income.
I was nearing my tenth year in HSBC and my thoughts started to wander, I pined for a change. I came across an article that talked about regrets in life and one that stood out to me was chasing the wrong things.
It made me think differently about what I was doing with my life and what my true aspirations were compared to others’ expectations. When Angela came to me with this business idea, it struck a chord hence both of us decided to take a leap of faith.
AS: When the scientist first introduced me to the technology of unbleached bamboo tissues, I was highly satisfied with the quality, comfort and durability of the tissues. In the conversation with the scientist, we discussed how Earth has lost 43% of its trees as of 2013, which was very worrisome to me. I also discovered how white or recycled tissues are produced with large amounts of chemicals.
These two reasons motivated me to venture into this uncharted territory. It was a difficult decision to leave a strong career that I have spent many years building, but I did. Cloversoft was our big opportunity to actually make an impact on Earth.
I came across an article that talked about regrets in life and one that stood out to me was chasing the wrong things.Lynn Yeo
Tell us about what Cloversoft does.
LY: At Cloversoft, we create products for anyone who wants high quality, eco-friendly, and safe products that are also affordable. The first two products that we launched were unbleached bamboo toilet tissues and facial tissues. This came about when Angela went on a business trip to China as an investment banker, and was introduced to a scientist who commercialised this invention over a decade.
No chemicals or bleaching agents were also used to treat these tissues. While trees take around 30 to 40 years to grow. In comparison, bamboo takes only 1 to 2 years to grow. We made sure that the bamboo species we use are not food sources for pandas, or used as animal habitats.
There are some misconceptions surrounding products made with unbleached bamboo. Can you debunk these myths?
LY: Our tissues and toilet rolls come in a brown shade. Hence, one of the most common misconceptions that people have is that the tissues and toilet rolls are ‘dirty’. As people are used to tissues and toilet rolls coming in white, they think white is the ‘natural’ colour.
I remembered Angela and I going supermarket to supermarket, explaining to aunties why brown is the natural shade and why it is not bleached white. We would visit up to 15 stores a day, stocking Cloversoft products and engaging with the stores in-charge, sharing with them the features of unbleached bamboo tissues and toilet rolls.
Any exciting new products in the pipeline?
LY: Yes! We are coming up with plant-based floor cleaning soluble sheets, so gone are the days where we need bulky plastic bottles to hold our floor cleaning detergent. With these soluble sheets, it is compact and waste-free, and also highly effective with a nice natural scent of lemongrass, citronella and yuzu.
We are also releasing a plant-based all-purpose dishwashing detergent. You can use it as a surface cleaner, but it’s so safe that you can also use it to wash your fruits and vegetables.
We want to create products that have multiple functions so consumers don’t need to buy several products that only serve one purpose. One example is our Pure Water Baby Wipes, it is tested oral safe. Parents can safely use them to clean their baby’s face, mouth, and bum.
Share with us some tips on how we can live more sustainably.
LY: The way I see it, it is essential that a sustainable lifestyle fits into your lifestyle if you want to ensure it is sustainable. Take little steps in your daily life — it can be a small change such as keeping a recycling bag in the house and emptying them to the recycling bin nearest to you.
You may also keep used plastic bags and reuse them as many times as possible. At work, you could use a reusable thermal flask and wash it at the end of the day. This can keep your drink cold or hot longer!
Angela and Lynn are also featured in Lifting Half the Sky, a new book by the EtonHouse Community Fund (ECF), an IPC Charity under the EtonHouse Group. The book, which commemorates IWD 2023, is a celebration of the achievements and contributions of top Singapore female entrepreneurs who have broken the glass ceiling with their dedication and tenacity. Learn more here.